Virginia Jefferson Randolph (1801-1882) was born at Monticello, the plantation home of her grandfather, Thomas Jefferson. She was the sixth child and fourth surviving daughter of Martha Jefferson Randolph and Thomas Mann Randolph. Like her siblings, Virginia spent much of her childhood at Monticello and occasionally accompanied her grandfather on trips to Poplar Forest, his plantation in Bedford County.[1]

Virginia shared an affinity for music with Jefferson, who bought her a pianoforte from Boston though he could ill afford it.[2] After a youthful romance and long engagement with Nicholas Philip Trist, the grandson of an old friend of Jefferson's, the two were married at Monticello on September 11, 1824. They remained there while Nicholas studied law and acted as Jefferson's secretary, and then again while Nicholas helped his brother-in-law, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, settle Jefferson's estate after his death in 1826.[3]

In 1828, Nicholas accepted a State Department clerkship in Washington, D.C. Virginia remained at her brother's Edgehill plantation until 1829, when she, her children, and her mother were able to join Nicholas. In 1834, when Nicholas was appointed consul, the Trists moved to Havana, Cuba, and they remained there until 1841. In the late 1840s, Nicholas, then serving as chief clerk of the State Department, was sent to Mexico to negotiate a peace treaty to end the war with that country.[4]

After Nicholas's dismissal by President James K. Polk, following the negotiations with Mexico, the couple faced near financial ruin. To alleviate their economic problems, Virginia and Nicholas's sisters attempted to run a school for young ladies. The effort failed, adding to their debts rather than relieving them. The Trists then moved to Alexandria, Virginia. After her husband's death in 1874, Virginia lived with one of her three children until her own death in April 1882.[5]

- Heidi Hackford, 2004

Further Sources


  1. ^ Malone, Jefferson, 6:291, 6:382.
  2. ^ Ellen Randolph Coolidge to Thomas Jefferson, December 26, 1825, in Family Letters, 465-66. Transcription available at Founders Online. See also Malone, Jefferson, 6:298, 6:482.
  3. ^ Shackelford, Descendants, 1:102-05.
  4. ^ Ibid., 1:106-12.
  5. ^ Ibid., 1:112-13.