Lucy Jefferson Lewis

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Lucy Jefferson (October 10, 1752 – 1811), also known as Lucy Jefferson Lewis, was a younger sister of United States President Thomas Jefferson and the wife of Charles Lilburn Lewis.

Early life and education[edit]

Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, she was the eighth of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph Jefferson's 10 children.[1][2] She was nine years younger than her brother Thomas Jefferson. She was born into an elite planter family and would have been educated at home by her mother, together with her sisters. Their father died when they were young.

Marriage and family[edit]

At age 17, Jefferson married her first cousin, Charles Lilburne Lewis, on September 12, 1769.[3] He was related to Meriwether Lewis, who would help lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition.[4] The couple eventually had eight children: Randolph, Isham, Jane Jefferson, Lilburne, Mary Randolph, Lucy B., Martha, and Ann (Nancy).[3]c/e[5]

Jane and Mary had married before 1806 and established their own households. The remainder of the Lewis family moved to Livingston County, Kentucky in 1806 or 1808, following their grown sons Randolph and Lilburne and their families.[3] Charles and Lucy Lewis built a plantation called "Rocky Hill" near the present-day town of Smithland. Lucy's older brother Thomas Jefferson took an interest in the education of her sons, and encouraged them in their studies.

(Thomas Jefferson had named a daughter, Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson I (1780–1781), after his sisters Lucy and Elizabeth. After she died as an infant, he named his next daughter after Lucy and Elizabeth as well, as was the custom. The second Lucy died at the age of 3 of whooping cough while her father was serving in Paris in the late 1780s as US Minister to France.[6])

Lucy Jefferson Lewis died in 1811. She was buried on the grounds of the Rocky Hill plantation, but the gravesite has been lost. The estate is now in ruins.[7]

In 1812, the year after Lucy and her son Randolph had died, the brothers Lilburne and Isham Lewis murdered a slave named George. The men tried to hide the youth's remains, but his skull was revealed by the collapse of a chimney during the second New Madrid earthquake. The brothers were arrested but received bail.[8] Before the trial, Lilburne urged Isham to join him in a suicide pact, but died almost by accident while preparing, and Isham did not go through with it. Held as an accessory in his brother's suicide while it was investigated, Isham escaped from jail and disappeared. The murder of the slave and suicide by Lilburne brought the entire family into disrepute.[8]

Commemoration[edit]

  • In Livingston County, a monument honoring Lucy Jefferson Lewis was erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution at the intersection of U.S. Route 60 and Kentucky Route 137.[1]
  • A few miles south of the monument, a bridge named in her honor, the Lucy Jefferson Lewis Memorial Bridge, spans the Cumberland River on U.S. Route 60 at Smithland.[1]
  • An obelisk in her memory was placed in the Rocky Hill Cemetery by the local chapter of the DAR, which was named for her.[8]

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Teitloff, Faye Tramble (2009). "North Livingston County". The Images of America: Livingston County. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. pp. 55–56. ISBN 9780738567020. 
  2. ^ "Jane Randolph Jefferson". Monticello, Home of Thomas Jefferson. Charlottesville, Virginia: Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. February 2003. Retrieved November 1, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Sorley, Merrow Egerton (2000) [1935]. "Chapter 13: Col Charles Lewis of Buck Island". Lewis of Warner Hall: The History of a Family. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co. ISBN 9780806308319. 
  4. ^ Hunter, Frances (October 8, 2009). "Murder and Madness in the Lewis Family". WordPress. Jefferson was related to the Lewis family by marriage, and from the time he first heard about Meriwether Lewis’ death, he believed that the man had committed suicide as a result of an inherited tendency toward depression and mental disturbance. Subsequent events likely reinforced Jefferson’s feelings, for at the time he wrote a sketch of Meriwether, the former president was reeling from the news of a scandalous murder committed by his nephews Lilburne and Isham Lewis. 
  5. ^ Boynton Merrill, Jr., Jefferson's Nephews: A Frontier Tragedy, 1976, revised 2004
  6. ^ Quinn-Musgrove, Sandra L.; Kanter, Sanford (1995). "Thomas Jefferson's Children". America's Royalty: All the Presidents' Children (2 ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 21–22. ISBN 9780313295355. 
  7. ^ Lucy Jefferson Lewis monument, cited at flickr
  8. ^ a b c Stewart, David, and Knox, Ray, The Earthquake America Forgot, Marble Hill, Missouri: Gutenberg-Richter Publications, 1995, pp. 25–31