From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Elkhill[1] was a relatively small plantation owned by Thomas Jefferson, located near Elk Island, at the mouth of Byrd Creek in Goochland County. He obtained the land comprising the Elkhill plantation in three different stages:

  1. 307 acres bounded by Byrd Creek and the James River and opposite Elk Island; today it is situated between and one mile south of State Route 6 and the James River. It was part of the Wayles estate where it was listed as 348 acres by Jefferson in his "Rough estimate of the value of the land to be divided" and "Mr. Wayles's lands" [2].
  2. 312 acres lying on Byrd Creek and not quite adjoining the above property was conveyed to Jefferson by Edward Smith for £468 by deed of 21 January 1782.[3]
  3. 50 acres lying further up Byrd Creek and contiguous to the above was conveyed to Jefferson by deed of 19 May 1783 by Judith and Reuben Smith for £50.[4]

Since 1787, he rented out the land to Robert Lewis, Jr. However, he never paid rent, so Jefferson sued him for back rent. He won the case in May 1794, but Lewis appealed. In the end, to help pay off his debt, Jefferson sold the land on August 5, 1799 to Thomas Augustus Taylor for £1500.[5]

It is to be noted that Jefferson's Elkhill property never was and is not now a part of the present Elk Hill farm located in the same area of the county.[6]

Primary Source References[7]

1782 December 7. "Gave my bond to Reuben Smith for L40. paiable Dec. 25. 1782. balce. due for the land."[8]

1788 July 16. (Jefferson to William Gordon). "It was early in June 1781. Lord Cornwallis then proceeded to the point of fork, and encamped his army from thence all along the main James river to a seat of mine called Elkhill, opposite to Elk island and a little below the mouth of the Byrd creek...He remained in this position ten days, his own head quarters being in my house at that place...He destroyed all my growing crops of corn and tobacco, he burned all my barns containing the same articles, of the last year, having first taken what corn he wanted, he used, as was to be expected, all my stocks of cattle, sheep, and hogs for the sustenance of his army, and carried off all the horses capable of service: of those too young for service he cut the throats, and he burnt all the fences on the plantation, so as to leave it an absolute waste. He carried off also about 30. slaves: had this been to give them freedom he would have done right, but it was to consign them to inevitable death from small pox and putrid fever then raging in his camp."[9]


  1. This article is based on research notes in the Goochland County - TJ Land information file at the Jefferson Library.
  2. MB 329-333.
  3. Goochland County Deed Book 13, 207.
  4. Ibid, 12, 364.
  5. Ibid, 17, 535.
  6. For more information on the "non-Jefferson" Elk Hill see Amanda D. Pitts to Editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2 February 1969, and http://www.elkhill.org/
  7. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  8. This is for the 50 acres. MB, 1:524.
  9. PTJ, 13:363-364.

Further Sources

  • "Jefferson's Advertisement for Sale of Elk Hill," including hand-drawn map, and "Agreement of Sale for Elk Hill," PTJ 17:567-571.
  • McDaid, Jennifer Davis. "Thomas Jefferson and Elk Hill: New Treasure at the Library of Virginia." Virginia Cavalcade 46(1997): 160.
  • Reed, B. Bernetiae. The Slave Families of Thomas Jefferson. Greensboro, N.C.: Sylvest-Sarah, 2006, pp. 98-109.
  • Sale, Edith Dabney Tunis. Elk Hill on James River in Virginia. S.l.: s.n., 195-?.
  • Weeks, Ellie. "Thomas Jefferson's Elk-Hill." Goochland County Historical Society Magazine, 3(1): 6.