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Peter Hemings

1770–after 1834
Enslaved Workers

Massachusetts Historical Society

Peter Hemings worked as a cook, brewer, and tailor. Jefferson inherited him, the son of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings  and, probably, John Wayles, in 1774 from Wayles’ estate. Hemings grew up on the Monticello mountaintop and married Betsey, Thomas Mann Randolph’s slave; the couple had at least five children.  His older brother James Hemings accompanied Jefferson to Paris where he learned the art of French cookery.  James passed on his skills to Peter who succeeded his brother as Monticello cook from 1796 until 1809; Jefferson notified his overseer at the end of his presidency that, “the two cooks [Edith Hern Fossett and Fanny Gillette Hern] which are here [Washington, DC] will take the place of Peter Hemings.” Hemings moved from the Cook’s Room under the South Terrace to a “loghouse … on the Mulberry Row.”  In 1813, Captain Joseph Miller successfully taught Hemings how to malt and brew beer; Jefferson wrote that, “Peter’s brewing of the last season I am in hopes will prove excellent…the only cask of it we have tried proves so.”  Jefferson never manumitted Hemings, but by 1830 he was working as a free tailor in Charlottesville.

This account is compiled from Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness:” Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (University of Virginia Press and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012).

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See a digital model and animation of single–family slave dwellings on Mulberry Row.


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