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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 one of his relatives and given his freedom. By then in his late fifties, he earned a living as a tailor in Charlottesville.7
- Lucia Stanton, 2/16/90
- Gordon-Reed, Annette. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008.
- Stanton, Lucia. "Those Who Labor for My Happiness": Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2012.
- 1. See MB, 2:912n94.
- 2. Jefferson to Martha Jefferson Randolph, November 2, 1802, in PTJ, 38:623. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 3. See MB, 2:912 n94.
- 4. Jefferson to James Barbour, May 11, 1821, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 5. Jefferson to Madison, April 11, 1820, Papers of James Madison, Library of Congress. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 6. Jefferson to Edmund Bacon, February 27, 1809, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Huntington Library. Transcription available at Founders Online.
- 7. Lucia C. Stanton, "Those Who Labor for My Happiness": Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (Charlottesville : University of Virginia Press, 2012), 222.