Madison Farm (1763-1797)

Research & Collections

As we move into the late-18th century, the price of tobacco was dropping and the eroded piedmont soils failed to produce the same crop yields as they did for much of the century.  Plantations that relied solely on that crop for their income began to suffer considerably.  James Madison, Jr., however, was more forward-looking and pro-active with his agricultural strategies.  He directed the planting of cereal crops such as corn and wheat combined with plowing of soils.  This led to large-scale changes of daily work life for slaves at Montpelier.  

Archaeologists have found evidence for a massive work complex in the area below the visitor center that is potentially linked to these changes in agriculture.  Work yards, barns, and around a dozen slave quarters speak to the centralization of work area that likely featured care of draft animals (used for plowing), and central storage areas for crops.  

Archaeologist have excavated the remains of a barn that initially served as a tobacco barn/slave quarter and then a threshing barn.  For more information on this site, click here.

Artist rendering of buildings that were part of the Madison farm complex.  The structure in the foreground is a barn while other structures are slave quarters and an overseer’s house in the distance.