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Jacob Silknitter

Hired White Workers

Massachusetts Historical Society

Jacob Silknitter was a charcoal-burner at Monticello from 1795 to 1797.  Silknitter, a native of Germany, was probably hired to meet the increasing demands for fuel on Mulberry Row, particularly the nailery.  Silknitter, who likely did not live at Monticello, often burned cords of wood in “kilns” for several days and nights to produce charcoal; in 1795, Jefferson “Pd. Jacob Silknitter for 17. days burning coal 68/ @ 4/.”  At least one of his sons assisted him in burning charcoal for the plantation, for in 1797 Jefferson recorded that Silknitter “has worked here 101. Days @ 4/ himself & 2/ his son.”  During his tenure at Monticello, Silknitter likely trained several enslaved workers, including Frank, James Hubbard, Cary, and David Hern.  After Silknitter’s departure, these men produced all of the charcoal needed on the plantation; Jefferson paid them “gratuities” based on the efficiency and productivity of their work.

1784–after 1829
Blacksmith, Charcoal-burner, Nailer, Wagoner

Nailer, Blacksmith, Charcoal–burner, Wagoner.  1784–after 1829.  Learn more about Davy Hern Jr.’s life history.

Read more about the coal sheds where the wood charcoal that fueled Mulberry Row industries was stored.


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