Tag Archives: Shadwell

ENOUGH! You must come and see for yourself.

It is with great regret that I write you a letter which I am sure must give you pain, but your interest as well as my own makes it my duty, & yours is still more urgent than mine. I have little doubt that your sons write you flattering accounts of their proceedings & prospects at the Shadwell mills… come and inform yourself …I wish it [this letter] for your own reading only, because I do not wish to have any quarrel with your son. yet when you come, I will state facts to enable you to enquire. in the mean time be assured of my real friendship.
To Jonathan Shoemaker, April 6, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Confrontation-hating leaders must step up eventually, but it may be too late.
Shoemaker was a Pennsylvania businessman who operated a grain-grinding mill at Washington City. He leased Jefferson’s mill near Monticello in 1807 and put his sons in charge. Two years later, the entire milling operation was a mess:
-Jefferson had not received his rent.
-Neighbor’s grain taken to the mill for grinding had disappeared.
-Neighbors were forced to ship their grain to distant mills at greater expense.
-The poor reputation of the mill ruined prospects for new business.

The extraordinarily patient Jefferson was reaching his limit. Not only his finances but also his standing in the neighborhood were jeopardized. He insisted Shoemaker come to the mill, see for himself and make the matter right.

Correspondence over the ensuing 16 months reveal excuses, partial rent payments, missed payments, and a further deterioration of the business agreement between the two men. The lease was eventually terminated, and Jefferson never received all that was owed to him.

“City officials are a “tough crowd”
and the ovation they gave you was well deserved.”
Executive Director, Missouri Municipal League
If Mr. Jefferson can please a tough crowd, he can certainly please yours!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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I lost almost everything in the fire.

My late loss may perhaps have reac[hed y]ou by this time, I mean the loss of my mother’s house [Shadwell] by fire, and in it, of every pa[per I] had in the world, and almost every book. On a reasonable estimate I calculate th[e cost o]f t[he b]ooks burned to have been £200. sterling. Would to god it had been the money [;then] had it never cost me a sigh! …
If this conflagration, by which I am burned out of a home, had come before I had advanced so far in preparing another, I do not know but I might have cherished some treasonable thoughts of leaving [thes]e my native hills.
To John Page, February 21, 1770

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Resilient leaders rebound from losses.
Jefferson was born at Shadwell plantation. When not occupied with the House of Burgesses in Williamsburg or traveling because of his law practice, he lived there with his mother. He was nearly 27 when this fire destroyed the house and practically all of his possessions. That included copies of his correspondence, all of his legal work, and his what he cherished most, his books. He didn’t mind the value lost. He minded a great deal the wisdom contained in those volumes.
He had already begun work on his own home across the Rivanna River, a hilltop he named Monticello (Italian for little mountain). The ground had already been leveled and probably work had begun on a one room building, now known as the South Pavilion. Jefferson moved there in November, 1770. The main mansion, which today we call Monticello, was still a dream. It wouldn’t be habitable for six or seven years.
Who knows whether Jefferson’s “home” might have been some other place else, as he hinted in this letter, had work at Monticello not already begun.

“His unique style of delivery brings you into his world
while tailoring the message to the audience.”
Linn State Technical College, Dean of Institutional Research and Planning

Thomas Jefferson welcomes you into his world with a message relevent to yours.
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739

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