Report of the Research Committee on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings Thomas Jefferson Foundation January 2000
[Since publication of this report, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation has updated its position. Based on documentary, scientific, statistical, and oral history evidence, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (TJF) Research Committee Report on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (January 2000) remains the most comprehensive analysis of this historical topic. Today TJF and most historians believe that, years after his wife’s death, Thomas Jefferson was the father of the six children of Sally Hemings mentioned in Jefferson's records, including Beverly, Harriet, Madison, and Eston Hemings. February 2012]
Appendix H: Sally Hemings and Her Children Information from Documentary Sources
Name: Probably Sarah (Sally was the common diminutive form of this name).
Born: 1773 (FB.9)
Parents: Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings (c. 1735-1807) and, according to Sally Hemings's son Madison, John Wayles (d. 1773), father of Jefferson's wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. (FB.9, 18; Madison Hemings 1873)
According to the oral history of the descendants of Thomas C. Woodson (1790-1879), he was Sally Hemings's first child; no documentary information has yet been found to confirm this.
Descriptions: 1787 Abigail Adams, London: "The Girl who is with her [Mary Jefferson] is quite a child, and Captain Ramsey is of opinion will be of so little Service that he had better carry her back with him. But of this you will be a judge. She seems fond of the child and appears good naturd." (Abigail Adams to TJ, 27 June 1787, B.11.503)
1787 Abigail Adams, London: "The Girl she [Mary Jefferson] has with her, wants more care than the child, and is wholy incapable of looking properly after her, without some superiour to direct her." (Abigail Adams to TJ, 6 July 1787, B.11.551)
1847 Isaac Jefferson, former Monticello slave: "Sally Hemings' mother Betty was a bright mulatto woman, and Sally mighty near white....Sally was very handsome, long straight hair down her back." (Bear.4)
c1851 Thomas J. Randolph, Jefferson's grandson, as told to Henry S. Randall: "Both the Henings [sic] girls were light colored and decidedly goodlooking." (Randall 1868)
Hearsay: 1802 Anonymous: "She is an industrious and orderly creature in her behaviour." (Fredericktown Herald, reprinted in Richmond Recorder, 8 Dec. 1802)
Residences: In Jan. 1774, at the time of the division of John Wayles's estate, living with her mother and siblings at Wayles's Guinea plantation, Cumberland County. (FB.9)
Shortly after Jan. 1774, when Thomas and Martha Jefferson inherited Betty Hemings and her children on the division of the Wayles estate, moved with her family to the Elk Hill plantation in Goochland County. (FB.18)
Probably some time in 1775, came with her family to Monticello.
Probably in 1784, accompanied Jefferson's younger daughter, Mary, to live at Eppington in Chesterfield County; Jefferson and his older daughter, Martha, had left for France in July.
In May 1787, boarded a ship with Mary Jefferson for the journey from Virginia to Europe, spent two weeks in London with John and Abigail Adams, and then traveled with Jefferson's butler to Paris, where they arrived July 15. (Abigail Adams letters cited above; Bear.101; MB.674)
July 1787 to October 1789, probably lived at Jefferson's residence on the Champs-élysées, the HÃ´tel de Langeac; it is also possible that she may have lived with Jefferson's daughters at their convent school, the Abbaye de Panthemont.
Returned to Virginia with Jefferson and his daughters to Monticello, arriving 23 Dec. 1789. (MB.749)
1789 to 1827, no record that she left Monticello.
From 1827 to death in 1835, lived in Charlottesville, probably on West Main Street. Her son Madison recalled that, after Jefferson's death, he and his brother Eston "rented a house and took mother to live with us, till her death." Eston Hemings, however, seems to have moved to his own house on East Main Street after his marriage in 1832. (Madison Hemings 1873; Stanton, "Monticello to Main Street," pp. 107-108)
Paris years: Monticello overseer Edmund Bacon remembered in 1860 that Sally Hemings talked about her transatlantic journey: "Sally Hemings went to France with Maria Jefferson when she was a little girl....They crossed the ocean alone. I have often heard her tell about it." (Bear.100)
Whether Sally Hemings lived at Jefferson's residence or with his daughters at the convent school is not certainly known. Whatever the case, as lady's maid to Martha and Maria Jefferson, she became acquainted with their friends. Two letters confirm this: Maria Jefferson wrote her friend Kitty Church in 1789, "Sally vous dit bien des choses"; after the Jefferson family's return to Virginia, a French classmate wrote to Martha Jefferson, "Dis bien des choses a Mlle. Sale." (B.16.xxxi; Marie de Botidoux to Martha Jefferson, Nov. 1789--Jan. 1790, University of Virginia Library)
Jefferson paid an English physician in Nov. 1787 for inoculating Sally Hemings against smallpox, in accordance with his practice of having domestic servants who attended on himself or his daughters inoculated. (MB.685)
In the spring of 1789 Jefferson paid his launderer for boarding Sally Hemings for five weeks. The reason for this temporary residence is not known. It could reflect a period of training in laundering fine fabrics (appropriate for a lady's maid), a quarantine period after smallpox inoculation (with payment more than a year after the fact), or a temporary housing situation while Jefferson's daughters made the transition between living at the convent and at Jefferson's house. (MB.731)
Also in the spring of 1789, Jefferson spent the equivalent of $32 on clothing for Sally Hemings. In the same period, Jefferson spent almost ten times as much on the clothing of his daughter Martha, who was just beginning to go out into society and to balls. Sally, as her lady's maid, would also have needed an improved wardrobe. (MB.729-734)
In Jan. 1788 and then monthly from Nov. 1788 to their departure from Paris in Sep. 1789, Jefferson paid Sally Hemings a small wage, the equivalent of $2 a month. The Parisian scullion made $2.50 a month, Sally's brother, James Hemings, made $4 a month as chef, and the other French servants earned from $8 to $12 a month. (MB.690, 718, 721, 722, 725)
According to her son Madison, Sally Hemings left Paris when "she was just beginning to learn the French language well." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Although the laws in France did not permit slavery, slaves brought into the country had to petition the government to achieve their freedom, a process that was usually successful, but could be complicated. Sally and James Hemings would almost certainly have been aware of their right to freedom and the means to achieve it; there was a community of former slaves in Paris and freedom cases were brought and won in this period. Jefferson told another American who enquired about the status of his enslaved domestic servant: "I...find that the laws of France give him freedom if he claims it, and that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to interrupt the course of the law." He continued, evidently referring to his own case with James Hemings, "Nevertheless I have known an instance where a person bringing in a slave, and saying nothing about it, has not been disturbed in his possession." As Madison Hemings recalled his mother's situation, "in France she was free, while if she returned to Virginia she would be re-enslaved." (B.10.296; Madison Hemings 1873)
Housing at Monticello: On her return to Monticello in 1789, she may have lived in the stone house on Mulberry Row (present Weaver's Cottage), where her sister Critta Hemings was known to have lived. Thus, in 1793, she would have moved, as did Critta, into one of the three new, 12 by 14 foot, log cabins on Mulberry Row. (Jefferson to Thomas M. Randolph, 19 May 1793, B.26.65)
Some time between 1803 and 1807, she evidently moved into one of the "servant's rooms" in the South Dependencies, between the South Pavilion and the dairy. In 1851, while walking around Monticello, Jefferson's grandson Thomas J. Randolph pointed out to biographer Henry S. Randall "a smoke blackened and sooty room in one of the collonades, and informed me it was Sally Henings' [sic] room." (Randall 1868)
Nothing has been found in the documentary record to indicate that Sally Hemings ever lived in the Monticello house. A public perception that she either lived in the space over Jefferson's bed or used it for access to an upstairs room appears to derive from two recent novels. The space, used as a storage closet by 1815, varies in width from 2'6" to 2'9" (Jefferson referred to "the closet over my bed" in a letter to his daughter Martha, 4 Nov. 1815, FAM.411). According to architectural historians, who removed a modern staircase in 1979, the space was reached either by a ladder or a steep ladder-like stair.
Training and Occupation: Circa 1784 to 1787, nursemaid-companion to Jefferson's younger daughter, Mary (her presence in 1787 at Eppington, rather than Monticello, as well as her selection to accompany Mary to Europe, suggests this).
1787 to 1797, lady's-maid to Martha and Mary (later Maria) Jefferson: "My mother accompanied her [Mary Jefferson] as body servant" to France (Madison Hemings 1873)
"Mr. Jefferson took her to France to wait on Miss Polly." (Isaac Jefferson recollections, Bear.4)
For the return voyage from France to Virginia, Jefferson asked an agent to book accommodations on the vessel, "three master births...and births for a man and a w[o]man servant, the latter convenient to that of my daughters." (Jefferson to James Maurice, B.15.433)
Jefferson's reference to "Maria's maid" in Dec. 1799 appears to be to Sally Hemings. (Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 21 Dec. 1799, University of Virginia Library)
Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen Coolidge, in 1858, wrote that Sally Hemings "had accompanied Mr. Jefferson's younger daughter to Paris and was lady's maid to both sisters." (Coolidge 1858)
1790s to 1827, chambermaid and seamstress: Sally Hemings's son Madison told a reporter in 1873 that "it was her duty, all her life which I can remember, up to the time of father's death, to take care of his chamber and wardrobe, look after us children and do such light work as sewing, &c." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Madison Hemings's neighbor and former Monticello slave Israel Jefferson told a reporter in 1873 that Sally Hemings "was employed as his [Jefferson's] chamber-maid." (Israel Jefferson 1873)
A Fredericktown newspaper reported that Sally Hemings "has a room to herself at Monticello in the character of sempstress to the family, if not as house-keeper." (Fredericktown Herald, reprinted in Richmond Recorder, 8 Dec. 1802)
Jefferson's records do not reveal any privileges accorded to Sally Hemings that distinguished her from others in her family. As part of Monticello's corps of domestic servants, almost all of whom were Hemingses, she received special dispensations that were not normally accorded to field workers. She, her mother, and her sisters were spared the backbreaking weeks of gathering in the wheat in June. Her clothing, like that of other household servants, was finer than the "uniform" distributed to other slaves. In 1794 and 1795, for instance, Sally Hemings and her sister Critta received Irish linen rather than the coarser "osnaburg" of the normal allotment and callimanco (a patterned glossy fabric) instead of the usual coarse woolen "knaps." The house servants received knitted cotton stockings instead of the ill-fitting woven stockings distributed to the rest of the enslaved workers. (FB.41, 49)
Madison Hemings recalled in 1873 that his mother had been "well used" at Monticello. Jefferson's grandson Thomas J. Randolph told biographer Henry S. Randall that Sally Hemings "was treated, dressed, etc., exactly like the rest." (Madison Hemings 1873; Randall 1868)
In 1796 and 1797, Edith and then Agnes Hern, both nine years old at the time, lived in Sally Hemings's house when her daughter Harriet was an infant. This has led at least one historian to suggest that these "baby sitters" were a unique special privilege. In several other cases, however, Jefferson provided such help for his house servants. (FB.50, 52; Jack McLaughlin, Jefferson and Monticello: Biography of a Builder, New York, 1988, p. 406)
One distinction accorded to Sally Hemings and to no other enslaved Monticello family was the freedom granted all of her children after the age of twenty-one.
Her son Madison told a newspaperman in 1873 that "shortly after" Jefferson's death he and his brother Eston, who both had been freed in Jefferson's will, took their mother to live in Charlottesville with them. Sally Hemings had not been freed in the will, yet she appeared with Madison Hemings as a free person of color in a special census in 1833 (and the census of 1830 also suggests she was considered free). In a superseded will of 1834, Jefferson's daughter Martha Randolph wrote that "to Betsy Hemmings, Sally & Wormley I wish my children to give their time. If liberated they would be obliged to leave the state of Virginia." This was probably a written reinforcement of a previous verbal arrangement. If it was made at Jefferson's recommendation before his death, no document has been found to confirm it. "Giving time" was a common method of informal emancipation that avoided the effects of the 1806 removal law requiring freed slaves to leave the state within a year. Sally Hemings would have been recognized as free in her local community but, without any legal "free papers," she could not have safely left the neighborhood where she was known. (Madison Hemings 1873; Stanton, "Monticello to Main Street," pp. 107-108; 1830 Albemarle County census; Martha Randolph will, 18 Apr. , University of Virginia Library)
Died: 1835 (Madison Hemings 1873). Her place of burial is not known. CHILD (b. 1790)
Testimony about the existence of a child born in Virginia soon after Sally Hemings's return from France is contradictory. Madison Hemings said this "child....lived but a short time." In 1802 James T. Callender wrote of a twelve-year-old child named Tom. The oral history of the Woodson family says Hemings's child born in 1790 lived to be Thomas C. Woodson (1790-1879). Although no documentation has yet been found to connect Woodson to Sally Hemings and Monticello, the longstanding oral history warrants inclusion of information about him here:
Born: 1785-1790 (U.S. Censuses, 1840-1870 indicate a birth date range from 1785 to 1790; according to Woodson family tradition he was born in 1790, soon after Sally Hemings's return to Virginia from France).
Parents: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings (Woodson family tradition; no supporting documentary evidence has yet been found).
Wife: Jemima (1782-1868) (tombstone, Jackson County, Ohio)
Children: Lewis (1806-1878); George (1808-1866); Delilah (b. 1810); Thomas (1812-1846); Jemima (b. 1813); Frances (b. 1815); James (1818-1881); John P. (1819-1853); William (1822-1866); Hannah G. (b. 1823); Sarah Jane (1825-1907) (WSB)
Descriptions: 1840 "I have never found a more intelligent, enterprising, farming family in the State of Ohio." (Extract from The Philanthropist reprinted in The Colored American, 31 Oct. 1840)
1891 "In this church [African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Jackson County, Ohio, 1830s-1840s) is the family of the Woodsons, of whom the father is Thomas Woodson, and the mother, Jemima, who are remarkable or their piety, intelligence, and family government." (Daniel A. Payne, History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Nashville, 1891, p. 310)
According to Beverly Gray, consultant to Monticello's Getting Word oral history project, unpublished eyewitness accounts from Ohio describe Thomas Woodson as tall and always well dressed, a man who remained aloof from most people in the area, but was very well respected.
Residences: Before 1807, no documentary reference to Woodson has yet been found.
At least 1807 to 1820, with wife and children in Greenbrier County, Virginia (now West Virginia). (WSB.21, 125a,b; Greenbrier County Deed Book 4:110-111)
1821 to 1829, with his family in Chillicothe, Ross County, Ohio. (WSB.21)
1829 to his death, in a rural black community, of which he was one of the founders, in Milton Township, Jackson County, Ohio. (WSB.22, 28)
Occupation: From 1829, he was a farmer, eventually owning over 400 acres and raising hogs, cattle, corn, and hay. According to an account in 1840 his was "acknowledged to be the best cultivated farm in Jackson county." ("From the Philanthropist," The Colored American, 31 Oct. 1840)
Woodson was the wealthiest of the farmers, most of them also former slaves from Virginia, in the Jackson County settlement. He had real estate worth $6,750 in 1850 and $11,000 in 1860. His son Lewis described the settlement, which consisted of twenty or thirty families, in 1838: "They have a church, day and Sabbath School of their own. The people of this settlement cut their harvests, roll their own logs, and raise their own houses, just as well as though they had been assisted by white friends. They find just as ready and as high market for their grain and cattle, as their white neighbors. They take the newspapers and read many useful books, and are making as rapid advancement in intelligence and refinement as any people in the county generally do. And when they travel out of their settlement, no colored people, let them reside where or among whom they may, are more respected, or treated with greater deference than they are." (Lewis Woodson, in Colored American, 28 July 1838; WSB.49-50)
Religion and Education: Thomas and Jemima Woodson were early members of the Methodist church in Chillicothe. In 1821, the Woodsons and other black members left to form their own church under the leadership of the Rev. Richard Allen. This was the first African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church organized west of the Alleghany mountains. The Woodsons' sons Lewis, John P., and Thomas became AME ministers. (WSB.45-48)
Although Thomas Woodson was apparently illiterate (he signed his name to legal documents with a cross), his children achieved a high level of education. The school in Jackson Settlement was noted in 1840 as "the most forward" in the township. Four of his sons were school teachers; Lewis Woodson was a founding trustee of Wilberforce University. The youngest daughter Sarah graduated from Oberlin College and became the first female African-American teacher at the college level, when she taught at Wilberforce in 1858. (WSB.32b; 144-152)
Antislavery Activity: The Woodson family was active in the Underground Railroad. According to local oral tradition, one son was beaten to death for not revealing the hiding place of a fugitive slave. Thomas Woodson attended state conventions for blacks and was local agent for a black Columbus newspaper. His oldest son Lewis fought against slavery in conventions and through newspaper articles; his views on separate black settlements and organizations led one historian to name him a contender for the title, "father of black nationalism." (WSB. 125a, 132; Floyd J. Miller, "'The Father of Black Nationalism': Another Contender," Civil War History, 17, no. 4 [Dec. 1971], 310-319) Death: 1875-1882, probably circa 1879. (Last appearance in records, 1875; surviving estate records 1882-1883; not found in 1880 census; WSB. 40-42, 141-141)
Name: Possibly William Beverly Hemings, the name given by his brother Madison to his third son.
Born: 1 Apr. 1798 (FB.57)
Parents: Sally Hemings and, most likely, Thomas Jefferson (FB.57; Madison Hemings 1873)
Spouse: "He married a white woman in Maryland....[Her] family were people in good circumstances." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Children: Daughter, only child; no living descendants are known. (Madison Hemings 1873)
Descriptions: 1858 Ellen Randolph Coolidge, Jefferson's granddaughter: "White enough to pass for white." (Coolidge 1858)
Residences: Monticello until 1822; Washington, DC, and possibly Maryland, afterward (FB.130; Madison Hemings 1873)
Occupation: Carpenter; musician
He is listed in the Farm Book as a "tradesman" in 1810 at the age of twelve. He may then have been working in the nailery and began his training as a woodworker two years later. He dressed timber for the coopers in 1819 and 1820, and was working with "the carpenters" in 1820. (FB.128; Edmund Bacon to TJ, 4 Sep. 1819, Massachusetts Historical Society [MHi], 16 July 1820, University of Virginia Library; TJ to Bacon, 29 Nov. 1820, MHi)
In 1815, and probably other years, he worked in the wheat harvest; he was a gatherer/binder at the Lego farm in 1815. (FB.149)
In an unsigned note, one of Jefferson's granddaughters in 1819 or 1820 asks the addressee to come to Monticello to "dance after Beverley's music" at the South Pavilion ([Virginia Randolph?] to [Jane H. Randolph], undated, University of North Carolina: Trist Papers)
Status: He was not legally manumitted, but left Monticello in 1822, evidently with Jefferson's permission, and henceforth lived as a white man.
1822+ "Beverly. run away 22." ("Roll of negroes according to their ages," FB.130)
1858 Ellen Coolidge, Jefferson's granddaughter: "It was [Jefferson's] principle...to allow such of his slaves as were sufficiently white to pass for white men, to withdraw quietly from the plantation; it was called running away, but they were never reclaimed. I remember four instances of this, three young men and one girl, who walked away and staid away--their whereabouts was perfectly known but they were left to themselves--for they were white enough to pass for white." (Coolidge 1858)
1873 His brother, Madison Hemings: "We all became free agreeably to the treaty entered into by our parents before we were born....Beverly left Monticello and went to Washington as a white man." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Other: He apparently ran away from Monticello for a short period in the summer of 1820. (Edmund Bacon to TJ, 16 July 1820, University of Virginia Library)
Death: Unknown; Madison Hemings's 1873 reference to him suggests that he was still alive at the time. (Madison Hemings 1873)
Jefferson wrote the husband of his daughter Maria that "Maria's maid produced a daughter about a fortnight ago, and is doing well." The most likely candidate for "Maria's maid" still resident at Monticello, rather than with the Eppes, is Sally Hemings. (TJ to John Wayles Eppes, 21 Dec. 1799, University of Virginia Library)
Parents: Sally Hemings and, most likely, Thomas Jefferson Name: Possibly Thenia, after Sally Hemings's sister Thenia (1767-1795)
A December 1799 meat ration list includes a Thenia living with Sally Hemings and her twenty-month-old son Beverly. TJ drew a line through her name, as he did with Jupiter and Ursula, who died within the next six months. Abraham and Doll's daughter Thenia is, however, missing from this list, so that she may have been living with Sally Hemings, as did the eight-year-olds Edy and Aggy in 1795 and 1797. Since Doll's Thenia was only six in 1799, it seems unlikely she would have been separated from her parents and sent to live with Sally Hemings at such a young age.
Parents: Sally Hemings and, most likely, Thomas Jefferson (FB.128; Madison Hemings 1873)
Spouse: "A white man in good standing in Washington City" (Madison Hemings 1873)
Children: "She raised a family of children." None of her living descendants is known. (Madison Hemings 1873)
Descriptions: 1847 Isaac Jefferson, former Monticello slave: "Harriet, one of Sally's daughters, was very handsome." (Bear.4)
1858 Ellen Randolph Coolidge, Jefferson's granddaughter: "One girl [was] white enough to pass for white." (Coolidge 1858)
1862 Edmund Bacon, former Monticello overseer: "She was nearly as white as anybody and very beautiful." (Bear.102)
Residences: Monticello until 1822; Washington, DC, afterward (FB.130; Madison Hemings 1873)
Occupation: Textile worker
1815 Listed as a wool spinner in the cloth "factory" (FB.152)
1862 Edmund Bacon: "From the time she was large enough, she always worked in the cotton factory. She never did any hard work." (Bear.102)
1873 Madison Hemings, her brother: Until the age of fourteen, "we were permitted to stay about the 'great house,' and only required to do such light work as going on errands. Harriet learned to spin and to weave in a little factory on the home plantation." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Status: She was not legally manumitted, but left Monticello in 1822, evidently with Jefferson's permission, and henceforth lived as a white woman.
1822+ "Harriet. Sally's run. 22." ("Roll of negroes according to their ages," FB. 130)
1858 Ellen Coolidge: "It was [Jefferson's] principle...to allow such of his slaves as were sufficiently white to pass for white men, to withdraw quietly from the plantation; it was called running away, but they were never reclaimed. I remember four instances of this, three young men and one girl, who walked away and staid away--their whereabouts was perfectly known but they were left to themselves--for they were white enough to pass for white." (Coolidge 1858)
1862 Edmund Bacon: "Mr. Jefferson...freed one girl some years before he died, and there was a great deal of talk about it....When she was nearly grown, by Mr. Jefferson's direction I paid her stage fare to Philadelphia and gave her fifty dollars." (Bear.102)
1873 Madison Hemings: "She thought it to her interest, on going to Washington, to assume the role of a white woman, and by her dress and conduct as such I am not aware that her identity as Harriet Hemings of Monticello has ever been discovered." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Death: Unknown. In 1873, her brother Madison Hemings had "not heard from her for ten years." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Name: Although he always used only the single given name, his full name may have been James Madison Hemings, the name of his fourth son.
"As to myself, I was named Madison by the wife of James Madison, who...happened to be at Monticello at the time of my birth, and begged the privilege of naming me, promising my mother a fine present for the honor." (Madison Hemings 1873)
Born: 19 Jan. 1805 (FB.128; Madison Hemings 1873)
Parents: Sally Hemings and, most likely, Thomas Jefferson (FB.128; Madison Hemings 1873)
Spouse: Mary Hughes McCoy, granddaughter of Stephen and Chana Hughes, a plantation owner and his slave, whom he freed. The marriage took place in Charlottesville, 21 Nov. 1831. Mary McCoy Hemings died between 1873 and 1877 (marriage license, Albemarle County Clerk's Office; Madison Hemings 1873; Madison Hemings estate records, Ross County, Ohio)
Children: Son (d. infant); Sarah Hemings Byrd (1835-1884); Thomas Eston Hemings (1838-1863); Harriet Hemings Butler Spears (1839-1925); Mary Ann Hemings Johnson (1843-1921); Catherine Jane Hemings Hale (1844- ); William Beverly Hemings (1847-1910); James Madison Hemings (1849- ); Julia A. Hemings (1851-1867); Ellen Wayles Hemings Roberts (1856-1940) Living descendants of his daughters Sarah, Harriet, and Ellen are known.
Descriptions: 1831. "5:7 3/8 Inches high light complexion no scars or marks perceivable." (Albemarle County Minute Book, 1830-1831, p. 123, 6 Sep. 1831)
1873 March. S. F. Wetmore, journalist: "He is an intelligent man, and understands himself well. If he had been educated and given a chance in the world he would have shone out as a star of the first magnitude....Mr. Hemings is five feet ten inches in height, sparely made, with sandy complexion and a mild gray eye." (Malone and Hochman, pp. 526-527)
1873 March. Thomas Jefferson "was a much smarter man physically, even at that age , than I am ." (Madison Hemings 1873)
1990s. According to Beverly Gray (Chillicothe, Ohio), a white resident of Ross County remembers his great-uncle talking about Madison Hemings and describing him as the "junior president." "His word was his bond," he said.
Residences: Birth to 1827. Monticello (with some absences at Poplar Forest, working on the house there).
1827 to c1830. With his mother and brother Eston, in a rented house in Charlottesville. (Madison Hemings 1873)
c1830 to 1836. With his mother, wife and children, and--until 1832--his brother Eston, in a house owned jointly with his brother, on West Main Street, Charlottesville (Albemarle County Deed Book, 29: 276-277; 34: 137-138; 1833 special census)
1836 to c. 1841. With his wife and children, in Pebble Township, Pike County, Ohio (Madison Hemings 1873)
c1841 to 1877, Pee Pee Hills community, Ross County, Ohio. From 1857 to 1859, he owned 25 acres there. From 1865, he owned his own 66-acre farm. (Ross County Deed Book, 59: 389-390, 63: 624, 68: 562-563; Hemings estate records, Ross County)
Occupation: House servant; carpenter, joiner, and wheelwright; farmer
As a child he worked in the Monticello house, going on errands and possibly acting as waiter and porter. (Madison Hemings 1873)
His training as a woodworker began at age fourteen, with his uncle John Hemmings. His known activities include helping John Hemmings install Monticello's tin roof (spring 1825) and working on the Poplar Forest roof and other tasks (summer 1825). (Madison Hemings 1873; TJ to F. W. Eppes, Apr. 1825, FAM.453)
After Jefferson's death, he did work for Jefferson's grandsons Thomas J. and Benjamin F. Randolph and for a Mrs. Taylor. Work for some of his unknown employers probably took him periodically away from Charlottesville. (Hemings to Thomas J. Randolph, 15 Jan. 1833, ViU)
After his arrival in Ohio in 1836, he worked at his trade "on and off" and was involved in the construction of three buildings in Waverly, now the Pike County seat: Bissell Port, the Pike County Republican building, and a hotel (now the Emmitt House). The two latter structures still stand. The inventory of his estate at the time of his death--which included a large variety of planes and chisels as well as wagon spokes--reveals that he was still practicing his woodworking trade (Madison Hemings 1873; Hemings estate records, Ross County)
His estate records indicate that he actively farmed his 66 acres. The inventory of his estate included a black mare, seven hogs, plows, and cultivator. (Hemings estate records, Ross County)
Religion and Education: Nothing is known about Madison Hemings's religious life. It is possible he and his wife were members of the Pee Pee Hills (now Eden Baptist) Church near their farm. His daughter Sarah is buried in the Eden Baptist graveyard.
By his own account, he "learned to read by inducing the white children to teach me the letters and something more; what else I know of books I have picked up here and there, till now I can read and write." Three relevant documents survive: his marriage license (1831), bearing his signature; an 1833 letter, written apparently by an amanuensis, with a quite different signature; and a brief signed promissory note from 1870. (Madison Hemings 1873; Hemings to Thomas J. Randolph, 15 Jan. 1833, ViU; note to Giles Roberts, 2 Dec. 1870, Hemings estate records)
Status: Born a slave; freed by Jefferson's will at age twenty-one, an age he had reached by Jefferson's death; at Jefferson's request, the Virginia legislature passed an act allowing Madison and Eston Hemings, and three other relatives mentioned in the will, to remain in the state despite the 1806 removal law. (Jefferson will, in Bear.122; Acts of Assembly [Richmond, 1826], p. 127)
Name: Possibly Thomas Eston Hemings, the name of his brother Madison's second son. Thomas Jefferson's cousin Thomas Eston Randolph and his family were neighbors and close friends of the family of Jefferson's daughter Martha Randolph.
Birth: 21 May 1808 (FB.128)
Parents: Sally Hemings and, most likely, Thomas Jefferson (FB.128; Madison Hemings 1873)
Spouse: Julia Ann Isaacs (1814-1889), daughter of Jewish merchant David Isaacs and Ann (Nancy) West, a free woman of color. The marriage took place in Charlottesville, 14 June 1832. (Albemarle County marriage bond, 1832; Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, WI; Stanton, "Monticello to Main Street," pp. 105-108)
Children: John Wayles Jefferson (1835-1892); Anna W. Jefferson Pearson (1836-1866); Beverly Jefferson (1838-1908) (Forest Hill Cemetery; 1850 Ross County, Ohio, census)
Descriptions: 1832"6 feet one inch high, Bright Mulatto - no scars or marks." (Albemarle County Minute Book, 1832-1843, p. 12)
1887Ohio journalist: "Eston Hemings, the Ben Hunter of that day, was a fine looking man, very slightly colored, of large size." (Chillicothe Leader, 26 Jan. 1887)
1901Ohio journalist: "A remarkably fine looking colored man....Eston Hemings was of a light bronze color, a little over six feet tall, well proportioned, very erect and dignified; his nearly straight hair showed a tint of auburn, and his face, indistinct suggestion of freckles. Quiet, unobtrusive, polite and decidedly intelligent, he was soon very well and favorably known to all classes of our citizens, for his personal appearance and gentlemanly manners attracted everybody's attention to him." (Daily Scioto Gazette, 1 Aug. 1902)
Residences: Birth to 1827. Monticello (FB.passim)
1827 to c1830. With his mother and brother Madison, in a rented house in Charlottesville (Madison Hemings 1873)
c1830 to 1832. With his mother and brother, in a purchased house on West Main Street, Charlottesville. (Albemarle County Deed Book, 29.276-277)
1832 to 1837. With his wife and children, in a family-owned and built house on East Main Street, Charlottesville (Stanton, "Monticello to Main Street," p. 107-108, 112-113)
1839 to 1852. With his wife and children, in a house on Paint Street, Chillicothe, Ohio, purchased for $1,000. (Ross County Deed Book, 36: 168-169; 53: 179-180)
1852 to 1856. With wife and children in Madison, Wisconsin, as Eston H. Jefferson. (Madison Hemings 1873; 1855 Madison Directory; Forest Hill Cemetery)
Occupation: Carpenter and cabinetmaker; musician.
Trained in woodworking at Monticello by his uncle John Hemmings, he worked in the ten years after his emancipation as a carpenter and also probably as a musician. In the 1833 special census, he is listed as a carpenter; in the same year, he made a violin case for the University of Virginia (1833 special census; receipt, Proctor's papers, University of Virginia, 11 June 1833)
During his residence in Ohio, he was a professional musician, listed as such in the 1850 census. He was a very successful dance band leader, recalled as "a master of the violin, and an accomplished 'caller' of dances," who "always officiated at the 'swell' entertainments of Chillicothe," and was in demand all across southern Ohio. (Ross County census, 1850; Daily Scioto Gazette, 1 Aug. 1902; Chillicothe Leader, 26 Jan. 1887; 1850 Ross County, Ohio, census)
In Madison, Wisconsin, he worked as a cabinetmaker. (Madison Directory, 1855)
Education: Nothing is known about his education. Several documents bearing his signature survive, from the 1830s. No other documents in his hand have been found. (his marriage license, 1832; receipt, Proctor's papers, 1833; marriage license of Jerman Evans and Agnes Isaacs, 20 Oct. 1836, Albemarle County)
Status: Born a slave; bequeathed freedom at age twenty-one by Jefferson's will, but given "the remainder of his time" at age nineteen by Jefferson's executors; at Jefferson's request, the Virginia legislature passed an act allowing Madison and Eston Hemings, and three other relatives mentioned in the will, to remain in the state despite the 1806 removal law. (Jefferson will, in Bear.122; Madison Hemings 1873; Acts of Assembly [Richmond, 1826], p. 127)