Johnny James Young was descended from Susan Scott, a Monticello slave who was brought to northern Alabama by Jefferson’s great-grandson William Stuart Bankhed in 1846. When Young was growing up, his family was still closely tied to Bankhead’s descendants and some family members lived on and farmed their land. Johnny James Young helped with the cotton crop as a child and raised cotton as an adult. “I’ve been a farmer all my life,” he said. The church and music were important to him and for years he performed with a successful family gospel quartet, the “Young Memorial.” Today, many of Susan Scott’s descendants carry on a vibrant gospel music tradition.
Jesse Scott, son of a Pamunkey Indian, was a violinist and dance band leader well known throughout Virginia. One contemporary recalled a dance at which Scott and his sons Robert and James formed the band: “Such music they made as the gods of Terpsichore will never hear again in this generation.” At the 1827 Monticello dispersal sale, Jesse Scott represented his wife’s family. He purchased his sister-in-law Edith Fossett and two of her children, so they would not be separated from their husband and father, Joseph Fossett.
Robert Scott was born free, the son of Sarah Bell and Jesse Scott, a free man of color whose mother was a Pamunkey Indian. The Scott trio (Robert, his brother James, and his father) were well known musicians who traveled all over Virginia playing at dances at private homes, mountain resorts, and the University of Virginia
Scott married Nancy Colbert, probably the daughter of Burwell and Critta Colbert of Monticello. He was able to purchase her and some of their nine children out of slavery. In 1857 Robert Scott, who had more than three-quarters white ancestry, successfully petitioned the court to be declared “not negro”–an intermediate status between white and black or “mulatto.”
Robert Scott lived in the Bell-Scott house on Charlottesville’s main street for almost ninety years. He was a rich source of recollections about Jefferson and, at his death, was described as “a man who in the course of a long life never failed to command the respect of his fellow citizens.”
Sarah Jefferson Bell, the daughter of Mary Hemings and white merchant Thomas Bell, lived in freedom on Charlottesville’s main street. Her husband, Jesse Scott, with their sons James and Robert Scott, led a dance band well known throughout Virginia.