Jefferson purchased George and Ursula Granger and their sons in 1773 because Ursula Granger was a “favorite housewoman” of his wife. Ursula supervised the kitchen, smokehouse, and washhouse from 1773 through the 1790s. George Granger, Sr. was the Monticello farm foreman and, later, overseer. The Grangers’ three sons were trusted and skilled artisans and laborers.
George, Ursula, and their son George died within months of one another in 1799 and 1800. The youngest son, Isaac, using the surname Jefferson, survived into the 1840s as a free man in Petersburg, Virginia, and his recollections of life at Monticello were recorded.
In 1796 Jefferson made George Granger Sr.—Jefferson called him “Great George”—Monticello’s overseer. He was the only enslaved man to rise to that position and to receive an annual wage. Jefferson commented on Granger’s “extraordinary” crops and consulted his trusted head man often, asking his advice on his orchards and livestock, as well as his wheat and tobacco.
Ursula Granger managed the Monticello wash house, smoke house, and kitchen, and also served as wet nurse to Thomas and Martha Jefferson’s children. Jefferson reported that she was the only person “who unites trust and skill” for superintending the annual cider bottling.
George Granger, Jr. ran Monticello’s blacksmith’s shop from 1783 until his death in 1799. He also managed the nailery from 1794 and was given a small percentage of its profits. In addition to shoeing horses, he made and repaired tools and made parts for guns and vehicles. His younger brother Isaac started his working life in the nailery and became a blacksmith also.