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The Descendants of Elizabeth Hemings: Betty Brown

 Elizabeth Hemings's second daughter Betty Brown (1759-after 1831) was the first of her family to come to Monticello, as personal servant to Jefferson's wife Martha.  After almost sixty years of work in the main house, she was one of the last of the Hemingses to live on the Monticello mountaintop.  She had two sons, Wormley Hughes and Burwell Colbert. Wormley Hughes (1781-1858) was head gardener as well as a wagoner and coachman, with charge of the Monticello stables. He married Ursula (1787-after 1827), a niece of Isaac (Granger) Jefferson. Their descendants include:

 Rev. Robert Hughes (1824-1895), founding minister of Union Run Baptist Church in Albemarle County

Fountain Hughes (c1854-1957), whose 1949 recollections of his childhood in slavery were preserved in one of the very few surviving sound recordings of former slaves (hear Fountain Hughes).  Like his grandfather, the first Wormley Hughes, he worked as a gardener and ox-team driver.Rev. Robert Hughes (1824-1895), founding minister of Union Run Baptist Church in Albemarle County


Wormley Hughes (1851-1901), also a preacher; his wife Georgetta Burbridge Hughes (1865-1921), a teacher

Lloyd Allen Hughes (1922-2006), with childrenBessie Baskerville Dorsey (1902-2003), Getting Word participantVincent Hughes, Getting  Word participant

Betty Brown's son Burwell Colbert (1783-c1862), a skilled painter and glazier, was the Monticello butler and personal servant to Jefferson, who bequeathed him his freedom.  While his descendants have not yet been located, those of one of his brothers have.  Brown Colbert (1785-1833) worked in the Monticello nailery until he was sold, by his own wish, so that he could be united with his wife, Mary.  In 1832, Colbert, described as "a pious man & first rate blacksmith," made the courageous decision to leave Virginia with his wife and younger children to seek freedom on the west coast of Africa.  Sadly, most of the family died of fever soon after arrival in Liberia.  The Colberts' older children, who remained in Virginia, gained their freedom at the time of the Civil War.  Their descendants include:

George EdmonsonGW participant Bill Webb, wife Eva Kobus-Webb & cousin Marc Washington

Emily Adamson, Reed Colbert, and Mary Lewis, Getting Word participants



Richard A. Colbert's picture
Researching Colbert children born to Betty Brown, sister of Sally Hemings: Burwell, Brown, Melinda and Mary. They were born between 1783 and 1801. Also interested in two other children of Betty Brown -- Edwin and Robert -- who may or may not have gone under the surname Colbert. My family has gone under the surnames Calvert, Colvard and Colbert since arriving in Virginia in 1636. Autosomal DNA from Family Tree DNA and indicates that my family is related to the Hemings's and Jefferson's. In the 1750's Benjamin Calvert/Colvard/Colbert moved to Albemarle County, VA and made his living as a carpenter. Between 1778 and 1779 his sixteen year-old son Benjamin Colvard/Colbert Jr. was an apprentice carpenter/joiner at Monticello under Joseph Neilson, Jefferson's chief carpenter. Ben Sr. also had other sons William and Alexander. When Benjamin Colvard Sr died in 1786, Ben Jr. became the sole owner of his father's carpenter shop in Charlottesville and, on occasion, hired slaves from Thomas Jefferson who were trained as carpenters to work for him. Example: Ben Jr. hired David Hern, one of Jefferson's slaves, to work for him between 1791 and 1792. Benjamin Colvard Sr.'s last will and testament was witnessed by Jesse Payne, Nicholas Lewis, Jr., William Day and Stephen Hughes on 11 Feb 1786. Alexander Colvard and his brother-in-law George Bruce also owned land adjacent to Monticello. (Land bought 14 April 1791).
Richard Allen C...
vsallee's picture
Hi! I am helping the Wormley and Ruffin families research their family trees. Please note, I am not referring to the Wormeleys of Rosegill nor the wealthy Ruffins who were part of their social circle (i.e. Edmund). There seems to be a lot of coincidental similarities in names and circumstances between the Hughes/Hemings and the Wormley and Ruffin families.. Have any male descendents of Wormley Hughes done genetic testing? Any chance they are an H1a YDNA haplotype like the descendents of James Wormley and Ottawa Ruffin? Does anyone know why Betsey named her son "Wormley"?
lmarshall's picture
If you listen to this 1949 recording, you will hear the voice of a man who within 13 seconds tells you his name, where he was born and that his grandfather belonged to Thomas Jefferson. The man speaking is Fountain Hughes. He sounds just like a grandfather giving young people advice. His financial advice, especially about not getting into debt, is as true now as it was then. He talks about the Civil War. He talks about slavery. He talks about freedom! The recording is just a bit over 29 minutes and worth every second!
Liz Marshall


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