Madison Hemings learned the woodworking trade from his uncle John Hemmings. He became free in 1827, according to the terms of Thomas Jefferson’s will. Hemings and his brother Eston left Monticello to live with their mother, Sally Hemings, in the town of Charlottesville. Together they purchased a lot and built a two-story brick and wood house.
In 1831, Madison Hemings married a free woman of color, Mary McCoy. In the late 1830s the Hemingses left Virginia for a rural community in southern Ohio, where Mary Hemings’s family was already settled. Madison Hemings helped build several structures in the notoriously anti-black town of Waverly. He gradually accumulated property and, by 1865, he and his family were living on their sixty-six-acre farm in Ross County. Madison and Mary Hemings raised nine children. When his recollections were recorded in 1873, he gave his history in a matter-of-fact manner, referring to Jefferson as his father a number of times. His reputation as a man of his word survived in the family of white neighbors to the present day.