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Born in Albemarle County, Virginia, she was the eighth of Peter Jefferson and Jane Randolph Jefferson's 10 children. She was nine years younger than her brother Thomas Jefferson. She was born into an elite planter family and would have been educated at home by her mother, together with her sisters. Their father died when they were young.
At age 17, Jefferson married her first cousin, Charles Lilburne Lewis, on September 12, 1769. He was related to Meriwether Lewis, who would help lead the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The couple eventually had eight children: Randolph, Isham, Jane Jefferson, Lilburne, Mary Randolph, Lucy B., Martha, and Ann (Nancy).c/e
Jane and Mary had married before 1806 and established their own households. The remainder of the Lewis family moved to Livingston County, Kentucky in 1806 or 1808, following their grown sons Randolph and Lilburne and their families. Charles and Lucy Lewis built a plantation called "Rocky Hill" near the present-day town of Smithland. Lucy's older brother Thomas Jefferson took an interest in the education of her sons, and encouraged them in their studies.
(Thomas Jefferson had named a daughter, Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson I (1780–1781), after his sisters Lucy and Elizabeth. After she died as an infant, he named his next daughter after Lucy and Elizabeth as well, as was the custom. The second Lucy died at the age of 3 of whooping cough while her father was serving in Paris in the late 1780s as US Minister to France.)
Lucy Jefferson Lewis died in 1811. She was buried on the grounds of the Rocky Hill plantation, but the gravesite has been lost. The estate is now in ruins.
In 1812, the year after Lucy and her son Randolph had died, the brothers Lilburne and Isham Lewis murdered a slave named George. The men tried to hide the youth's remains, but his skull was revealed by the collapse of a chimney during the second New Madrid earthquake. The brothers were arrested but received bail. Before the trial, Lilburne urged Isham to join him in a suicide pact, but died almost by accident while preparing, and Isham did not go through with it. Held as an accessory in his brother's suicide while it was investigated, Isham escaped from jail and disappeared. The murder of the slave and suicide by Lilburne brought the entire family into disrepute.
|Ancestors of Lucy Jefferson Lewis|
Jefferson was related to the Lewis family by marriage, and from the time he first heard about Meriwether Lewis’ death, he believed that the man had committed suicide as a result of an inherited tendency toward depression and mental disturbance. Subsequent events likely reinforced Jefferson’s feelings, for at the time he wrote a sketch of Meriwether, the former president was reeling from the news of a scandalous murder committed by his nephews Lilburne and Isham Lewis.