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Ohio

In his 1873 memors, Israel Gillette Jefferson wrote, “When I came to Ohio I considered myself wholly free, and not till then.”  Seven people (all Hemings family members) were freed by the terms of Jefferson’s will or received unofficial freedom from his heirs.  Others, among them Israel Jefferson and the children of Joseph Fossett, obtained their freedom by purchase.  Almost all of these free people left the land of slavery in the 1830s and 1840s for the free state of Ohio.  The Fossetts and Israel Jefferson chose to settle in Cincinnati, the nation’s largest inland metropolis, while Madison and Eston Hemings went to more rural Ross and Pike counties, where many free people of color from central Virginia had already settled. 

 

Emmitt House, built by Madison Hemings, Waverly, OhioEmmit House, in Waverly, Ohio, stands as a testament to the skills passed down from Monticello’s joinery through John Hemmings.  Hemmings, who made much of Monticello’s decorative interior woodwork and numerous pieces of furniture, trained his nephews Madison and Eston Hemings in his craft.  Madison Hemings helped to construct the Emmitt House and other buildings in southern Ohio, while Eston worked in Ohio as a carpenter and musician.  Peter Fossett carried on the tradition of his mother, Monticello cook Edith Fossett, through his prominent Cincinnati catering business. His granddaughter Bessie Kelley Curtis was still operating the business in the 1950s.  Tucker Isaacs, Joseph Fossett’s son-in-law, used the profit from the sale of his land on Charlottesville’s main street to purchase a large farm in Ross County, Ohio.

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