Mary Jefferson Eppes
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Mary Jefferson Eppes
August 1, 1778
|Died||April 17, 1804 (aged 25)|
Monticello, Virginia, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||John Wayles Eppes|
|Children||3, including Francis W. Eppes|
Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson
Mary Jefferson Eppes (August 1, 1778 – April 17, 1804), known as Polly in childhood and Maria as an adult, was the younger of Thomas Jefferson's two daughters with his wife who survived beyond the age of 3. She married a first cousin, John Wayles Eppes, and had three children with him. Only their son Francis W. Eppes survived childhood. Maria died months after the birth of her third child.
Early life and education
Mary Jefferson was born to politician and future president Thomas Jefferson and Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson (née Wayles). Known as "Polly the Parrot" and "gopher" in her childhood, she later chose the nickname "Maria." She was known as such until her death at age 25.
She had a sickly disposition as her mother did, who died in 1782 when Polly was four. Polly also inherited her mother's beauty, which was frequently complimented, to her chagrin. She preferred to be known for her character or mind. When her widowed father was first serving as Minister to France, Polly and her younger sister Lucy were cared for by relatives, her mother's cousin Francis Wayles Eppes and his wife Elizabeth, her mother's half-sister, at their plantation Eppington. After Lucy died of whooping cough, Jefferson requested that Polly be sent to him in France.
In the care of her enslaved aunt Sally Hemings, at age nine Polly sailed to Europe to join her father and older sister Martha in Paris. They first landed in England, where Abigail Adams, wife of the U.S. Minister John Adams, looked after the girls before they joined her father in Paris: Abigail developed a deep and lasting affection for Polly. In France, Polly attended the Pentemont Abbey convent school with her older sister Martha (Patsy). After some time, her father had the girls tutored at home.
Accompanied by their slaves Sally Hemings and her older brother James, who had served Jefferson as chef in Paris, the family returned to Virginia in 1789. At that time, Polly adopted the pronunciation and name "Maria" (with a long "i" in the Virginia fashion), which she used the rest of her life. After living for a time in the temporary national capital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Jefferson was Secretary of State, the family returned to Monticello. Maria spent most of the rest of her short life in Virginia.
Marriage and family
Maria married her childhood friend and cousin John Wayles Eppes on October 13, 1797, at Monticello. The couple resided at his plantation, Mont Blanco, on the James River in Chesterfield. They also spent much time at his family's plantation home Eppington, on the Appomattox River where she and her younger sister Lucy had lived as a child in their care while her father was Minister to France. His father Francis was a cousin and his mother Elizabeth the half-sister to Maria's late mother Martha.
Maria and John had three children:
- An unnamed boy, born December 31, 1799, who lived only weeks
- Francis W. Eppes (September 20, 1801 – May 10, 1881)
- Maria Jefferson Eppes (February 15, 1804 – February 1806)
Maria never recovered physically from her third childbirth, and subsequently died on April 17, 1804 at Monticello, where she is buried beside her mother. Her death prompted Abigail Adams to send written condolences to President Jefferson; it was the first break in a long silence between the two families following the acrimonious presidential campaign of 1800. Abigail wrote movingly of the immediate affection she had felt for Maria when meeting her in London as a girl, an affection which had never altered.
- "Maria Jefferson Eppes", Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello website
- Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (July 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Eppington" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
- McCullough, David. John Adams, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001 p.373
- "Sally Hemings and Her Children", Plantation and Slavery, Monticello
- "Mary Jefferson Eppes, Jefferson's daughter", Learning Resources, Monticello Classroom. Quote: "She gave birth to three children."
- "Mary "Maria" Jefferson Eppes". findagrave.com. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
- McCullough John Adams p.581