Thomas Jefferson Survey Map to be Sold at Auction - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Thomas Jefferson Survey Map to be Sold at Auction

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A map drawn by Thomas Jefferson himself is set to be auctioned off this Saturday. It is one of two maps he drew depicting some property just past James Monroe's Ash Lawn-Highland.

The maps highlight something many historians didn't expect. Beyond Jefferson's Monticello and just past Ash Lawn-Highland is another property, where another man made his mark on history. It’s the Morven estate, owned by William Short for about 15 years before it was given to Jefferson.

One of the maps, which will not be auctioned, was brought to the attention of historians at Morven, which is now owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, in 2008. That map sparked an archaeological investigation of the area. What it showed is that Short had a revolutionary idea: run a free plantation using tenant farmers - instead of slaves.

Instead of slave quarters, the map showed houses with the corresponding owners’ names. It also showed how much tenants were to pay in rent for their plots of land. Stewart Gamage, director of programs at Morven, says Short believed willful labor was necessary to make an agricultural operation sustainable.

"We were able to uncover really the genius of Jefferson combined with his aide de comp William Short and how they undertook something that would be described today as the first experiment in sustainable agriculture,” Gamage said.

Gamage says Short also believed slavery conflicted with the ideals of the Constitution. But after 15 years, Short’s tenant farming experiment failed because he wasn’t able to compete with the free labor of slavery.

The second map, which depicts the same property was uncovered within the last year at an estate in Prince Edward County. That one will be auctioned off to the highest bidder by Quinn & Farmer Auctions.

"I took it to the Jefferson Library, I took it out of the frame, I took it down there, and they were all standing around the table, and the guy who's the main expert there said 'yep, that's our guy', and I immediately got cold chills,” said Ken Farmer, who owns the auction house.

Farmer says the price of the map is difficult to determine, but the minimum bid is set at $4,000. The auction begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at the auction house on India Road in Charlottesville. 

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