Peachy Gilmer

Peachy Ridgway Gilmer[1] (1779-1836) was the third son of Dr. George Gilmer, Jefferson's friend and physician. He was named for his father's brother (both Peachy and Ridgway were originally family surnames) and grew up at Pen Park north of Charlottesville.

Described by his brother's biographer as "of unusual but attractive personality and of strong prejudices, and perhaps of a great deal of potential mental power",[2] Peachy Gilmer attended the College of William and Mary in 1797 and 1798, studied law with William Wirt from 1799 to 1802, and practiced law in a desultory fashion for a few years.

He married Mary House, a niece of Jefferson's friend Eliza House Trist, in 1803. In 1806 he, his wife and children, and six slaves moved to a family property in "the woods" of Henry County. The "tolerable cabin" they first built and then enlarged, called Birdwood, was their home until 1818, when they moved to the town of Liberty (now Bedford), where Peachy continued the practice of law. Their children were Emma, George Harmer, and Francis Walker - and perhaps others.

Peachy Gilmer was well acquainted with Jefferson and Monticello. His brother Francis Walker Gilmer was Jefferson's protege and emissary in the acquisition of professors for the University of Virginia. Two of Peachy's family connections, Eliza Trist and George Divers of Farmington, were Jefferson's particular friends. In his autobiography Peachy left sketches of both of Jefferson's daughters: Maria had a "divine" face and Martha was "the most accomplished woman I have ever known."


  1. This article is based on Lucia Stanton, Monticello Research Report, 1990.
  2. Richard Beale Davis, Francis Walker Gilmer: Life and Learning in Jefferson's Virginia (Richmond: Dietz Press, 1939), 16.

Further Sources

  • Gilmer, Peachy. Autobiography. In Francis Walker Gilmer: Life and Learning in Jefferson's Virginia, edited by Richard Beale Davis, 360-373. Richmond: Dietz Press, 1939. Note that Davis (p. 10) warned of many inaccurate details in Peachy's memoir. Davis also includes many of Peachy's letters in their entirety. The original autobiography manuscript is in the William J. Robertson Papers, University of Virginia).
  • "Letters to Thomas Walker Gilmer." William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 15 (1907): 225-234.
  • Speed, J. G. The Gilmers in America. New York: Privately printed, 1897.

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