Lucy Jefferson (1782-1784)

Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson, (May 8, 1782 - ca. October 13, 1784) was the sixth child of Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson, and the second child of that name. Her father carefully noted that she was born May 8, 1782, at 1:00 A.M. Although she survived infancy, she died at the age of two and a half while her father was in France, while staying with her Eppes relatives at Eppington. News of Lucy's death first reached her father via the Marquis de Lafayette, who had been at Eppington and carried a letter directly from the attending doctor, James Currie. Lucy's aunt and uncle Elizabeth Wayles and Francis Eppes had written immediately to Jefferson to deliver the sad news, but their letters did not reach him until May of the next year.[1]

Lucy's grave is not marked, and there is some debate as to its location.  Martha McCartney, in A Documentary History of Eppington, states that Lucy and her cousin, Lucy Eppes, "were buried at Eppington in what became a family cemetery."[2]  Some sources claim, however, that Lucy's body was later moved to Monticello.  Thomas Jefferson did stop briefly at Eppington on his way back home from France in December 1789, but there is no indication in his accounts or letters that Lucy's body was moved at that time or any other.

Note: Entries in the printed index of the Papers of Thomas Jefferson (volume 21) confuse Lucy with her older sister of the same name (1780-1781).

Primary Source References

1782 May 8. "Our daughter Lucy Elizabeth (second of that name) born at one o'clock A. M."[3]

1783 Dec. 11. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I had a letter from your uncle Eppes last week informing me that Polly is very well, and Lucy recovered from an indisposition."[4]

1783 Dec. 19. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Carr). "[Letter not located; Jefferson's note in Summary Journal of Letters reads:] "Mrs. Carr. My request of W. S. [William Short] and orders to Key&—ill health&—heard only once from P. and L. [Polly and Lucy]."[5]

1784 Apr. 17. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "I received yesterday letters from Eppington by which I learn that the families there and at Hors du monde are well, and that your cousin Cary has a son. Lucy has been unwell during the winter but is got better."[6]

1784 Sept. 16. (Francis Eppes to Jefferson). "I wish it was in my power to inform you that your children were well. They as well as our own are laid up with the hooping cough. Your little Lucy our youngest and Bolling are I think very ill. Polly has it badly but she sleeps well and eats hartily, tho she is not fallen off in the least. Doctr. Currie is here attending on your children and ours. He promises to write you very particularly by this opportunity. I must therefore refer you to his letter as he will be able to give you a much better account of their situation than I can."[7]

1784 Oct. 13. (Elizabeth Wayles Eppes to Jefferson). "Its impossible to paint the anguish of my heart on this melancholy occasion. A most unfortunate Hooping cough has deprived you, and us of two sweet Lucys, within a week. Ours was the first that fell a sacrifice. She was thrown into violent convulsions linger'd out a week and then expired. Your dear angel was confined a week to her bed, her sufferings were great though nothing like a fit. She retain'd her senses perfectly, calld me a few moments before she died, and asked distinctly for water."[8]

1784 Oct. 14. (Francis Eppes to Jefferson). "I am sorry to inform you that my fears about the welfare of our children, which I mentioned in my last, were too well founded. Yours, as well as our dear little Lucy, have fallen sacrifices to the most horrible of all disorders, the whooping-cough. They both suffered as much pain, indeed more than ever I saw two of their ages experience. We were happy in having had every experience this country afforded; however, they were beyond the reach of medecine."[9]

1784 Nov. 20. (James Currie to Jefferson). "I am sincerely sorry my dear friend now to accquaint you of the demise of poor Miss L. Jefferson, who fell a Martyr to the Complicated evils of teething, Worms and Hooping Cough which last was carried there by the Virus of their friends without their knowing it was in their train. I was calld too late to do any thing but procrastinate the settled fate of the poor Innocent, from the accounts of the family, a Child Of the most Auspicious hopes and having among other early Shining qualities an ear nicely and critically musical. Enough of this too tender Theme. Mr. Eppes lost his own youngest Child from the same Cause and with difficulty Bollings life was saved. Miss P. Jefferson got early over it and is now in good health."[10]

Footnotes

  • 1. See editorial note, PTJ, 7:441.
  • 2. Martha W. McCartney, A Documentary History of Eppington, Chesterfield County, Virginia (1991), 40.
  • 3. MB, 1:519.
  • 4. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, Annapolis, December 11, 1783. In PTJ, 6:381. Recipient copy available online from the Library of Congress.
  • 5. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Carr, Annapolis, December 19, 1783. In PTJ, 6:391.
  • 6. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, Annapolis, April 17, 1784. In PTJ, 7:110.
  • 7. Eppes to Jefferson, Eppington, September 16, 1784. In PTJ, 7:616. Recipient copy at Massachusetts Historical Society.
  • 8. Elizabeth Wayles Eppes to Jefferson, Eppington, October 13, 1784. In PTJ, 7:441.
  • 9. Eppes to Jefferson, October 14, 1784. In PTJ, 7:441-2.
  • 10. Currie to Jefferson, Richmond, November 20, 1784. In PTJ, 7:538-9. Recipient copy available online from the Library of Congress.

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