Saturday, June 1, 2019

Thomas Jefferson Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States, American Founding Father, and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. After writing the Declaration he spent the next 33 years in public service: delegate to the Virginia General Assembly and to Congress, Governor of Virginia, Minister to France, Secretary of State, Vice President, and President from 1801 to 1809. His achievements include the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark Expedition.  

When visiting Monticello, you save money by buying your tickets on line and at the same time, reserve your time for the house tour. When we went it was very busy with tours occurring every 10 minutes. The instructions say to arrive 30 minutes ahead of your tour time, which gives you time to park, get to the ticket office to pick up your tickets, and then take a shuttle bus to the House. No photos are allowed in the house, but photos are allowed everywhere outside.

Jefferson designed every aspect of Monticello, taking over 40 years to complete the house and buildings on the plantation. He had a few unique designs, such as a clock over the door using a pulley system of keeping time, including a second hand; a wine dumbwaiter from the wine cellar through the floor on both sides of the dining room fireplace; automatic doors in the parlor designed so that as one door opens or closes, the other follows automatically.

Arch in the Book Room

Jefferson's Chamber



South Square Room
The grounds are quite extensive and we ended up spending 45 minutes on the House tour and then another four hours walking the grounds and looking through the visitor center and museum.

Underneath Monticello is the kitchen, and beer and wine storage.

Beer Cellar


Storage Cellar
I often wonder how food was kept fresh with no refrigeration. Ice boxes were used to keep some food cold, but what about meat? The smokehouse was the year-round storage location for meat; butchering, salting and smoking took place in the winter months. In an age before refrigeration, meat needed to be preserved for future use. Brining followed butchering, wet brine for beef, dry for pork. Only pork was smoked. Fresh beef was salted in tubs for 10 days. The cuts of beef, until needed, were then brined in a cask filled with 15 quarts of salt, one pound of salt-petre, and 15 gallons of water. 

Cuts of pork were rubbed with dry coarse salt and packed into troughs for about four weeks to draw out water from the flesh. Next, the hams, shoulders and bacon were hung and smoked. Hickory was the preferred fuel for sweet flavor. Smoked meats could age for up to two years in the smokehouse before being eaten.

Cedrela (one huge tree)
Two Wheeled Gig


River crossings were often sites for mishaps. Jefferson's granddaughter Cornelia Jefferson Randolph described a carriage horse falling through a decayed bridge in 1817.

Spinning Jenny

Indoor privies were rare in America, but Monticello had two outdoor privies as well as three inside the house. The pit under the seat connects to a tunnel that opens in the hillside. The indoor privies were lighted by skylights and vented by flues. The shafts extended below the cellar floor where they joined a lined sink that ended 125 feet east of the house. This tunnel provided ventilation and perhaps drainage. 

Many of the out buildings that were on Mulberry Row where the slaves lived and worked are no longer there and gardens are now located where they stood. Jefferson owned more than 600 individuals over the course of his life. At any one time, about 130 men, women and children lived and worked at Monticello. Jefferson inherited 52 slaves from his father in 1764. In 1773 he inherited 135 slaves from his father-in-law, including the Hemings family. By 1774 he was the second largest slave owner in the county.

After Jefferson's death, his enormous debts resulted in the sale of furniture, livestock and enslaved people from Monticello. In all, 126 men, women and children were sold. He gave away 88 enslaved people, primarily as dowries for his sister and daughters.

Hemings Cabin

This may have been the home of head joiner (woodworker) John Hemings and his wife Priscilla, nurse to Jefferson's grandchildren. John and Priscilla, called "Daddy" and "Aunt Priscilla" by the grandchildren, had close relationships with the Jefferson family. John and Priscilla had no children, but endured frequent separations as they belonged to different owners -- John to Jefferson and Priscilla to his daughter Martha Randolph. Priscilla lived with the Randolphs at a nearly plantation and accompanied them to Washington while Jefferson was president. As a joiner, John helped construct Monticello. John was freed in 1826, but Priscilla remained enslaved. 

They highlighted a slave named Sally Hemings although there is no mention of her relationship to John and Priscilla Hemings. Sally's father was John Wayles, who was also Martha Jefferson's father. Sally came to Monticello as a child, and was part of the slaves Jefferson inherited from John Wayles. Sally was nursemaid to Jefferson's youngest daughter. Sally had at least six children fathered by Jefferson with four surviving to adulthood. Mixed race children were present at Monticello and around the United States, and regardless of their paternity, children born to enslaved women inherited their mother's status as slaves.

Thomas Jefferson
Quote for the day: "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock." ~~ Thomas Jefferson

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