John Wayles Eppes

Last updated

John Wayles Eppes
John Wayles Eppes, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left LCCN92512624.tif
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1817 December 4, 1819
Preceded by Armistead T. Mason
Succeeded by James Pleasants
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 14th district
In office
March 4, 1803 March 3, 1811
Preceded by Anthony New
Succeeded by James Pleasants
In office
March 4, 1813 March 3, 1815
Preceded by James Pleasants
Succeeded by John Randolph
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
Personal details
Born(1772-04-00)April , 1772
Eppington, Virginia Colony, British America
DiedSeptember 13, 1823(1823-09-13) (aged 51)
Buckingham County, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Children9, including Francis W. Eppes
Alma mater Hampden–Sydney College
ProfessionLawyer, planter, politician

John Wayles Eppes (April 1772 September 13, 1823) was an American lawyer and politician. He represented Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1803 to 1811 and again from 1813 to 1815. He also served in the U.S. Senate (1817–1819). His positions in Congress occurred after he served in the Virginia House of Delegates (1801–1803).


A member of the wealthy planter class, he was related through his mother to Martha Jefferson, the wife of Thomas Jefferson, with whom Eppes was close. [1]

Early life and education

Eppes was born at Eppington, in Chesterfield County in the Colony of Virginia, the sixth child and only son of Elizabeth (née Wayles) and Francis Eppes in April 1772. His father was a first cousin and his mother was a half-sister to Martha Jefferson. [2]

After being taught by tutors, Eppes attended the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, and graduated from Hampden–Sydney College in Virginia in 1786. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1794, commencing practice in the state capital, Richmond.

Marriage and family

Eppes married his first cousin Mary Jefferson (known as "Polly" in childhood and "Maria" as an adult) on October 13, 1797 at Monticello. [1] They resided at Mont Blanco plantation in Chesterfield County, Virginia.

After several miscarriages and the death in January 1800 of a newborn baby girl, [3] Maria and John had two children: [2]

Mary died at Monticello on April 17, 1804, two months after the birth of Maria, and is buried there. [2] [4]

On April 15, 1809, Eppes married Martha Burke Jones, daughter of Willie Jones, a prominent North Carolina planter and politician. They had six children. [1]

Betsy Hemmings

After Mary's death, Eppes moved his household and slaves from Mont Blanco to another of his plantations called Millbrook in Buckingham County, Virginia. Among the slaves was Betsy Hemmings, the mixed-race daughter of Mary Hemings and granddaughter of Betty Hemings. [5] [6] According to her descendants, Hemmings became a concubine to Eppes in a relationship that began when he was a young widower. She bore his son, Joseph, likely named for her brother. [7] She named their daughter Frances, [5] a name traditional among men in the Eppes family. [6] She lived at Milbrook for the rest of her life, [8] and when she died in 1857, was buried next to John Wayles Eppes in the family cemetery there. [5] [9]

Political career

Eppes was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1801 to 1803. On March 4, 1803 he was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Eighth United States Congress and the next three succeeding Congresses, so he was frequently away from his plantation. He chaired the Ways and Means Committee for the Eleventh Congress but failed to be elected to the Twelfth. He spent the next two years at his plantation, Milbrook.

He was elected to the Thirteenth Congress (March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815) and chaired the Committee on Ways and Means again. After losing the election to the Fourteenth Congress, he was elected to the United States Senate and served from March 4, 1817, until December 4, 1819, when he resigned because of ill health. He chaired the Committee on Finance during the second session of the Fifteenth Congress.

Retirement and death

Late in life Eppes suffered from various ailments. He died at Millbrook on September 13, 1823, and was buried in the Eppes family cemetery at the Millbrook.

Related Research Articles


Monticello was the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, who began designing Monticello after inheriting land from his father at age 26. Located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Piedmont region, the plantation was originally 5,000 acres (20 km2), with Jefferson using the labor of enslaved African people for extensive cultivation of tobacco and mixed crops, later shifting from tobacco cultivation to wheat in response to changing markets. Due to its architectural and historic significance, the property has been designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1987, Monticello and the nearby University of Virginia, also designed by Jefferson, were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The current nickel, a United States coin, features a depiction of Monticello on its reverse side.

Sarah (Sally) Hemings was a multiracial woman enslaved by President Thomas Jefferson. Multiple lines of evidence, including modern DNA analyses, indicate that Jefferson had a long-term sexual relationship with Hemings, and historians now broadly agree that he was the father of her six children. Hemings was a half-sister of Jefferson's wife, Martha Jefferson. Four of Hemings' children survived into adulthood. Hemings died in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1835.

Poplar Forest plantation and plantation house in Forest, Bedford County, Virginia

Poplar Forest is a plantation and plantation house in Forest, Bedford County, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson designed the plantation and used the property as a private retreat and a revenue-generating plantation. Jefferson inherited the property in 1773 and began designing and working on the plantation in 1806. While Jefferson is the most famous individual associated with the property, it had several owners before being purchased for restoration, preservation, and exhibition in 1984.

Martha Jefferson First Lady of Virginia, wife of Thomas Jefferson

Martha Skelton Jefferson was the wife of Thomas Jefferson. She served as First Lady of Virginia during Jefferson's term as Governor from 1779 to 1781. She died in 1782, 19 years before he became President.

Martha Jefferson Randolph First Lady of the United States

Martha "Patsy" Randolph was the eldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, and his wife, Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. She was born at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Thomas Mann Randolph Jr. American politician (1768–1828)

Thomas Mann Randolph Jr. was an American planter, soldier, and politician from Virginia. He served as a member of both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, a representative in the United States Congress, and as the 21st governor of Virginia, from 1819–1822. He married Martha Jefferson, the oldest daughter of Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. They had eleven children who survived childhood. As an adult, Randolph developed alcoholism, and he and his wife separated for some time before his death.

Francis W. Eppes American politician and plantation owner (1801–1881

Francis Wayles Eppes was a planter and slave owner from Virginia who became prominent near and in Tallahassee, Florida. His maternal grandparents were President Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha; his paternal grandparents were Francis Wayles Eppes VI, also a prominent planter in Virginia, and his wife Elizabeth Wayles, half-sister to Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson.

Francis Eppes Plantation

The Francis Eppes Plantation was a cotton plantation of 1,920 acres (8 km2) situated in east-central Leon County, Florida, United States and established by Francis W. Eppes in 1829.

Madison Hemings was the son of the mixed-race enslaved woman Sally Hemings and her enslaver, President Thomas Jefferson. He was the third of her four children to survive to adulthood. Madison Hemings grew up on Jefferson's Monticello plantation. Born into slavery by his mother's status, he was freed by the will of Jefferson in 1826. Based on historical and DNA evidence, historians widely agree that Jefferson was probably the father of all Hemings' children. At the age of 68, Madison Hemings claimed the connection in an 1873 Ohio newspaper interview, titled, "Life Among the Lowly," which attracted national and international attention. 1998 DNA tests demonstrate a match between the Y-chromosome of a descendant of his brother, Eston Hemings, and that of the male Jefferson line.

Monticello Association

The Monticello Association is a non-profit organization founded in 1913 to care for, preserve, and continue the use of the family graveyard at Monticello, the primary plantation of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. The organization's members are lineal descendants of Thomas Jefferson and his wife Martha Wayles Skelton Jefferson. The site is located just outside Charlottesville, Virginia. Thomas Jefferson was the designer, builder, owner, and, with his family, a first resident of Monticello.

Randolph family of Virginia

The Randolph family is a prominent Virginia political family, whose members contributed to the politics of Colonial Virginia and Virginia after it gained its statehood. They are descended from the Randolphs of Morton Morrell, Warwickshire, England. The first Randolph to come to America was Henry Randolph in 1643. His nephew, William Randolph, later came to Virginia as an orphan in 1669. He made his home at Turkey Island along the James River. Because of their numerous progeny, William Randolph and his wife, Mary Isham Randolph, have been referred to as "the Adam and Eve of Virginia." The Randolph family was the wealthiest and most powerful family in 18th-century Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson Randolph

Thomas Jefferson Randolph of Albemarle County was a Virginia planter, soldier and politician who served multiple terms in the Virginia House of Delegates, as rector of the University of Virginia, and as a colonel in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. The favorite grandson of President Thomas Jefferson helped manage Monticello near the end of his grandfather's life and was executor of his estate, and later also served in the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850 and at the Virginia Secession Convention of 1861.

Mary Jefferson Eppes, 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 childbirth.

Mary Hemings, also known as Mary Hemings Bell, was born into slavery, most likely in Charles City County, Virginia, as the oldest child of Elizabeth Hemings, a mixed-race slave held by John Wayles. After the death of Wayles in 1773, Elizabeth, Mary, and her family were inherited by Thomas Jefferson, the husband of Martha Wayles Skelton, a daughter of Wayles, and all moved to Monticello.

Isaac Jefferson

Isaac Jefferson, also likely known as Isaac Granger was a valued, enslaved artisan of U.S. President Thomas Jefferson; he crafted and repaired products as a tinsmith, blacksmith, and nailer at Monticello.

James Hemings (1765—1801) was the first American to train as a chef in France. He was African American and born in Virginia in 1765. At 8 years old, he became Thomas Jefferson’s slave through an inheritance.

Elizabeth Hemings was an enslaved mixed-race woman in colonial Virginia. With her master, planter John Wayles, she had six children, including Sally Hemings. These children were three-quarters white, and, following the condition of their mother, they were enslaved from birth; they were half-siblings to Wayles's daughter, Martha Jefferson. After Wayles died, the Hemings family and some 120 other slaves were inherited, along with 11,000 acres and £4,000 debt, as part of his estate by his daughter Martha and her husband Thomas Jefferson.

John Wayles was a colonial American planter, slave trader and lawyer in colonial Virginia. He is historically best known as the father-in-law of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. Wayles married three times, with these marriages producing eleven children; only five of them lived to adulthood. Wayles' relationship with Betty Hemings resulted in six additional children, including Sally Hemings, who was the mother of six children with Thomas Jefferson and half-sister of Martha Jefferson.

Early life and career of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was involved in politics from his early adult years. This article covers his early life and career, through his writing the Declaration of Independence, participation in the American Revolutionary War, serving as governor of Virginia, and election and service as Vice-President to President John Adams.

Eppington United States historic place

Eppington is a historic plantation house located near Winterpock, Chesterfield County, Virginia. It was built about 1768, and consists of a three-bay, 2 1/2-story, central block with hipped roof, dormers, modillion cornice, and flanking one-story wings in the Georgian style. It has a later two-story rear ell. It features two tall exterior end chimneys which rise from the roof of the wings. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.


  1. 1 2 3 Looney, J. Jefferson and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography (April 14, 2016). "John Wayles Eppes (1772–1823)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 "Maria Jefferson Eppes", Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello website
  3. Kerrison, Catherine (2018). Jefferson's Daughters: Three Sisters, White and Black, in a Young America. Ballantine Books. ISBN   978-1-101-88624-3.
  4. "Persons Buried at the Monticello Graveyard, 1773 - 1997". Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia - Monticello website. Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  5. 1 2 3 Jacques, Edna Bolling. "The Hemmings Family in Buckingham County, Virginia". Retrieved January 10, 2019.
  6. 1 2 "Betsy Hemmings", Hemings Family/People of the Plantation, Monticello, accessed February 14, 2011
  7. Annette Gordon-Reed, The Hemingses of Monticello, New York: W.W. Norton, 2008, Frontispiece: "The Hemings Family Tree-1," pp. 127-128
  8. "Betsy Hemmings: Loved by a Family, but What of Her Own?", Plantation & Slavery/Life after Monticello, Monticello, February 14, 2011
  9. Laura B. Randolph, "THE THOMAS JEFFERSON/SALLY HEMINGS CONTROVERSY: Did Jefferson Also Father Children By Sally Hemings' Sister?" Archived January 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine , Ebony, February 1999, accessed February 16, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Anthony New
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1803 – March 4, 1811
Succeeded by
James Pleasants
Preceded by
James Pleasants
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 16th congressional district

March 4, 1813 – March 4, 1815
Succeeded by
John Randolph
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Armistead T. Mason
U.S. senator (Class 2) from Virginia
March 4, 1817 – December 4, 1819
Served alongside: James Barbour
Succeeded by
James Pleasants