Over the years I’ve received several inquiries for help from women wanting to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Many want to prove lineal, bloodline descent from my fifth great-grandfather William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805), a Revolutionary soldier, who died in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia.
I have few records for William JOHNSON Sr. which were created during his lifetime or immediately following his death. While checking into new records available online at FamilySearch, I found a record which has not been alluded to in compilations or family trees I’ve viewed.
Did William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805) leave a will?
I recently found the Administrator’s Bond for the estate of the late William JOHNSTON (sic).1 His son John applied for the bond which is dated 9 April 1806 a little over three months after 22 December 1805, the date of death many researchers show for William in their family tree.
1806 Administrator Bond for the Estate of William JOHNSON
Know all men by these Presents that we John Johnston Henry Morris & Charles Woodey King are held and firmly bound unto David Ruffner William Morris Henry Brown & Fleming Cotts Gentlemen Justices now setting for the County Kanawha. In the penal sum of one Thousand dollars to be paid to them or their Successors and for the payment we bind ourselves our heirs Executors or Administrators Jointly & severaly by these presents sealed with our seals and dated this 9th day of April 1806.
The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas the Said John Johnston hath Obtained letters of Administration of the Estate of William Johnston Dec out of the County cour (sic) of Kanawha. Now if the said John Johnston Administrator of the goods chattels & credits of the said Deceased do make a True and perfect Inventory of all & singular the Goods Chattels & credits of the Said Deceased which have or shall come into the hands, Possession or Knowledge of him the said John Johnston as in the hands or Possession of any other person or persons for the said John Johnston and the same so made do exhibit unto the County Court of Kanawha when he shall be Thereunto required
by the said court and such goods chattels & credits do well and Truly Adminestor according to Law, and further do make a Just and True Account of his actings and doings therein when thereto required by the said Court and all the rest of the said Goods and Chattels & credits which shall be found remaining upon the account of the said Administrator the same being first Examined and allowed by the Justices of the said court for the Time shall Deliver and pay unto such persons respectively az are entitled to the same by Law; and if it shall hereafter appear that any last Will and Testament was made by the Deceased and the same be Proved in Court and the Executor Obtain a Certificate of the Probit thereof and the Said John Johnston do in such case being required render and deliver up his letters of administration then this obligation to be void else to remain in Force and Virtue.
Acknowledged in Open Court……………………..John Johnston Seal
Teste…………………………………………………………….Henry S. Morris (his mark) Seal
A Donnally Ckl…………………………………………….Chs. W. King Seal
The bond was acknowledged in Open Court however no date was given. The entries before and after the bond were entered during Kanawha County April Court 1806. The bond itself was dated 9 April 1806.
William JOHNSON did not leave a will
The wording of the bond indicates William JOHNSON did not leave a will. This is unfortunate as a will might have included the names of his children. A document desperately sought after by descendants who are trying to prove descent from this Revolutionary War veteran.
John JOHNSON’s obtaining letters of administration of the estate of “William JOHNSTON” is suggestive of a relationship but not proof John was his son.
The consensus is William JOHNSON Sr. died on 22 December 1805. An early source with this date is Ross B. Johnston’s articles on West Virginians in the Revolution2 written between 1939-1947. Per the front matter in the republished work, “the sources of this material are notes from the files of the Pension Office at Washington, from the pension applications in West Virginia counties, and from the minute books of the older West Virginia counties, copied by W. P. A. workers on the project sponsored by the West Virginia Commission on Historic and Scenic Markers; from notes of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Revolution, and other patriotic societies; and from a large miscellaneous group of published and private sources.”
I placed a query to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook asking for help with a reliable source for the date of death. Lucy Light Slaich who applied and was accepted to the DAR in 2010 through William JOHNSON did not need to prove his date of death. She indicated Mr. Johnston’s article on William JOHNSON in the 1998 reprint, was originally published in the April 1943 issue of the West Virginia History journal. The compilation which was used by prior applicants is no longer accepted by DAR.
Not satisfied, I continued to sift through information which has been collected over the years and found a 1911 publication which gives the dates of death for William JOHNSON and his wife Amy NELSON.3 Laidley in his compilation of representative citizens of the city of Charleston and Kanawha County wrote an article on Julian M. JOHNSON (1847-1932), a great-grandson of William JOHNSON through his son William JOHNSON Jr. This is the earliest source, although not primary, I have for the dates of death of William and Amy.
Did the estate generate other records?
While the administrator bond was found in the “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” collection, I turned to the “Court record book, 1803-1880” collection in search of entries about William JOHNSON’s estate in Kanawha County.
As William supposedly died on 22 December 1805, I checked entries in 1805 and 1806. The court was held on the 12th and 13th of November 1805; 11th day of February 1806; 11th day of March 1806; 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th day of April 1806; 13th of May; and 10th day of June. Little business was taken care of during the winter months. By April business had picked up and the court was held four days instead of the usual one or two days. It was in April when John JOHNSON made a motion to obtain an administrator bond for the estate of his father.4
Motion granted for administration
On the motion of John Johnston who made oath and together with Henry Morris, Charles W. King his securities entered into & acknowledged their bond in the penalty of $1000 conditioned as the law directs certificate of administration of the estate of William Johnston dec’d granted him in due form.
Appraisal of personal property ordered
Immediately after the bond of administration motion was granted another entry was made referencing the estate of William JOHNSON. (see image above)
Ordered that Edward Rion, Edward Hughs, James Sims & John Campbell (or any three of them) being first sworn before a Justice of the Peace for said do appraize the Personal property of the said William Johnston decd and return appraisement to the next court.
From entries during the year in the court orders as well as in the land books (which include personal property tax lists of the period), I was able to determine Edward RION should be Edward RYAN.
Interesting was the mention of James SIMS as one of the four men who were ordered to appraise the personal property of the deceased William JOHNSON. James and William were neighbors. Three of the JOHNSON children married three of the SIMS children: Susannah JOHNSON and Martin SIMS in 1800, John JOHNSON and Elizabeth SIMS in 1802, and William JOHNSON Jr. and Nancy Ann SIMS in 1814. I was not expecting to find a record for James SIMS who like William JOHNSON was my 5th great-grandfather.
Further searches in the collections available for viewing online on FamilySearch did not turn up the appraisement of the estate.
Finding the bond documents William JOHNSON died before 9 April 1806 and likely during the winter of 1805. Is it possible there is a family Bible in the home of one of his descendants which would prove the dates given in Laidley’s 1911 article?
I have a few more records for William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON which I’ll be sharing. Recent discoveries which I have not had time to evaluate. It would be nice if other descendants would join in on the fun and share records they’ve uncovered. Together we can do a better job researching these ancestors.
© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.
- Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film # 008152450, Deed books v. C-D 1805-1817, Deed Book C, page 122-123, image 69 of 582. 9 April 1806 Administrator’s Bond for John Johnson for the estate of William Johnson.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSKV-KSNR-L?i=68&cat=56556 : accessed 26 April 2018). ↩
- Ross B. Johnston, compiler, West Virginians in the American Revolution (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Publishing Co, 1998 (originally published in the West Virginia Archives and History’s journal West Virginia History from October 1939 to October 1947 as West Virginians in the Revolution)), p. 151. (https://books.google.lu/books/about/West_Virginians_in_the_American_Revoluti.html?id=_mg1bCpc1KAC&redir_esc=y : accessed 8 September 2019) ↩
- William Sydney Laidley (1839-1917), History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens (Richmond-Arnold Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 1911), page 979. “William Johnson, Sr. died on Gauley December 22, 1805. His wife lived until December 23, 1837.” Article on Julian M. Johnson, great-grandson of William Johnson and his wife Amy. (https://archive.org/details/historyofcharles00laid/page/978 : accessed 8 Oct 2015). ↩
- Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Court record book, 1803-1880” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film #521643, DGS #8613717, Record book v. 3 1803-1819, image 178+179 of 857. Administrator Bond and Order to Appraise estate of William Johnson, dec’d. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C34Z-SSJ3-N?i=177&cat=295049 : accessed 8 October 2015). ↩