Thomas Jefferson and Albemarle County, Virginia

Even before there was a University community, the central Piedmont of Virginia attracted people interested in scholarly pursuits. Jefferson, in fact, forcefully urged his protoges James Monroe, William Short, and Philadelphian William Bache to locate there. He convinced Italian Philip Mazzei to try his hand at vinifera grapes — Mazzei and Jefferson started what became the first commercial vineyard in the Commonwealth of Virginia (sadly, a failure).

Mr. Jefferson’s University was intended, in part, to encourage the development of close personal attachments between students from states with varying cultures in preparation for their serving together in the New Republic. Social “intelligence” — a strikingly modern concept — was as critical to his educational schema as intellectual, moral, and physical development. Recollecting these brief biographies on my blog Students of the University of Virginia, 1825-1874 is a way of connecting across time not only the families, relatives, and friends of these young men but also the many who followed them through the Rotunda, along the Pavilions, and onto the Lawn.