Thomas Jefferson Papers

Cornelia J. Randolph to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist), 24 April 1821

Cornelia J. Randolph to Virginia J. Randolph (Trist)

Poplar Forest April 24 1821

We are arriv’d here fatigue’d to death as usual my dear Virginia, after the most tedious journey that ever was made, I am sure I almost died on the road from impatience. we got to Warren in the height of the rain that fell the day we left you, & were detain’d there all night, in consequence of which & the roads being in the most detestable order, we could not get to Hunters the next day as we intended, and spent the night at horrid Old Flood’s, between the sheets that Dr & Mrs Flood had been sleeping in for a month I am sure, not between them exactly for finding the counterpane was clean we pinn’d the top sheet down close all round and laid upon that after rolling ourselves up hand foot and face in our cloths so that our skins at least should not be defiled by touching pitch & cover’d with the counterpane next us. strange to tell, every thing else in the house had the appearance of having been clean not more than a week before, and we did not feel ourselves polluted by breathing the air of this den usually of filth, we had very comfortable breakfasts both days, first at Warren where Kent, who the servant maid told us was mighty fond of Mr Jefferson, gave us breakfast while we were waiting for Gill & Israel to trifle away a few hours which was in part the cause of our being oblig’d to spend the night at Flood’s; and then at Hunters whose tavern keeping seems to have improved since the death of his wife. The roads for the greater part of the way were so bad that Gill more than once stopp’d and said he thought if he ventur’d any farther we should certainly be upset, & once Burwell was oblig’d to dismount & hold up the carriage to prevent it from going over. when we arriv’d here we foun[d] Mr Yancy gone to Liberty court, (16 miles off) and the keys of the house could not be obtain’d untill his return; Burwell had shaken open the front door so that we could enter & get into several of the rooms of the house but our chamber door in which room all the bedding was was lock’d[.] besides that, nothing either to eat or drink could be obtain’d, & to make the matter worse the hard winter had kill’d almost every thing in the garden. we satisfied our hunger with the wrecks of our travelling provisions, & whatever old Hannah & Burwell could find, after dilligently searching house & garden for several hours to collect the little that had been overlook’d when the house was shut up last year, on the one hand, & on the other, what the cold had spar’d. we were more hungry & tir’d than nice though, you may suppose, & at night were very contentedly about to stretch off upon the outside of the beds which had a single blanket laid over the mattress, when the keys arriv’d, & in a moment we had tea & wine, & comfortable beds. I have been writing you, I wont say entertaining you with, an account of our journey & arrival here, which I suppose was all you expected to hear unless in addition to it the scraps of neighbourhood news the servants have given us, & an account of the health of our party, this is as good as usual, grandpapa says he is very well, sister Ellen that she is tired to death, & so am I, but we hope to recover soon & make the most of our time while we are here.

I have heard who the blue ey’d flaxen hair’d youth, whom you admir’d so much, is, he is a young man of this neighbourhood, of the name of Irving or Ervine, I do not know how to spell the name; the kentuckian or tennesean who was with him we cannot hear the name of. All our neighbours are in status quo, except that young Mrs Watts has lost her child. Col. Watts is at home, so I suppose we shall not have the honour of Mrs Watts’ & Miss Betsey’s company here. Adieu my dear Virginia I must if possible write a line to Mrs Trist, or I shall not answer her letter at all, since I suppose she will come to Monticello as soon as we get home.   We heard as usual of a murder just committed in Buckingham as we past through that county, a negro man & woman murder’d another negro, they were on trial, and perhaps as they are negroes may stand some chance of meeting with the punishment they deserve.   kiss my dear Geordie for me & believe me ever yours


RC (NcU: NPT); edge trimmed.

defiled by touching pitch comes from the apocryphal biblical Book of Sirach (also known as Ecclesiaticus), 13.1: “He that toucheth pitch shall be defiled therewith.”

Shortly after arriving again at Poplar Forest later in the year, Cornelia J. Randolph alluded a second time to the frequency of murder in buckingham County, advising her sister Virginia around 6 Oct. 1821 that, “wonderful to say, we heard of no murder in Buckingham” (NcU: NPT).

geordie: George Wythe Randolph.

Index Entries

  • African Americans; accused of murder search
  • beds; at Poplar Forest search
  • Bible; apocrypha search
  • blankets; at Poplar Forest search
  • Buckingham County, Va.; Flood’s Ordinary search
  • Buckingham County, Va.; murder reported in search
  • children; death of search
  • Colbert, Burwell (TJ’s slave;1783–ca.1862; Critta Colbert’s husband); travels with TJ search
  • Coolidge, Ellen Wayles Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); health of search
  • Flood, Henry; Buckingham Co. tavern keeper search
  • Flood, Mary Walker (Henry Flood’s wife) search
  • Flood’s Ordinary (Buckingham Co.; proprietor Henry Flood) search
  • Gillette, Gill (TJ’s slave; b.1792); as wagoner search
  • Gillette, Gill (TJ’s slave; b.1792); travels to Poplar Forest search
  • Hannah (Hanah) (TJ’s slave; b.1770); and visitors to Poplar Forest search
  • household articles; beds search
  • household articles; blankets search
  • household articles; counterpanes search
  • household articles; mattresses search
  • household articles; sheets search
  • Hunter, Robert; Campbell Co. innkeeper search
  • Hunter’s Ordinary (Campbell Co.; proprietor Robert Hunter) search
  • Irving (Ervine), Mr.; admired by V. J. R. Trist search
  • Jefferson, Israel Gillette (TJ’s slave; b.1800); travels to Poplar Forest search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; good health of search
  • Kent (servant); in Warren search
  • mattresses search
  • murder; committed by African Americans search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); garden at search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ’s grandchildren visit search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); health of search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); letters from, to V. J. R. Trist search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); on murder in Buckingham Co. search
  • Randolph, Cornelia Jefferson (TJ’s granddaughter); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Randolph, George Wythe (TJ’s grandson); greetings sent to search
  • roads; poor condition of search
  • tea; at Poplar Forest search
  • Trist, Virginia Jefferson Randolph (TJ’s granddaughter); letters to, from C. J. Randolph search
  • Watts, Elizabeth; proposed visit of to Poplar Forest search
  • Watts, Elizabeth Roberts (John Watts’s wife); family of search
  • Watts, John; Bedford Co. landholder search
  • wine; at Poplar Forest search
  • women; letters from; C. J. Randolph to V. J. R. Trist search
  • women; letters to; V. J. R. Trist from C. J. Randolph search
  • Yancey, Joel (d.1833); as superintendent of Poplar Forest search