Thomas Jefferson was a Burgess of 27 when he met Martha Wayles Skelton, a 22-year-old widowed heiress who was fondly called Patty by her family. They were married on January 1, 1772, and they took up residence in a cabin on the building site on top of a Virginia mountain that Thomas had named Monticello.
As Thomas and Patty slowly built the first version of the great house at Monticello, the Revolutionary War was heating up. Patty with difficulty bore five children, but only two girls survived. Thomas’s political career developed to the point where he was often away from home, but after he authored and signed the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia he resolved never again to leave his wife. He was elected the Governor of Virginia just as that state became the Revolution’s last battleground.
The Revolutionary War ended in 1781, and Thomas gladly retired altogether to “my family, my farm, and my books.” But Patty continued to want to bear her treasured husband a son, and late in the summer of 1782 she died of kidney failure at the age of 33, four months after having borne another girl. Thomas was so devastated by her death that he never remarried. He mourned her for the rest of his life, even as he helped to frame the peace in France and then became the first Secretary of State, the second Vice President, and the third President of the United States.
This story is true. Thomas Jefferson was such an obsessive record-keeper than we know where he was and what he was doing nearly every day of his adult life. Every significant thing that he says in My Thomas comes from his contemporary writings.
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