“The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.”
This is entry #36 in Amy Johnson Crow’s Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.
I’m a bit behind on this week’s entry. Setting up my new laptop is taking me longer than I thought. And there are other things in my life that have priority – spending time with my husband and children, keeping myself healthy (310 kilometers/11+ hours on my bike since the 1st of the month), and creating memories.
52 Ancestors: #36 William JOHNSON Jr. 1793-1845
William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805) and Amy NELSON (1757-1837) married about 1774. Most family trees have their place of marriage as Bath County in Virginia but I cannot agree with this.
As is the case with all research in old Virginia, the county formations need to be considered. Bath County was created in 1790 from parts of Augusta, Botetourt, and Greenbrier counties. Greenbrier was formed in 1778 from Botetourt and Montgomery counties. Botetourt County was established in 1770 from Augusta County. The marriage of William and Amy most likely took place in the area of Botetourt County that later went to Greenbrier or in Augusta County where the Johnston families lived. As this is a portrait of William JOHNSON Jr., I will go into the Johnston connection in Augusta County in a later post.
William and Amy were the parents of at least 8 known children, one of them being my fourth great-grandfather William JOHNSON (1793-1845) born about 1793 on Lick Run, Greenbrier County in old Virginia, now West Virginia.
William’s oldest brother Rev. John Brown JOHNSON was born in 1777 in Botetourt or Augusta County. Their father may have been away from home for long periods of time due to his military service during the Revolutionary War (1775-1784). In any case, the next child Nelson JOHNSON was born about 1782. In Laidley’s 1911 History1 Nelson is named as one of the four sons of William JOHNSON Sr. Other sources2 have him listed as the son of Benjamin JOHNSON.
In a biography of Julian M. Johnson, grandson of William Jr., William Sr. moved to what is now Monroe County, West Virginia, after the end of the Revolutionary War and lived there a number of years.
New records brought to light by Wayne L. Johnson, a direct descendant of William Jr., may prove that William Sr. was actually in the area when Greenbrier County was formed in 1778.3 This would mean that John B. and Nelson were born “in the Sinks” as the JOHNSONs were there in 1784:4
“Among the people who were living in the Sinks at the close of the Revolution were several Methodist families. Among these were the Blantons, the Christys, the Johnsons, and the Warrens. They held religious meetings at their homes, and as their membership was growing, they organized a regular society late in the summer of 1784. This date, it will be observed, is also that of the independence of the Methodist Church.”
James M. (1783-1834), Susannah* (1784-1840), Mary “Polly” (1790-1850), my 4th great-grandfather William (1793-1845), and Nancy (1794-1825) were born on Lick Run then part of Greenbrier County.
Between 1795 and 1798 the JOHNSON family moved to Peters Creek, at the time in Kanawha County, where William Sr. patented 500 acres. He settled and remained there for the rest of his life. Amy (1795-1859) may have been the first child to be born on Peters Creek which would become part of Nicholas County when the county was formed in 1818.5
“The murder of one individual or a dozen families did not deter the sturdy pioneer from his onward march in the conquest of the wilderness, and accordingly, before a year has passed after the destruction of Kelly’s settlement, we find Leonard and William Morris both residing almost in sight of the fatal spot. Their settlement is elsewhere noticed [pg. 58, Kelly was killed in early 1773]. Among those who here found homes and become actual settlers in the next few years were John Hansford, Sr., Thomas Foster, Ransom Gatewood, Robert Perry, John Jarrett, John D. Massey, Gallatin G. Hansford, William Johnson, John Wheeler, Shadrach Childers, Peter Likens, Spencer Hill, William Pryor, Barney Green, Thomas Trigg and Shadrach Hariman.”
Two land records extracted from the deed books of Greenbrier County many years ago by David Fridley (who did not note the book or page on these). They would indicate that William and Amy left for Kanawha around 1798 selling a total of 238 acres:
- 25 June 1798. William Johnson and Amy deeded out 150 acres Lick Run. Witn: John Johnston
- 26 June 1798. William Johnson and Amy sold 88 acres Lick Run. Witn: John Johnston, et al.
This matches a statement in the biography of Julian M. Johnson by Laidley:6
“Then he and his sons, William, John, Nelson and James, moved to Gauley River in what is now Nicholas County, WV, near and below the mouth of Little Elk about 1798.”
William’s youngest sister Elizabeth (1799-1840) was born the year after the family moved to Kanawha County.
*At the turn of the century William’s sister Susannah JOHNSON was the first to marry. She married Martin SIMS (1783-1853) on 28 March 18007 in Greenbrier County. The permission slip for Susannah’s marriage was signed by her father William JOHNSON. I don’t have a copy of this document however Tim Spradling has put it on his list for his trip to the courthouse this fall. A comparison of the signature on the permission slip with other signatures found for William Sr. will help to determine if this young lady was the daughter of our William JOHNSON Sr. or the William JOHNSTON who died and left a will in 1803 in Greenbrier County. The will mentions his four oldest children James, Polly, Samuel and Sally, and his younger sons William, George, John, and Andrew. There is no mention of a daughter Susannah.
William’s brother John Brown JOHNSON married Elizabeth SIMS (1782-1845), sister of the above mentioned Martin SIMS, on 2 June 18028 in Kanawha County.
These would be the only two marriages of his children that William JOHNSON Sr. would live to see. William died 22 December 1805 and was buried near Swiss in present-day Nicholas County, West Virginia.
Following their father’s death, the children lived with their mother Amy until one by one they married and started their own families. Mary “Polly” married Benjamin DARLINGTON (1775-1853) on 23 April 1810 in Kanawha County and was with her new husband when the 1810 census was enumerated. Amy was with her single children and close to son John and daughter Susannah who had married SIMS siblings.
1810 U.S. Federal Census
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
Johnston, Anne (sic, Amy; listed just above her son John)
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2 (James & Alexander)
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1 (William)
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1 (Nelson)
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1 (Elizabeth)
Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25: 2 (Amy & Nancy)
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1 (Amy)
Number of Household Members Under 16: 4
Number of Household Members Over 25: 1
Number of Household Members: 8
During the time our nation was at war (War of 1812), William and his two unmarried brothers married.
Soon after William married my 4th great-grandmother Nancy Ann SIMS, sister of Martin and Elizabeth SIMS mentioned earlier, their first child Nelson JOHNSON (1815-1855) was born about 1815 in Kanawha County. In all records found for Nelson, I have only seen “Nelson” as his first name. Denise Jackson of “Our Family Heritage” is a great-great-granddaughter of this son. Family lore is that his full name was Joseph Nelson JOHNSON and his grandson Joseph Nelson “JN” JOHNSON was named after him. On 9 May 2014 she wrote “It is only word of mouth about JN’s grandfather being Joseph Nelson Johnson and he (JN) being named for him” in response to my email to her about the full name. Before replying she checked with two of her cousins, sons of her father’s sister, and her two brothers as she said, “I wanted to check with all of them to make sure I had heard (and remembered) correctly.” They confirmed that she was right about the family lore.
William JOHNSON Jr. and his family originally lived at the mouth of Laurel Creek, a tributary of the Gauley River which empties about one mile above Swiss. In 1810 the JOHNSON and SIMS families were neighbors and it is known that James SIMS, father of Nancy Ann SIMS, made his home at Swiss. William’s son John Brown JOHNSON was born at the mouth of Rich Creek on Gauley in 1823 per the 1911 biography of his son Julian M. JOHNSON. This would have been in the area of Swiss. Later, most likely after 1823, the JOHNSON family moved to a place on Loop Creek (Loup Creek) in the area of what is known as Robson in present-day Fayette County, West Virginia.
“Loop Creek flows for its entire length in western Fayette County. It rises in the city of Oak Hill and flows initially west-northwestward through the unincorporated communities of Lick Fork, Wriston, Ingram Branch, and Hamilton; then northward through the unincorporated communities of Kincaid, Page, North Page, and Robson, to Deep Water, where it flows into the Kanawha River.” [Source: Wikipedia]
Before William and Nancy’s next child was born two of his sisters married brothers in Kanawha County: Nancy JOHNSON married Peyton FOSTER (1793- ) on 11 January 1815 and Amy JOHNSON married Turley FOSTER (1794-1859) on 16 November / 18 November 1816.
And William’s family continued to grow with the birth of my third great-grandmother Huldah JOHNSON (1817-1880) about 1817 and Alexander JOHNSON (1819-1887) on 10 June 1819.
The 1820 and 1830 census were enumerated in alphabetical order rather than in order of household visitation. This makes it less useful for locating the actual place that the family lived.
The family was in Nicholas County in 1820 and then next seen in Kanawha County in the 1830 census which supports the theory that their move to Loop Creek was in the 1820s, most likely between 1824-1830. Robson is 10 miles south of present-day Gauley Bridge. Fayette County was created on 28 February 1831 from parts of Greenbrier, Kanawha, Nicholas, and Logan counties. From then on William’s children were born on Loop Creek in Fayette County where they were seen in the 1840 census.
1820 U.S. Federal Census
Nicholas County, (West) Virginia
Page No: 204B
Enumerated by: Hedgman Triplett on the 26th day of December 1820
2 males under 10 yo (Nelson and Alexander)
2 males 10 & under 16 yo (not sons of Wm and Nancy who were married only 6 yrs)
1 male 16 & under 26 yo (William)
1 female under 10 yo (Huldah)
1 female 16 & under 26 yo (Nancy Ann b. bet. 1794-1804)
1 person engaged in agriculture
7 persons in household
Following the enumeration of the 1820 census, William’s fourth child Mary JOHNSON (1820-1898) was born on 20 August 1820.
William’s sister Elizabeth JOHNSON married Presley FOSTER (1798-1873), a brother of Turley and Peyton FOSTER, on 12 March 1822 in Nicholas County, (West) Virginia, and his brother James M. JOHNSON, recently widowed, married(2) Sarah LEGG (1795- ) on 6 March 1823 in Nicholas County, (West) Virginia.
Shortly before Christmas in 1823 another son, John Brown JOHNSON (1823-1902), was born on 23 December 1823. The family was very fond of this name!
The first of William’s siblings, Nancy (Johnson) FOSTER died before 6 September 1825 leaving only one known child, a son she named Johnson FOSTER.
Nancy gave William three more children before the 1830 census: Amy JOHNSON (1825-1904) on 4 November 1825, Lewis JOHNSON (1828-1845) on 6 March 1828, and Elizabeth JOHNSON (1829-1833) about 1829.
1830 U.S. Federal Census
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
2 males under 5 yo (Lewis b. 1828, John Brown b. 1823)
1 male 5 & under 10 yo (Alexander b. 1819)
1 male 10 & under 15 yo (Nelson b. ca. 1815)
1 male 30 & under 40 yo (William Jr. b. 1793)
1 female under 5 yo (Amy b. 1825)
1 female 5 & under 10 yo (Mary b. 1820)
1 female 10 & under 15 yo (Huldah b. ca. 1818)
1 female 30 & under 40 yo (Nancy Ann Sims Johnson b. bet. 1791-1800)
1 female 70 & under 80 yo (Amy Nelson Johnson b. 1757)
7 free white persons under 20
2 free white person 20 thru 9
10 total free white persons
10 total – all persons
In William’s household, we see an older woman in his household. This must be his mother as family tradition is that she lived among her children until her death.
William’s family was not yet complete: William Hunter JOHNSON (1832-1899) was born 27 July 1832, Nancy JOHNSON (1835-1915) was born in August 1835. Sadly, young Elizabeth, about 4 years old, died about 1833 of the flux.
A year later William’s brother James M. JOHNSON died in 1834 on Loop Creek, Fayette County, (West) Virginia.
William’s oldest child Nelson JOHNSON married Elizabeth HUGHES (1817-1900) on 14 September 1837 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia.
Sadly there would be another death in the family during the 1830s. William’s elderly mother Amy NELSON died on 23 December 1837 in Robson, Fayette County, (West) Virginia, and was buried in Nichols Cemetery on Loop Creek also seen as Nichols Hollow Cemetery, Robson. From the writings of Laura Blake, a local historian:
“Amie Nelson Johnson lived among her children after coming to Loup Creek but her last days were at the home of her son William, whose home was near that of Mutt Ellis. This was very close to the cemetery known then as the Kelly grave yard but now called the Nuchils cemetery. This is a beautiful location for a cemetery. In a row in this cemetery is the grave of William and Nancy Simms Johnson, two children, and the mother Amie Nelson Johnson. William and Nancy died around 1845 during a typhoid fever epidemic. Afterwards, most of his family went to Kanawha County to an area called the Grape Vine, near Charleston.”
Unfortunately, Laura Blake did not get all the fact correct in the above statement. William’s wife Nancy SIMS did not die around 1845 during a typhoid fever epidemic. She was seen living with her son William Hunter JOHNSON in Kanawha County in 1860.
After his mother’s death, William’s wife Nancy gave him his last child Morris Houston JOHNSON (1839-1845) on 21 January 1839 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia.
William’s daughter Mary JOHNSON married David Alexander MILLER (1820-1871) on 13 December 18399 in Fayette County, (West) Virginia.
William’s sisters Elizabeth FOSTER and Susannah SIMS died before the 1840 census.
1840 U.S. Federal Census
Fayette County, (West) Virginia
Johnson, William Sr. (page 145)
2 males under 5 yo (William Hunter and Morris Houston)
1 male 5 & under 10 yo (Lewis)
1 male 15 & under 20 yo (John Brown)
1 male 20 & under 30 yo (Alexander)
1 male 40 & under 50 yo (William)
1 female under 5 yo (Nancy)
1 female 15 & under 20 yo (Amy)
1 female 20 & under 30 yo (Huldah)
1 female 30 & under 40 yo (Nancy Ann; should be listed as 40 & under 50 yo)
10 persons in household
2 persons engaged in agriculture
In 1845 during an epidemic of typhoid fever, three members of the family died.
William’s sons died within three weeks of each other: Morris Houston JOHNSON died 11 August 1845 and Lewis JOHNSON died 31 August 1845.
William JOHNSON followed his sons on 18 December 1845. They are all buried in the Nichols Cemetery in Fayette County.
© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.
- Laidley, William Sydney, History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens, Richmond Arnold Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1911; pg. 979 (https://archive.org/stream/historyofcharles00laid#page/n5/mode/2up : accessed September 2014). ↩
- Christine Beckelheimer, submitter; “Benjamin Johnson”; The History of Fayette County West Virginia 1993; sponsored and published by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, page 32. ↩
- Wayne L. Johnson and Carl L. Johnson; These Lost Children of the Marquis of Annandale, Johnstone-Johnston-Johnson, Notes & Compilations in three volumes, Vol. II First Americans, Charleston, West Virginia. A copy of this draft (a work in progress) received in the mail on 16 July 2014 from Wayne via Tim Spradling. ↩
- Oren F. Morton, The History of Monroe County, West Virginia, published by McClure Company, Inc., Staunton, Va. 1916; online https://archive.org/stream/historyofmonroec00mort#page/n5/mode/2up ↩
- Laidley’s History; pg. 235 ↩
- Laidley’s History; pg. 979 ↩
- Larry Heffner, email dated 10 August 2004 in reply to my request for information on marriage papers of Martin Sims and Susanna Johnson in the archives of the Greenbrier Historical Society. ↩
- The History of Fayette County West Virginia 1993; sponsored and published by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. ↩
- Sissonville A Time to Remember, The Sissonville Historical Awareness Committee, pg. 108; online http://www.rootsweb.com/~wvkanawh/Sissonville/index.html ↩