Peter Marks

Born: around 1795
Died: 1860
Family relationship: Husband of Eugenia Hemings Marks; father of James, Mary Ann, Eugenia, Elizabeth, Edward
Role: manservant; coachmen

Peter Marks is the only enslaved individual known to be freed by James Monroe. According to a Monroe family friend, Peter was in “the family of Mr. Monroe from his … [yout]h” and described as an “excellent dining room ser[van]t; and a good coachman.” (Letter of Recommendation by Tench Ringgold, 27 August 1831). Peter’s parentage is unknown, but two women enslaved by the Monroes are known to have born a child in 1795, the approximate year of his birth: Thenia Hemings as well as the cook Hannah.

After his manumission in 1831, Peter found employment in Washington, DC. While there, he married Eugenia Hemings (formerly enslaved by Thomas Jefferson), who was living in Washington enslaved by Jefferson’s granddaughter, Cornelia Randolph. Peter and Eugenia moved with his employer Alfred Mordecai to Frankford, Pennsylvania. It is not known for certain how Eugenia achieved freedom, but the 1850 census lists Peter, Eugenia and their five children all as free.

More about Peter Marks: “liberated & set free at Mr. Monroes dying request”: Peter Marks’ White House Story

Letter of Recommendation by Tench Ringgold

“Washington August 27th 1831

The bearer hereof Peter Marks a coloured man late the property of James Monroe deceased late President of the United States has been liberated & set free by at Mr Monroes dying request by his executor Samuel L Gouverneur of the City of New York & by Mrs E K Hay one of Mr Monroes daughters to whom he was a slave.

Peter is honest, and capable; he is an excellent dining room ser[van]t; and a good coachman; has been brought [up in?] the family of Mr Monroe from his infancy [yout]h & I can recommend [. . .] man, as I have long [. . .] him

[. . .]h Ringgold”

Courtesy of the “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.:

Manumission of Peter Marks

“Washington Sept. 20. 1832

I certify that Peter Marx, formerly belonging to James Monroe deceased, has been made free at the request of his late Master—

Saml L Gouverneur”

Courtesy of the “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.:

Letter of Recommendation by Alfred Mordecai for Peter Marks

“Frankford arsenal September 1838

Peter marks has been in my service for nearly five years—he is perfectly honest & good tempered, & an accomplished house servant. Understands also the care of horses & is a good driver—

Alfred Mordecai
capt. U.S. army”

Courtesy of the “Jefferson Quotes & Family Letters,” Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc.:

1850 US Census, Free Inhabitants in The Borough of Frankford, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, dwelling 789, family 828 

Transcription by James Monroe’s Highland

Persons who Died during the year ending 1st June, 1860, in 4th, 9th and 10th precincts [23rd ward] in the County of Philadelphia State of Pennsylvania, enumerated by me [blank], Ass’t Marshall

Transcription by James Monroe’s Highland

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 9, 1873

This 1873 announcement about Eugenia’s new position goes into detail about James Monroe’s connection with Peter, who had passed away in 1860.

Courtesy of Early American Newspapers Series 1-5 (1690-1922)