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Elkhill1 was a relatively small plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson, located near Elk Island, at the mouth of Byrd Creek in Goochland County. He obtained the land comprising the Elkhill plantation in three different stages:

  1. 307 acres bounded by Byrd Creek and the James River and opposite Elk Island; today it is situated between and one mile south of State Route 6 and the James River. It was part of the Wayles estate where it was listed as 348 acres by Jefferson in his "Rough estimate of the value of the land to be divided" and "Mr. Wayles's lands".2
  2. 312 acres lying on Byrd Creek and not quite adjoining the above property was conveyed to Jefferson by Edward Smith for £468 by deed of 21 January 1782.3
  3. 50 acres lying further up Byrd Creek and contiguous to the above was conveyed to Jefferson by deed of 19 May 1783 by Judith and Reuben Smith for £50.4

669 acres were conveyed to Thomas Augustus Taylor by deed of 5 August 1799 for £1500.5

The house at Elkhill, probably a frame one, was situated on a hill near the confluence of Byrd Creek and the James River.6 During the Revolutionary War, Elkhill was occupied for a time by Lord Cornwallis and his troops. Jefferson later related that they had done a great deal of damage to the property:

Lord Cornwallis then proceeded to the point of fork, and encamped his army from thence all along the main James river to a seat of mine called Elkhill, opposite to Elk island and a little below the mouth of the Byrd creek. (You will see all these places exactly laid down in the map annexed to my Notes on Virginia printed by Stockdale.) He remained in this position ten days, his own head quarters being in my house at that place. I had had time to remove most of the effects out of the house. He destroyed all my growing crops of corn and tobacco, he burned all my barns containing the same articles of the last year, having first taken what corn he wanted, he used, as was to be expected, all my stocks of cattle, sheep, and hogs for the sustenance of his army, and carried off all the horses capable of service: of those too young for service he cut the throats, and he burnt all the fences on the plantation, so as to leave it an absolute waste. He carried off also about 30. slaves: had this been to give them freedom he would have done right, but it was to consign them to inevitable death from the small pox and putrid fever then raging in his camp. This I knew afterwards to have been the fate of 27. of them. I never had news of the remaining three, but presume they shared the same fate. When I say that Lord Cornwallis did all this, I do not mean that he carried about the torch in his own hands, but that it was all done under his eye, the situation of the house, in which he was, commanding a view of every part of the plantation, so that he must have seen every fire. I relate these things on my own knowlege in a great degree, as I was on the ground soon after he left it. - Thomas Jefferson to William Gordon, Paris, 16 July 17887

Further Sources

  • "Jefferson's Advertisement for Sale of Elk Hill," including hand-drawn map, and "Agreement of Sale with William Ronald," PTJ 17:567-571.  Transcriptions available at Founders Online (Advertisement and Agreement of Sale).
  • McDaid, Jennifer Davis. "Thomas Jefferson and Elk Hill: New Treasure at the Library of Virginia." Virginia Cavalcade 46(1997): 160.
  • Reed, B. Bernetiae. The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson. Greensboro, N.C.: Sylvest-Sarah, 2006, pp. 98-109.
  • Sale, Edith Dabney Tunis. Elk Hill on James River in Virginia. S.l.: s.n., 195-?.
  • Weeks, Elie. "Thomas Jefferson's Elk-Hill." Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, 3(1): 6.  An excerpt from this article, including a conjectural drawing of the original house, can be viewed on the Goochland Historical Society blog.
  • 1. This article is based on research notes in the Goochland County - TJ Land information file at the Jefferson Library.
  • 2. MB 329-333.
  • 3. Goochland County Deed Book 13, 207.
  • 4. Ibid, 12, 364.
  • 5. Ibid, 17, 535.
  • 6. This house is no longer extant.  Note that Jefferson's Elkhill property is not the same as the present Elk Hill Farm, which lies directly south-southeast of Jefferson's original property.
  • 7. PTJ 13:363-364.
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