Plantation Life

Research & Collections

Approximately three hundred slaves labored at Montpelier during the three generations of Madison ownership. The Montpelier enslaved community included domestic servants, skilled and craft workers, and field laborers. Domestic servants labored primarily in and around the mansion and nearby outbuildings as cooks, waiters, butlers, maids, laundresses, and gardeners, and likely resided in the South Yard housing complex. Other Montpelier slaves labored as skilled workers, trained in a variety of crafts including carpentry, smithing, and brick-making. Slaves oversaw the operation of a grist mill, sawmill, a whiskey and brandy distillery, and a blacksmith shop. The largest group of slaves at Montpelier was comprised of field slaves. These slaves worked the plantation fields, harvested tobacco, and oversaw livestock.

Montpelier's archaeologists are currently investigating the living quarters and work spaces of enslaved individuals during the Madison's occupancy of the property. See the Active Dig Site for more information.

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Gilmore Cabin and Farm

George Gilmore, former Montpelier slave, built this cabin in the early 1870s from the remains of the deserted Confederate camp just to the north.