Thomas Jefferson Papers

Charles Johnston and Elizabeth Johnston to Thomas Jefferson, 21 July 1819

From Charles Johnston and Elizabeth Johnston

Wednesday July 21. 19

Mr & Mrs Johnston present their Compliments to Mr Jefferson and the Miss Randolph’s and request the pleasure of their Company tomorrow at 2 O’Clock to dinner

RC (DLC: TJ Papers, 216:38526); with PoC of TJ to Thomas B. Parker, 2 Aug. 1819, on verso; in Charles Johnston’s hand; dateline at foot of text; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”

Elizabeth Prentis Steptoe Johnston (1783–1820), the daughter of James Steptoe and Frances Callaway Steptoe, was born in Bedford County. She married Charles Johnston on 1 Jan. 1807. The couple afterwards moved from Richmond to Campbell County and had a large family. In 1818 they sold their estate, Sandusky, and eventually removed to Botetourt County. Johnston died at her father’s home near New London (James Steptoe family Bible record [photocopy in ViLJML]; Richmond Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser, 17 Jan. 1807; Stella Pickett Hardy, Colonial Families of the Southern States of America [1911], 306–8; Ruth H. Early, Campbell Chronicles and Family Sketches Embracing the History of Campbell County, Virginia, 1782–1926 [1927], 439; Lynchburg Press and Public Advertiser, 7 Apr. 1820; gravestone inscription, Callaway-Steptoe Cemetery in Bedford Co.).

The miss randolph’s were TJ’s granddaughters Ellen W. Randolph (Coolidge) and Cornelia J. Randolph. Later in their visit to Poplar Forest both of them commented on the hectic pace of hospitality in the neighborhood. On 11 Aug. 1819 Ellen complained to her mother, Martha Jefferson Randolph, that “we have never been so much interrupted by visiting and invitations as since we have been here last; for the last three days the carriage has been ordered as regularly as the breakfast; yesterday we dined out with a large party, and have two invitations on hand for this week. our plans of industry are much disconcerted by all this—& I have never found my time pass so unpleasantly. … after the heat and toil of dressing, we leave home, at a time of day when the thermometer is perhaps at 95° in a little confined carriage which has got so thoroughly heated standing a few moments before the door, that it is like entering the mouth of an oven, & after a ride of four five or six miles over a rough dusty road under a broiling sun, we arrive fatigued, flushed and dirty, set up four or five hours in company, silent and uncomfortable, too much exhausted to enjoy society even if it were of the best kind, and return home in the evening to mourn over the weary day and wasted hours. this sort of life seems however to agree with us both—I have never seen Cornelia look better or handsomer” (RC in ViU: Coolidge Correspondence). On the same day Cornelia related to her sister Virginia J. Randolph (Trist) that “We have been out three days of almost every week, & besides the three of this week we are engaged for two others” (RC in NcU: NPT).

Index Entries

  • Bedford County, Va.; temperature readings at search
  • carriages; at Poplar Forest search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Johnston, Charles; invites TJ to dinner search
  • Johnston, Charles; letters from search
  • Johnston, Elizabeth Prentis Steptoe (Charles Johnston’s wife); identified search
  • Johnston, Elizabeth Prentis Steptoe (Charles Johnston’s wife); invites TJ to dinner search
  • Johnston, Elizabeth Prentis Steptoe (Charles Johnston’s wife); letter from search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); weather at search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); children of search
  • scientific instruments; thermometers search
  • thermometers; and meteorological observations search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); correspondence with siblings search
  • weather; heat search
  • weather; temperature readings search