In 1743, two children were born at Shadwell, a newly opened plantation on Virginia’s western frontier. They may have played together as boys, and, as young men, they traveled the length and breadth of Virginia together and found wives on the same plantation near Williamsburg. For over fifty years their lives were bound together by law, since one man, Jupiter, was the property of the other, Thomas Jefferson.
Jupiter, whose last name may have been Evans, acted as an enslaved personal servant and traveling attendant to Jefferson during his years of law study and practice. In 1774, Jupiter took up a new position as coachman, with responsibility for the fine horses in the Monticello stables. He was also apprenticed to a local stonecutter, with whom he worked to shape the cylindrical blocks of stone that form the columns of the Monticello entrance portico. Jupiter’s wife Susan, or Suck, was a enslaved cook.
In the fall of 1847 Thomas Jefferson’s great-grandson William Stuart Bankhead took his property—horses and mules, cattle, hunting dogs, and almost twenty men, women, and children—to northern Alabama to settle a cotton plantation. Traveling in the caravan was Susan Scott, a descendant (possibly a granddaughter) of Jupiter. She became a valued household servant and her husband, Reuben, was the head man on the plantation.
For over a century, in slavery and in freedom, the lives of Susan Scott and her descendants were intertwined with those of William S. Bankhead’s descendants. Her children Edward Scott and Mildred Scott Young and some of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren lived on Bankhead land and worked for Bankhead descendants.
Today, both Scott and Bankhead descendants in Courtland still tell the oldest stories of Monticello known to survive. In one, Jupiter, or his relative Caesar, played a leading role in saving the Monticello silver from British troops during the American Revolution. In another, the return of Jefferson to Monticello after five years in France is told by Scott descendants in a way that conveys Jefferson’s dependence on the support of his slaves.