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Thomas Jefferson first traveled to Williamsburg in 1760, when he became a student at the College of William and Mary. It was at Williamsburg that Jefferson came under the influence of his college mentor, William Small, and was introduced to George Wythe. After completing his college studies, Jefferson remained in Williamsburg to study law under Wythe’s direction. During this time, he lodged at the Market Square Tavern.
The colonial capital offered new opportunities for a young man from a rural background. Jefferson frequented the local playhouse, danced in the Apollo Room at Raleigh Tavern, and, at the invitation of Governor Francis Fauquier, joined in musical evenings at the Governor’s Palace. From the printing office of the Virginia Gazette, Jefferson purchased books and sheet music; from wigmaker Edward Charlton on Duke of Gloucester Street, he secured wigs, powder, and curls.
Living in Williamsburg, Jefferson became acquainted with colonial leaders from throughout Virginia. Edmund Pendleton, Peyton Randolph, and Patrick Henry were among the delegates that Jefferson observed in action at the Virginia House of Burgesses. The political climate in the capital allowed Jefferson to become rapidly immersed in the important issues of the day.
Back in Albemarle County by 1767, Jefferson continued the practice of law and traveled to Williamsburg when the court was in session. He returned again to Williamsburg in 1769, after the Albemarle County voters elected him to the House of Burgesses. Throughout the 1770s, Jefferson periodically traveled to Williamsburg for meetings of the colonial House of Burgesses and then, during the American Revolution, the Virginia House of Delegates. Elected to the governorship shortly before the capital moved to Richmond in 1780, Jefferson was the last executive to occupy Williamsburg’s Governor’s Palace.
- Nancy Verell, 11/25/13
- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Rockefeller Library, Digital Library. Research Report Series.
- 1. MB, 1:77. See also Helen Bullock and H. D. Farish, Market Square Tavern Historical Report, Block 12 Building 13 Lot 12, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series No. 1253. Williamsburg, VA: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library, 1990.
- 2. Jefferson to John Page, Williamsburg, October 7, 1763, in PTJ, 1:11. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 3. Jefferson to Louis H. Girardin, Monticello, January 15, 1815, in PTJ:RS, 8:200. Polygraph copy available online at the Library of Congress.
- 4. Virginia Gazette Daybooks, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.
- 5. MB, 1:75, footnote 96.
- 6. Jefferson to William Wirt, Monticello, August 5, 1815, in PTJ:RS, 8:641-45. Polygraph copy available online at the Library of Congress.