Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Barnes, 14 June 1817

To John Barnes

Monticello June 14. 17.

Dear Sir

A young negro man, named Thruston, brother to Edy, who while I was in Washington, was in the kitchen under the instruction of Mr Julien, has escaped from my grandson to whom I had given him. he is supposed to have gone to Washington and to be there lurking under the connivance of some of his sister’s old friends. the bearer, mr Wheat, my grandson’s overseer, who is acquainted in that vicinity, goes on in quest of him. my grandson has furnished him with what is thought sufficient for all his expences. yet as unforeseen circumstances may render his stay longer than is expected to accomplish his purpose, my grandson has desired me to request of you, should he become in want, to furnish any reasonable sum which he may further want, rather than his mission should be abortive, which I will see remitted as soon as made known. I inclose you a letter recieved on the day of your departure, and felt sincerely the disappointment and delay which the misinformation of the postmaster brou[ght] [. . .]

Th: Jefferson

P.S. it is thought best that the mission of the bearer should be known to no mortal but yourself & him, and that not the least intimation of it should get out.

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover to TJ; mutilated at seal, with words rewritten by TJ but still illegible; adjacent to signature: “Mr John Barnes”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure not found.

Rezin Wheat (d. 1846) moved by 1805 to Albemarle County from Prince Georges County, Maryland. He served as Thomas Jefferson Randolph’s overseer from at least 1817 until 1820. In 1840 he owned five slaves (Arliss Shaffer Monk, “Undocumented Genealogies: To Trust or Not to Trust? Lessons from Several Strains of Wheat,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly 86 [1998]: 48–9; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends , 2:1275, 1312; DNA: RG 29, CS, Albemarle Co., 1810–40; Woods, Albemarle County, 403; Albemarle Co. Will Book, 17:215–6, 20:473).

TJ had given Thruston Hern to his grandson Thomas Jefferson Randolph in 1813 (TJ’s Conveyance of Slaves to Thomas Jefferson Randolph, 26 Mar. 1813). Hern, who had apparently escaped by posing as one of James Madison’s slaves during the latter’s May 1817 visit to Monticello, was not recaptured (Lucia Stanton, “Those Who Labor for My Happiness”: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello [2012], 139; Pierson, Jefferson at Monticello, 110–1).

Index Entries

  • Barnes, John; and runaway slave search
  • Barnes, John; letters to search
  • Fossett, Edith (Edy) Hern (TJ’s slave; b.1787); family of search
  • Hern, Thruston (TJ’s slave; b.1795); escapes slavery search
  • Julien, Honoré; trains chefs for TJ search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); visits Monticello search
  • Monticello (TJ’s Albemarle Co. estate); Visitors to; Madison, Dolley and James search
  • overseers; attempt to capture runaway slaves search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); overseers of search
  • Randolph, Thomas Jefferson (TJ’s grandson; Jane Hollins Nicholas Randolph’s husband); slaves of search
  • slaves; fugitive search
  • Washington, D.C.; slaves run away to search
  • Wheat, Rezin; and runaway slave search
  • Wheat, Rezin; identified search