All throughout the Richmond area you will hear the term “Tuckahoe”. There’s the Tuckahoe YMCA, Tuckahoe Library, Tuckahoe Middle School, and Tuckahoe Village Shopping Center to name a few. If you’re anything like me, you giggle a little bit each time. At what is perhaps the epicenter of this strange word is Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson.
So, what is a tuckahoe? The first recorded mention of the word tuckahoe was from a one-handed former privateer (a privateer is someone who steals under the sanction of a government, kind of like an IRS worker) Captain Christopher Newport in 1612 to describe an edible plant or fungus used by the Native Americans. Tuckahoe refers to the Arrow Arrum, which (according to this recipe) can kill you if improperly prepared by shredding your insides with thousands of microscopic needle shaped crystals. Yay!
The term Tuckahoe was eventually used to describe Anglican, wealthy, aristocratic, slave-holding planters that lived in the low-lands of Virginia and North Carolina. It was often used in contrast to the word cohee, which was used to describe Presbyterian, lower-class kind of folks who occupied the same low-lands. Think of the Tuckahoes as the guys who go to The Commonwealth Club and the cohees as the ones going to RIR. So it should surprise no one that it is Tuckahoe Plantation and not Cohee Plantation where are young Thomas Jefferson received the beginnings of his education.
The original (north) building was built in 1710 by Thomas Randolph, and the second (south) building was added in 1730 by his son William Randolph III giving the building it’s strange H-shape. A word about the Randolph’s: Thomas’ parents, William Randolph and Mary Isham have been referred to as the Adam and Eve of Virginia. Their lineage includes such famous sons as John Marshall, Robert E. Lee, John Randolph, and Thomas Jefferson. When William Randolph died in 1745 he named his cousin-in-law Peter Jefferson as the guardian of his four children. So the Jefferson’s moved on up to Tuckahoe and lived there from 1745 – 1754.
Confused? TL;DR Thomas Jefferson moved from Charlottesville as a child and lived at Tuckahoe Plantation.
The building has been continuously privately owned and occupied. You are free to walk the grounds, but you should check their website (http://www.tuckahoeplantation.com/) to make sure they are open as they host private events. The inside of the house is available for tour upon private appointment.