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Lucy Jefferson (1782-1784)
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson (May 8, 1782 - ca. October 13, 1784) was the sixth child of Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson, and their second child to be given that name. Her father carefully noted that she was born May 8, 1782, at 1:00 A.M.1 Although she survived infancy, Lucy died at the age of two and a half, while her father was in France and when Lucy herself was staying with her Eppes relatives at Eppington. News of Lucy's death first reached her father via the Marquis de Lafayette, who had been at Eppington and carried a letter directly from the attending doctor, James Currie.2 Lucy's uncle and aunt, Francis Eppes and Elizabeth Wayles Eppes, had written immediately to Jefferson to deliver the sad news, but their letters did not reach him until May of the next year.3
Lucy's grave is not marked, and there is some debate as to its location. Martha McCartney, in A Documentary History of Eppington, states that Lucy and her cousin, Lucy Eppes, "were buried at Eppington in what became a family cemetery."4 Some sources claim, however, that Lucy's body was later moved to Monticello. Thomas Jefferson did stop briefly at Eppington on his way back home from France in December 1789, but there is no indication in his accounts or letters that Lucy's body was moved at that time or any other.
Note: Entries in the printed index of The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (volume 21) confuse Lucy with her older sister of the same name (1780-1781).
Primary Source References
1782 May 8. "Our daughter Lucy Elizabeth (second of that name) born at one o'clock A. M."5
1783 December 19. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Carr). Letter not located. Jefferson's entry in his summary journal of letters reads: "Mrs. Carr. My request of W. S. [William Short] and orders to Key—ill health—heard only once from P. and L. [Polly and Lucy]."7
1784 April 17. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson). "I received yesterday letters from Eppington by which I learn that the families there and at Hors du monde are well, and that your cousin Cary has a son. Lucy has been unwell during the winter but is got better."8
1784 September 16. (Francis Eppes to Jefferson). "I wish it was in my power to inform you that your children were well. They as well as our own are laid up with the hooping cough. Your little Lucy our youngest and Bolling are I think very ill. Polly has it badly but she sleeps well and eats hartily, tho she is not fallen off in the least. Doctr. Currie is here attending on your children and ours. He promises to write you very particularly by this opportunity. I must therefore refer you to his letter as he will be able to give you a much better account of their situation than I can."9
1784 October 13. (Elizabeth Wayles Eppes to Jefferson). "Its impossible to paint the anguish of my heart on this melancholy occasion. A most unfortunate Hooping cough has deprived you, and us of two sweet Lucys, within a week. Ours was the first that fell a sacrifice. She was thrown into violent convulsions linger’d out a week and then expired. Your dear angel was confined a week to her bed, her sufferings were great though nothing like a fit. She retain’d her senses perfectly, calld me a few moments before she died, and asked distinctly for water."10
1784 October 14. (Francis Eppes to Jefferson). "I am sorry to inform you that my fears about the welfare of our children, which I mentioned in my last, were too well founded. Yours, as well as our dear little Lucy, have fallen sacrifices to the most horrible of all disorders, the whooping-cough. They both suffered as much pain, indeed more than ever I saw two of their ages experience. We were happy in having had every experience this country afforded; however, they were beyond the reach of medecine."11
1784 November 20. (James Currie to Jefferson). "I am sincerely sorry my dear friend now to accquaint you of the demise of poor Miss L. Jefferson, who fell a Martyr to the Complicated evils of teething, Worms and Hooping Cough which last was carried there by the Virus of their friends without their knowing it was in their train. I was calld too late to do any thing but procrastinate the settled fate of the poor Innocent, from the accounts of the family, a Child Of the most Auspicious hopes and having among other early Shining qualities an ear nicely and critically musical. Enough of this too tender Theme. Mr. Eppes lost his own youngest Child from the same Cause and with difficulty Bollings life was saved. Miss P. Jefferson got early over it and is now in good health."12
- 1. MB, 1:519. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 2. Currie to Jefferson, November 20, 1784, in PTJ, 7:538-39. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 3. Elizabeth Wayles Eppes to Jefferson, October 13, 1784, in PTJ, 7:441, 7:441n (transcription and editorial note available at Founders Online); Francis Eppes to Jefferson, October 14, 1784, in PTJ, 7:441-42 (transcription available at Founders Online).
- 4. Martha W. McCartney, A Documentary History of Eppington, Chesterfield County, Virginia ([S.l.]: [s.n.], 1991), 40.
- 5. MB, 1:519. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 6. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson, December 11, 1783, in PTJ, 6:381. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 7. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Carr, December 19, 1783, in PTJ, 6:391. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 8. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson, April 17, 1784, in PTJ, 7:110. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 9. Francis Eppes to Jefferson, September 16, 1784, in PTJ, 7:616. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 10. Elizabeth Wayles Eppes to Jefferson, October 13, 1784, in PTJ, 7:441. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 11. Francis Eppes to Jefferson, October 14, 1784, in PTJ, 7:441-42. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 12. Currie to Jefferson, November 20, 1784, in PTJ, 7:538-39. Transcription available at Founders Online.