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John Wayles

John Wayles was Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson's father, Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law. He was born in Lancaster, England, on January 31, 1715. It is not known when he emigrated to Virginia, although it was likely sometime in the 1730s. He established his home at The Forest, in Charles City County. His first wife was Martha Eppes, born at Bermuda Hundred on April 10, 1721; they married on May 3, 1746. Martha gave birth to twins on December 23, 1746, a boy and a girl; according to Thomas Jefferson's notes, the girl was stillborn and the boy lived only a few hours. Almost two years later, on October 31, 1748, Martha Wayles gave birth to her only surviving child, also named Martha. Martha Eppes Wayles died less than a week later, on November 5, 1748, at the age of 27.

Wayles' second marriage was to Tabitha Cocke. The first child of this marriage, Sarah, did not survive to adulthood. The second child, Elizabeth, was born February 24, 1752; Tabitha was born November 16, 1753; and Anne was born August 26, 1756. Jefferson notes that Wayles' second wife died, but not the date; obviously sometime between August 1756 and January 26, 1760, when Wayles married his third wife, Elizabeth Lomax Skelton (incidentally the widow of Reuben Skelton, brother of Martha Wayles' first husband Bathurst Skelton).1 Elizabeth Lomax Skelton Wayles died a little more than a year after her marriage to John Wayles, on February 10, 1761; they had no children.2

After the death of his third wife, Wayles took his slave Elizabeth Hemings as his mistress, according to several sources, and was the father of her children Robert, James, Peter, Critta, Sally, and Thenia Hemings.3

Wayles died on May 28, 1773, leaving substantial property and debt which took years for Thomas Jefferson and the other co-executors of Wayles' estate to deal with. The majority of Wayles' papers and financial records do not survive, having disappeared from Eppington in the mid-nineteenth century.

- Anna Berkes, 11/12/07

Further Sources

  • Goochland County Deed Book 10:169-170, 12:217-219.
  • Gordon-Reed, Annette.  The Hemingses of Monticello.  New York: Norton, 2008.
  • Hemphill, John M., II, ed. "John Wayles Rates His Neighbors." VMHB 66(3):302-306.
  • Hochman, Steven Harold. "Thomas Jefferson: A Personal Financial Biography." PhD diss., University of Virginia, 1987.
  • John Wayles Will and Codicil, Charles City County Deeds and Wills, 1766-1774, pp. 461-463.
  • MB, 329-333.
  • PTJ 1:95-6, 100, 103.
  • "Will of John Wayles." Tyler's Quarterly Magazine 6(3):268-270.
  • Thomas Jefferson's accounts with John Wayles, Fee Book.  Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
  • Malone, Jefferson.  See Appendix 1D, "The Wayles Family."
  • 1. A transcription of the register of St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County, lists the marriage of "John Wales, in Charles City, & Eliz. Lomax, in this parish" on 22 January 1760. See William and Mary Quarterly 15, no. 1 (1906): 24.
  • 2. All of the above information on marriage, birth and death dates are from Thomas Jefferson's prayer book, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia.
  • 3. Isaac Jefferson, Memoirs, 4; Madison Hemings, "Life Among the Lowly," Pike County Republican, March 13, 1873. A December 20, 1802 letter from Thomas Gibbons, a Federalist planter of Georgia, to Jonathan Dayton states that Sally Hemings "is half sister to his first wife." (Clements Library, University of Michigan). Similarly, a letter from Thomas Turner in the May 31, 1805 Boston Repertory states, "an opinion has existed . . . that this very Sally is the natural daughter of Mr. Wales, who was the father of the actual Mrs. Jefferson."


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