by Joanne Yeck
Peter Field Jefferson: Dark Prince of Scottsville follows the rise and fall of Randolph Jefferson’s most successful son. Nephew to President Thomas Jefferson, Peter Field proved that at least one member of the family had a head for business. The story of his life parallels that of the changing cultural landscape of the James River’s Horseshoe Bend across seven decades—rising from virtual frontier to the establishment of Scottsville in Albemarle County, through the building of the James River and Kanawha Canal, and culminating in the early months of the Civil War. Jefferson’s success as a self-made man is tainted with great personal loss, making his story a distinctively American tragedy.
Lost Jeffersons is a collection of essays which follows descendants of Randolph Jefferson and their kinfolk. Their fates reveal, in part, the genetic decline of one branch of the Jefferson family. A microcosm of Virginia’s gentry, multiple generations of cousin marriage resulted in a concentration of undesirable traits—including alcoholism, idiocy, and insanity—compromising individuals who might otherwise have led productive and useful lives.