My Personal Connection To Jefferson May 08 2014

by James Thompson

My relationship to Thomas Jefferson is not just philosophical or historical. My great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Benjamin Snead, educated Jefferson's younger brother and several of Jefferson's children. Also, Snead's property, after changing hands several times, is now the site of the Jefferson Library and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. This is the same property where I spent two months as a Batten Fellow in the fall of 2004. You might say my interest in Jefferson rose out of the very earth and is in my living blood.

John M. Snead, son of Benjamin


This is from Anna Berks, Research Librarian at the Thomas Jefferson Library, May 17, 2010:

Benjamin Snead (sometimes spelled Sneed, 1721 - March 28, 1819) was a schoolteacher and weaver who lived not far away from Monticello, about two miles east of Shadwell. He provided instruction at various times to Randolph Jefferson, some of the younger Jefferson sisters, at least one of Jefferson's grandchildren, and possibly even one or more of the slaves at Monticello.[1]  It was Snead who read the burial service for the first Ellen Wayles Randolph Coolidge, the only one of Martha Jefferson Randolph's children to die in infancy. Snead's wife, Mary (Polly), was a midwife, who was called upon often to attend births in the enslaved community at Monticello, including that of Harriet Hemings. Snead's property was called Fancy Hill; the Snead family later sold the property in the mid-nineteenth century to the Porters, who eventually sold it to General Edwin "Pa" Watson; the property was eventually renamed Kenwood, and is now the site of the Jefferson Library and the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies.[2]  Snead lived in Albemarle County for most of his life before moving to Danville, Kentucky to be near his family. He died at the advanced age of 98; his obituary remarked that his "mental faculties [were] little if at all impaired and his bodily activity sufficient to enable him to ascend Clinch mountain on foot."[3]


1769 April 1. "Pd. Hen. Mullins assee. of Ben. Sneed by order of Mrs. Jefferson 10/."[4]

1769 October 2. "Pd. Ben. Sneed for weaving for E. Jefferson 6/."[5]

1770 Nov. 19. "Robert Sharpe (Alb.) v. John Sorrel (Amherst) . Enter caveat for 400 as. on Plumbtree branch Albemarle joining the lands of Ford, Lewis, and of the sd. Robert. Survd. abt. 20 years ago & works nev. retd."[6]

1795 July 26. "Pd. B. Sneed for reading service over [Eleanor] 2.D."[7]

1798 May 12. (Martha Jefferson Randolph to Jefferson). "we have been all well but Jefferson who had declined rapidly for some time from a disorder which had baffled every attention and change of diet, the only remedy we ventured to try; but Mr Sneed opening school and Jeffy being hurried out of bed every morning at sunrise and obliged after a breakfast of bread and milk to walk 2 miles to school: his spirits returned his complexion cleared up and I am in hopes that his disorder has left him entirely."[8]

1799 Nov. 25. "Pd. Benj. Sneed [a witness ads. Johnson] 1.1"[9]

1806 Sep. 24. "Pd. Ben. Sneed 5.D. for 2 1/2 months tuition of George's son."[10]


  • Darnell, Ermina J. The Forks of Elkhorn County. Louisville, Ky.: Standard Printing Co., 1946. Reprinted 1980, Genealogical Publishing Co. Contains genealogical information on the Snead family.
  • The History of West Virginia, Old and New. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1923.  Available online.  Volume II has a biographical sketch of Noble Kimbrough Sneed, a grandson of Benjamin.


  • 1.Albemarle County Deed Book, 12:405; see also John Harvie account with Peter Jefferson estate, manuscript at Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
  • 2.Mary Rawlings, Antebellum Albemarle (Charlottesville, Va.: People's National Bank, 1935), 5.
  • 3."Longevity," Kentucky Reporter, April 14, 1819.
  • 4.MB, 1:140.
  • 5.Ibid., 1:150.
  • 6.Ibid., 1:197.
  • 7.Ibid., 2:930.
  • 8.PTJ, 30:346.
  • 9.MB, 2:1009.
  • 10.Ibid., 2:1189. This possibly referred to a son of Little George, one of Jefferson's slaves.