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Ann-Elizabeth Fossett Isaacs

Ann-Elizabeth Fossett Isaacs (1812-1902) was the daughter of Joseph Fossett and Edith Hern Fossett.1 She was a granddaughter of Mary Hemings Bell (1753-after 1834) and a great granddaughter of Elizabeth Hemings (1735-1807). Isaacs's father was an enslaved foreman of the Monticello blacksmith shop, and was one of only five men freed by Thomas Jefferson in his will. Her mother learned French cookery at the President's House in Washington, D.C., and served as the enslaved head cook at Monticello during the period of Jefferson's retirement.

Fifteen-year-old Isaacs, her mother, and six siblings, were sold in the January 1827 dispersal sale following Jefferson's death. Her father, with the help of family members who were already free, was able to purchase and emancipate his wife and some of his eight children, including Isaacs.2

Around 1837, Isaacs's parents and many of her freed siblings left Virginia and moved to Cincinnati, Ohio.3 Their party included Ann-Elizabeth's husband, Tucker Isaacs, a free man of African-American and Jewish ancestry. The Isaacses later returned to Charlottesville, but when they fell under suspicion of forging "free papers" for escaped slaves in 1850, the family moved back to Ohio. They first lived in Chillicothe and then settled on a farm outside of the town. In the years before the American Civil War, their home became a stop on the Underground Railroad. They had nine children, one of whom was the mother of William Monroe Trotter (1872-1934), a crusading newspaper editor and noted civil rights leader.4

Jefferson listed Isaacs as "Betsy-Ann" or "Betsy" in his farm book records. She later appears in numerous records under various first and middle names including "Elizabeth," "Elizabeth Ann," "E. Ann," "Anne E.," "Annie E.," Betsey," and "Anna."

Filed In: 
People, Slavery


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