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John Wayles

John Wayles (January 31, 1715 - May 28, 1773) was Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson's father and Thomas Jefferson's father-in-law. He was born in Lancaster, England, in 1715 and emigrated to Virginia, likely in the 1730s, though the date is not known. He established his home at The Forest, in Charles City County.

On May 3, 1746, Wayles married Martha Eppes, born at Bermuda Hundred on April 10, 1721. 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.

John Wayles's 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's second wife died, but fails to record the date; obviously, her death occurred sometime between August 1756 and January 26, 1760, when Wayles married Elizabeth Lomax Skelton (incidentally the widow of Reuben Skelton, brother of Martha Wayles's 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, John 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. Thomas Jefferson and Wayles's other co-executors spent several years handling the complex estate. The majority of Wayles's 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, 10:169-70, 12:217-19.
  • Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello. New York: Norton, 2008.
  • Hemphill, John M. II, ed. "John Wayles Rates His Neighbors." VMHB vol. 66, no. 3 (1958): 302-06.
  • 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. 461-63.
  • MB. See pp. 1:329-33.
  • PTJ. See pp. 1:95-96, 1:100, 1:103.
  • "Will of John Wayles." Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine vol. 6, no. 3 (1924-25): 268-70.
  • Thomas Jefferson's accounts with John Wayles, Fee Book. Thomas Jefferson Papers, 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 January 22, 1760. See William and Mary Quarterly 15, no. 1 (1906): 24.
  • 2. All of the above information on marriage, birth, and death dates comes from Thomas Jefferson's prayer book, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.
  • 3. Isaac Jefferson, Memoirs, 13; 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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