Anne Scott Jefferson Marks (October 1, 1755-July 8, 1828) was the daughter of Peter and Jane Jefferson, twin to her brother Randolph Jefferson and Thomas Jefferson’s youngest sister. Born at her parents’ Shadwell plantation, details of her childhood and young adult life are fragmentary. Her father died when she was two years old, and her childhood years were spent living with her mother at Shadwell and receiving a rudimentary education at the neighboring Buck Island Plantation of her uncle and aunt, Charles and Mary Randolph Lewis. As a young adult, she continued to live with her mother at Shadwell. Thomas Jefferson oversaw her financial affairs, a practice he continued throughout her life, and the entanglement of his finances and hers makes his stewardship of her assets problematic. As a result, while Jefferson provided his sister support, she never gained independent control of her finances. Following her mother’s death in 1776, Jefferson sent Anne letters and gifts of clothing and personal items he’d purchased in London and Paris, and she was welcomed as part of her extended network of relatives. She lived and visited variously at Monticello, Eppington (home of Jefferson’s brother in law Francis Eppes), Buck Island, and with her sisters Martha Jefferson Carr at Spring Forest plantation and Mary Jefferson Bolling at her Fairfield and Chestnut Grove plantations. Accounts from her sister Martha Jefferson Carr portray Anne Scott Jefferson as a young woman in good health and a welcome presence.
In 1787, Martha Jefferson Carr wrote Jefferson, then living in Paris, about her fears and concerns regarding their sister’s future: “ASJ left me last spring to make a charitable visit to Buck Island with a promise of being back in a few weeks. She was not as good as her word. I grew uneasy at the length of her stay, wrote letter after letter pressing her to return but to no purpose. Towards the last of October, I was surprised with the news of her Marriage with Mr. Hastings Marks.” Jefferson wrote a congratulatory letter to Anne wishing her happiness, relating that his past encounters with Hastings Marks were favorable and assuring her “In every situation I shall wish to render him and you every service in my power: as you may be assured I shall ever feel myself warmly interested in your happiness, and preserve for you that sincere love I have always borne you.” In a similar letter to Hastings Marks, Jefferson commented “A thorough knowledge of her merit and good dispositions encourage me to hope you will both find your happiness in this union, and this hope is strengthened by my knowledge of yourself.” In the same time period, Jefferson gave ten of the enslaved people he owned to Hastings and Anne Scott Marks as a wedding gift, including four members of the Hemings family: Daniel Hemings Farley, Nance Hemings, and her children, Billy and Critta.
Upon his marriage to Anne Scott Jefferson in 1787, Hastings Marks appeared to be on the verge of establishing a middle-class life. Marks owned property in Charlottesville, Louisa and Fluvanna Counties and was venturing to partner with Hudson Martin in his mercantile business in Charlottesville. Writing Thomas Jefferson in 1789, his fortunes reversed, Marks candidly described his dire circumstances. Heavily in debt, Marks sold his Charlottesville and Fluvanna County properties. The Markses eventually moved to their Fluvanna County property, where Hastings Marks unsuccessfully devoted himself to farming. The lack of surviving correspondence between Jefferson, Hastings and Anne Scott Marks makes it difficult to ascertain what life was like for the Markses in Fluvanna County. In his sole surviving letter to Anne Scott Marks from this period, Jefferson extended her an unlimited line of credit, professed brotherly affection and expressed his concern for her difficulties, writing “when our little family shall once more be together your company will make us all happy, and most particularly him who is with constant & sincere love, Dear Sister Your affectionate brother.” During the times Jefferson spent at Monticello during his vice presidency and presidency, Anne Marks was a frequent presence and he contemplated the Markses as part of the consolidation of extended family at Monticello in his retirement, an idea that provoked a strong reaction from his daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph: "As to Aunt Marks it would not be desirable to have her if it was proper … she is an excellent creature and a neat manager in a little way, but she has neither head nor a sufficient weight of character to manage so large an establishment as yours will be.” While the Markses did not join Jefferson at Monticello, Anna Scott Marks made extended visits there in the summers of 1810 and 1811.
Following Hastings Marks's unexpected death in December of 1811, Anne Scott Marks joined Thomas Jefferson’s household at Monticello. As co-executor of Hastings Marks’s estate, Jefferson spent ten years paying off his brother-in-law's debts, and his sister’s inheritance amounted to her few possessions: an enslaved woman named Eve, and a small acreage of unsaleable agriculturally depleted land in Louisa County. Widowed, childless and financially insecure, Anne Scott Marks lived out her life at Monticello, except for occasional visits to her twin brother Randolph. In the early years of her residence, she is noted in visitor correspondence joining family and guests at the dinner table and as a confidant regarding domestic difficulties.
Family letters constitute a remarkable, albeit one-sided, window into the strained relationship between Anne Scott Marks and Jefferson’s daughter and granddaughters. The tone of family correspondence regarding “Aunt Marks” reflects a combination of concern, consternation and cynical observation, particularly after she fell down the stairs from her second story room at Monticello. Extracts from family letters illustrate her personality and increasing frailty as time passed (she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1828 after lengthy complaints). Jefferson's granddaughter Ellen noted in 1816, "Aunt Marks carries on her starving system with an energy increased by opposition, and I am afraid will injure her constitution so much as to become the delicate creature she thinks herself.” Her sister Mary complained in 1821, "Aunt Marks would not let me drink my tea without her advice or trust to my doing it at all without being told & then so loquacious so eloquent as she can be such matter of expatiation as she has contrived to find from the appearance of two lean ducks at our board to the great discredit of my management…" Their sister Virginia remarked in 1823, with a mixture of exasperation and sympathy: “Aunt Marks health appears to be declining, and we have become quite uneasy about her; Papa believes that the total inactivity of both her body & mind will kill her, and as she has no mind to employ, and keeps up the fiction of her blindness to indulge her habits of indolence without censure (of which she is dreadfully afraid, and often suspicious) nothing can be done to excite, & give her an object in life… Poor old lady, life can have no charms for her, but I should be very much shocked at her death, and reproach myself much for having borne her folly with so little patience, and so often made it a subject of derision.” Their mother Martha Jefferson Randolph made gentle fun of both herself and her aunt in 1825: “I do not know what has betrayed me in to this fit of moralizing a habit I am not addicted to, but the fear of your imagination occasionally running wild with you when I am not there to seize the reins, made me turn Aunt Marks for a while, and give you a chapter out of My common place book—" Virginia Randolph reported to her sister Ellen in 1827, “Aunt Marks ‘cloven foot’ has been put forth so often lately that both Br. Jeff & Sister Jane declare that they have an insight into her character they never had before.”
With the death of Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826, Anne Scott Jefferson Marks was the sole surviving child of Peter and Jane Jefferson, outliving her brother by two years. Jefferson's granddaughter Cornelia recorded her decline in late May of 1828: “Aunt Marks strength keeps up astonishingly & she does not suffer pain; her appetite too is usually exceedingly good & though she keeps her bed she can get up & even walk; yesterday she was much worse but I think it probable it was only a temporary change; today she is better… Poor old woman her life is not of value to anyone but her death would distress us all exceedingly.” On July 6 she reported, “Aunt Marks died this morning at about ten minutes before four. having been apparently speechless & unconscious ever since yesterday morning. I kept my letter open until the last day that I could keep it to tell you how she was. We have set up with her the last two nights. or rather in the room next to her from which we frequently went to see her.” Anne Scott Jefferson Marks left her small estate to her nephews, Thomas Jefferson Randolph and Samuel Carr, stipulating that it was to be "for the sole and separate use and behoof of my said niece Martha Randolph." The location of her grave is not known.
Anne Scott Jefferson Marks's life illustrates the plight of many women of her era. Born into plantation society but without sufficient means to maintain her elite background, she likely married to escape the restrictions placed upon her by society and her family. Her marriage to Hastings Marks may have brought her spousal affection, but did not result in children or financial security. As a middle aged widow, Anna Marks found herself once again dependent upon her brother, Thomas Jefferson, and spent her remaining years as a guest in his house, apparently never fully able to join the inner circle of the lives of her niece, Martin Jefferson Randolph and grandnieces.
- David Thorson, 5/7/20
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville, VA 22902