You are here

Peter Hemings

Image of Monticello's restored Beer CellarPeter Hemings (1770-after 1834) was the ninth child of Betty Hemings, matriarch of the Hemings family at Monticello. He was a younger brother of James Hemings and an older brother of Sally Hemings.

In 1794, James Hemings began training his brother Peter to become Monticello's principal cook, a position that Peter Hemings then occupied from 1796 until 1809.1 From the President's House, Thomas Jefferson sent a longing request for his home cook's muffin recipe: "[D]irect us here how to make muffins in Peter’s method. my cook here cannot succeed at all in them, and they are a great luxury to me."2

In 1813, Peter Hemings learned brewing and took charge of the brewing and malting operations at Monticello.3 According to Jefferson, Hemings learned brewing "with entire success" and possessed "great intelligence and diligence both of which are necessary."4 Confident of Hemings's skill as a brewer, Jefferson suggested to James Madison that he send a pupil to Monticello to learn brewing, writing that "our malter and brewer is uncommonly intelligent and capable of giving instruction."5

Peter Hemings and his wife Betsy were the parents at least five children. While he was cook, the family lived in a room next to the kitchen. In 1809, Jefferson instructed that Peter be given his choice of a house on Mulberry Row, and that the house be fixed up "in an entirely comfortable and decent manner."6

After Thomas Jefferson's death, Hemings was purchased by a relative and given his freedom. By then in his late fifties, he earned a living as a tailor in Charlottesville.7

Participate

Login or register to participate in our online community.