The Ancestors: Martin McGRAW and his wife Margaret (394 & 395)

The parents of my 4th great-grandmother Mary Ann McGRAW were Martin McGRAW and his wife Margaret. This was proven by a tiny slip of paper in which they gave permission for their daughter to marry William WOOD in June 1800.1

June
Sir, this coms (sic) to let you now (sic) that
I Marten and Marget Mcgraw
is willing that William Wood should

have our daughter Mary Ann
To John Hutchason (Clerk)
The above was sworn to by
John Wood one of the witnesses
present.

The bond2 entered 18 June 1800 for the marriage of William and Mary Ann doesn’t give information on their parentage nor does the entry made in the register for marriages performed in the county of Monroe by John ALDERSON.3

Martin McGRAW and his wife Margaret

Very few records link my 5th great-grandparents Martin and Margaret McGRAW to their possible children.

Were Martin and Margaret the only family of this name in the area at the time? Were they or could they be the parents of each of the young McGRAW men and women who married in Greenbrier, Monroe, and Nicholas counties from 1798 to 1820?

[1] Anthony McGRAW married Elizabeth BRYANT 3 October 1798 in Greenbrier4
[2] John McGRAW married Sally ANDERSON 15 February 1799 in Greenbrier5
[3] Mary Ann McGRAW married William WOOD 18 June 1800 in Monroe (see above)
[4] Martin McGRAW Jr. married Nancy WOOD 3 May 1806 in Monroe6
[5] William McGRAW married Lucretia WITHROW 11 March 1813 in Monroe7
[6] Elender McGRAW married Solomon NELSON 1 March 1810 in Greenbrier8
[7] Samuel McGRAW married Elizabeth WOOD 28 May 1812 in Monroe9
[8] Thomas McGRAW married Catherine WITHROW 30 July 1820 in Nicholas10
[9] Henry McGRAW married likely before 1821. No marriage record found.

These marriages took place during a period when census records were lost for Virginia (1800) and Greenbrier County (1810) where Martin and Margaret were living. This makes analyzing the family group(s) in a census impossible. What other records are available to replace the missing records?

Personal Property Tax Lists

The early laws required the tax commissioner in each district to record in “a fair alphabetical list” the names of the person chargeable with the tax, the names of white male tithables over the age of twenty-one, the number of white male tithables between ages sixteen and twenty-one, the number of slaves both above and below age sixteen, various types of animals such as horses and cattle, carriage wheels, ordinary licenses, and even billiard tables.11

Personal property tax records provide important data. Individuals with the same names may be distinguished by a junior or senior or named by the districts or location they resided. Parentage may be inferred by the number of male tithables between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one in the household of the taxpayer. When a free male appeared in his own name rather than in the household of another, he was probably twenty-one years of age. The name of a woman appeared only when owning property in her own right or as the widow of a property owner.

The Personal property tax lists, 1782-1850 for Greenbrier County and the Personal property tax lists, 1831-1850 for Fayette County are presently only available online with additional restrictions, i.e. accessing the FamilySearch site at a family history center or at a FamilySearch affiliate library.

Julie McGrew Ayres accessed these records and shared her transcriptions in February 1999 on USGenWeb Archives Special Projects. I used her lists of McGRAW tithables in Greenbrier County for 1792 to 183312  and in Fayette County for 1831-183913  to form the possible family group of Martin and Margaret.

Martin McGRAW and Anthony McGRAW first appear in the 1796 Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia Personal Property Tax List. In 1792 and 1795 no McGRAW was listed. This would suggest the McGRAWs came to the area just before 1796.

[1] Anthony McGRAW b. abt. 1775

As Anthony married in 1798 and was the only McGRAW other than Martin on the tax list of 1796, he was likely the oldest son. He was continuously seen on the tax list up until 1812. From 1813 to 1816 there were no McGRAW men on the lists for Greenbrier. Anthony served as a Private in Capt. McClung’s Company of the 4th Regiment of the Virginia Militia during the War of 1812. He died on 1 August 1814 per documents in his widow’s War of 1812 widow’s pension application.14 It may have been later in the month as she gave in this statement in her an application in 1853:

 …that her said husband the aforesaid Anthony McGraw died at Norfork about the last days of August 1814 in consequence of decease contracted while in the Service of the United States and in the line of his duty…

[2] John McGRAW b. abt. 1776 in Pennsylvania

John shows up on the 1797 tax list which would suggest he was born about 1776. He was seen on the tax list until 1800, the year after his marriage. In 1810 he was found on a tax list for Russell County, Virginia.15 According to descendants of the Russell County McGRAWs, his wife Sally died in 1805.  If this is the case, John must have remarried as there are children born after 1805. In 1850 he was listed as born in Pennsylvania.16

[3] Mary Ann McGRAW b. abt. 1781

Mary Ann’s age can only be determined by the year of her marriage. She married in 1800 and was likely not yet 21 years of age as her parents gave their permission. This record proves she was a child of Martin and Margaret.

[4] Martin McGRAW Jr. b. abt. 1785 in Pennsylvania

Note: Martin McGRAW, son of Martin, has not been seen with the suffix Jr. following his name. It is used here to distinguish him from his father Martin.)

Martin Jr. was married in 1806. He was likely the second white tithable in his father’s tax listing from 1803 to 1805. His father Martin was last listed on the 1805 tax list. His mother Margaret was listed from 1810. Martin Jr. lived in Monroe County in 1810 and was on the census as a male white age 26 thru 44.17 He died 25 October 1858 in Fayette County per his widow’s War of 1812 widow’s application.18 His widow was his second wife Sarah JOHNSON who died about July 1890. His first wife Nancy WOOD died 1 July 1833 (proven by Neighbors’ Affidavits in the pension file). In 1850 Martin was listed on a census in Putnam County as born in Pennsylvania.19 Ages weren’t listed for persons enumerated in this area of the county in 1850. His year of birth has been estimated at about 1785.

[5] William McGRAW b. abt. 1787-1788

William first showed up on the tax list in 1809 and 1811. No tax was collected in 1808 as no law was passed. As he was on the 1809 list he must have been born 1787-1788. William has not been traced after his marriage in 1813.

[6] Elender McGRAW b. abt. 1789

Elender was likely 21 years of age when she married in 1810. She died in 1846 in her 57th year per her tombstone.20

[7] Samuel McGRAW abt. 1792 in Augusta County, Virginia

Samuel, born about 1792, may have been one of the two tithables noted on his mother’s tax list in 1810. His age was consistent on the census of 1850 to 1870, allowing his year of birth to be estimated at about 1792.21,22,23 Samuel gave his age as 74 years and his place of birth as Augusta County, Virginia, on 15 September 1866 on a voters’ list.24

[8] Thomas McGRAW b. abt. 1795 in Virginia

Thomas’ wife gave the names of his parents as Martin and Margaret McGRAW when she reported his death in 1855. He died at the age of 60.25 Using this record, his birth was estimated at about 1795 making him 22 years old when he was first seen on a tax list in Greenbrier on 11 April 1817 with 1 white male over 16, no slaves, 1 horse. He was born in Virginia per the 1850 census26 but unknown was listed on the death register by his wife.

[9] Henry McGRAW abt. 1797 in Greenbrier County

Henry was seen on the census from 1850 to 1870 with the ages 52, 63, and 72 which places his birth at about 1797.27,28,29 In 1820 he was the head of household in Monroe in the age category 16 thru 25. Also in the household was an older woman age 45 and over, likely his mother, and a younger boy age 10 thru 15.30 Henry may have married in late 1820 after the census was enumerated as his first child was born in 1821. In 1830 Henry had an older woman in his household age 70 thru 79.31 This was the last time an older woman was seen in the household of the presumable youngest child of Martin and Margaret.

Martin McGRAW and Margaret McGRAW on the Tax Lists

As can be seen on the list below, Martin was in Greenbrier County as early as 1796 and up until at least 1805. From 180332 to 1805 he had at least one son who was over 16 and under 21 years of age. This was likely Martin Jr. The sons William, Samuel, Thomas, and Henry were all under 17 years of age in 1805.

1796 April 17 – Martin Mgraw, 1 white tithable, 3 horses
1798 May 4 – Martin Megraw, 1 white tithable, 1 horse
1799 April 19 – Martin Megraw, 1 white tithable
1802 May 22 – Martin McGraw, 1 white tithable
1803 April 5 – Martin McGraw, 2 white tithables, 1 horse
1804 March 14 – Martin McGraw, 2 white tithables, 2 horses
1805 – Martin Magraw, 2 white tithables, 3 horses

Margaret McGRAW, the widow of Martin, showed up on the Tax List in 1810 with 2 white tithables and 4 horses.33 Her sons Samuel and Thomas were likely these tithables. Henry was younger than 17 and not counted. In 1811 Margaret was on the Tax List with only 3 horses. No tithables. Her three unmarried sons would have been between 14 and 19 years of age and two tithables would have been enumerated if they were living at home. Were the two older boys accounted for in someone else’s household in Greenbrier or Monroe?

Missing Land and Probate Records

Land deeds in the area were consulted. Martin McGRAW did not own land in Greenbrier or in Monroe (the counties of Nicholas and Fayette were formed after his demise). He did not leave a will nor was there an estate administered, inventoried, or sold. All of these records which might have included information about the children of Martin and Margaret were not produced.

Proven Children

The parentage of my fourth great-grandmother Mary Ann McGRAW and her brother Thomas McGRAW is proven as seen above. As Martin and Margaret were the only McGRAW couple in the area at the time can it be inferred that the other seven children were theirs as well?

More Questions

With the proven and assumed children of Martin and Margaret established, several more questions remain. Where did they come from? Who were the parents of Martin McGRAW? What was Margaret’s maiden name? Who were Margaret’s parents?

Martin’s older sons John b. abt. 1776 and Martin b. abt. 1785 both claim to have been born in Pennsylvania. His son Samuel claimed to have been born in Augusta County in 1792. Martin was first seen on a tax list in Greenbrier in 1796. Can it be assumed the McGRAWs came from Pennsylvania after 1785 via Augusta County in 1792 to Greenbrier by 1796?

Learning more about Pennsylvania research appears to be one of the next steps in solving the question of the parentage of my 5th great-grandparents Martin McGRAW and his wife Margaret.

Confirming Relationships with DNA

Can DNA open the door in this brick wall? How much work needs to be put into analyzing DNA matches to confirm the assumed relationships seen above?

Ancestry’s ThruLines™ is showing 159 matches for Martin McGRAW’s children for my test and 187 for my brother’s. Matches for each child are (mine/his): Anthony (15/24), John (27/32), Mary Ann (45/32), Martin (21/48), William (1/1), Ellender (2/2), Samuel (26/17),  Thomas (8/11), and Henry (14/19).

Interesting is the high number of matches for John who left the area and raised his family in Russell County, Virginia. Also interesting is the very low number of matches for William and Ellender. I suspect William is a false match. Ellender’s matches are close family members and one of them is showing up on Gedmatch. The chromosome segment overlaps the segment shared with a known descendant of Henry McGRAW.

Three of the McGRAW children (in bold) married WOOD siblings. This produces many double cousins through the McGRAW and the WOOD lines. This will make walking the segments back to the common ancestors more challenging – if the matches transfer their raw DNA to sites with chromosomes browsers.

And now it’s your turn, dear McGRAW descendants, to comment and question the family group established for my 5th great-grandparents, Martin and Margaret McGRAW.

© 2020, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr), West Virginia, Monroe County, June 1800, William Wood and Mary Ann McGraw, permission slip from her parents. 1800 Marriage Permission Slip. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11370465&Type=Marriage : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  2. Ibid., West Virginia, Monroe County, Marriage Bond dated 18 June 1800 for the marriage of William Wood and Mary Ann McGraw. “Marriage Bond #39
    William Wood and John Wood went bond on the marriage of William Wood and Mary Anne McGraw (both of Monroe) on 18 June 1800 in Monroe County, Virginia.” 1800 Marriage Bond (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11370480&Type=Marriage : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  3. Ibid., West Virginia, Monroe County, 18 June 1800 William Wood and Mary Ann McGraw married by John Alderson. 1800 Marriage Record entry (right page, 1st entry under Alderson). (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11369625&Type=Marriage : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  4. Ibid., West Virginia, Greenbrier County, 3 October 1799 marriage entry for Anthony McGraw and Betsy Brien married by John Alderson. 1799 Marriage Entry (right page, 11th entry from bottom). (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=10975169&Type=Marriage : accessed 10 January 2020). 
  5. Ibid., West Virginia, Greenbrier County, 15 February 1799 marriage entry for John McGraw and Sally Anderson married by B. Grigsby. 1799 Marriage Entry (right page, 12th entry from bottom).
    (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=10975169&Type=Marriage : accessed 10 January 2020). 
  6. Ibid., West Virginia, Monroe County, 3 May 1806, Nancy Wood and Martin McGraw married by John Alderson, banns were published. 1806 Marriage Record (right page, 4th entry from bottom). (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11369727&Type=Marriage : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  7. Ibid., West Virginia, Monroe County, 11 March 1813, William McGraw and Lucretia Withrow married by John Alderson. 1813 Marriage entry (right side, middle). (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11369506&Type=Marriage : accessed 10 January 2020). 
  8. Ibid., West Virginia, Greenbrier County, 1 March 1810, Solomon Nelson and El McGraw married by Joshua Osborn. 1810 Marriage entry (right page, second to last entry)
    (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=10976269&Type=Marriage : accessed 10 January 2020). 
  9. Ibid., West Virginia, Monroe County, marriage bond dated 19 May 1812, Samuel McGraw and Bailey Wood went bond on the marriage of Bailey’s daughter Elizabeth Wood and Samuel McGraw. 1812 Marriage Bond. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11371819&Type=Marriage : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  10. Ibid., West Virginia, Nicholas County, 31 July 1820, Thomas McGraw and Caty Withrow married by James Ellison. 1820 Marriage Register (line 2). (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=11432815&Type=Marriage : accessed 10 January 2020). 
  11. Using Personal Property Tax Records in the Archives at the Library of Virginia, Library of Virginia (https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/rn3_persprop.pdf : accessed 18 January 2020) 
  12. Julie McGrew-Ayres, “Greenbrier County, WV – McGraw’s in the Greenbrier Co. Tax Lists – 1792-1833,” abstract of the tax lists submitted in February 1999, USGenWeb Archives Special Projects,  (http://files.usgwarchives.net/wv/greenbrier/taxlists/mcgraw.txt : accessed 9 January 2020). 
  13. Julie McGrew-Ayres, “Fayette County, WV – McGraw’s in the Fayette Co. Tax Lists – 1831-1839,” abstract of the tax lists submitted in February 1999, USGenWeb Archives Special Projects, (http://files.usgwarchives.net/wv/fayette/taxlists/mcgrawtx.txt : accessed 9 January 2020). 
  14. “War of 1812 Pension Files,” database and images, Fold3, citing “War of 1812 Pension and Bounty land Warrant Application Files, compiled ca. 1871–1900, documenting the period 1812–ca.1900, National Archives, Washington, D.C., original data from The National Archives (http://www.archives.gov), Record Group 15, Roll RG15-1812PB-Bx2276, National Archives Catalog ID: 564415, service of Anthony McGraw (Capt McClung 4th Reg’t, Virginia Militia, War of 1812), widow Elizabeth Gill formerly Elizabeth McGraw. (https://www.fold3.com/image/316993307 : accessed 4 January 2020). 
  15. 1790 / 1800 / 1810 Virginia Tax List Censuses, (reconstructed 1790, 1800, and 1810 federal censuses using tax list, microfilm images with every name indexes), Binns Genealogy (http://www.binnsgenealogy.com/VirginiaTaxListCensuses/) citing original records from Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia or Family History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, Russell County, Virginia, 1810 Personal Tax List A, page 13, right line, line 12, John McGraw. 1810 Russell County, Virginia Tax List. (http://www.binnsgenealogy.com/FreeSample/CDR-000497/1810/1810PersonalA/13.pdf : accessed 16 January 2020). 
  16. 1850 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry, citing Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 54, Russell, Virginia; Roll: M432_975; Page: 307A; Image: 184. John McGraw (head of household) listed as born in Pennsylvania. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 9 January 2020). 
  17. 1810 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), <i>Ancestry</i>, citing Third Census of the United States, 1810 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M252, 71 rolls, Year: 1810; Census Place: Monroe, Monroe, Virginia; Roll: 70; Page: 575; Image: 00022; Family History Library Film: 0181430Family History Library Film: 0181420. “.” (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 2 January 2020). 
  18. War of 1812 Pension Files, Roll RG15-1812PB-Bx2276, National Archives Catalog ID: 564415, service of Martin McGraw (5th Regiment, Capt. James R. Nemal’s Company, Virginia Militia, War of 1812), widow Sarah Jane (Johnson) McGraw. (https://www.fold3.com/image/316993473 : accessed 4 January 2020). 
  19. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 46, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M432_971; Page: 287A; Image: 243. Martin McGraw (head of household) born in Pennsylvania. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  20. Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 22 January 2020), memorial page for Elender “Nellie” McGraw Nelson (1788–2 Aug 1845), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55298224, citing Nelson Cemetery, Richland Township, Madison County, Indiana, USA; Maintained by Bonnie Morris Conrad (contributor 46480766). 
  21. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Year: 1850; Census Place: District 14, Fayette, Virginia; Roll: M432_943; Page: 351A; Image: 307. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  22. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Eighth Census of the United States, 1860 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls, Year: 1860; Census Place: District 3, Fayette, Virginia; Roll: M653_1344; Page: 367; Family History Library Film: 805344. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  23. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), Ancestry, citing Ninth Census of the United States, 1870 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls, Year: 1870; Census Place: Mountain Cove, Fayette, West Virginia; Roll: M593_1686; Page: 140B; Family History Library Film: 553185. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  24. County Clerk, Register of the Names of Voters in Fayette County, West Virginia 1866, FamilySearch, Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1958 (Microfilm of originals at the West Virginia University Library, Morgantown), Names of persons voting and tally of votes, Item 7, Mountain Cove, image 130 of 154, last line. 15 September 1866 Samuel McGraw gave his age as 74 years and his place of birth as Augusta County, Virginia. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C34W-543H?i=129&cat=220730 : accessed 16 January 2020). 
  25. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History, (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr). 1855 Death Register entry for Thomas McGraw line 68. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=4786546&Type=Death : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  26. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Census Place: District 46, Putnam, Virginia; Roll: M432_971; Page: 281B; Image: 232. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 22 January 2020). 
  27. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Census Place: District 14, Fayette, Virginia; Roll: M432_943; Page: 338A; Image: 281+282. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 7 September 2014). 
  28. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Census Place: District 3, Fayette, Virginia; Roll: M653_1344; Page: 410; Family History Library Film: 805344. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 7 September 2014). 
  29. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Census Place: Mountain Cove, Fayette, West Virginia; Roll: M593_1686; Page: 156A; Family History Library Film: 553185. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 7 September 2014). 
  30. 1820 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), <i>Ancestry</i>, citing Fourth Census of the United States, 1820 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M33, 142 rolls, 1820 U Census Place: Peterstown, Monroe, Virginia; Page: 179; NARA Roll: M33_133; Image: 218. (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 8 January 2020). 
  31. 1830 U.S. Federal Census, (index and images), <i>Ancestry</i>, citing Fifth Census of the United States, 1830 population schedule, National Archive and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M19, 201 rolls, Census Place: Greenbrier, Virginia; Series: M19; Roll: 190; Page: 192; Family History Library Film: 0029669. “.” (https://www.ancestry.com/ : accessed 7 September 2014). 
  32. Virginia Tax List (Binnsgenealogy), Greenbrier, 1803 Personal Tax List B, page 14, line 18, Martin McGraw. (http://www.binnsgenealogy.com/VirginiaTaxListCensuses/Greenbrier/1803PersonalB/14.jpg : accessed 7 September 2014). 
  33. Ibid., Virginia, Greenbrier County, 1810 Personal Tax List B, page 8, right side, line 2, Margaret McGraw. (http://www.binnsgenealogy.com/FreeSample/CDR-000484/1810/1810PersonalB/08.pdf : accessed 16 January 2020). 

52 Ancestors: #36 William JOHNSON Jr. 1793-1845

52ancestors“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.

Photo courtesy of Carl L. Johnson.

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.

1810censusjohnson
1810 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Kanawha > Kanawha > image 4 of 16 [ancestry.com]
1810 U.S. Federal Census
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
Kanawha
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.

    • James M. JOHNSON married Elizabeth MILLER ( -1823) on 29 April 1813 in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
    • Nelson JOHNSON married Nancy MURPHY in 1813 in Kanawha County
    • William JOHNSON married Nancy Ann SIMS on 15 October 1814 in Kanawha County.

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.

1820censusjohnson
1820 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Nicholas [https://archive.org/stream/populationsc18200130unit#page/n388/mode/1up : accessed 10 May 2014]
1820 U.S. Federal Census
Nicholas County, (West) Virginia
Page No: 204B
Enumerated by: Hedgman Triplett on the 26th day of December 1820
William Johnson
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.

1830censusjohnson
1830 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Kanawha [https://archive.org/stream/populationsc18300191unit#page/n397/mode/1up : accessed 11 May 2014]
1830 U.S. Federal Census
Kanawha County, (West) Virginia
Johnston, William
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:

Courtesy of Gary Johnston (Facebook message dated 1 May 2013)

“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.

1840censusjohnson
1840 U.S. Federal Census > VA > Fayette > page 145 [https://archive.org/stream/populationsch1840555unit#page/n298/mode/1up : accessed 11 May 2014]
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

William and Nancy’s oldest daughter Huldah JOHNSON married Robert INGRAM (1819-1902) about 1841 in Fayette County (West) Virginia.

Courtesy of Gary Johnston (Facebook message dated 1 May 2013)

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.


  1. 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). 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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 
  5. Laidley’s History; pg. 235 
  6. Laidley’s History; pg. 979 
  7. 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. 
  8. The History of Fayette County West Virginia 1993; sponsored and published by the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. 
  9. Sissonville A Time to Remember, The Sissonville Historical Awareness Committee, pg. 108; online http://www.rootsweb.com/~wvkanawh/Sissonville/index.html