Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Instructions for Poplar Forest Management, December 1811

Instructions for Poplar Forest Management

1811. Dec.

The crop of the Tomahawk plantation for 1812.

Corn, oats & peas.  the Shop field, the best parts of it 64.  acres
the Eastern parts of McDaniel’s field  36.  acres

of the above, put about three fourths into corn, of the best parts, the rest in oats & peas.

there will still remain about 16. as of the Shop field for Burnet.

Wheat & oats. the Ridge field 130. as Early’s 54. Upper Tomahawk 25. in all 209. acres

tobacco. half of the 2. year old ground 15. as the ground on the road cleared & not tended last year 10. acres about 2. now cut down, & perhaps some parts of the meadow ground. as this is more than can be tended, perhaps the 10. as on the road, or part of them may go into corn.1


In general I would wish 4. as of meadow ground to be prepared, to be tended one year in tobo and 8. or 10. as of high ground to be tended 2. years in tobo which will give from 20. to 24. as of tobo every year. the high land for this year 1812. is to be cleared on the South side of Tomahawk creek, between the upper & lower fields. but as to the Meadow ground, I wish as much as possible to be prepared, of that which is easiest to prepare, & to be tended in tobo pumpkins, peas or whatever will best suit it, & clean it, to be sown in timothy in the Fall. the parts already clean should be sown this spring.

All the ground which is in wheat, or which will be in oats, & turned out to rest, is to be sown in clover in February, and Burnet, if I can get seed, is to be sown in the old South hill side of the Shop field.

An acre of the best ground for hemp, is to be selected, & sown in hemp & to be kept for a permanent hemp patch

The laborers for the Tomahawk plantation are to be the following.

Men. Dick, Jesse, Gawen, Phill Hubard, Hercules, Manuel, Evans.

Women. Betty, Dinah, Cate’s Hanah, Gawen’s Sal, Aggy, Lucinda, Dinah’s Hanah, Amy, Milly.

Nace, the former headman, and the best we have ever known, is to be entirely kept from labour until he recovers, which will probably be very long. he may do any thing which he can do sitting in a warm room, such as shoemaking and making baskets. he can shell corn in the corn house when it is quite warm, or in his own house at any time.

Will & Hal, when they have no work in the shop, are to get their coal wood, or assist in the crop. they will make up for the loss of Hanah’s work, who cooks & washes for me when I am here. the smiths should make the plantation nails of the old bits of iron.

Edy is not named among the field workers, because either she or Aggy, whichever shall be thought most capable, is to be employed in weaving, and will be wanting to clean the house and assist here a part of the day when I am here. until a loom can be got ready both may be in the ground.

Bess makes the butter during the season, to be sent to Monticello in the winter. when not engaged in the dairy, she can spin coarse on the big wheel. Abby has been a good spinner. they may each of them take one2 of the young spinners, to spin with them in their own house, & under their care. in that way one wheel will serve for two persons. the spinners are to be Maria (Nanny’s) Sally (Hanah’s) Lucy (Dinah’s) and Nisy (Maria’s). this last may spin at her grandmother Cate’s & under her care; and so may Maria who is her niece, & whose mother will be there. they had better spin on the small wheel.

2. cotton wheels will suffice for Abby & Bess and the 2. girls with them, & a flax wheel apiece for each of the other two girls. hemp should be immediately prepared to set them at work, & a supply be kept up; and as there will be no wool to spare3 till May, mrs Goodman may employ the wool spinners for herself till then, if she chuses. whatever terms have been settled between mrs Bacon & mrs Randolph, shall be the same with her. (I do not know what they are) and as a compensation for teaching Aggy or Edy to weave, I propose to give her the usual price for all the weaving she may do for me, the first year, considering it as her apprenticeship: and that afterwards she shall have the same proportion of her time as she is to have of the spinners.4

Several of the negro women complain that their houses want repair badly. this should be attended to every winter. for the present winter, repair, of preference those of the women who have no husbands to do it for them. the removal of so many negroes from this to the other place will require a good deal of work there to lodge them comfortably. this should be done at once, by the gangs of both places joined.

10. bushels of clover seed to be got early from Cofe, for the 2. plantations. fresh seed.

The ground laid off for my garden is to be inclosed with a picquet fence, 7. feet high, & so close that a hare cannot get into it. it is 80. yards square, & will take, I suppose about 2400. rails 8.f. long, besides the running rails & stakes. the sheep to be folded in it every night.

As soon as a boat load of tobo is ready, it must be sent down to Gibson & Jefferson in Richmond, & an order given the boatmen on them for the price of the carriage. good enquiry should be made before hand for responsible faithful boatmen. mr Griffin knows them well; mr Robinson also will advise.

If a physician should at any time be wanting for the negroes, let our neighbor Dr Steptoe be called in. In pleurisies, or other highly inflammatory fevers, intermitting fevers, dysenteries, & Venereal cases, the doctors can give certain relief; and the sooner called to them the easier & more certain the cure. but in most other cases they oftener do harm than good. a dose of salts as soon as they are taken is salutary in almost all cases, & hurtful in none. I have generally found this, with a lighter diet and kind attention restore them soonest. the lancet should never be used without the advice of a physician, but in sudden accidents. a supply of sugar, molasses and salts should be got from mr Robinson & kept in the house for the sick. there are 2. or 3. cases of ruptures among the children at the two plantations, to which the Doctor should be immediately called, & great attention paid to them, as if not cured now, they will be lost for ever.

The work horses are to be equally divided between the 2. places, and one more apeice to be purchased if good ones can be got on good terms and on credit till the sale of our tobo say April or May. a pair of well broke oxen, not above middle age is to be set apart for Monticello; & the rest equally divided. the cattle, sheep, & hogs to be equally divided as to numbers, ages, sexes Etc but when the cows begin to give milk in the spring of the year, reserving at Bear creek enough for the overseer & negroes, the surplus milch cows must come to Tomahawk for the butter season, to make a supply for Monticello. the carts & tools equally divided.

Of the 28. hogs at Bear creek, the 39 in the pen at Tomahawk & 8. more expected at the same place, in all 75. 30 of the fattest must be sent to Monticello, 2 be given to the 2. hogkeepers Jame Hubd & Hal, 28. be kept for the negroes & harvest, & 15 to furnish the allowance to the 2 overseers, & what remains of the 15 after furnishing them, to be kept for my use while here.

the offal of the 28 hogs for the negroes and of those for myself will serve them, it is expected 6. weeks or 2. months before entering on the distribution of meat to them regularly.

MS (NN: George Arents Tobacco Collection); written entirely in TJ’s hand on both sides of a single sheet; partially dated.

TJ probably prepared this memorandum to guide the work of Jeremiah A. Goodman, his new overseer in charge at Poplar Forest.

The shop field at Tomahawk Plantation is referred to as the Fork field in the map reproduced elsewhere in this volume and in later documents. A cofe is a hawker or peddler (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). mr robinson: Archibald Robertson. The two plantations at Poplar Forest were Bear Creek and Tomahawk.

1Remainder of text in a different ink.

2TJ here canceled “or two.”

3Reworked from “spin.”

4Recto ends here.

Index Entries

  • Abby (TJ’s slave; b.1753); spinner search
  • Aggy (TJ’s slave; b.1789; daughter of Dinah); laborer search
  • Aggy (TJ’s slave; b.1789; daughter of Dinah); weaver search
  • Amy (TJ’s slave; b.1797); laborer search
  • Armstead (Manuel) (TJ’s slave; b.1794); laborer search
  • Bacon, Ann Simmons (Edmund Bacon’s wife); and wool spinning search
  • Bear Creek plantation (part of TJ’s Poplar Forest estate); TJ’s instructions for search
  • Betty (Bess) (TJ’s slave; b.1747); on Poplar Forest slave lists search
  • Betty (Island Betty; Old Betty) (TJ’s slave; b.1749); makes butter search
  • boats; transfer goods to and from Richmond search
  • burnet search
  • butter; at Poplar Forest search
  • cattle; at Poplar Forest search
  • corn; at Poplar Forest search
  • crops; hemp search
  • crops; oats search
  • Dick (Yellow Dick) (TJ’s slave; b.1767); laborer search
  • Dinah (TJ’s slave; b.1766); laborer search
  • Edy (TJ’s slave; b.1792); weaver search
  • Evans (TJ’s slave; b.1794); laborer search
  • food; butter search
  • food; peas search
  • food; pumpkins search
  • gardens; at Poplar Forest search
  • Gawen (TJ’s slave; b.1778); laborer search
  • Gibson & Jefferson (Richmond firm); tobacco sold for TJ search
  • Goodman, Jeremiah Augustus; Poplar Forest overseer search
  • Goodman, Mary Clarkson (Jeremiah A. Goodman’s wife); and wool spinning search
  • grass; timothy search
  • Griffin, Burgess; Poplar Forest overseer search
  • Hall (Hal) (TJ’s slave; b.1767); hog keeper search
  • Hall (Hal) (TJ’s slave; b.1767); tasks for search
  • Hanah (TJ’s slave; b.1796); laborer search
  • Hannah (Hanah) (TJ’s slave; b.1770); laborer search
  • hemp; grown at Poplar Forest search
  • hemp; weaving search
  • Hercules (TJ’s slave; b.1794); laborer search
  • horses; at Poplar Forest search
  • Hubbard, Cate (TJ’s slave; b.1747); spinner search
  • Hubbard, Jame (TJ’s slave; father of James Hubbard); hog keeper search
  • Hubbard, Phill (TJ’s slave); laborer search
  • Hubbard, Sally (TJ’s slave; b.1797); spinner search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Instructions for Poplar Forest Management search
  • Jesse (TJ’s slave; b.1772); laborer search
  • livestock; at Poplar Forest search
  • livestock; pigs search
  • Lucinda (TJ’s slave; b.1791); laborer search
  • Lucy (TJ’s slave; b. ca.1800); spinner search
  • machines; spinning wheel search
  • Maria (TJ’s slave; b.1798); spinner search
  • medicine; molasses search
  • Milly (TJ’s slave; b.1797); laborer search
  • molasses; mixed with medicine search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); butter for search
  • Nace (TJ’s slave; b.1773); as headman search
  • Nace (TJ’s slave; b.1773); tasks for search
  • nails; at Poplar Forest search
  • Nicy (Nisy) (TJ’s slave; b.1799); spinner search
  • oats; at Poplar Forest search
  • overseers; TJ’s instructions to search
  • peas; grown at Poplar Forest search
  • pigs; at Poplar Forest search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); corn grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); garden at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); hemp grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); horses at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); household manufacture at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); livestock at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); oats grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); Overseers at; TJ’s instructions to search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); peas grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); pumpkins grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); timothy grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s instructions for management of search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); tobacco grown at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); wheat grown at search
  • pumpkins search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); and wool spinning search
  • Richmond, Va.; boats transfer goods to and from search
  • Robertson, Archibald; and TJ’s tobacco from Poplar Forest search
  • Sally (Sal) (TJ’s slave; b.1777); spinner search
  • salt; as medicine search
  • sheep; at Poplar Forest search
  • slaves; and work plans for Poplar Forest search
  • slaves; dwellings of search
  • slaves; medical treatment for search
  • spinning wheels search
  • Steptoe, William; as doctor search
  • sugar; in medicine search
  • tobacco; grown at Poplar Forest search
  • Tomahawk plantation (part of TJ’s Poplar Forest estate); instructions for management of search
  • wheat; at Poplar Forest search
  • Will (William) (TJ’s slave; b.1753); tasks for search
  • wool; spinning of search