In 1775, Jefferson noted that Joseph Neilson, a carpenter and joiner, and “his apprentice began to work for me the 23d. inst. @ 50/ per month.”¹ Neilson’s apprentice was William Fossett, who lived and worked at Monticello until 1779. Fossett learned carpentry while working with Neilson on Monticello I (1769–83). In August 1779, Jefferson gave Fossett a separate wage for his “work at 30/ a day.”² Fossett was likely one of the first artisans to live in the newly constructed workmen’s house on Mulberry Row. According to Madison Hemings, Fossett had a son with the enslaved Mary Hemings, the eldest daughter of Elizabeth (Betty) Hemings. Their son, Joseph Fossett, became a blacksmith and worked in the smith’s shop until Jefferson freed him in his will in 1827. When William Fossett and Neilson left Monticello, Jefferson recorded that the “balance due to Wm. Fosset is £36.”³
- Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Jan. 28, 1775, vol. I: 390.
- Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Aug. 5, 1779, vol. I: 483.
- Jefferson's Memorandum Books, Sept. 12, 1779, vol. I: 486.