Martin Hemings (1755-?) was the enslaved son of Elizabeth Hemings. He was born and raised at The Forest, the plantation home of John Wayles. After Wayles's death in 1773, Martin was sent to Monticello and worked as a butler for Thomas Jefferson. According to family legend, Martin Hemings was responsible for hiding the Jeffersons' family silver as Tarleton's troops approached Monticello in 1781.1 Jefferson eventually sold Martin over an unknown dispute.
1755. Born at The Forest, son of Betty Hemings, slave of John Wayles.
1771 November 11. Household servant at The Forest. First appearance in documentary record.
1783 September 30. "Pd. Martin expences to Richmd. 7/3 & postage 5/8."56
1792 November 22. (Jefferson to Daniel Hylton). "Martin and myself disagreed when I was last in Virginia insomuch that he desired me to sell him, and I determined to do it, and most irrevocably that he shall serve me no longer. If you could find a master agreeable to him, I should be glad if you would settle that point at any price you please .... Perhaps Martin may undertake to find a purchaser. But I exclude all idea of his own responsibility: and I would wish that the transaction should be finished without delay, being desirous of avoiding all parley with him myself on the subject."57
1795 January 22. (Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph). "Gamble promises the clover seed and gongs shall come by the first conveyance: so that from all these Mr. Randolph is relieved. There remain on his hands Martin and the Chariot."58