Martha J. Trist Burke’s “Relics from ‘Monticello’”

Relics from “Monticello

1st The old french clock supported between black marble Obelisks. This clock was brought from France by Thomas Jefferson, and stood always near the head of his bed on a wooden bracket which is at Edgehill. When the sale of Mr Jefferson’s personal property took place at “Monticello” the clock and it’s bracket were seperated, the latter being bought by T. J. Randolph of “EdgehillAlbemarle Co, the Clock was bought by Mr Jefferson’s other grandson Francis Eppes of “Poplar ForestBedford Co Va. When Mr Eppes moved to Florida a few years after his grandfather’s death, the clock was bought by my father N. P. T. by for my grandmother Mrs Randolph who valued the clock very much as a memento of her father, and of her lost home “Monticello.” I remember this clock all my life, during grandmama’s life and ever afterwards it formed the center piece of our parlor mantel. My grandmother bequeathed the precious relic to my father, her son in law, “Nicholas Philip Trist”1,. it followed us to Cuba, and on the voyage back to Washington one of the Obelisks was broken, but the faithful old clock still ticked on & was taken to our many homes, West Chester Pa, New York, Philadelphia, Thurlow Pa & finally was brought by my dear father to his last home “Alexandria” Va where oweing to the broken obelisk it was never again set up in my father’s house, & did not mark the hour of his death, or of that of my mother and aunts. In 1881 my husband “John W. Burke” took it to “Galt” in Washington for repairs, my dear mother was much pleased, & hoped to hear again it’s sweet silvery ring, but she never had this pleasure. Mr Galt delayed sending it home until Nov. 1882 6 months after my mother’s death, and he did not clean the works, so that the clock never ran until thoroughly cleaned & repaired by Flemming” of Alexandria Va Dec 1882 My dear children you all remember when this valuable old relic was placed on the mantel piece in our house, & now you know all about the venerable old Time piece, which must have been made before the French Revolution & consequently is of Louis XVIth’s day.


The two little arm chairs came from “Monticellowhere they stood in the dining room, and one of them grandpapa Jefferson always sat in, the other his daughter grand mama used as she sat by her father in the evenings at the fire side, a small candle stand with candles on it between them, the children and the younger members of the family sat around the dining table with their books & their work. After Mr Jefferson was Confined to his room, the last evening he ever sat up during his last illness this sad a.m. before the chair was moved my father cut the initials “T. J.” on the chair which grandpapa had used the last he ever sat in. These little chairs have always been in my father’s possession since the sale at “Monticello” where he purchased them.

3d The little “dumb waiter” which always stood in my father’s dining room, is one of a pair, which were used during Mr Jefferson’s life as President of the US, & these “dumb waiters” were placed at the head & foot of the dining table, & were filled with plates, spoons, knives & forks &c &c and the servants were dismissed during the dinner, when political or state questions were to be discussed. I dont know what became of the other, probably sold at the sale at Monticello, where all the neighbors bought articles which had belonged to T. Jefferson, but the piece of furniture which I have, has been repaired & the piece of marble inserted in the top, is a part of the slab of grandmama’s Randolphs dressing table, which her father brought from France for her, at the same time he brought one for his daughter “Maria” (Mrs Eppes) & one for himself. These were probably the 1st marble top dressing tables slab supported on brackets brought to Virginia. I have the marble slab belonging to grandmama’s of which I hope to have a little dressing table made. I wish this slab to be preserved with care. You must all remember to have seen the little “Dumb waiter” at your grandmother’s, where it always stood in the dining room with the tea cups &c on it, I have (since my mother’s death) brought it into our parlor to be used as a book stand; the top was originally made of wood & had a hole in the center to hold a wine cooler & glasses; aunt Cornelia had the piece of grandmama’s dressing table marble slab inserted in it, when the slab was accidentally broken. The “Dumb waiters” were I think made at Monticello by Mr Jefferson’s directions & are specimens of *Daddy’s work.

*Daddy was an expert cabinet maker belonging to the “Monticello” Estate.

M. J. T. Burke

4th The tall chest of drawers which you all remember to have stood in my room, and in the nursery since our house was altered; came originally from “Birdwoodmy grand father H. B. Trist’s plantation near the University of Va. When my grand father Hore Browse Trist was appointed by Mr Jefferson as “1st Collector of the Port of New Orleans” after the purchase of Louisiana. He sold his estate “Birdwood” in Albemarle Co & at the sale of his household furniture, my Grandmother Mrs Randolph wishing to have some articles which had been used by my grand mother Trist, (of whom she was very fond,) purchased among other things this tall chest of drawers & it stood in her bed room at “Monticello& at Edgehill it has the value of having belonged to both my paternal, & my maternal grand mothers. When I married my dear father had it beautifully done up & sent it to me. It is a dear old family relic having belonged to my two grand mothers, then to my dear mother in whose chamber it always stood, & in it’s lower drawers my brothers & I kept our childish treasures as my mother & aunts had kept theirs. You must not confound it with the other three tall chests of drawers, which my father bought at auction in Phila when he lived on Lombard street. I gave the old “grandmama Trist” as we called that family relic to my dear Fanny, I hope you will all see that it is never by any accident sold out of the family, many persons have wished to buy it.

[. . .] 5th The little work table with two drawers & little leaves at the side, & with brass handles at on the drawers, belonged always to my mother, for whom it was made by my grand mother’s orders at “Monticello.” It is a specimen of the cabinet work done by the cabinet maker of the establishment, he was called “Daddy” being the husband of the colored “mamy” who had charge of the nursery, & who took care of my grandmother’s 12 children. “Daddy” made the little work table, and a little desk for which grandma furnished the pattern, like one she had used at the “Abbaye Royale de Panthemont” where she passed her school girl life in Paris; the desk was lost—it & the table were made of wood (cherry) I believe, which had been Seasoning for many years to be used to make grandpapa Jefferson’s coffin. My mother gave the little table to Fanny.

75th the little music press which I had repaired was also made at Monticello by “Daddy.” he made it according to my father’s orders for a paper press, I did not intend to have a marble slab put on it, & I shall have it taken off some day, as it destroys the “style” of the press. I think this little piece of furniture is made of walnut.


The handsome old table cloth & 6 napkins which I have, came as a present to my grandmother from her sister in law Mrs Gouveneur Morris of Morrisania N.Y. This table cloth was among the many elegant things which were taken to Mr Gouveneur Morris by the nobility & rich citizens of Paris during the Revolution for safe keeping, he being then “Minister Plennipotentiary of the United States” at the Court of Versailles, & the American flag waving over his house. The owners of the articles were I [. . .] suppose guillotined during the “reign of terror” they never returned to claim their property which Mr Morris brought home with him. The table cloth in question was sent to my grand mother “by aunt Morris” with the request that it should be put on the table at the wedding dinner of the 1st of my grandmother’s daughters who was married, & that it should then be given to the bride. My mother was the 1st daughter married (after the table cloth came,) & the tablecloth was used at her wedding dinner, where a most illustrious company assembled, to meet Genl Lafayette, who with his suite arrived at “Monticello” on that day. The table cloth was very large & covered the “Monticelloduring dining table; my mother afterwards cut off the ends of the cloth, of which she made the 6 napkins. The cloth must have belonged to some Royal duke or some one of high rank, as I believe none others were allowed to purchase Damask of that quality.

This old cloth was also on the table at my wedding Supper at Mrs Peacoes’s house no 1514 on Spruce Street in Phila Oct 13th 1858.

+My mother’s wedding day was Friday Sep 10th 1824 Friday was is considered an unlucky day but my grandmother was above idle superstitions, & both she & my mother [. . .] preferred a quiet family party on the occasion, & this could only be if the wedding took place on friday morning, as Genl Lafayette & his suite were to arrive before dinner, & the house would be full of company; and so it was during the 3 weeks of his stay at “Monticello,” where a large dinner party was given daily during those three weeks, in order that all the neighbors for miles around might have the privilege of dining with & of seeing the “Nation’s Guest” as Genl Lafayette was called.

The little Old fashioned Sofa belonged to Mr Jefferson who gave it & the chair belonging to it to my father N. P. Trist, when my father was at “Monticello,” reading Law under Mr Jefferson. The chair my father [. . .]gave to Judge Kane of Phila he gave it to the Hist Society Phila

The gold locket which I wear to my watch was originally a little eye glass or pocket micro scope belonging to grandpapa Jefferson, my mother kept it for years in it’s original form but without the glass that having been lost, I wish to preserve the little relic, & I had it made into a locket, into which I put a lock of Thomas Jefferson’s hair & a lock of his wife’s hair, the only one in existence which was found among his papers, I then had Mr Jefferson’s monogram, & his wifes M. W. (for “Martha Wayles”) put on the back of the locket. Of the lock of great grandmama Jefferson’s hair I gave a piece to Sarah Randolph and a piece to Alice Meikleham.

There is also a small crystal locket heart shaped, which belonged to Grandpapa Jefferson, aunt Mary gave it to me & I gave it to Edmund Jefferson Burke. A pair of T. J.’s cuff buttons gold & once enamelled I gave to Harry Randolph Burke, & also a silver fountain pen & handle marked T. J. which I gave to Harry.

Medals & silver Beakers

Another “relic” are the medals, which aunt Cornelia always kept in her own possession after Grandmama’s death, to whom they belonged. I suppose she wished my aunts Mary & Cornelia to have them. As I am was their “residuary legatee” these medals came to me with my aunts papers & other personal [. . .] effects. I keep them as a right, they are all that is left me of the property which my aunts had, (ten thousand dollars) which was always in uncle Jeff’s hands, & which he lost. giving his sisters instead “Walnut Field” without giving them a title to it, or even having seeing that the said title was recorded, altho’ he paid the usual fee to the Recording clerk that property was to have been mine & my brother Jefferson’s he was aunt Cornelia’s heir I was aunt Mary’s—In their “wills” they made me “Residuary Legatee” of course every thing in their possession not otherwise & specially bequeathed, is mine, therefore I considered the “medals” mine to bequeath as I please [. . .] Aunt Cornelia specified in her “Will” that Browse Trist (my brother) was to have her Jefferson “Beaker”—her small silver funnel, and her tiny silver spoon, which belonged either to her grand mother “Martha Wayles” or to her aunt Cornelia’s mother, “Martha Jefferson,” when she was at the Convent in Paris, where each young Lady had her own silver spoon. After aunt Cornelia’s death I gave into Browse’s own hands these three articles specified.

The 4 Silver Beakers marked G. W. to T. J. “(George Wythe to Thomas Jefferson)”2 were given respectively to my mother, my aunt Cornelia & to my aunt Mary and to my Uncle George Wythe Randolph aunt Cornelia Bequeathed her’s as I have mentioned to H. B. Trist my brother; My mother gave her Beaker to Alice Meikleham, being her God daughter, & my mother having no money to purchase the usual “silver cup” to give her “God child”—Aunt Mary gave her “Beaker” marked G. W. to T. J. to “Nicholas Philip Trist Burke” my first born child.

I always understood that these four Beakers were made by Thomas Jefferson’s order to match four that he already owned, and these 4 were being made from some pieces of silver which had been bequeathed to Mr Jefferson by his friend “George Wythe”—& to distinguish them from the original 4 in Mr Jefferson’s own family silver, these were marked G. W. to T. J. “Chancellor” George Wythe to Thomas Jefferson

M. J. T. Burke
MS (Martha J. Trist Burke Commonplace Book, privately owned).
1Opening quotation marks editorially supplied.
2Closing quotation marks editorially supplied.
Date Range
August 9, 1888