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Richard Richardson

Richard Richardson was a bricklayer and Monticello overseer in 1800. Thomas Jefferson hired him as a bricklayer in 1796, then sent him to Philadelphia to learn stonecutting and plastering. Richardson later moved to Jamaica where he inherited a sugar plantation, but returned to the U.S. a few years later to work for Jefferson again.

Primary Source References[1] 

1792 June 12. (Mary Jefferson Eppes to Jefferson). "...I am not able to tell you whether Mr. Richardson is going on well. They today, began to raise he walls of the hall. The other rooms are done. The garden has supplied us better with vegetables and fine lettuce than it has ever yet done although we have been so much in want of rain..."[2]  

1798 January 25. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "...Richardson (whom I expect here daily) wrote me word he had hired 3. hands for me, and expected to get some more: they are to work with John...I expect some new tools I have sent on for George will be in Richmond by the time you get this. As soon as Smith George receives them, Isaac is to have his anvil, vice, and beak iron, as also the large new bellows nearly finished when I left home. I must get you to write a line to Bates, and send Jupiter with it to bring me a certain answer from him whether I am to depend on him for my flooring plank. You will be so good as to send on the answer by post. I am uneasy about it, as I have never heard from him in answer to my letter, inclosing him the bill of plank..."[3]  

1798 February 15. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "I have to acknolege the receipt of your of Jan. 28. and 30. and Feb. 3. that of the 30th came by Richardson, mine to you have been of Jan. 11 and 25. and to Martha Feb. 8...The contents of my Ire of Jan. 25. were important. Therefore I hope you got that. It imposed on you a commission about Bates; for I begin to feel with great anxiety my houseless situation. I write to Davenport by this post to inform me what he has done and is doing. I expect that according to promise he has kept a strong force sawing sheeting plank, and getting and preparing shingles, and that with the first open weather of the spring he would begin to cover the house, so that I may find that compleat [sic] on my return, and begin immediately to floor. As he was to get the sheeting and shingles at Pouncey's, if you can spare Mr. Duke a day he might go and see what is done. I am not quite certain however whether Davenport did not propose to get the shingles at some other place. Is Arnold come to Monticello, and at work? How goes Watson answer your purpose? If you could sometimes take the trouble to make John and Davy come to you and bring their written instructions, and question them as to their progress, it would probably keep them to their metal..."[4] 

1798 April 18. (Jefferson to John Barnes). "Pay to Richard Richardson on order ten dollars for value recieved [sic] on account..."[5]

1798 April 19. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "...A letter from George Jefferson of the 11th. informs me he had that day forwarded the harpsichord and box of plants by the Milton boats. I am in hopes therefore they are by this time planted at Monticello. I have forwarded by another opportunity...a Windsor couch with a mattras...I hope Mr. Davenport is going on with spirit. Richardson is here under inoculation; he is now in the fever, and so far doing well. His anxiety to learn the art of plaistering induces him to wish to pass as much of the summer here as possible. He was engaged in cutting stone till lately and will return here in the winter to perfect himself in the business, he wishes to send Mr. Duke a brick from this place as a model, and prove how much too careless our workmen are in making theirs..."[6]  

1798 May 1. (Jefferson to John Barnes). "Pay to Richard Richardson on order ten Dollars on account."[7]

1798 May 17. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "P.S. Since writing the above, Richardson has called on me. He has recieved a letter from Mr. Duke expressing doubts whether he shall be able to go and do Mr. Randolph's work. He has therefore determined to leave this place in the first vessel, and you may expect him in 3. or 4. weeks to be with you ready for work, and much improved, from what he has seen and done there."[8]   

1798 May 20. (Jefferson to George Jefferson). "...A workman (Richardson) to whom I owed 11. D. 72 c wishing to recieve [sic] it in Richmond. I have given him an order on you. I am afraid I am near the bottom of my funds in your hands."[9]

1798 November 17. (Jefferson to [[James Madison]]). "Mr. Richardson has been detained by several jobs indispensable to the progress of the carpenters, and to the securing what is done against the winter. When will Whitten be done with you? Or could you by any means dispense with his services till I set out for [[Philadelphia]]? My floor can only be laid while I am at home, and I cannot get a workman here. Perhaps you have some other with you or near you who could go on with your work till his return to you. I only mention these things that if you? have any other person who could enable you to spare a few weeks, I could employ him to much accomodation [sic] till my departure in laying my floors..."[10]

1799 January 23. (Jefferson to [[Martha Jefferson Randolph]]). "...I hope you will aid John in his preparation in the garden. I have heard nothing from Mr. Richardson about the hiring of labourers and consequently am anxious about my summer operations. Dr. Bache will set out for our neighborhood next month. I have persuaded Mrs. Bache to let him go first and prepare a gite. In the meantime they are packing their furniture. Let George that the nail rod sent from here in December has, with the vessel in which it was, been cast aways at sea: and another supply was shipped here two or three days ago, and will probably be at Richmond about the 10th. of February..."[11]  

1799 March 26. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "We received your letter of the 18th. by Mr. Richardson, to whom we paid your draft of five hundred dollars we send you by him 2 Gross of the best Corks, which is all that we can procure of that quality, and are doubtful if an inferior kind will answer..."[12]  

1799 April 1. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "I intended to have written you by Mr. Richardson myself...I have received a bill of lading from Mr. Barnes of 18 packages shipped for you the 12th ultimo yet they have nor arrived. The chimneypiece is forwarded."[13]  

1799 April 18. (Jefferson to George Jefferson). "...The corks by Mr. Richardson are received, and the packages by the little Jim are said to have arrived at Milton last night...and if my nailrod (which I understand by Richardson is come from Carolina to Richmond) should come in time, I should wish to have a preference for it..."[14]  

1800 January 10. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "A person who was born in this Co. and has resided all his life in it with a fair reputation John...the son of James the Magistrate and neighbors of George Diver, called me on Wednesday the 15th. inst. to inquire about your Shadwell lands a part of which, not more than 100 acres of arable, he wishes to rent for five years or longer if you please...Your affairs go on well at Monto. but Powell has not yet arrived: Richardson has, with seven good labourers at an average a little under 20L."[15]

1800 February 11. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "...I had one also at the same time from Mr. Richardson giving me the details from Monticello..."[16]

1800 February 19. (George Jefferson to Jefferson). "I should before this have send you Mr. Anthony's receipt for the 28 bundles of nail rod that are down, and which I have delivered but he is from home, and his Clerk refuses to grant a receipt, as he says he has received no instruction upon the subject...There are only 40 bundles left on the way which I hope will be shortly down, the balance Mr. Richardson informs me he has sold to Mr. Randolph."[17]

1800 March 31. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "In yours of the 21st. you acknolege mine of Feb. 17th. Since that I wrote to you on the 16th and the 25th. inst. The last was merely to inform you of the departure of a box of plants and 4. casks of plaister of Paris. I would have Fagg's plank immediately sorted by Mr. Perry. What is fit for flooring to be kiln dried directly, that not fir for it to be spread by way of floor in the loft of the dwelling house. Mr. Perry should proceed with the floors the moment the plank is dry...The nail rod is all arrived at Richmond from Monticello. I would not have you delay the plaistering the rooms for the plaister of Paris. Especially my room which must be ready by the time I get home. Tho' I suppose the plaister will arrive in Richmond certainly in the course of the present week."[18]  

1800 April 25. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "...Lillie goes on with great spirit and complete quick at Monto.: he is so good tempored [sic] that he can get twice as much done without the smallest discontent some with the hardest driving possible. We will be in time with every thing...Richardson is lathing your own apartment when he is not: he made a great parade in preparing tools for the Canal and we fitted him up completely without one moments delay but I can see nothing done worth mentioning..."[19] 

1800 May 17. (Jonathan Mortan to Jefferson). "...You will be good Enough to make some inquiry for a young man of the name of Richard Richardson who was in New York in the year 1798 and had Come to that place on a visit from [[Philadelphia]] with Thomas Jefferson to learn the Stone Cutting business and said he was a going to Return with him again to Virginia..."[20] 

1800 December 22. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "...Mr. Powel has Been up, he Came Some few days after you left this, to See you Before you left this, But you Being gone he mentioned he was at a loss to know, wheather he was to Come as a married man or Singel, which I told him it was to his own Choice, But that you had Expected him since the death of his wife to come as a single man, which he said he would and went Back to Bord out his Children...I Carryed Mr Lilly to the Shop this morning and told the Boys they was to Be under his direction...till I see Mr. Powel or hear wheather he is Comeing if he does not I will Return Directly after Christmas, the prospect of geting [sic] of hands for Labour another year, is not a veary good one I hear they Cant Be had In this part of the Country...The Jobs mentioned when you left this is not all Compleat, we took down the two Collums, that was to take down, and Raised one and a half of the two that was down, But find they was not marked, when taken down, I never experienced so troublesome a Job In my life, and found they must be put together Before they are put up, to makr them, as they are to stand."[21] 

1801 January 8. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "I received a few days ago your letter of Dec. 22. and on the 5th. inst. I wrote to mr [George] Jefferson, and now inclose you an order on him for 550.16D say L165-1. to be applied as follow. for Henry Henry Duke for Simon L21-10 Stepney 20-10, Edmd. Goodwin admr. of Dickeson's estate John 16-6 Isaac 16-1, the widow Duke for Mat 20-0, Hendrick's estate for Moses 20-0, yourself for Joe 19-0, do. on account 31-4 = 165-1 = 550.16 D the last sum was intended to have been L30. exact as you desired...I have not heard of Powell's going up to stay: but have written to mr Eppes to press him off. I am not yet able to give you information as to Journey work here."[22]

1801 February 16. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "...But not having of my helth [sic] so as to admit of my going form home till now has occasioned it my not writing to you Before now. I was at your place Since I wrote you or as I may say Since new years day to know why Mr. [[Gabriel Lilly|Lilly]] did not come down as he told me he would. his Reply was he depend on Mr. [paiton] for Eight hands, In which he disappointed him In they Could have been got By me if he had of Come froward [sic] as I Requested of him to do...Mr. Powel has gone froward or not you will Be good Enough to Inform me..."[23]

1801 February 25. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "Yours of the 15th. has been duly recieved [sic]. It has not been in my power to enquire the price of journeymen here, as I have been very closely confined by business, and the buildings are so scattered here, that one does not know where to go for inquiry. I believe there will be a good deal of work in the ensuing season at this place, and am told workmen are more in demand here than at Philadelphia, where the demand is said to be very dull: I suppose therefore they will flock from there to this place. As I am to be fixed in this place, I give up all ideas of carrying on any more stone or brick work myself. I have therefore accepted of Whately's proposal to undertake my shop &c. himself, out & out, he to do the quarrying, hauling & every thing. of course I have nothing in which I could engage you. Lilly succeeded in getting as many hands as I wanted, and after finishing the clearing for mr Craven, will be employed this summer on the canal-I believe there will little public work done here this summer: it will be chiefly private."[24]

1801 May 12. (James Traquair to Jefferson). "Yours of the 8th instant I have just recieved: if you should want a stone cutter in July you could not have applied a better time, I do not believe there ever was a better sett of Stone Cutters employed by one Man on this side the Atlantic than I have at present; and by that time the Bank of Pennsa will be near finished, so that it will be no inconveniency [sic] to me to spare you one of the best of them; and by that means R. Richardson may learn as much as I wished him when with me. I expect you have received my last inclosing Mr. Steuarts Agreement."[25]

1801 May 18. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "A letter addrested to Mr. Jones of this place I think Conserns me I think I must be the person to whom the inquiry makes mention of as I no of no one Else by my name who was with you at that time and of no person being at [[Philadelphia]] with you about that time and after taking leave of you in Philadelphia I went to New York and saw this man whom it is said is dead. I should be glad to have your advice on this subject it is worthey [sic] of my attention Should you think proper to give me your advice on this subject you will be good Enough to find me a Certified Certify that I was on with you to Philadelphia and about that time...PS you will be good Enough to Remit me the balance due me as I shall be in great want."[26] 

1801 June 1. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "I have duly recieved [sic] yours of May 18. and sincerely congratulate you on the legacy which has fallen to you from your relation in Jamaica. it would certainly be prudent for you to go without delay to recieve [sic] it. according to your desire I inclose yo an order on Gibson and Jefferson for L40...I have ordered a passport in the usual form to be made out for you [in the] Secretary of state's office, which I expect to recieve [sic] from the office in time to inclose herein..."[27]  

1801 June 1. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "Thomas Jefferson do hereby certify that Richard Richardson to whome this paper is delivered is a native citizen of the state of Virginia, was brought up as a bricklayer, that he came into my service as such in the year 1796. being then as I supposed about 21. or 22. years age, and worked for me at my house in Virginia as a bricklayer every season from that to the close of the season of the year 1800. That in the autumn of 1797 he went by my advice to Philadelphia to learn the business of stonecutting and plaistering, and returned from thence again to work for me sometime in the summer of 1798. I have seen an advertisement in the Virginia paper entitled the Examiner published by Meriwether Jones at Richmond, notifying the death of a person of the name of Joseph Richardson in Jamaica, and that he had left his estate to the above named Richard Richardson, on who is therein designated by [such circumstances] as apply with great exactness to him, and to no other person. I further certify that the said Richard Richardson is a person of sobriety and industry, honesty and good demeanor..."[28] 

1801 July 20. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "...I think I shall return this fall let the Consiquence be what it may as I find a disagreebleness...I will write you when I get settled as you may know where to address me a line from you at any time will be thankfully Received by your Humble St."[29]

1804 August 5. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "...I shall be glad to hear how far advanced you have got your house and what has Become of James Dinsmore."[30]

1804 August 15. (Jefferson to Richard Richardson). "I recieved [sic] last night your favor of Aug. 5. and am glad to find you have got safely back, & have been successful in your expedition to Jamaica. From your long silence we had begun to conclude you were sell out on that island is undoubtedly wise, and your choice of the Orleans territory for your destination is equally so. You will find the purchase however of Sugar lands there high...if you go before hand and select a spot of sugarlands, a great deal of which isnow vacant, & be on the spot to get a grant of it, you may probably get lands cheap...The progress of my buildings, after which you enquire also, has been steady. You had finished all the bricklayer's work before you left it..."[31] 

1804 August 24. (Richard Richardson to Jefferson). "I receved [sic] yours of August the 15 which gave Me some Information Respecting new orleans...Respecting your house and Its progress are highly pleasing to Me I wish you had some of the Mahogany that lays waiting with us for the Inside of your house..."[32] 

1809 December 29. (Burgess Griffin to Jefferson). "...Mr. Richerson thinks it will take him 2 weeks yet to finnish [sic] the plastering he has never loste one day since he began thar was not more than halfe lathes suffisiant for the work I think by keeping good fiers thare will not be any danger of the plastering."[33]

1812 December 10. (Jefferson to Mr. Richardson). "I have occasion for some iron backs for my fire places at this place, of a particular size and form...I have to request you to have 7. cast as soon as convenient as my waggon can bring them here [Poplar Forest] as a return load.."[34]


1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.

2. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, et al, eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950-), 29:428.

3. Ibid, 30:56.

4. Ibid, 30:114.

5. Massachusetts Historical Society

6. Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 30: 282.

7. Massachusetts Historical Society

8. Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 30:355.

9. Ibid, 30: 357.

10. Ibid, 30:579-580.

11. Ibid, 30: 638.

12. Ibid, 31:85.

13. Ibid, 31:86-87.

14. Ibid, 31:93.

15. Massachusetts Historical Society

16. Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 31:365.

17. Ibid: 31:385.

18. Ibid, 31:474.

19. University of Virginia

20. Massachusetts Historical Society

21. Ibid.

22. Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 32:414.

23. Ibid, 32:598.

24. Ibid, 33:67.

25. Ibid, 24:104.

26. Ibid, 34:138.

27. Ibid, 34:230-231.

28. Ibid, 34:231-232.

29. Ibid, 34:604.

30. Massachusetts Historical Society

31. Ibid.

32. Ibid.

33. J. Jefferson, Looney, ed. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004-), 2:96. Cumulative index available online.

34. Massachusetts Historical Society


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