Wormley Hughes was the son of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings's daughter Bett, also known as Betty Brown.  At the age of 13, he was the second most efficient nail-maker and later became Monticello’s principal gardener, a coachman, and chief hostler.  Jefferson’s biographer Henry Randall recognized Hughes's love of horses in a conversation in 1851: "He could distinctly remember, and describe the points, height, color, pace, temper, etc. of every horse."  As hostler, he cared for Jefferson’s horses in the stable on Mulberry Row and carriages in the North Terrace wing.  Jefferson described him as “one of the most trusty servants I have.”  Hughes dug Jefferson’s grave in 1826.  He became a domestic servant in various households of Jefferson's grandchildren and great-grandchildren after Jefferson’s death.  He and his wife Ursula had 13 children; one, who likely did not survive infancy, was the first child born in the White House in March 1802.

This account is compiled from Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness:” Slavery at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (University of Virginia Press and Thomas Jefferson Foundation, 2012).

Getting Word

Learn more about the lives and stories of the Hughes family at our related family history website.