Limestone Land

On March 29, 1771 Thomas Jefferson recorded in his account book:

"...purchased of Robert Sharpe one acre of limestone land[1]on Plumb tree branch otherways called Scale's creek to be laid off as I please. under these restrictions. I am not to enter his fense on the South side of the road, nor to include his spring on the N. side of the road. I give him 40/3 for it. Watt Mousley present at making the bargain."

On October 5, 1773 he recorded in his account book:

"pd Robt. Sharpe in full for the lands at the limestone quarry 45/"

These two purchases combined to total the four acres which Jefferson refers to in his land-roll of 1810:

"4. acres Limestone quarry on Plumb tree branch, purchased by Ths of Robert Sharpe, being part of 600. acres patented Crawford."

On the third of October, 1773 a deed was drawn up transferring these four acres to Jefferson for the total amount of four pounds five shillings, part of which had been paid in 1771.

A further reference to this parcel is an account book entry dating from March 30, 1796 wherein it is noted that Robert Sharpe is paid "...4. D. in full for his claim of land on the N. side the 3. notchd. road adjoing. my limestone land."

Neither the land-roll of 1810 nor the deed transferring the limestone lands to Abraham Holly when they were sold by Jefferson in 1821, indicates that additional acreage had been purchased as suggested by the 1796 account book entry.

This parcel which Jefferson described as being on Plumb Tree Branch north of the Three notched road has been located on the upper reaches of what is now called Limestone Creek where it intersects route 250. The land is part of the Everona Formation which runs as a narrow band from Fauquier Country to the Hardware River in Albemarle County, averaging about 100 feet wide. It is the only source of concentrated limestone east of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Central Virginia. [2] Jefferson describes this vein of limestone in his Notes on the States of Virginia.

It was at this site that Jefferson quarried the stone necessary to produce the lime used for mortar in the construction of both the first and second house at Monticello.

Jefferson owned one other tract of limestone land which he purchased from his brother and for which there is a deed dated April, 1796. [3] Jefferson added this tract to the 1794 land-roll describing it as:

"66 2/3 [acres] Limestone. an undivided sixth of 400. acres and water of Hardware. pat'd by Philip Mayo Sep. 1 1794."

This land, comprising 400 acres, was purchased by Jefferson's father and five other gentlemen for 17 pounds in 1753. A clue to the location of this land is given by Jefferson in a letter to Mary Stith in which he writes:

"...Mr. Stith then held Edgehill about a dozen miles on this side of the tract, and the Barringer's creek estate, 8 miles on the other side. my father held the lands I live on adjoining Edgehill, and those my brother holds, 10 miles on the other side to whom the share in the Limestone tract was given." [4]

It is not known when, if ever, Jefferson quarried limestone on this land.

Initially, Jefferson obtained his limestone from lands owned by others. In May of 1770 he began the operation of raising and burning limestone; and the beginnings of construction of the brick buildings at Monticello date from that time. In Jefferson's Miscellaneous Accounts there is an entry for July, 1770, recording that William Beck worked "22 days 8 nights raising and burning lime at Nelson's." This was probably on the lands of Robert Nelson in the North Garden of Albemarle County on the south fork of the Hardware River.[5] Although the limestone band does not run through that part of the county, there is scattered surface limestone, perhaps in sufficient quantities to make it profitable to produce limited quantities of lime.

Footnotes

  1. This article is based on WLB, Monticello Research Report, August 19, 1973.
  2. See Wilbur A. Nelson's Geology and Mineral Resources of Albemarle County, Bulletin 77, Virginia Division of Mineral Resources, 1962; and Tinsley Mack's "Geology of the Everona Formation", Master's Thesis, University of Virginia, 1957.
  3. Albemarle County Deed Book, 1:64.
  4. Monticello, March 7, 1811
  5. Robert Nelson sold to James Powell Cocke shortly after the termination of the American Revolution his lands in the North Garden of Albemarle County. The exchange of land comprised 1,600 acres. It was on these lands that Cocke built his home, Edgemont.

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