Elizabeth Hemings (c.1735 - 1807) MP

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Nicknames: "Betty/Hemmings/", "Betty"
Birthplace: possibly Bermuda Hundred, Henrico, Virginia, United States
Death: Died in Monticello, Albemarle, Virginia, United States
Managed by: Ivy Jo Smith
Last Updated:

About Elizabeth Hemings

Wikipedia: Betty was an American slave owned by Thomas Jefferson. She is said to have been the concubine of Jefferson's father-in-law John Wayles, from whom Jefferson inherited her and her family. Over 75 of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were enslaved at Jefferson's estate, Monticello.

BIOGRAPHY: According to the oral history of her descendants, Betty was the daughter of a slave-ship captain named Hemings and a woman born in Africa. The place of her birth is uncertain, but by the 1740s she was the property of Frances Eppes IV, of the Bermuda Hundred plantation, whose daughter Martha Eppes was to become John Wayles first wife.

Betty's grandson, Madison Hemings, related the story that Betty was already the property of "John Wayles" at the time of her birth, and her father Captain Hemings attempted to purchase her from Wayles, but Wayles refused because he was curious about how a mulatto child would develop. Captain Hemings then plotted to kidnap his daughter, which Wayles got word of, and took measures against. This account appears to contradict the documentary evidence pertaining to Betty's birth and early life, although it is possible that Wayles could have sold Betty to Frances Eppes, and later regained ownership of her via the dowry of Eppes's daughter, or that Madison's chronology is incorrect and the incident, if it occured, happened later.

After the marriage of John Wayles and Martha Eppes in 1746, Elizabeth became the property of Wayles, and was moved to one of his plantations, where she became a household servant. In the 1750s she gave birth to the first four of her twelve children, Mary, Martin, Bett, and Nance, whose paternity is unknown.

John Wayles had three wives, all of whom pre-deceased him. Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson was the daughter of his first wife. In 1761, after the deathof his third wife, Wayles took Betty Hemings as his concubine. According to her descendants, she had six children with Wayles: Robert, James, Thenia, Critta, Peter, and Sally Hemings. Wayles died in 1773, and all eleven members of the Hemings family became the property of Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson gave the Hemingses privileges positions as artisans and household servants. No member of the Hemings family ever worked the field. While resident at Monticello, Betty gave birth to another son, John, whose father was an Irish workman.

Betty had her own home at Monticello, where she spent roughly the last decade of her life, from 1795 to 1807. Hemings sold cabbages, strawberries, and chickens to Jefferson while she lived there. Her former cabin is now an archeological site, which is expected yield new information about the daily lives of the enslaved.

RELATIONSHIP WITH JOHN WAYLES: Historians have tended to accept the account that Betty Hemings and John Wayles had children together, although, as in the case of many relationships between slave-owners and slaves, documentary evidence is slight. Betty was mentioned in John Wayles will, which some take as an indication of a relationship. Some of Betty's children, according to contemporary accounts, were nearly white. Other support is found in gossip from the first decade of the 19th century, which manifested itself in a few private letters which eventually became public. The accounts of former slaves Isaac Jefferson and Madison Hemings are the most well-known sources for the relationship.

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Elizabeth "Betty" HEMINGS was born in 1735 in Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. She died on 22 Aug 1807 in Monticello, Albemarle County, Virginia. She married Unknown White Male.

Other marriages:

Unknown Slave, NEILSON, John WAYLES, John

Her mother became pregnant on the slave ship by the captain of the ship, whose name was Captain Hemings. Betty Hemings had 14 children by four different men, according to her grandson, Madison Hemings. Betty Hemings was mentioned in the will of John Wayles, thus providing evidence that she really was his mistress and not merely his slave.

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-------------------- A pleasant locket painting is used to fill the square. "not Elizabeth" Elizabeth Hemings grew to womanhood in the family of John Wales, whose wife dying she (Elizabeth) was taken by the widower Wales as his concubine, by whom she had six children--three sons and three daughters: Robert, James, Peter, Critty, Sally and Thena. These children went by the name of Hemings. 1873 The Memoirs of Madison Hemings.

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Elizabeth "Betty" Hemings's Timeline

1735
1735
possibly Bermuda Hundred, Henrico, Virginia, United States
1753
1753
Age 18
Charles City, VA, USA
1753
Age 18
Unknown
1762
1762
Age 27
1765
1765
Age 30
Cumberland, Virginia
1767
1767
Age 32
1769
1769
Age 34
Cumberland, Virginia
1770
1770
Age 35
1773
1773
Age 38
Cumberland, Virginia
1807
August 22, 1807
Age 72
Monticello, Albemarle, Virginia, United States