HistorySQ > American History > Secret Room In Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Kept This Secret For 200 Years

Secret Room In Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Kept This Secret For 200 Years

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Thomas Jefferson is known as one of the Founding Fathers, and the third President of the United States. During his life and later, he is highly respected and loved. After all, he is the primary author of the Declaration of Independence. Memorials, books, and movies are dedicated to him, while his home is still a popular tourist destination.

This specific touristic destination kept a secret about this president for decades. During some maintenance construction, a secret room was found. What made this finding more unusual was the location of the room… So, questions had to be answered, because this room reopened a controversy that had been around Jefferson’s legacy for over 200 years.

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30. Thomas Jefferson’s Legacy

Thomas Jefferson had a massive influence on the formation of the American government. He doubled the nation’s size by purchasing Lousiana in 1803. In addition, he contributed significantly to the Declaration of Independence.

As one of the Founding Fathers, he prevented the establishment of another monarch in the States. Nothing but kind words on this side of his. However, there is another side of Jefferson that is a mystery until today.

29. Jefferson’s Monticello

Thomas moved into the White House in 1801. But, before that movement, he lived at his Monticello plantation in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Even today, this land is visited by thousands of tourists every single year. Thomas inherited Monticello from his father, and in total, the area had five thousand acres. Maintaining this huge estate, required a lot of manpower. So, he did was popular back then.

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28. Jefferson Had A Plantation

In order to attend his new estate, Jefferson built the Monticello Plantation. Translated to Italian this means ‘Little Mountain.’

Like many large-plantation owners, Jefferson had hundreds of slaves. So, the estate had a special quarter for a slave. The rumor has it that one has caught his eye. This fact made room discovery more shocking.

27. Hidden For Hundreds Of Years

The Monticello Plantationwent numeorus restorations over the years. After the Jefferson era, the estate was turned into a museum, making the room shut for decades.

Although the first modern bathroom was built in 1941, the room still wasn’t discovered. The same scenario repeated in the 1960s. So, the room stayed overlooked until the unexpected source gave the first clue.

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26. There Was A Secret Diary

Historians were working on defining the original layout of the Monticello Plantation when they found something that belonged to Jeffersons’ grandson.

They found a form of a diary, a document, where he talked about the room that didn’t fit in with the public layout. He mentioned an additional room.

25. The Secret Room

In this document, Jeffersons’ grandsoon described a room in the south wing of the former plantation house. Naturally, everyone was skeptical.

Jeffersons’s grandson was known for being unreliable. But again, it seemed odd, even for him, to write something that’s not the truth. Then, another clue appeared.

24. Discovering The South Wing

In 2017, archeologists started working on the layout of the area. As soon as they started working on the shouts wing, they realized that Jefferson’s grandson was telling the truth.

Considering the location it wasn’t strange that the room remained hidden for so long. But the room was the whole time there – behind the bathroom, place that was renovated again and again.

23. Just Behind The Pipes

Simply by knocking down the men’s bathroom, the team discovered a small room. The room had been sealed off and hidden for hundreds of years.

This hidden room was about 15 feet by 13 feet. It had no windows. But, it was close to the Jeffersons’ personal room – just down the hall.

22. Two Hundred Years Old Secret

To understand the importance of this hidden room, Jefferson’s life has to be understood better. Two hundred years prior to this discovery, a journalist named James T. Callender shared the story of Jefferson having a secret affair after his wife’s death.

Furthermore, Callender claimed that Jefferson was in an affair with a slave girl. In the eye of the public that was a big no-no.

21. Rumors About Jefferson’s Secret Children

Callender also claimed that Jefferson had a child with his slave, but he (Jefferson) kept it a secret. By the time those accusations started, people were saying that Moneticeelo had children resembling Jefferson.

So, was Jefferson’s child born in this small, windowless room, hidden? Historians believe that is a possibility. If so, who was the mother of that child? Who was that woman? Keep reading to see how Sally looked like.

20. President John Adams Was Jeffersons Wingman

As it turns out, John Adams – the second president of the United States, knew about Jefferson’s private affairs.

He wrote to his sons in 1794 – before Callender made the public announcement – something that referred to Jeffersons’s relationship with a slave girl.

19. Meet Sally Hemings

The slave that Jefferson’s had an affair with was 16-year-old Sally Hemings. Young Sally was the half-sister Martha Jefferson—Thomas Jefferson’s wife.

Although Sally was connected to the First Lady, her life was anything but easy. She was half African American and half white, and she was born into slavery.

18. Sally Hemings Was A Real Beauty

Sally arrived at Jefferson’s plantation as a young girl. Therefore, she was assigned to work within the Jefferson household.

Isaac Granger Jefferson, Jefferson’s enslaved blacksmith, described Sally as ‘very handsome’ and ‘mighty near white’. It was recorded that she had long hair that reached her waist.

17. Sally And The Jeffersons

From the first day, Sally was responsible for housework, and she never had to do any of the hard labor outside.

Regardless of her story with Thomas Jefferson, she served him until he died in 1826. Many believe that their relationship started after the death of Thomas’s wife and one mysterious trip to France.

16. Sally Goes To France

After the death of his wife, Thomas agreed to act as American Minister in Paris. He took his daughter Patsy and Sally’s older brother with him.

A few years later, Sally joined them and her life was transformed. At the time, Sally already resembled Martha, Jefferson’s deceased wife.

15. A Taste Of Freedom

In 1784, France was a country with no slaves. Moreover, it was forbidden, therefore illegal, to own slaves. And Sally was about to enter that country.

In Paris, Sally was free to move wherever she wants to. Although she was helping in the house, she was paid for her work! She didn’t know that it was possible. But, if she had it all, why she returned to the States?

14. Slave Once Again

Many believe that Sally could choose to stay in Paris. However, they forget that she was a slave from the States, just visiting Paris. Also, she was Jefferson’s property.

Consequently, there are three theories why she had to go back to Virginia: she was a slave -she had to; she didn’t have means to live an independent life in Paris; she and Jefferson were really in love and they wanted to be together. So, what was the real reason?

13. Why Sally Choose Slavery Again?

When Sally was 16, Jefferson was in his 40s. Many still speculate if Sally and Jefferson started their relationship while Martha was alive.

Regardless of the start date of their relationship, one was for sure after Paris: Sally became pregnant. Was her pregnancy the reason for her return?

12. Were Thomas And Sally In Love?

As a young girl, in a new country and with a slavery background, Sally maybe find comfort is things and people that were already close to her?

Also, the 25-year difference between Sally and Thomas definitely played a role in the nature of their relationship. Although we can’t know how their relationship was really like, we know that there was a relationship.

11. The Most Significant Piece Of Evidence

Finding the secret room was more physical proof of this relationship. However, the real evidence of their relationship came from Jefferson himself.

Among 500 slaves on his plantation, Jefferson granted freedom only to Sally Hemings. Of course, her children were free as well. Even more, to each child, Jefferson gave a stipend so they could leave the estate and live independently.

10. Jefferson And Slave Policy

Jefferson had hundreds of slaves. For that time it wasn’t unusual. However, the unusual part was that he was initially against slavery as an institution.

However, he didn’t free all of his slaves. He only gave freedom to a young girl, Sally. Whether or not Thomas and free-woman Sally had a verbal agreement about her freedom, she stayed with him until his last breath.

9. Was Jefferson The Father Of Sally’s Children?

As soon as the secret room was discovered, other secrets unfolded. That being said, the world learned that Sally actually gave birth to five children. Could Jefferson be really their father?

Since Jefferson wasn’t listed as father, determining paternity is challenging. However, the names of Sally’s children from the birth record were a good starting point.

8. Jefferson-Hemings Children?

Historians strongly believe that Jefferson fathered Sally’s children. They also managed to track down two of them: Harriet Hemings and Eston Hemings.

Four of the five children survived. Eston Hemings had a light skin tone, so he was able to integrate into society easily and pass as a free person. As a free man, he married and had three kids of his own. And he kind of looked like Jefferson.

7. Eston Held The Answer

By 1998, scientists traced down Eston’s descendants and obtained a DNA test. Luckily, with today’s technology, almost anything can be checked.

The DNA results had everyone in the world at a standstill. It turned out that Thomas Jefferson had at least one child with a slave girl. And it seems that the child was Eston.

6. Controversial Backfire

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation wasn’t convinced by these results. So, in 2000 the Foundation formed a research committee to explain the presence of Jefferson DNA in Sally’s descendants. The outcome was equally shocking as the original one.

The Foundation claimed that Jefferson’s brother, Randolph Jefferson, was the real father of Sally’s children. Could it be?

5. Yet To Be Decided

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation still believes that Thomas wasn’t in Monticello at the time Sally would likely have her children.

Still, there was a room, the rumors, two years in Paris, mirror to his deceased wife… Something was going on between the President and Sally.

4. Sally’s Children

Records show that Harriet Hemings was the beauty just like her mother. She had darker hair and eyes, but her skin was light enough to pass as a white woman.

She could easily integrate into white society. Therefore, she married a wealthy white man who never suspected that she has any African heritage.

3. Madison Hemings

Madison Hemings was Sally’s other son. He was freed by Thomas and he lived with his mother, after the death of Thomas. They both moved to Charlottesville, Virginia.

There, Madison worked as a farmer and a carpenter. He married, had children, and after his mother’s death, he moved to the free state of Ohio. He also wrote memoirs, Life Among the Lowly.

2. Many Doubts

Discovering and opening Sally’s room reopened a conversation between her and Jefferson. If the children were his, the world of the 18th century would judge him.

So, we will probably never know for sure what was the truth and what their relationship really was. The truth is that Founding Fathers were only humans, therefore they weren’t perfect.

1. Meet Sally Hemings

No photo of Sally was saved, so no one knows how she looked exactly. However, thanks to Madison’s memoirs scientists were able to recreate how she might look.

Maybe one day the truth will be known and revealed. But, until then we can only assume that Sally and Thomas had children together.

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