Notes on Joseph Fossett’s Account for Plating Saddle Trees
|1811.||Saddle trees plated for Mr Burnley||D|
|the former acct given me by Joe was for 32. trees||32.|
|Nov. 18.||now given in by him|
|4. mens trees common @ 1.D.|
|17. do plated round the Cantle @ 7/|
|1. Woman’s tree common|
|3. do plated round the Cantle|
MS (MHi); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Burnley.”
Joseph (Joe) Fossett (1780–1858), blacksmith, was TJ’s slave from his birth until TJ’s death. He was the son of Betty Hemings’s daughter Mary and, presumably, William Fosset, who worked as a carpenter’s apprentice at Monticello late in the 1770s. Although his mother and two of his siblings were freed in 1792 after her sale to Thomas Bell, her common-law husband in Charlottesville, Fossett remained at Monticello. There he worked in the nailery (becoming foreman in 1800), ran errands, and helped to serve meals in the main house. In 1801 he began an apprenticeship with blacksmith William Stewart, and Fossett operated the Monticello blacksmith shop from 1807. He made an unauthorized journey in 1806 to Washington, D.C., to be with his wife Edith Hern, who was being trained as a cook at the President’s House. He was captured soon thereafter and returned to Monticello. The couple were not reunited until TJ’s retirement from politics in 1809, but they ultimately had ten children together. TJ freed Fossett in his will and gave him his blacksmithing tools. His family was, however, sold at the auction that disposed of most of TJ’s estate. Within a few years Fossett had set up shop in Charlottesville, and in 1837 he engineered the emancipation of his wife, five of his children, and four grandchildren. The Fossetts eventually relocated to Cincinnati (Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, 1953 (in two separately paginated sections; unless otherwise specified, references are to the second section) description ends , pt. 1, p. 31; 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 , 1:390, 2:1186; Lucia Stanton, Slavery at Monticello ; Stanton, Free Some Day description begins Lucia Stanton, Free Some Day: The African-American Families of Monticello, 2000 description ends , 131–3, 149–51; TJ’s will and codicil, 16–17 Mar. 1826; Albemarle Co. Deed Book, 35:219–20; Fossett’s tombstone inscription, Union Baptist Cemetery, Cincinnati).
The former acct had been for $34.50, not $32. On 13 Apr. 1811 TJ gave Fossett “1/ in every dollar of the work done,” which in that case came to $6 (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 , 2:1265). For a change in the rules governing Fossett’s plating work, see William Watson to TJ, 9 Mar. 1812.