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The "Pull of Home"

I often conclude my tours of Mulberry Row with the story of Peter Fossett, the son of Monticello’s blacksmith Joseph Fossett and his wife Edith, Monticello’s head cook. In his reminiscences, published in 1898 (read Fossett’s account), Peter recalled being sold away from his family at age 11 to Colonel John R. Jones of Charlottesville.  Peter FossettColonel Jones threatened to flog Peter for carrying a book and teaching others to read; Jones ordered him handcuffed and jailed for running away.  After attempting to flee a second time, Peter recalled, “I was put up on the auction block and sold like a horse.”

Peter gained his freedom in 1850 and was soon reunited with his family in Ohio. There he became a caterer, was active in the Underground Railroad, and, in 1870, founded Cumminsville Baptist Church near Cincinnati.  In 1900, his congregation fulfilled his “lifelong wish” by sending him on a visit to Monticello, which he remembered from his youth as “an earthly paradise.”  So, at age 85, the Reverend Peter Fossett, who had left Monticello from an auction block more than 70 years earlier, entered the house by its front door a free man.

One day, after I told Peter’s story, one of my visitors approached me, thanking me and shaking my hand.  He said he’d grown up in the toughest section of the Bronx and, as a Hispanic man, had faced many struggles. He said he’d left that world as a young person to make a better life for himself outside of the city.  But, at times, he told me, he felt drawn back to the place of his childhood, to the very neighborhood where life had been so difficult for him and his family. He knew now what tugged at him, he told me. 

“It’s the same thing that drew Peter Fossett back to Monticello,” he said, with tears in his eyes.  “It’s the pull of home.”

David Ronka
Manager of Special Programs


DFW's picture
I am doing some research on Jefferson, and would like to know if anyone has read or seen any text or letter in which Jefferson actually used the word "technology." Can anyone help?
LizaJane's picture
Highly unlikely, at least in the sense you probably mean. According to, it's known from the 1610s with the meaning "discourse or treatise on an art or the arts." The meaning "science of the mechanical and industrial arts" isn't recorded before 1859.
DFW's picture
That's what I needed, thanks!
1047691492@facebook's picture
Nice story, thanks!
Jacqueline's picture
David - I truly enjoyed this post and, since reading it, often think of Peter--and the gentleman from the Bronx--when I'm on Mulberry Row. Thank you for sharing these stories.
Jacqueline Langholtz
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Posted in: 
Mulberry Row


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