Monticello blacksmith Joseph Fossett, freed by Jefferson in his will, had to struggle to reunite his family after they were sold at the dispersal sale in 1827. With the support of his free relatives, including his mother, Mary Hemings Bell, he had achieved the freedom of his wife, Edith Hern Fossett, and five of their ten children by 1837. They then moved to Ohio, settling in Cincinnati by 1843.
In this thriving city on the dividing line between slavery and freedom, the Fossetts did not turn their backs on those still in bondage. Joseph Fossett and his sons William, Daniel, and Jesse pursued the blacksmithing trade and the whole family actively participated in helping fugitive slaves traveling the Underground Railroad. Almost all of the Fossett children reached Ohio before their parents’ deaths. It took until 1850 in the case of their son Peter Fossett, who became a renowned minister.
Joseph and Edith Fossett’s descendants include artists, attorneys, caterers, civil servants, and musicians. In every generation Fossetts fought for freedom and equality, the most famous among them being William Monroe Trotter.