What We Know About Elizabeth
The names of Elizabeth and her family members appear on a list of enslaved people drawn up by John Payne Todd, Dolley Madison’s son, in 1844. Two-year-old Elizabeth and two-month-old Caleb were the children of 19-year-old Charlotte. Charlotte’s brother was Edwin, who was 11 or 12 years old. Charlotte and Edwin’s mother was Sally, whom Todd noted was deceased. 
It’s not often that we can trace three generations of a family in the Montpelier enslaved community. To be able to name Elizabeth along with her brother, mother, uncle, and grandmother is unusual. But this list was no mere genealogical record.
Todd made the list to record the monetary values of the enslaved. He valued toddler Elizabeth, baby Caleb, and their young mother Charlotte collectively at $500. He listed Edwin at $350. Todd likely had a particular reason for itemizing the value of these enslaved people. Elizabeth and her family would soon become financial pawns in two significant events in the lives of Todd and his mother: a lawsuit, and the sale of Montpelier.
The lawsuit hinged on a promissory note for $2,600, which Dolley Madison had given to her son in 1841. Todd in turn had used the promissory note in a transaction with William Smith. After Todd failed to pay Smith the full amount of the note, Smith sued Dolley Madison for the rest. On July 1, 1844, the Orange County Court decided the suit in favor of Smith. The court placed a lien on 16 of the people Dolley Madison enslaved, including “Charlott & her two children to wit Elizabeth & Caty.” (In documents written by Todd, Charlotte’s youngest child is listed as “Caleb,” while court documents list the child’s name as “Caty.” Presumably Todd knew the infant’s name and gender, and it was the sheriff or clerk of court who was confused.)
On August 27, 1844, a little over three weeks after Dolley Madison and John Payne Todd sold Montpelier to Henry Moncure, Todd sold nine enslaved people to Moncure as well, including “Charlotte and two children Elizabeth & Caleb 500$.– To have & to hold said negroes and their future increase…” (Moncure had already purchased Elizabeth’s uncle Edwin in July). For Elizabeth, this meant that she and her family would remain at Montpelier, but from a legal standpoint, there was an unresolved issue: Todd had sold enslaved people who were still under a lien to William Smith. Moncure was obliged to pay the amount of the lien to the court, so that William Smith could receive the amount he was owed.
We don’t know what happened to Elizabeth after Moncure purchased her and her family. Only four years later, Moncure sold Montpelier to Benjamin Thornton. Did he sell 6-year-old Elizabeth to Thornton as well, or did Moncure continue to enslave her?
The rest of Elizabeth’s story is lost to history. There is one thing, however, that we can hope for her: If she lived until the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteen Amendment, Elizabeth was a free woman by age 23.
Elizabeth’s name (now circled in red) appears under the name of her mother Charlotte in this list written by John Payne Todd, presumably in 1844. Todd wrote that Elizabeth will be “2 yrs old in Sepr.” Todd bracketed the names of Charlotte and Edwin to show that they were the children of Sally, who was deceased. Courtesy of the Papers of Dolley Madison, Library of Congress.
 John Payne Todd. List of slaves, foodstuffs shipped, and draft to Dolley Payne Todd Madison, , box 2, folder June–Dec 1845, Papers of Dolley Madison, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 28677, Montpelier Research Database.
 Dolley Payne Todd Madison, Promissory Note to John Payne Todd, Assigned to William Smith, August 1, 1840 with Financial Record of Transactions, August 5, 1841 and January 14, 1843, box 36, folder 12, Orange County: Judgments, Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery, 1844 May-Oct, State Records Center, Richmond, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 25387, Montpelier Research Database.
 Declaration of William Smith, 1844, box 36, folder 12, Orange County: Judgments, Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery, 1844 May-Oct, State Records Center, Richmond, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 25385, Montpelier Research Database.
 Judgment and Attachment of Dolley Payne Todd Madison’s Property, July 1, 1844, box 36, folder 12, Orange County: Judgments, Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery, 1844 May-Oct, State Records Center, Richmond, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 25386, Montpelier Research Database.
 Indenture of Sale of Slaves from John Payne Todd to Henry W. Moncure, August 27, 1844, Papers of Dolley Madison, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 25611, Montpelier Research Database.
 Answer of Henry W. Moncure, July 1, 1847, box 629, folder Wall File J, 1, Orange County Ended Chancery, Ended Dates: 1847-1848, Orange County Courthouse, Orange, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 26225, Montpelier Research Database.
 Judgment Executed Against Slaves, with Notes of Payments, William Smith, October 13, 1844 and November 26, 1844, box 6, folder 1844 K-Z, Orange County: Record Series: Execution (fifas), 1829-1845, State Records Center, Richmond, Virginia, accessed September 22, 2020, MRD-S 34691, Montpelier Research Database.
Hilarie M. Hicks, MA
Senior Research Historian
Hilarie came to Montpelier in 2010 and joined the Research Department in 2011, where she provides documentary research in support of the Montpelier Foundation’s many activities. A graduate of the College of William and Mary (B.A) and the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies (M.A.), Hilarie has a broad background of experience in research, interpretation, and administration of historic sites. She enjoys following a good paper trail, and she thanks past members of the Montpelier research staff who blazed the trail for The Naming Project.