After retiring from a career in banking, Bill Webb began to investigate his family history. His interest had been sparked by a family Bible record of his ancestor Brown Colbert that he saw as a child in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The research of Bill and his wife, Eva Kobus-Webb, revealed the connection to Monticello and brought to light other Colbert descendants like the Civil War soldier George Edmondson and suffragist Coralie Franklin Cook.
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Born in slavery in Lexington, Virginia, George Edmondson claimed his freedom in June 1864, when Union forces occupied the town. He evidently accompanied the army across the mountains into West Virginia after its defeat at Lynchburg a week later. He enlisted in the 45th regiment (later the 127th) of the U. S.
Born in Greenbrier County, Virginia, Lewis Woodson moved with his family to Chillicothe, Ohio, about 1821. He became a teacher and a minister of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. In 1831 Woodson, his wife, Caroline Robinson, and their children relocated to Pittsburgh, where he started the first school for black children in the city and worked as a barber.
Brown Colbert lived his first twenty years at Monticello, where he worked as an enslaved domestic servant and a nailmaker. In 1805, he asked to be sold to a free workman leaving Monticello, so that he and his wife would not be separated. Jefferson reluctantly agreed and the Colberts lived in slavery in Lexington, Virginia, until 1833, when they took a momentous step.
Israel Gillette Jefferson, the son of Edward and Jane Gillette, worked as a boy in the Monticello house, the kitchen, and the textile shop. From age thirteen, he was also a postilion, riding one of the four horses that pulled Jefferson’s landau carriage. He was sold after Jefferson’s death to Thomas Walker Gilmer, who became Secretary of the Navy. The earnings of his second wife, a free seamstress, Elizabeth Farrow Randolph, helped him purchase his freedom from Gilmer.