Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Agreement with William McGehee, 8 August 1809

Agreement with William McGehee

William MacGehe agrees with Thomas Mann Randolph, acting for Thomas Jefferson, that he will serve the said T.J. as Overseer, over not more than twenty hands, upon his plantation where John H. Craven now lives, during the year 1800 and ten, for the sum of fifty pounds in money, six hundred lbs of net pork, seventy lbs of Beef, twelve Barrels of Corn, one Barrel of flour and the priviledge of keeping one negroe of his own to be maintained out of the said provisions.1

Thos M. Randolph engages and agrees for the said Thos Jefferson as follows viz. that the money and provisions and the advantage above mentioned shall be paid, furnished, and allowed: that the sd Wm MacGehe shall moreover be entitled to expect an additional compensation, at the discretion of the said Thos Jefferson, if his conduct shall be such as to give entire satisfaction to the sd T.J. at the end of the year, and the crop made should prove good enough to justify such gratuity: farther that the sd W.M. shall have the priviledge of keeping geese and Turkeys, in a reasonable number, upon condition of his giving up one half in number and value of all increase of the same to the sd T.J., and of his allways confining the geese within the pastures: lastly that the said W.M. may raise flax, hemp, and cotton, sufficient to cloath his own family, upon condition that he shall give equal attention to raising such crops for his employer, and shall diligently superintend and enforce the manufacturing requisite to cloath the negroes on the plantation; which shall constitute his right to the said priviledge, as it shall be his compensation for the said care. Witness our hands this 8th August 1809.

Wm McGehee
Tho: M. Randolph
teste John Fagg

MS (MHi); in Randolph’s hand, signed by McGehee, Randolph, and Fagg; endorsed by TJ as an “Agreement” with McGehee of this date.

William McGehee served as overseer at TJ’s Tufton property from 25 Dec. 1809 to 15 Nov. 1811. Before that he had been an overseer for no more than a year apiece at three other plantations nearby. TJ described McGehee as industrious and skilled in old agricultural practices but resistant to innovation, insubordinate, discontented, and so harsh a disciplinarian that in an earlier position he had routinely carried a gun for fear of attack from the slaves he supervised. His father may have been the William McGehee who in 1774 sold TJ the Colle tract adjoining Monticello (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 , 1:344n, 2:1250, 1271; TJ to James Madison, 16 Aug. 1810; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 259–60).

Thomas Mann Randolph (1768–1828) had close ties to the Jefferson family from the time of his birth. TJ’s mother was Randolph’s second cousin and his father, Peter Jefferson, had served as guardian to Randolph’s namesake father. These ties were strengthened when Randolph married TJ’s eldest daughter Martha in 1790 and built a home at Edgehill near Monticello (1798–1800). Randolph often looked after TJ’s concerns when his father-in-law was absent. He shared many intellectual interests with TJ, including classics and science, which he pursued during his education at home, the College of William and Mary, and Edinburgh University. Though he did not graduate, Randolph applied his studies to scientific agriculture and became a respected botanist. He generally supported TJ’s policies during a public career that included service as a United States congressman (1803–07), colonel in the regular army and lieutenant colonel of militia in the War of 1812, Virginia governor (1819–22), and delegate (1823–25). Late in life Randolph lost control of most of his property and became estranged from TJ and his own family. He eventually reconciled with his wife and children, who had moved permanently to Monticello on TJ’s retirement in 1809, and he died and was buried at Monticello (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; William H. Gaines Jr., Thomas Mann Randolph: Jefferson’s Son-in-Law [1966]; Lay, Architecture description begins K. Edward Lay, The Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia, 2000 description ends , 118–9).

John H. craven leased five hundred acres of land at Tufton and Monticello from TJ, 1800–09 (Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, 1953 description ends , 168–71). When Craven’s lease expired, TJ made Randolph responsible for the supervision of Tufton.

1In the right margin at this point Randolph added the following notation:

“money £50
pork 9 18 @ 5½$
beef 17 6 3d
corn 7 4 2$
flour 1 10     5$
£68 9 6”

Index Entries

  • beef; received as pay search
  • clothing; for slaves search
  • Colle (P. Mazzei’s Albemarle Co. estate) search
  • corn; received as pay search
  • cotton; at Tufton search
  • Craven, John H.; leases Tufton search
  • Fagg, John; witnesses agreement search
  • flax; grown at Tufton search
  • flour; received as pay search
  • food; beef search
  • food; pork search
  • geese; at Tufton search
  • hemp; grown at Tufton search
  • Jefferson, Peter (TJ’s father); family of search
  • McGehee, William, Sr. search
  • McGehee, William; agreement with TJ search
  • McGehee, William; identified search
  • McGehee, William; Tufton overseer search
  • overseers; TJ’s accounts with search
  • pork; received as pay search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); marriage of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1741–93) (father of Thomas Mann Randolph [1768–1828] and Thomas Mann Randolph [1792–1848]) search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); agreement with W. McGehee search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); family of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); identified search
  • slaves; clothing of search
  • Tufton (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); overseers at search
  • turkeys; kept at Tufton search