She could feel her pulse pounding in her temples. She looked down into the abyss of a hole at her feet. She could not register that she was looking at something that had not been seen by anyone for more than 100 years.
Her hands started to shake as she crawled feet first into the hole in the floor. The President tried to keep this a secret, but she found it.
The phone call
Louise Smith was an archaeologist and received a call in 201
In Virginia there was talk of a house that holds many ancient secrets. It used to be a plantation and is called Monticello. We suspect you only know the original owner by name.
A founding father
Thomas Jefferson – a name that everyone should recognize immediately. It was this founding father who once owned this beautiful house.
Jefferson is best known for partially running the government you know today. But there were parts of his life that were kept secret. Now Louise had the chance to find out more about him.
Jefferson’s life is quite controversial today as he owned a slave. But Louise wasn’t fixated on that, there was another aspect of his life that fascinated her.
It started when she came across an old diary that belonged to Jefferson’s grandchild. The diary speaks of rooms in the house that Louise had never seen before. You must have been there when Jefferson was alive. She had to find it, but she needed help.
The south wing
The south wing is a part of the house that no one had heard of before. With the division of the house, it seemed impossible that it existed. The tourist bathroom would have to be destroyed to get into the space below.
The Thomas Jefferson Foundation strictly forbids this. They used the intricate bathroom plumbing as an excuse. What were they hiding about the 3rd President that they weren’t supposed to find?
But one day, Louise suddenly got permission to continue with the renovations. She could finally begin her investigation in the secret room she was looking for.
She envisioned how her career would improve if she were successful. She kept thinking about what she would find under this bathroom. She really wanted to find a specific piece of Jefferson history that would change everything.
Thomas Jefferson is buried on the site and is up there with the greatest presidents of all time. His face can be seen on Mount Rushmore, which some history has been forgotten about – and it can be quite glorious.
Jefferson’s relationships with slaves were more than meets the eye, and Louise knew it. Wanting to find evidence that would rewrite history books, she knew she would be the first to see his well-kept secret.
It was the morning work on the villa was due to begin. Louise was as happy as a child on Christmas morning and wanted to open her present. Did you want to find the fabled hidden room in Monticello? The same building you can see now if you flip on the back of a nickel.
She knew Jefferson’s grandson could have lied. Even so, they began to break open the bathroom floor on purpose. Louise knew that if there was nothing among them, she would be mocked in the scientific community and viewed as a half-excited treasure hunter. But then the tone of the pickaxe that was bitten off on the bathroom floor changed.
In the black
“That’s it,” thought Louise. She had memorized the entry in the diary and reread it in her mind. His grandson said the room they were looking for belonged to an important person in Jefferson’s life.
She knew this find would be forever. And if she was right about her suspicions, she could add significantly to what we know about Jefferson’s life. Her hands started to shake.
When you think of Thomas Jefferson, you think of the Declaration of Independence. An amazing historical figure whose dark past has often been overlooked. Louise looked into the depths of what she could only believe was the truth behind the man.
The room under the bathroom belonged to a person named Sally Hemings. Who was she And why did Jefferson have to bury the room so no one could find it?
Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Martha Jefferson, Thomas Jefferson’s wife, but much of her life has been mysterious for more than 200 years.
It wasn’t until historians took a closer look at the life of the woman who lived on the Jefferson Plantation that they began to connect the dots and uncover a long-running presidential scandal.
Despite being related to the first lady, Sally was given a very different hand in life. Sally was a mixed race and, unlike Mrs. Jefferson, was born into slavery.
She arrived at Jefferson Plantation at a young age and was assigned the household chores. But unfortunately for Sally the emotions on the Jefferson plantation were high. She would soon be caught up in family life – and she would not be able to walk away from it.
The Paris trip
Historical reports indicate that Jefferson – the US minister in France – once took Sally on a trip to Paris before continuing to work on the plantation as usual.
Owning slaves was illegal in France, so Sally had the option to stay in Europe and be protected under French law in the country. But she didn’t take it. For Louise, there could only be one explanation.
Let a light shine
In the room, Louise pulled out her flashlight and recorded everything. The chamber was approximately 15 feet by 13 feet. It had a large stone oven in the middle and no windows. The most amazing thing about the secret room, however, was its location in the south wing – just as the diary had promised.
Jefferson’s private quarters were just a few steps away in the hallway. Louise wanted to find out exactly what must be so close to Jefferson, but hidden from everyone else.
Sally continued to have children on the plantation, although she raised them alone, without revealing who the father was. As Louise searched the small chamber, she hoped to find clues that would fill in the gaps in Sally’s past, and she was not disappointed.
Jefferson owned more than 500 slaves on his plantation, and of all these slaves he only granted freedom to Sally Hemings and her children. She was his wife’s half-sister, but could there have been some other reason for preferential treatment?
There were many rumors, but it was political journalist James T. Callender who first accused Jefferson of being romantically involved with one of his slaves and secretly fathering children with her. Callender referred to Sally as Jefferson’s “concubine”.
In an inflammatory article, Callender alleged that Jefferson had not listed himself as the children’s father on public records in order to keep his indiscretions secret. Had Louise just stepped into the little windowless room where Sally had given birth to Jefferson’s children?
Historians firmly believe that Thomas Jefferson actually fathered Sally Hemings’ children, and the hidden space only reinforces the argument.
In addition, Dr. Eugene A. Foster, University Professor of Pathology, examined the DNA of Heming’s offspring. But he never expected that he would have to fight to take his findings seriously.
Foster knew the importance of these results and went through the data carefully to make sure no hair was out of place. Foster concluded that the Y chromosome of a Hemings descendant was a perfect match for Jeffersons.
Thomas Jefferson was almost certainly the father. However, many experts disagreed with Foster’s findings and suggested an even more controversial story.
The brother’s secret keeper
Some say the reason Thomas Jefferson’s DNA was found in the analysis is because the real father of Sally Hemings’ children was actually his brother Randolph Jefferson.
But Louise’s discovery of space certainly makes that argument look weaker. “This room is a real link to the past,” said Fraser Neiman, director of archeology at Monticello. “We discover, discover and find many, many artifacts.”
The team reached out to other offspring of Sally Hemings, who were not in the least surprised by the results.
The power of storytelling had kept the truth in the family for generations. But Sally Hemings’ secret room and the results of the DNA test only confirmed what they already knew about her family’s history. At least now they could graduate.