Eston Hemings was born an enslaved person on May 21, 1808. His mother was Sally Hemings, and his father is believed to have been, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States.
Hemmings spent his early life in Monticello, Jefferson’s primary plantation just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Eston’s mother was a mixed-race enslaved person, and he along with his siblings were all 7/8 white, “legally” white in Virginia at the time. Hemmings was a trained carpenter, and because Jefferson was so fond of the violin, he and all his siblings were taught it from a very young age. When Jefferson died in 1826, his will freed Hemmings and his siblings.
Now a free man, Hemmings married a formerly enslaved person, Julia Ann Isaacs, and they had three children. In 1837 he moved his family to Ohio. He became a professional musician there and had his children educated in integrated schools.
The family left in 1852 due to the Fugitive Slave Act, which put pressure on ex-slave communities in free states bordering slave states. Hemings moved his family to Madison, Wisconsin, and changed their surname to Jefferson. He died in 1856, a well respected and loved man.
Know Before You Go
The grave is located in plot 3, near the road and right across from plot 2.