Research & Collections

Craft-skilled Laborers

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. When not needed at Montpelier, these craftsmen were often hired out to neighboring plantation owners. For example, Montpelier carpenters Peter and George, owned by Madison Sr., were hired out several times between 1755 and 1763 for various other projects. Given Peter’s and George’s carpentry skills, they were likely involved in building Montpelier during the initial ca. 1760s construction of the main house. Moses, an enslaved blacksmith at Montpelier, was owned by Madison Sr., who in his will gave Moses the option “to belong to such of my children as he shall choose to serve.”  Aleck, owned by Madison Jr., served as the principle waggoner into the mind-1820s and 1830s and was often sent to Fredericksburg with shipments of tobacco, flour, and wheat, which were sold through Madison’s main commercial agent, William Allen. In return, Allen often sent sundry goods, including coffee, sugar, mustard, syrup and oysters, back to the Madisons via Aleck.

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Building Montpelier

Peter and George were enslaved carpenters at Montpelier during Madison Sr.'s ownership. The two men, given their skillsket, were likely involved in building the initial 1760s Georgian structure.



Aleck: Madison's Principle Waggoner

Aleck, a Montpelier slave born sometime prior to 1821, served as Madison's principle waggoner druing the mid-1820s and into the 1830s. Aleck often delivered goods such as tobacco to Fredericksburg and returned with articles requested by Madison.