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Timeline of Jefferson's Life

  Public Private
1735   Peter Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson's father, patented 1,000-acre tract which became Monticello.
1743   Thomas Jefferson born at Shadwell.
1757   Peter Jefferson died.
1760-62   Thomas Jefferson attended the College of William and Mary.
1762   Began study of law with George Wythe.
1764   Came into inheritance at age of 21.
1767   Admitted to practice law before General Court.
1768 Elected to House of Burgesses. Leveling of Monticello mountaintop begun.
1770   Construction begun at Monticello. Shadwell burned. Moved to South Pavilion at Monticello.
1772   Married Martha Wayles Skelton. Daughter Martha born.
1773   Graveyard at Monticello established with the interment of Jefferson's friend and brother-in-law Dabney Carr.
1774 Wrote A Summary View of the Rights of British America. Retired from legal practice. Inherited 11,000 acres of land and 135 slaves from his father-in-law. Laid off ground for kitchen garden. Daughter Jane Randolph born.
1775 Elected to Continental Congress. Daughter Jane Randolph died.
1776 Drafted Declaration of Independence. Elected to Virginia House of Delegates. Appointed to revise Virginia laws.
(Get an .mp3 of the Declaration.)
Mother Jane Randolph Jefferson died.
1777 Drafted Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, passed by General Assembly in 1786. Unnamed son born and died.
1778 Drafted Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge. Daughter Mary (Maria) born. Brickwork of first home (Monticello) completed.
1779-81 Served as Governor of Virginia.  
1780   Daughter Lucy Elizabeth born. Began Notes on the State of Virginia.
1781   British troops at Monticello. Daughter Lucy Elizabeth died.
1782  Second Lucy Elizabeth born. Wife Martha died. First house substantially completed.
1783 Elected delegate to Congress.  
1784-89 In France as Commissioner and Minister.  
1784   Daughter Lucy Elizabeth died.
1787 Published Notes on the State of Virginia.  
1790-93 Served as first United States Secretary of State.  
1794   Began commercial manufacture of nails on Mulberry Row. Manumitted slave Robert Hemings.
1796   Remodeling and enlarging of Monticello begun. Manumitted slave James Hemings.
1797-1801 Served as United States Vice President.  
1797-1815Served as president of the American Philosophical Society.  
1800   Dome constructed on Monticello.
1801-09 Served as United States President.  
1803 Louisiana Purchase concluded. Lewis and Clark expedition launched.  
1804   Daughter Maria Jefferson Eppes died.
1806 Lewis and Clark expedition concluded. House at Poplar Forest begun.
1807   Oval flower beds near Monticello laid out. Shadwell merchant mill completed.
1808   At Monticello, North Pavilion completed and South Pavilion remodeled. Winding walk and flower beds on West Lawn laid out.
1809 Retired from presidency and public life. Remodeling of Monticello and construction of dependencies largely completed. Vegetable garden platform completed.
1812   Garden Pavilion constructed.
1815 Sold 6,700-volume library to Congress.  
1817Cornerstone of Central College (later University of Virginia) laid.  
1822-25   Monticello roof recovered with tin shingles.
1824   Historic reunion with the Marquis de Lafayette at Monticello.
1825 University of Virginia opened.  
1826   Died at Monticello, July 4.


Lucia S Beer's picture
In Meacham's Art of Power he recounts Martha's deathbed request that Thomas never remarry because she had been raised unhappily by a stepmother and did not want this for her children. His relationship with Sally Hemmings was a true one and was his way of dealing with his beloved Martha's wishes.
TJ Fan
charliec68's picture
This is a great website. I'm disappointed to see the complete ignorance of his deep relationship with Sally Hemings and the offspring they produced. Slavery was such a major and contradictory aspect of his personality, and social position. It was the primary source of his economic wealth, and he knew it. It would seem to me that any discussion or presentation of Jefferson would need to include references to the social and political environment of the newly formed nation and its economy. This information is well documented and a component of academic literature.
C. Cedric Carlson
cwollerton's picture
Cedric, have you looked at the Plantation and Slavery sections of our website? Also, check out our Slavery at Monticello app for iOS and Android devices. And, if you haven't read it, Annette Gordon-Reed's "The Hemingses of Monticello" takes a deep look at Jefferson's relations with many members of the Hemings family.
AlanDC's picture
I just finished listening to "Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power" purchased from I am impressed by the character and wisdom of Thomas Jefferson. He was an amazing man who provided an important clear voice in challenging times. I think all Americans should be proud to have this man as one of your founding fathers. No one is perfect and he had has weaknesses but he would not have been human if he didn't. He tried to put an end to slavery 86 years before the Emancipation Proclamation by putting it in the Declaration of Independence (later removed by General Congress) before it was signed. He is worth celebrating and well worth revisiting his words of wisdom. I would love to visit Monticello one day. Alan from Australia.
Alan from Australia
Markos's picture
Is this all information about Jefferson's public life?
cwollerton's picture
Markos, this timeline shows the main highlights of both Jefferson's public and private life.
ventaya's picture
Succinct but complete. This timeline is really useful to put Jefferson's life and achievements in context. Thanks for the information.
Venta Ya
Cameron Jones's picture
Although I am not sure why J.R. the “Teacher” feels it necessary to grind his political axe here on these pages, I feel compelled to set the facts straight. Thomas Jefferson by all accounts was a very frugal and fiscally responsible man. He did not go through his life as J.R. states, living beyond his means. His estate at Monticello was self-sustaining, and although at times in his life Jefferson made quite a bit of money, he also spent most of it providing for his family and paying much of his own way while serving his country. He was very generous with his children and grandchildren, and also with his friends and neighbors. When he retired he was $10,000 in debt, and this increased substantially throughout the rest of his life, but it was not due to his living an opulent lifestyle; quite the contrary. He supported his community, churches in the area, and was instrumental in establishing the University of Virginia in his later years. Much of his debt was incurred entertaining those who came to visit him for various reasons after his retirement. His grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph wrote this, “Twelve years before his death, he remarked to me… that if he lived long enough he would beggar his family – that the number of persons he was compelled to entertain would devour his estate.” Jefferson never turned away anyone who visited his home, even those who were just curious to see Jefferson the man, and this cost him considerable amounts of money to entertain these visitors. He incurred a substantial portion of his final debt in 1820 ($20,000) when a friend for whom he had countersigned a loan defaulted on the loan. In 1823, 3 years before his death his debt was $60,000. He was unable to discharge this debt as he had in the past, by selling some of his holdings because of the depressed prices of land at that time. This weighed heavily on his soul almost until the time of his death. After his death his debts were settled by his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph who was executor of his will. His grandson wrote this, “He never failed to comply with a pecuniary engagement; his creditors were all paid”. J.R., I’m not sure why you felt the need to bring your politics into this forum that celebrates one of the greatest men in the history of our nation, but if you insist on doing so you should at least get the facts straight. You may have been taught that what you say is so, but the facts speak differently. I suspect that your education has been quite progressive, and that those who taught you have a great stake in tearing down the character of our founders; I have an equally great stake in the preservation of the truth about these great men. I would advise anyone who is studying the life of Jefferson to read “The Real Thomas Jefferson” published by the National Center for Constitutional Studies. They have performed extensive research, and much of the book is based on the actual writings of Jefferson and those who knew him best.
Cameron Jones, ...
JeffersonsApparition's picture
Interesting,You seem to be well informed. Nevertheless Jefferson's views on Government are much more important now I feel. Especially today in wake of the NDAA act of which was just signed into Law. Right now we need Jefferson's writing and thoughts on government more than ever, not trivial discussions about his expenditure.I hope Monticello see's more visitors than ever now. I fear for this country. Jefferson Rolls in his grave.. I thought this to be relevant: "The same act undertaking to authorize the president to remove a person out of the United States who is under the protection of the Law, under his own suspicion,without accusation,without jury,without public trial,without confrontation of the witnesses against him,without having witnesses in his favour,without defense,without counsel,is contrary to these provisions also of the constitution, is therefore not law but utterly void and of no force." ~Thomas Jefferson 1798
jrcallahan's picture
It would be nice to see the timeline show how Jefferson died with a little over $100,000 in debt. He was a fiscally irresponsible person who lived way beyond his means. The conservatives who tout the personal financial responsibility of the founders should rediscover this fact about the greatest and most important of them all.
tbodie08's picture
J.R., I didn't read what you said prior to the response you've received, but I'm not sure why you think Jefferson's expensive taste is politically significant or relevant. His personal expenses is personal and not political, so we should leave it there. I think it's actually endearing how he loved the finer things in life, especially the cultivated life. You are right that he died with massive debt, but so what. If you are a progressive you should be a defender of Jefferson, the great liberal and founder of the Democratic Party.
Radical Liberal
jones3731's picture
I'm glad you're not my child's teacher.
Guy Jones
548208122@facebook's picture
This was a wonderful resource for my early elementary school son's year end book report, as well as when we planned our visit to Monticello for Spring Break this year while in DC! It was wonderful to see his private and personal timelines side by side, it really brought his life into perspective! What sorrow this man experienced losing both of his parents, his wife, and all six of his children within his lifetime! I can only imagine how he was able to function so exceptionally within his professional life with such personal struggles occuring!
vanessa's picture
i thank that tj wold be a extraordinary guy to hang out with
EnishaC's picture
Why aren't Sally Hemings and Jefferson's children listed...disappointing. Thay happened to have had numerous children together Thomas Jefferson Hemings(who changed his name to Woodson after Jeffersons cousins in Virginia),Eston Hemings Jefferson,Harriet Hemings, Beverly Hemings, an daughter who died in infancy, and also the first Harriet who died as a toddler. Other than those indescrepencies the Historical accounts were right on point =)
Gorgeous One
mbowyer's picture
This succinct timeline gives us a side-by-side view of the goings on in both Jefferson's public life and private life, from his birth in 1743 to his death in 1826. While not overflowing with detail, it is a good, basic timeline of Jefferson's life.
Melanie Bowyer
ksmeltzer's picture
This timeline is a wonderful resource to see how events in Jefferson's public life parallel those in his private life. When I first saw this, I was struck how during many significant times in Jefferson's public life that he was also dealing with personal troubles. The man endured a great deal of loss, though such loss wasn't uncommon in his time. It adds to my esteem and respect for Jefferson that he was able to contribute so to the founding and formation of our nation while also trying to be the steward of his family, often from afar in the early years, and care for his ailing wife and children.
Kristie Smeltzer
jgalle's picture
An essential overview of Jefferson's life.
Jillian Galle
sbonharper's picture
A list of significant dates in Jefferson's life.
Sara Bon-Harper
aberkes's picture
I refer to this page all the time when I can't quite remember when, say, Jefferson started his term as secretary of state (it happens to everybody, right?). I especially like the fact that you can see the public and private events side by side, which helps to put his whole life in perspective. This page is a great tool in any Jefferson researcher's toolbox!
Anna Berkes
ejones's picture
Need help with that book report? Can’t remember everything that you learned on your tours? Revisit the info online!


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