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George (1730-1799)

Great George, a larger than life figure at Monticello, worked in the orchards and vineyards while Jefferson was in Paris as Minister of France and was among the handful of Monticello slaves not leased to neighboring farmers. George, a skilled blacksmith, also helped Jefferson's daughter Martha in the kitchen garden during the 1790s, and while she complained that "Old George is so slow," he soon rose to the role of overseer, the most responsible position on the farm.

In 1796 Great George was charged with the oversight of fifty men and responsibility for the cash crop of tobacco. Although the 1797 harvest was a failure, the 1798 crop was, according to Jefferson, "so extraordinary that I may safely say if there ever was a better hogshead of tobacco brought or sold in New York I may give it [the Monticello tobacco] to the purchaser."

Excerpted from "The work is very heavy:" Gardeners at Jefferson's Monticello by Peter Hatch (2005)

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