An Affair Of Great Uncertainty To Us Slaves

“.…  About the time Mr. Jefferson took his seat as President for the second term, I began the labors of life as a waiter at the family table, and till Mr. J. died was retained in Monticello and very near his person.  When about ten years of age, I was employed as postillion.  Mr. Jefferson rode in a splendid carriage drawn by four horses.  He called the carriage the landau.  It was a sort of double chaise.  When the weather was pleasant the occupants could enjoy the open air; when it was rainy, they were protected from it by the closing of the covering, which fell back from the middle.  It was splendidly ornamented with silver trimmings, and, taken altogether, was the nicest affair in those aristocratic regions.  The harness was made in Paris, France, silver mounted, and quite in keeping with the elegant carriage.  The horses were well matched, and of a bay color.  I am now speaking of the years of my boyhood and early manhood.  My brother Gilly, being older than I was, rode the near wheel horse, while I was mounted on the near leader.  In course of time Mr. Jefferson rode less ostentatiously, and the leaders were left off.  Then but one rider was needed.  Sometimes brother Gilly acted as postillion; at other times I was employed.  We were both retained about the person of our master as long as he lived.  Mr. Jefferson died on the 4th day of July, 1826, when I was upwards of 29 years of age.  His death was an affair of great moment and uncertainty to us slaves, for Mr. Jefferson provided for the freedom of 7 servants only: Sally, his chambermaid, who took the name of Hemmings, her four children—Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston—John Hemmings, brother to Sally, and Burrell Colburn, an old and faithful body servant.  Madison Hemmings is now a resident of Ross county, Ohio, whose history you gave in the Republican of March 13, 1873.  All the rest of us were sold from the auctioneer’s block, by order of Jefferson Randolph, his grandson and administrator.  The sale took place in 1829, three years after Mr. Jefferson’s death.

I was purchased by Thomas Walker Gilmer, afterwards Governor of Virginia, and later, member of Congress from the district in which Monticello was situated.  He was an attorney-at-law, and a most excellent gentleman.” (Israel Jefferson, Pike County Republican, 25 Dec. 1873)