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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



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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