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George Washington's Mount Vernon was a large operating farm or plantation. It produced crops which were tended to by his many slaves, the produce either consumed on the property or sold at local markets thus providing an income to the estate. After his death in 1799 his wife, Martha continued the plantation until her death only 3 years later. Mount Vernon was passed on to heirs who had little interest in continuing the plantation operation. Therefore, gradually the land was sold off to off-set debts and taxes and the place fell into disrepair. In the early 1900's a group of concerned women who were interested in American history formed to begin a fund-raising effort to purchase Mount Vernon. They felt that it was a national symbol of early America and our first President's plantation residence needed to be saved. They received broad support, bought the place and with the direction of historians, architects, and learned people began the long planning process for the restoration. When it opened for public tours docents were hired to guide visitors through the house and grounds to tell the story of the lives of George & Martha Washington. Millions of people visit Mount Vernon and with the entry fees plus generous private donations from individuals and corporations the plantation's operation will go on for years to come. It has been designated a National Historic Site.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello was also a large operating plantation located further inland from the Potomac River. Due to the size of the property Jefferson divided it into separate farms each run by resident overseers who directed the labor of the slaves who worked them. Tobacco was the cash crop with wheat becoming the main crop later on. A James River tributary, the Rivanna River, flowed along the Monticello property. Jefferson made the river navigable to his property. He then hired bateaus or shallow-draft boats/barges on which to transport the cash crop commodities downstream to the James River which flowed into Chesapeake Bay at Norfolk. There it was loaded onto sailing ships for export to cities, such as, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Jefferson was clever & enterprising, since roads were barely passable then.

Jefferson, upon marrying Martha Wayles Skelton, he had to assume her family debts, as was marital law then. Her father's debts were in excess of $100K. Jefferson was never able to satisfy them and upon his death on July 4, 1826, land and human assets (slaves) had to be sold. Monticello is an architectural marvel. While only holding a patent for 1 invention, he called himself "An Adapter". In his travels he looked for clever ideas which could be adapted to things at Monticello and there are many.

Upon his death the property was passed to (relatives) the Levy Family and their stewardship saved the plantation. For nearly 100 years, the Levy's worked to restore and preserve the house. In 1923 the Thomas Jefferson Foundation was founded, and the property was purchased from Jefferson Levy. In a similar fashion to Mount Vernon, experts were hired to continue the restoration process. It, too, is designated a National Historic Site.
In Thomas Jefferson's Will he freed only 9 of his over 400 slaves. They were; John & Priscilla Hemmings, and their daughter, Sally, who bore at least 6 of Jefferson's children. Modern DNA testing trace Jefferson's dna to the Hemming decendents.

I have run out of space. Williamsburg will be on my next blog............................. Dick

Posted by dixter 06:40 Archived in USA Tagged mount & monticello vernon

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