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Betsy Hemmings

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Edna Jacques at her ancestor Betsy Hemmings's grave at Millbrook, the former Eppes plantation in Buckingham County, VA (courtesy of Peggy Harrison)

Edna Jacques at her ancestor Betsy Hemmings's grave (courtesy of Peggy Harrison)

Dates alive: 
1783–1857
Occupation: 
Nursemaid

Betsy Hemmings was born at Monticello, daughter of Mary Hemings and a not certainly identified father. When she was fourteen, Jefferson gave her to his daughter Maria and her husband John Wayles Eppes as part of their marriage settlement. The widowed Eppes later moved to Millbrook, in Buckingham County, where he lived with his second wife and their children. According to her family’s oral history, Betsy Hemmings was a daughter of Thomas Jefferson and John Wayles Eppes was the father of her children. 

When Betsy Hemmings died at age seventy-three, the Eppes family commissioned an elaborate grave marker for her—similar and adjacent to that of John Wayles Eppes. The inscription is evidence of her importance: "Sacred to the Memory of our Mammy, Betsey Hemmings who was Mother, Sister & Friend to all who knew her." One surviving story tells of her distress when some of her enslaved children were taken by an Eppes to Florida in 1828.

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