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Crops at Monticello
1740s-1769: Monticello, as we know it today, was a part of Shadwell farm, the birthplace of Thomas Jefferson. At that time, it was a 3,000 acre tobacco plantation, established by Peter Jefferson in the early 1740s. Tobacco plants required very intensive labor and had a damaging effect on the soil. Of the 50 slaves employed on the plantation, 30 of them lived and worked on the Shadwell farm. Due to the nature of the tobacco plants, the plantings were generally small and moved after several seasons. In many cases, the tobacco plants would be replaced by corn.
1770-1790: Tobacco remained the chief crop at Monticello during this time period. However, the number of slaves drastically increased from 50 in 1770 to 125 by 1783, the same year Jefferson left for France.
1790-1808: After returning to Monticello in 1793, Thomas Jefferson moved away from tobacco and on to grains. Grains required less labor but greater organization, and skill was essential for their success. Jefferson had 105 slaves to ensure the wheat crops' success.
1809-1826: The main crop at Monticello continued to be wheat and other grains until Jefferson's death on July 4, 1826. At the time of his death, 200 people lived and worked on the grounds on the mountaintop.
- Betts, Edwin M., ed. Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book: With Commentary and Relevant Extracts from Other Writings. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953. Rep. 1976, 1987, 1999. Manuscript and transcription available online at http://www.thomasjeffersonpapers.org/farm/.
- McEwan, Barbara. Thomas Jefferson: Farmer. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1991. See Chapter 3.
- Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. Monticello Plantation Archaeological Survey.