Enslaved laborers made wood charcoal at Monticello. This charcoal heated the main house and fueled the forges in Monticello's smith shop and nailery,

AnchorPrimary Source References

1774 September 1. "Agreed with Francis Bishop that he shall work at the Smith's trade with Barnaby whom he is to teach. ... He & Barnaby are to get their own coal wood, but I waggon in the coal and we go halves in the profits of the business."[1]

1774 October 18. "George Bradby goes to cutting wood with Bishop for which I am to pay him by the month."[2]

1775. "John Day gives 2d a bushel for charcoal delivered at his shop. He sais a cord of wood will make 40. bushels."[3]

1779 April 9. "Pd. a coal burner 26 days works £15–12."[4]

[ca. 1790]. Two charcoal sheds built on Mulberry Row presumably at the same time the blacksmith shop was removed to the Row.[5]

1793-1796. "Coal. at Millar's works, the negro men are tasked at 9. cords of coal wood a week, & are paid for whatever they do over that."[6]

1794-1797. Each year, on September 30, Jefferson figured the cost of charcoal used in the nailery. Even though it was produced at Monticello, he gave it a value of 2d the bushel. At the rate of use of 666 bushels of charcoal per ton of nailrod, he figured his charcoal costs were $18.50 per ton.[7]

1795 January 28. "Silkknitter comes to burn coal."[8]

1795 February 18. "Pd. Jacob Silknitter for 17. days burning coal 68/ @ 4/."[9]

1795 March 9. "John & his 4. companions have ... cut for firewood 23. cords, & for coal 50. cords. the mule carts have brought in 403 1/2 hampers of coal."[10]

[1796 or later]. (Declaration for the Mutual Assurance Society). "[At west end of Mulberry Row] 2 coal sheds of wood 20. by 15 f. and 22 f. apart, and it is proposed to build 4. others ... about 25. f. apart for coal also. They are to contain about 8000. bushels of charcoal."[11]

1798 November 8. "Sent to Colo. Bell 6.D. + 26. ‚℔ Xd nails for Hough the coal burner in full for his services last winter."[12]

1799 May 14. "I am always to give Frank a half dime for every bushel to the cord of wood which his coal kilns yield. His last yielded 30 bushels to the cord: therefore paid 1.5 D."[13]

1799 June 27-July 6. Jefferson's chart of division of labor during grain harvest. Frank is noted as "burning coal."[14]

1799 July 31. "Frank's 2d. kiln (on the hill) yielded 974. b. from 30. cord. which is 32 1/2 b. to the cord. Of this Mr. Randolph had 164. bush. His 3d. kiln (on Indn. branch) yielded 1166. bush from 30. cord, which is 39. b. to the cord. This was burnt this month. July."[15]

1799 August 6. "Pd. Frank for his coal-kiln‚ No. 2. 32½ half dimes No. 3. 39. do. [=] 71½ = 3.375 D."[16]

1799 November 30. "Pd. Frank for his 4th. kiln 33. half dimes + a bottle of molasse @ 1/3. Note it yielded 37. bush. to the cord."[17]

[ca. 1799 December 21]. (Memorandum to Richard Richardson). "Settle with Mr. Woodson the coal, bricks, lime, &c., in any way Mr. Randolph chuses. ... Six men to be hired. They are to cut 200 cords of coal wood .... Davy & Lewis ... to mend the coal houses ... Abram, Phil & John are also to join in cutting wood ... Frank to burn another coal-kiln as soon as the wood is ready; then to burn no more till March. The coal-houses to be mended, made secure, and kept locked. A box 2 feet square & deep to be made for every hearth, to be filled in the morning & the door then locked."[18]

1800 September 21. "Settled with Frank for a kiln in Dec. 30 half dimes, for one in March 50. do. There is one of June still to settle."[19]

1800 November 22. "Settled with Frank his kiln of June 38. half dimes. Pd. him 3.9 D. in full for this & the two settled ante Sep. 21. Note I had paid him 1.D. which had not been set down. He has just finished burning a kiln to be settled when I come home."[20]

1802 September 26. "Gave Jame Hubbard & Cary for burning coal 4.D."[21]

1806 October 19. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). "[M]ight not the lappings of the trees there [area enclosed by fence that enclosed the house and its grounds] be got up for coal wood, & made into a kiln where most convenient?"[22]

1806 December 8. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). "[A]fter getting all the coal wood you can on the Meadow branch I should think it most convenient to get the rest on the high mountain as near the Thoroughfare as you can. I think there is a great deal of fallen chesnut on that mountain which will make better coal than the green wood. there is a good deal also within the inclosure of the house at Monticello on the North side of the hill."[23]

1807 May 13. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). "180. cords of coalwood are next to be cut. the wood cut in the River field will make a part, and let the rest be cut in the flat lands on the Meadow branch South of the Overseer’s house which I intend for a Timothy meadow. let the wood be all corded that there may be no deception as to the quantity. a kiln will be wanting to be burnt before Christmas; but the rest of the wood had better lie seasoning till the spring, when it will be better to burn it."[24]

1808 April 14. (Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge to Jefferson). "[T]he level is spoilt nearly. Mr Bacon has made a mistake (I presume) and covered it with charcoal, instead of manure; it looks rather dismal. where ever the grass has not grown it is quite black."[25]

1808 June 7. (Jefferson to Edmund Bacon). "[R]ake & sweep the Charcoal on the level into little heaps and carry them off. rather do this when the grass seed is ripe."[26]

1809 December 10. "Pd. Davy for a coalkiln yielding 30. bush. to the cord 1.50."[27]

1810 May 20. "Since the paiment of Dec. 10. Davy has burnt 2. coalkilns, the 1st. yielding 30¼ b. to the cord, the 2d. 34. bush. Now pd. him for these two 3.20."[28]

1811 July 7. "Since the paiment of May 20. 1810. Davy has burnt 3. coalkilns. The 1st. yielded 1025. bush. from 30. cords is, to the cord‚ 34 bush. ... the last kiln is just now finished. pd. him for the whole 5.60."[29]

[1813 September 20]. (Charles L. Bankhead to Jefferson). "I must beg you for a hamper of charcoal to dry our malt."[30]

1814 August 28. "Pd. Davy for a kiln of 974. bush. coal, to wit 33. bushels to the cord 1.64@.05."[31]

1816 January 24. "A kiln of 29. cord has yielded 972. b. of coal, or 33½ b. to the cord. pd. Davy accdly. 1.67½ (overpd. him .32½)."[32]

1816 August 23. "The last kiln of coal yielded 1240. bushels from 30. chord which is 41. b. @ .05 = 2.05 pd. Davy 2.D."[33]

1817 March 12. "Davy now finishes a kiln of coal measuring 10½ × 10½ × 12½ = 1378 cub. f. = 1034 bush. whic[h] is 34. b. to the cord which at 5. cents pr. bush. to the cord is 1.72."[34]

1818 March 12. "Pd. Davy for a kiln of 1010. b. which is 33.7 b. to the cord 1.69. (He is to return in change .31 ovepd.)"[35]

1818 September 16. "Davy has burnt a kiln of 1060. bushels of coal which is 35 b. to the cord, and comes to 1.76 from which deduct .31 overpaid ante Mar. 12. leaves him 1.45."[36]

1819 May 5. "Davy has burnt a kiln yeilding 1016. bushels which is 33.86 bushels to the cord, & makes his premium 1.70 D."[37]

1820 February 15. "Recapitulation of coal kilns burnt & of coal used. ... average yield 1043. b. and 35. b. to the cord, prem. .05 pr. b. The average used is 112.4 b. pr. Month & say 1350 b. a year."[38]

1820 February 16. "Davy has now finished a kiln of 972. b. which is 32.4 bush. to the cord. His premium @ .05 per bush. from each cord = 1.62."[38]

1823 April 23. "Davy has burnt a kiln of 40. cords yielding 1276. bushels, to wit 32 bushels to the cord, at .05 to the bush. is 1.60 his premium. Note the coal house now built is 10. by 19. clear. The‚ body‚ 8 f. high, roof 3.f. ...."[40]


  1. ^ MB, 1:377-78. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  2. ^ MB, 1:380. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  3. ^ MB, 1:388. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  4. ^ MB, 1:476. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  5. ^ Betts, Farm Book, 454.
  6. ^ Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 113, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition], Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003). See also Betts, Farm Book, 113.
  7. ^ Nailery Accounts, 1794-1796, Thomas Jefferson Ledger, 1767-1770, Jefferson Library Manuscript Facsimiles, 16.
  8. ^ MB, 2:925. Transcription available at Founders Online. Jacob Silknitter burned coal at Monticello until 1797.
  9. ^ MB, 2:925. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  10. ^ Farm Book, 1774-1824, page 45, by Thomas Jefferson [electronic edition], Thomas Jefferson Papers: An Electronic Archive (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2003). See also Betts, Farm Book, 45.
  11. ^ PTJ, 29:239-44. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  12. ^ MB, 2:992. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  13. ^ MB, 2:1001. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  14. ^ Betts, Farm Book, 58.
  15. ^ Nailery Accounts, 1794-1796, Thomas Jefferson Ledger, 1767-1770, Jefferson Library Manuscript Facsimiles.
  16. ^ MB, 2:1004. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  17. ^ MB, 2:1009. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  18. ^ PTJ, 31:270-73. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  19. ^ MB, 2:1027. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  20. ^ MB, 2:1030. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  21. ^ MB, 2:1081. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  22. ^ Thomas Jefferson Papers, The Huntington Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  23. ^ Thomas Jefferson Papers, The Huntington Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  24. ^ Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  25. ^ Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  26. ^ Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  27. ^ MB, 2:1250. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  28. ^ MB, 2:1257. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  29. ^ MB, 2:1267. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  30. ^ PTJ:RS, 6:517-18. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  31. ^ MB, 2:1302. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  32. ^ MB, 2:1318. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  33. ^ MB, 2:1326. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  34. ^ MB, 2:1331. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  35. ^ MB, 2:1342. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  36. ^ MB, 2:1347. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  37. ^ MB, 2:1354. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  38. ^ MB, 2:1361. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  39. ^ MB, 2:1361. Transcription available at Founders Online.
  40. ^ MB, 2:1395. Transcription available at Founders Online.