Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to William Evans, 1 November 1801

To William Evans

Washington Nov. 1. 1801.

Dear Sir

I recieved some days ago a very fine rock fish by the stage which, by a card of address accompanying it I percieved to have come from you. It was indeed a remarkeably fine one and I pray you to accept my thanks for it. a report has come here through some connection of one of my servants that James Hemings my former cook has committed an act of suicide. as this whether true or founded will give uneasiness to his friends, will you be so good as to ascertain the truth & communicate it to me. Accept my best wishes for your health & happiness.

Th: Jefferson

PrC (MHi); at foot of text: “Mr. William Evans”; endorsed by TJ in ink on verso.

James Hemings, who had accompanied TJ to France to learn the “art of cookery,” served as TJ’s chef from 1787 until 1796, when TJ signed his deed of manumission. Hemings was working as a cook in Baltimore in February 1801 when TJ contacted Evans, requesting that he urge Hemings to go immediately to Washington to serve as chef at the President’s House. Hemings did not pursue the invitation, perhaps because TJ did not ask him directly. Hemings did, however, run the kitchen at Monticello while TJ was at home during August and September. On 19 Sep., TJ paid him $30, “a month & a half’s wages” (Stanton, Free Some Day description begins Lucia Stanton, Free Some Day, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc., 2000 description ends , 125–9; MB description begins James A. Bear, Jr., and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, Princeton, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1051; Vol. 27:119–20; Vol. 28:605; Vol. 33:38–9, 53–4, 91–2, 505).

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