Family Histories: A Beginning

"I was born at Monticello...." -- Peter Fossett, 1898, and Henry Martin, 1914

Over the decades, hundreds could have spoken those words. Below are profiles of a few of those born into slavery at Monticello.

ISAAC JEFFERSON

Isaac (Granger) Jefferson (1775-c.1850) was the son of Great George, a foreman of labor and overseer at Monticello, and Ursula, a pastry cook and laundress. Isaac Jefferson, whose family name was probably Granger, worked at Monticello as a nailmaker, tinsmith, and blacksmith. He became free in the 1820s and was still practicing his blacksmithing trade at age seventy-two, when his recollections of life at Monticello were preserved.

LUCY COTTRELL

Lucy Cottrell was the daughter of Dorothea (Dolly) Cottrell, a house servant at Monticello who, after 1826, became the property of George Blaetterman, a professor at the University of Virginia. About 1850 Dolly and Lucy Cottrell went to Maysville, Kentucky, with the professor's widow, who freed them five years later. In this daguerreotype Lucy Cottrell is holding Charlotte, daughter of Blaetterman's foster son.

ANN-ELIZABETH FOSSETT ISAACS

Ann-Elizabeth Fossett (1812-1902) was the fourth child of Joseph Fossett, head blacksmith at Monticello, and his wife, Edith Hern Fossett, the Monticello cook. Ann-Elizabeth, her mother, and seven of her siblings were sold in the January auction following Jefferson's death. Through her family's efforts, she became free in 1837 and moved with her husband, Tucker Isaacs, and their children to southern Ohio in 1850.

REV. PETER FOSSETT

Peter Fossett (1815-1901) was the fifth child of Joseph and Edith Fossett. At age eleven, he, too, was sold at the Monticello auction and remained in slavery until 1850, when his freedom was purchased by family members. He joined his parents in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he became a prominent caterer, community leader, and minister.

REV. ROBERT HUGHES

Robert Hughes (1824-1895) was the tenth child of Wormley and Ursula Hughes, and thus the great-grandson of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings and the great-nephew of Isaac Jefferson. After Thomas Jefferson's death, Robert Hughes remained in slavery on the plantation of Jefferson's grandson until the end of the Civil War. He became a blacksmith and the founding minister of Union Run Baptist Church.

HENRY MARTIN

Henry Martin (1826-1915) was born at Monticello on the day of Jefferson's death. He worked in slavery and freedom at the University of Virginia, where he rang the bell in the Rotunda every day for decades.  A man of remarkable character and a devout Baptist, he was the subject of many articles in University publications.

SALLY COTTRELL COLE

Sally Cottrell Cole (c1800-1875) lived at Monticello for almost twenty years as personal servant to Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen Randolph. In 1826 Thomas Key, a professor at the University of Virginia, purchased her and took measures to free her. She worked as a seamstress and domestic servant. In 1848 she married a free man of color, Reuben Cole.

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Discussion

says

How usual it was for the slaves to take their master last names?

says

GOOD AFTERNOON.WHERE DID THOMAS JEFFERSON OBTAIN HIS QUR'AN FROM ?

says

We've got a brief report on Jefferon's copy of the Qur'an in our Jefferson Encyclopedia.

says

GOOD AFTERNOON.ADAM AND WILLAIM HEATH AND THEIR DESECENDANTS FROM CHARLES AND SURRY COUNTY,VIRGINIA WERE THE SLAVEOWNERS OF MY FAMIKY.I AM TRYING TO FIND OUT HOW THE HEATH'S AND THOMAS JEFFERSON CAME ABOUT THEIR SLAVES AND DID THE HEATH'S HAVE ANY BUSINESS DEALINGS WITH THOMAS JEFFERSON ?WHAT PART OF AFRICA DID THESE SLAVES COME FROM ?THANK YOU-P.O.BOX 338-COMPTON,CA.90223

says

To find out more about how Jefferson acquired his slaves and where they came from check out our Slavery FAQ.

Hope this helps. If you need a more detailed response, please use our Ask a Reference Question form.

says

How interesting! As a UVA alumna, I loved learning about Henry Martin. So many of the enslaved people of Monticello went on to lead fascinating lives.

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