About John Wayles Jefferson (Hemings)
John's birth name was Hemings..he later adopted the name Jefferson. He was the grandson of Sarah Hemings, a slave owned by Thomas Jefferson. DNA tests in 1998 confirmed that a male descendant of John's brother, Beverly, was descended from the Jefferson family. which has lent credence to the family's claim of descent from Thomas Jefferson. On that basis, john is believed to have been a grandson of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson's father-in-law, John Wayles, is also believed to have been John's great-grandfather: most historians credit the rumor that Wayles was the father of both Sally Hemings and Jefferson's wife, Martha.
John entered the United States Army on August 26, 1861, at Madison, Wisconsin. He took command of the Wisconsin 8th Infantry during the American Civil War. On September 28, 1861 he was promoted to Major; to Lieutenant Colonel on April 23, 1863; and to Colonel on June 16, 1864. He fought in significant battles of the war and was wounded at Vicksburg and during the Siege of Corinth. He was mustered out of service on October 11, 1864 at Madison, Wisconsin. His brother, William Beverly Hemings, and his cousin James Madison Hemings and Thomas Eston Hemings also served in the Civil War.
According to his service records, John had red hair and gray eyes. Because of his mostly white ancestry and appearance, there was no reason for his troops to suspect any African heritage. In 1902, a former neighbor recalled:...and I saw and talked with one of the sons, during the Civil War, who was then wearing the silver leaves of a lieutenant colonel, and in command of a fine regiment of white men from a north-western state. He begged me not to tell the fact that he had colored blood in his veins, which he said was not suspected by any of his command; and of course I did not.
John was a newspaper correspondent during and after the war. He later moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where he became a prominent businessman, buying and selling cotton as the owner of the Continental Cotton Company. Prior to entering military service, he and his younger brother Beverly had successfully managed the American House hotel in Madison, Wisconsin.
He died on June 12, 1892 and was interred in Madison, Wisconsin, in a family plot at Forest Hill Cemetery. He never married.
John Wayles Jefferson, born John Wayles Hemings (May 8, 1835 – July 12, 1892), was the son of a former slave; he served as a colonel in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A businessman who owned a hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, after the war he achieved wealth as a cotton broker in Memphis, Tennessee. He was the eldest son of Eston Hemings (1808–56), a freedman who was seven-eighths European in ancestry and "white" under Virginia law, and Julia Ann Isaacs Hemings (1814–1889), a free woman of color. His family moved from Charlottesville, Virginia to Chillicothe, Ohio in 1836. They later moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 1852, where they changed their surname to Jefferson and entered the white community; both decisions were based on their ancestry.
Jefferson is the grandson of Sarah (Sally) Hemings, a slave, and her master Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. DNA tests conducted in 1998 confirmed that a male descendant of John's brother Beverly was descended from the male Jefferson line. For most historians, this data, together with the weight of historical evidence, has confirmed the Hemings family's claim of descent from Thomas Jefferson.
Early life and family
Main article: Jefferson-Hemings controversy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson-Hemings_controversy
John's father Eston Hemings was born a slave at Monticello in 1808, the youngest of Sally Hemings’ six mixed-race children. They are widely understood to be the children of Thomas Jefferson, Hemings' master, and seven-eighths European in ancestry. Under Virginia law at the time, they were legally white, although they were born into slavery under the slave law principle of partus sequitur ventrem, by which children of slaves took the status of the mother.
In DNA studies in 1998, Eston's descendant was found to have Y-DNA that matched that of the Jefferson male line. This confirmed the family's tradition of descent from Thomas Jefferson and, together with the body of historical evidence, has convinced most historians of the connection. It disproved the Jefferson family tradition that his Carr nephew(s) had fathered Sally Hemings' children, as the Carr DNA did not match. Jefferson informally and formally freed all of Sally's children. Jefferson's will freed Madison Hemings and Eston shortly after the president's death in 1826; Eston was "given his time" so that he did not have to wait until age 21. Madison, already 21, had been freed immediately. In 1830 Eston purchased property in Charlottesville, on which he and his brother Madison built a house. Their mother Sally lived with them until her death in 1835.
In Charlottesville, Eston married Julia Ann Isaacs, a mixed-race daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant, David Isaacs from Germany, and Ann (Nancy) West, a free woman of color, who built an independent business in the town. Their first son John Wayles Hemings was born in Charlottesville in 1835. His first and middle name were after his maternal great-grandfather John Wayles who, as a widower, had fathered six children by his enslaved concubine Betty Hemings, of whom the youngest was Sally Hemings. Betty's children were the half-siblings of Thomas Jefferson's late wife Martha Wayles Skelton. John's sister Anna Wayles Hemings (later Jefferson) (1836–1866) was also born in Charlottesville.
After his mother died, Eston and Julia Ann Hemings moved their family to Chillicothe in the free state of Ohio, where they settled for more than 15 years. His and Julia Ann's youngest child William Beverley Hemings (1839–1908) was born there. The town had a thriving free black community and strong abolitionist activists who helped fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad. Eston was well known as a musician and entertainer. The children were educated in the public schools. His brother Madison Hemings and his family also moved there.
In 1852, after passage of the Fugitive Slave Act increased the danger to members of the African-American community as slave catchers came to Ohio, the family moved North to Madison, Wisconsin, the state capital. There Eston changed his name to Eston Hemings Jefferson to reflect his ancestry; his wife and teenage children also adopted the new surname. John was 17, Anna 16, and Beverly 13 at the time of the move. The family lived as part of the white community in Madison and for the rest of their lives. As adults, both Anna and Beverly Jefferson married white spouses; John never married. Anna died young in 1866 at the age of 30.
Before the Civil War, John W. Jefferson operated the American House hotel in Madison, where he brought on his younger brother Beverly to help and learn the business.
At the age of 26, Jefferson entered the regular United States Army on August 26, 1861, at Madison, Wisconsin. He took command of the Wisconsin 8th Infantry during the American Civil War. On September 28, 1861 he was promoted to Major; to Lieutenant Colonel on April 23, 1863; and to Colonel on June 16, 1864. He fought in significant battles of the war and was wounded at Vicksburg and during the Siege of Corinth. He was mustered out of service on October 11, 1864 at Madison, Wisconsin. His brother, William Beverly Jefferson, also served as a white soldier in the Union Army.
His service records noted that John Jefferson had red hair and gray eyes. Photographs show his strong resemblance to Thomas Jefferson. In 1902, a former neighbor from Chillicothe recalled the younger Jefferson's concerns about his mixed ancestry in the social climate of the times:
...and I saw and talked with one of the sons, during the Civil War, who was then wearing the silver leaves of a lieutenant colonel, and in command of a fine regiment of white men from a north-western state. He begged me not to tell the fact that he had colored blood in his veins, which he said was not suspected by any of his command; and of course I did not.
Jefferson wrote as a newspaper correspondent during and after the war, publishing articles about his experiences. He later moved from Madison to Memphis, Tennessee, where he became a prominent businessman as a cotton broker and the owner of the Continental Cotton Company.
Jefferson never married. He died on June 12, 1892. He was interred in Madison, Wisconsin, in the Jefferson family plot at Forest Hill Cemetery. He left a sizeable estate.