Edith Hern Fossett

Dates Alive: 1787-1854

Family: Fossett, Hemings, Hern

Occupation: Cook

Edith Hern Fossett was the daughter of David Hern, a enslaved carpenter, and Isabel, an enslaved domestic servant. For six years of Jefferson’s presidency, Fossett trained under the French chef at the President’s House in Washington, returning to Monticello in 1809 as chief cook. Her recipes were prized by Jefferson’s family members and Monticello visitors described the meals she prepared as “always choice” and “served in half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance.”

Unlike her husband, Joseph Fossett, Edith and their children were not freed in Jefferson’s will but were sold at the dispersal sale in 1827. Joseph Fossett, with the help of family members, was able to free his wife and five children in 1837, prior to their departure for Ohio; they settled in Cincinnati by 1843. Through the continuous efforts of her husband and other family members, before her death Edith Fossett was able to see most of her children thriving in Ohio. Two of them, William and Peter Fossett, became prominent caterers.


  • David Hern
    1755–post 1827
  • Edith Hern Fossett

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