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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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Peter Hemings Wayles, born 1770

Dear Dr. Brady,

We met through the online Monticello Group some years back and had a discussion about Thomas Jefferson and his belief in Christ. I believe we had a disagreement and I may have offended you in some way. Let me start by apologizing for that; my youthful arrogance played the big role in that. My own zeal to match Jefferson's  religious views with my own played a secondary role. At the time I was in a rage to 'belong' to this group, descendants of family my own family was cut off from over time.

Over the years, and since my exit from all online family groups, I've been quietly researching my Hemmings family. I happened on your fascinating website today and felt compelled to write to you. 

Especially as I noted your family's connection to Pittsburgh. I wondered if your family ever knew of a William Henderson Hemmings, who is listed on the 1870, 1880, census for Pittsburgh, with his family, and who was born c. 1841 in Virginia. He was mulatto and worked as a waiter and choreman.  Henderson was a name repeated in my own family;  my great-great grandfather Robert Hemmings (b. VA, 1842) gave it to his son Robert Jr., who later dropped it. William Henderson Hemmings of Pittsburgh also had a son named Robert, and I believe there has to be a connection between William and Robert's families (perhaps they were brothers, and lost to one another in the Civil War), but can't determine it at this time.

My Hemmings family settled in Boston after the war. I noted Monroe Trotter was included on your site, and my family and the Trotters circulated together. Monroe and my great-uncle Frederick Hemmings co-hosted a party together, and Monroe's sister was on committees with my great-great grandmother Dora Logan Hemmings to honor the centennial of William Lloyd Garrison's birth.

It is (still) my belief, based on some family stories, and the spelling of our surname, that we hail from Peter Hemmings, the Monticello cook and master brewer. I still work to find a link. I am looking for a Sarah Hemmings, listed as my-great- grand Robert's mother on his death certificate. I believe, based on chronology, she was Peter Hemmings'

daughter. There was a "Sarah" listed as owned by Charles Lewis Bankhead, married to TJ's granddaughter Ann Cary Randolph -- and for whom Peter Hemmings made suits after he was fired as Monticello's cook and sold for

$1 in the Monticello auction. I am looking into finding more about this Sarah. Peter Hemmings wife was said to be called "Betsey" and she was a Randolph-Edgehill slave. They had five children, and I've heard of two being identified as sons Anderson and James.

If you are interested, I'd like to share some family photos with you.  There are striking resemblances between some of my family pictures and your family photos, particularly of your aunt, Nancy Harriette Lee, on your wonderful site.

All the Best  to you and your family for the holiday season, and thanks for putting up an informative and fascinating site,

Jill Sim

 

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