Hemings Family History
THE HEMINGS FAMILY
By: Beverly J. Gray
(From Ross County Historical Society Magazine Recorder February 1994 and updated in 1998.)
Sally Hemings was born in 1773 on the plantation of her father, John Wayles, a lawyer and slavetrader. Her half sister, Martha Wayles Skelton married Thomas Jefferson in 1772. When John Wayles died in 1774, Martha Wayles Jefferson inherited a portion of her father's slaves. Included in the inheritance was the family of Elizabeth Hemings. Elizabeth Hemings also known as Betty, and John Wayles produced as least seven children together. Sally Hemings was one of the seven. Other children of Betty Hemings were Mary, Martin, Bett (Betty Brown), Nance, Robert, James, Thenia, Crittta, Peter and John. Seven of Elizabeth's children were fathered by John Wayles. They came to Monticello about 1776; Sally was three years of age.
After the death of his wife in 1782, Jefferson went to Europe as the United States Minister to France. Accompanying Jefferson was his daughter, Martha and his slave Jamie Hemings, the brother of Sally. Jefferson intended that Jamie should learn French cookery. In 1785, Jefferson learned of the death of his daughter, Lucy, who was living with an aunt (Elizabeth Eppes) in Virginia, and decided it was time to bring his remaining daughter, Maria, to France. He instructed his sister-in-law, Elizabeth, to select a trusted slave woman to accompany Maria. Sally Hemings, who was approximately 14 years of age at the time, was sent with Maria. Maria and Sally set sail in July, 1787 going first to England where she was met by Abigail Addams then escorted across the channel to France by Jefferson's French butler, Adrien Petit.
While in France, Sally was trained as a lady's maid, and in addition was tutored in the French language. She most probably felt at home there because of the presence of her brother, Jamie. Some of Sally's duties included "waiting on" Jefferson's daughter, Martha and seeing to the needs of young Maria. She was paid the equivalent of $2.00 per month for her services. She attended Martha in public society and was accordingly dressed.
At some point, according to Madison, Sally's son, a relationship between Jefferson and Sally developed. Sally, you will remember, was the half sister of Jefferson's late wife and bore a striking resemblance to her. Isaac Jefferson, another slave, wrote that Sally, “had hair way down her back and that she was mighty near white". By all accounts, she was quite beautiful. Her son Madison, related that Sally became pregnant some time in late 1789. The amazing fact of the matter is, that as long as Sally remained in France, she was a free person. Her brother Jamie was also free. Even so, Sally and her brother were convinced to return to America and to slavery being promised that any children Sally might have would be freed at age 21 and that she and her brother Jamie would be treated favorably.
Sixteen year old Sally returned to Monticello, according to her son Madison, armed with a promise of freedom for her child. Back at Monticello, Sally was a maid to ten year old Maria.(1799). The son, Thomas was born in 1790 after her return to Virginia.
James Callender, a newspaper reporter, published accounts in 1802 of a slave at Monticello looked so much like Jefferson that he proved to be an embarrassment to the Master of Monticello. Jefferson's political foes made up songs about the slave children of Monticello and Sally Hemings. Two of the ballads were "Long Tom" an "Dusky Sally". It is said that the poet, William Cullen Bryant, was the author of one of the poems printed about Sally and TJ.
The Woodson Family history states that at age twelve, young Thomas was arranged lodging away from Monticello on another plantation. The owner of the plantation was a man by the name of Woodson, so Thomas took that name as his surname. He became Thomas Woodson, Sr. Thomas Woodson married Jemima Grant(Price), a slave on that farm, and after buying her and their children's freedom, moved to Chillicothe, Ohio. They lived on Marzluff's Hill and were charter members of the Quinn Chapel AME Church, the first AME Church west of the Allegheny Mountains. They were responsible for the settling of a mulatto village in Jackson County, Ohio, in 1828. Madison, in his reminiscences said that this child died shortly after birth. The two men lived with in thirty miles of each other in Ohio.
At least four other children were born to Sally and Jefferson; Beverly, a son, Harriet, Madison and Eston. Beverly and Harriet were both allowed to "run away" while Eston and Madison were both freed in Jefferson's will in 1826. The will required both men to serve a year apprenticeship with their uncle John Hemings, an accomplished carpenter, before freedom would be theirs.
Harriet it is said passed easily into the white world after she was put on a stage coach bound for Philadelphia and given fifty dollars. She was 21 years old at the time. Madison relates that she married well and lived in Washington DC and had several children that never knew of the African ancestry. He apparently had news of her until the Civil War. He would not tell her married name nor reveal her identity.
Beverly went to Washington and married a white woman in Maryland. He was 24 when he left. He and his wife, had one child a daughter who apparently never knew of her ancestry. Beverly's wife, according to Madison, was from a very good family.
It would appear that both Harriet and Beverly were prepared to pass into the white world. One must wonder, however if that secret was really kept. Oral tradition research suggests that such true accounts of heritage were often kept by some family member as the family secret. A girl of Harriet’s age, black or white could not pass so easily into any world away from Monticello without help. Where did d she really go after leaving Virginia and who helped her prepare for polite society. She would have to be in this society in order to meet her affluent husband. How did Beverly make a living after leaving Monticello, Was hew sent away to school? These are all questions that have no answers to date.
After the terms of Jefferson's will were satisfied, Madison and Eston established a home near Monticello in Charlottesville, with their mother, Sally. How Sally obtained her freedom is still debated. She was part of the slave inventory of the estate of Thomas Jefferson in 1829. It is likely she was freed sometime after that year because she appears on the 1830 census for Virginia along with her two sons and their families.( At least a woman fitting her description does.) The family was listed as white on this census. She is also listed on the special census taken in the state of Virginia, for the purpose of ascertaining the number of free blacks who would relocate in Africa, in 1833 as being free.
A year after the family unit was listed on the census, Madison, married Mary McCoy, a freeborn woman of color. In 1832, Eston married Julia Isaacs (West), daughter of a well- to- do Charlottesville woman of color and a Jewish storekeeper. Sally Hemings died in 1836 and soon afterward, her sons left Virginia for Ohio. Evidence shows that they planned to make such a move as early as 1833, before Sally's death. Both men owned property in Virginia, which they sold before heading north.
Madison settled in Pike County, Ohio, near the border of Ross County, while Eston Settled in Chillicothe. Madison earned a living working as a carpenter, hired first by Joseph Sewell to build a house in Waverly, and continued in the carpentry business by building Bizzleport no. 2 and doing joiners work on a store that is now the Emmitt House.
Madison chose as the site for his permanent home, a hill in Huntington Township, in Ross County, where he moved his family in 1849. In addition to a two- story house, he built a summer kitchen and a barn. Madison planted an apple orchard on the property. He and Mary raised their children in that house and it was in this community that they went to school, church and joined in other community activities. Like his brother Eston, Madison, too was a musician and according to family and historians a very fine one.
Madison was known by his neighbors for his honest business dealings. The Malone family, sold seed corn to Madison and their family oral tradition states that Madison's word was his bond no written receipt was needed when dealing with him.
It was widely accepted that Madison was the son of Thomas Jefferson and considered to bear a resemblance to him. Some of his neighbors called him Junior President.
The children of Mary and Madison were: Sarah (1835-1884), Thomas Eston (1838-1864), Harriet (1839-1931), Mary Ann (1843-- ), Catherine Jane (1844-1880), William Beverly (1847-1910), James Madison (1849-1900+), Julia Ann ( 1851-1866), Ellen Wayles,(1856-1936).
Mary McCoy Hemings died in 1876 and Madison died in 1877. Their daughter Julia Ann died very young and was buried in the Barnett -Williams Cemetery in Pike County. Their son Thomas Eston died as result of wounds received in the Civil War in the Andersonville Prison. William Beverly served in the Civil War also, serving in the Ohio 73rd OVI from Chillicothe. An all white fighting unit! He died in 1910 in Kansas.
Harriet married James Butler and soon afterward moved to Bloomingburg in Fayette, County, Ohio. The couple were parents to three children. After the death of James, Harriet married the Rev. Henry Speers. Descendants still live in Fayette County, Ohio and one descendant , 91 year old Nancy Lee passed away in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1997. She one of the keepers of the family story.
Ellen Wayles became the wife Andrew J. Roberts, who was a teacher. The marriage was arranged by her father, Madison, shortly before his death. The family moved to California, where they opened Roberts Funeral Home and were owners of considerable property. Their son was one of the first persons of color to serve in the legislature of the state of California.
James Madison, it appears, passed over into the white world. Hemings still living in Pike County have a whispered tradition tying them to Jefferson, however none claim Madison as their ancestor.
--Information taken from: Reminiscences of Madison Hemings, "Life among the Lowly". Pike County Republican, March 1873; Fawn Brodie, Thomas Jefferson an Intimate History1974.;Many Interviews with descendants, Bible records, census records, estate and land records, wills, Church Records, interviews with Cinder Stanton,Historian Monticello; and The Woodson Source Book, Minnie Shumate Woodson,1979