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Edmund Bacon’s Account of Thomas Jefferson’s Reception at Culpeper Court House, [13 March 1809]

Edmund Bacon’s Account of Thomas Jefferson’s Reception at Culpeper Court House

[13 Mar. 1809]

We got loaded up ready to start home, and I left Washington on the third of March. Mr. Jefferson stayed to attend the inauguration, but overtook us before we got home. I had three wagons from Monticello—two six-mule teams loaded with boxes, and the other four sorrel Chickasaw horses, and the wagon pretty much loaded with shrubbery from Maine’s nursery. The servants rode on these wagons. I had the carriage horses and carriage, and rode behind them.

On our way home we had a tremendous snowstorm. It snowed very fast, and when we reached Culpepper Court House it was half-leg deep. A large crowd of people had collected there, expecting that the President would be along. When I rode up, they thought I was the President, and shouted and hurrahed tremendously. When I got out of the carriage, they laughed very heartily at their mistake. There was a platform along the whole front of the tavern, and it was full of people. Some of them had been waiting a good while, and drinking a good deal, and they made so much noise that they scared the horses, and Diomede backed, and tread upon my foot, and lamed me so that I could hardly get into the carriage the next morning. There was one very tall old fellow that was noisier than any of the rest, who said he was bound to see the President—“Old Tom,” he called him. They asked me when he would be along, and I told them I thought he would certainly be along that night, and I looked for him every moment. The tavern was kept by an old man named Shackleford. I told him to have a large fire built in a private room, as Mr. Jefferson would be very cold when he got there, and he did so. I soon heard shouting, went out, and Mr. Jefferson was in sight. He was in a one-horse vehicle—a phaeton—with a driver, and a servant on horseback. When he came up, there was great cheering again. I motioned to him to follow me; took him straight to his room, and locked the door. The tall old fellow came and knocked very often, but I would not let him in. I told Mr. Jefferson not to mind him, he was drunk. Finally the door was opened, and they rushed in and filled the room. It was as full as I ever saw a bar-room. He stood up, and made a short address to them. Afterwards some of them told him how they had mistaken me for him. He went on next day, and reached Monticello before we did, so that I did not see the large reception that the people of Albemarle gave him when he got home.

Printed in Pierson, Jefferson at Monticello description begins Hamilton W. Pierson, Jefferson at Monticello: The Private Life of Thomas Jefferson, From Entirely New Materials, 1862 description ends , 114–6; undated transcription by Hamilton W. Pierson of conversations with Bacon about 1861.

Edmund Bacon (1785–1866), a native of Albemarle County, served as overseer at Monticello from 1806 until 1822, the longest tenure for one of TJ’s overseers there. In 1823 Bacon moved to Trigg County, Kentucky, where he farmed successfully until his death (Pierson, Jefferson at Monticello description begins Hamilton W. Pierson, Jefferson at Monticello: The Private Life of Thomas Jefferson, From Entirely New Materials, 1862 description ends ; Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, 1953 description ends , 149; Russell Martin, “Mr. Jefferson’s business: The Farming Letters of Thomas Jefferson and Edmund Bacon” [Ph.D. diss., University of Virginia, 1994]; Memoranda Book of Edmund Bacon, 1802–22 [ViU]).

TJ had recommended that Bacon bring the empty wagons to Washington “by the courthouses, Ewell’s mill, Songster’s, Lane’s & Ravensworth,” the only passable route northward (TJ to Bacon, 27 Feb. 1809 [CSmH: JF]). diomede was one of two carriage horses owned by TJ that were descended from the British racehorse Diomed (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1221n, 1236n). Leaving Washington on 11 Mar. 1809, TJ crossed the Potomac on John Mason’s Georgetown ferry. He spent his first night at Ravensworth, a house in Fairfax County owned by Richard Fitzhugh, ten miles west of Washington. TJ’s second day of travel included a stop midway at Sangster’s and Ewell’s Mill, near Centreville, where he bought oats and corn, after which he spent the night at Barnett’s Tavern in Fauquier County (about seven miles east of Warrenton in Auburn). He passed his third night at the tavern operated by Benjamin Shackelford at Culpeper Court House in Culpeper County. TJ paid $4.43 for “supper, lodgg. &c.” at Shackelford’s and fifty cents for a barber. On 14 Mar. TJ stopped for oats at Orange Court House and continued on to Gordonsville, Orange County, where he spent the night at Nathaniel Gordon’s tavern at a cost of $4.50. He arrived home on 15 Mar. 1809 (MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:903n, 1148–9n, 1243).

Index Entries

  • Bacon, Edmund; describes travels with TJ search
  • Bacon, Edmund; identified search
  • Bacon, Edmund; Monticello overseer search
  • Barnett’s Tavern (Fauquier Co.) search
  • Culpeper Court House (later Culpeper), Va. search
  • Diomed (British horse) search
  • Diomede (TJ’s horse) search
  • Ewell’s Mill (Fairfax Co.) search
  • Fairfax (Culpeper Co.) search
  • Georgetown, D.C.; ferry of J. Mason search
  • Gordon, Nathaniel search
  • Gordon’s Tavern (Gordonsville) search
  • horses; owned by TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Travels; from Washington search
  • Lane’s Ordinary (Fairfax Co.) search
  • Main (Maine), Thomas; plant nursery of search
  • Mason, John (of Georgetown); Georgetown ferry of search
  • Orange Court House (Orange Co.); TJ stops at search
  • plants; TJ orders search
  • Ravensworth (Fairfax Co.) search
  • Sangster’s (Songster’s) ordinary (Fairfax Co.) search
  • Shackelford, Benjamin; Culpeper C.H. tavern keeper search