First Madison Family Home Site
James Madison's grandfather, Ambrose Madison, had his slaves construct Mount Pleasant sometime after 1723. Ambrose moved his family here in 1732 from Virginia's Tidewater and unexpectedly died within a few months. Court records show that three slaves were tried and convicted for poisoning him. His widow, Francis, remained to raise their children, and successfully managed the plantation and directed the work of its 30 to 40 slaves. The painting shows how the home and its outbuildings may have appeared, based on archaeological remains.
The Stone-Lined Cellar of Mount Pleasant
The first Madison home, one o the first in this part of Virginia, was a relatively small structure measuring 26 by 24 feet. Enslaved workers dug the cellar below the house, pictured here during archaeological excavation, to serve as a storage area. By 1765, the family moved to the new Montpelier house and then demolished the old home
Reconstructed Wine Bottles Recovered from the Kitchen Cellar
Fragments of wine bottles were found in the kitchen cellar. The hand-blown, glass "seals" on the bottles contain the initials of James Madison, Sr. and indicate the refined status of the Madison family. These broken bottles were left in the cellar when the family moved to the new Montpelier home.
James and Nelly Madison, Parents of President Madison
James Madison, Sr. was nine when his family moved here. In 1749 he married Nelly Conway and brought his wife home to Mount Pleasant. They had children and the plantation prospered. By the early 1760s they had moved into a new, brick home that became known as Montpelier. By 1800 all the original buildings were gone, leaving only the Madison Family Cemetery to mark the original homestead.
The Stone-Lined Kitchen Cellar
The kitchen was in a separate outbuilding, and the enslaved cook would have filled its cellar with vegetables and other food for the Madison family. The cook would have lived in an raised her family in the loft above her work area. After the Madison family moved, the kitchen was used as a home for a slave family who worked the farm fields.
Ceramics Recovered from Burnt Remains of Kitchen/Slave House
The kitchen burned around 1800, and the household possessions of the slave family living here were consumed in the blaze. The cups and plates were scorched, and fell into the cellar with the remains of the home. These ceramics were 40 to 50 years old at the time of the fire, and were likely castoffs from the household china of the President's grandmother, Francis Madison.