Johnstons ~ The Johns(t)ons from Caskieben to Missouri

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Randy has generously shared these for publication with the Christian County Mogen Web site.No data may be reproduced or published without permission of the author. Please note that web host to delete names and data of the living altered the manuscript.  


NOTE: I do not trace ancestors in Europe because a) I have no independent means of verifying the relationships and b) the lines drawn by many “researchers” are so thread-bare as to lack credibility. However, the Scottish Johnston/Johnstones were of noble rank, and their lineages were maintained in royal records.

The Johnson or Johnston family whose descendants eventually settled in southwest Missouri are traced to a Scottish ilk or noble family that dates, without interruption for centuries, from the refugee Stephen de Johnstone, who came to the county of Aberdeenshire on the east coast of Scotland in the mid-1300s. Stephen, known as “The Cleric,” was fleeing troubles in his native area, Annandale on the southwest shores of the country, where the Johnstones were the chief family.

(Johnston or Johnstone is pronounced Johnson in most of Scotland, and the spelling generally changed in America.)

Family traditions in Scotland indicate that Stephen had claimed the title of his father, Sir John de Johnstone, the Laird (Lord) of Annandale, but had not succeeded in a contest with his brother Gilbert. Stephen’s immediate male descendants were named John and Gilbert, which corresponded with the prevailing Johnstone family names in Annandale (Dumfriesshire).

In Aberdeen, Stephen – who had an extraordinary education for anyone not in the priesthood -- became secretary to the powerful Earl of Mar, who reigned almost autonomously over the area during the period of King David Bruce, Scotland’s ruler from 1329 to 1371. Such easy entry into the household of the earl spoke to a similar background for Stephen.

Stephen married Margaret Garioch (also Garviach or Garviehaugh), daughter of Andrew, from a noble family that had come to Britain with William the Conqueror from France in the late 11th century. The Garioch family had not rivaled the Earl of Mar for power, but included local sheriffs (who functioned as tax collectors) among its forebears.

Stephen’s great-great-grandson, Alexander, born in 1434, collected the rapidly growing family lands into the free barony of Caskieben, and the family for 200 years was known as the Johnstons of Caskieben. That area now is part of greater Aberdeen called Dyce. The family also had cadet branches (lines from younger sons) based at Crimond and Craig.

The family’s influence grew as it intermarried extensively with other noble families, in particular the Forbes and the Stewart royal family of Scotland.

Sir George Johnston (1544-1592) ascended as a child to the family titles and properties and married Christian Forbes. His father had been killed at the Battle of Pinkie in September 1547, and Queen Elizabeth granted George his charter the following year at age 4. George and Christian had at least 13 children who came of age as the English were colonizing Virginia. A close Johnston relative of the family moved to London and became deputy treasurer of the Virginia Company, who recruited settlers for the colony -- which may account for the migration of several Johnston families in the 1600s.

Among the sons of George Sr. was Arthur (1587-1641), the personal physician to English King Charles I (a regicide through beheading) and an accomplished poet.

The family titles and lands, however, descended to the eldest son John Johnston (1565-February 1814), who married first Janet Turing of Foveran, another community in Aberdeenshire. Their son Sir George lost much of the family lands including the castle at Caskieben (now known as Keith Hall), but he gained a royal grant for extensive properties in colonial Nova Scotia, became baronet of Nova Scotia in 1626 and sheriff of Aberdeen in 1630.

John married second Katherine Lundy of Fife, who was heiress to extensive lands known as Craig in the Aberdeen area, and those properties and the title of Laird of Craig passed to their son Thomas (1598-August 1656).

Laird Thomas Johnston of Craig married Mary Irvine as his second wife. Their son James Johnson (c. 1650-1716) was christened in July 1656 and married first Margaret Alexander on Nov. 23, 1672 at St. Nicholas Church in Aberdeen. The couple had four sons and two daughters before Margaret died around 1685.

The Johnsons and Massies of Virginia

James remarried to Faith Leith in 1686 and in the 1690s migrated with all of his family except eldest son James Jr. to New Kent Co., VA. Accompanying him were his three youngest sons – John, Alexander and Benjamin Johnson. Genealogists had not included Benjamin in this family until recent DNA tests of Johnson descendants proved the relationship.

James Sr. in 1701 and 1704 acquired 150 acres of former Indian lands in the Pamunkey (River) Neck of northern Virginia that included the site of a former village and became known as Old Town in King William Co. James died there in 1716 and left his estate, by English law and tradition, to eldest son John.

Little is known of son Alexander Johnson, other than three sons who were born from 1708 to 1714 in New Kent Co., VA and the possibility that he married a descendant of Richmond Terrell.

John and Benjamin, however, married women from the family of Peter and Penelope Massie, who were likewise descendants of prominent English families that joined the flood of royalist Cavaliers into Virginia in the last half of the 17th century.

Peter (1639-Christmas Day 1719), considered a man of means, had come to New Kent Co. by November 1670 when he patented lands. He, by tradition, had married Penelope Ashley or Ashley-Cooper in England.

The Massies (or Masseys in England) also had come from France with William the Conqueror and settled in the northwest in Cheshire at the family seat of Dunham Massey. Through several generations of heirs, all named Hamon Massey, the family established itself as a power broker in that area. Peter’s branch, however, had relocated to Coddington, Cheshire nearer the coast along the River Mersey.

Penelope’s background provides murky, but intriguing material, based on family legends.

Penelope is recalled as the illegitimate daughter of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper (1621-1683), the Earl of Shaftesbury who was prominent in the development of the Carolina colonies. In the contest for English rule, he sided with the royalists until 1644, served on Oliver Cromwell’s council of state until 1654 and then switched again to the side of those seeking a restoration of the Crown with King Charles II, which occurred in 1660.

Named a baron in 1661, Sir Anthony became chancellor of the exchequer of England and was granted, with a handful of other nobles, ownership of colonial Carolina (then undivided). He commissioned his friend and the noted philosopher John Locke to write a constitution for the colony, which was rapidly populating as numerous families migrated from the English Caribbean colony of Barbados to the American mainland.

He and his allies founded the Whig movement in England and dominated Parliament for several sessions. Sir Anthony became lord chancellor and president of the King’s privy council, but was deposed in 1679 and died shortly thereafter in Holland.

Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper was born to Sir John Cooper and Lady Anne Ashley, an heiress whose father required that his family name pass on as the surname of her descendants. (Indeed, the given name of Ashley was common among branches of the Johnsons in America.)

Although he sired only one legitimate son despite three marriages, Sir Anthony was known to have several bastard children. The mother of Penelope has been the subject of speculation, but no proof. Even less well conceived are the logistical problems of connecting Penelope from London to the relatively provincial outpost of Coddington and the Massies. One theory posits that the natural mother of Penelope was a Massie relative. It is not known whether Peter, for example, was schooled or spent time in the English capital, which would have given him the opportunity to meet and court Penelope, assuming she lived there.

Peter and Penelope’s daughter Elizabeth Massie married John Johnson, the eldest son of James the Emigrant, before 1699 in New Kent Co. Family legends recalled this daughter as Lucretia, but Quaker records show she was Elizabeth Massie.

John and Elizabeth had at least 12 children, including those with such significant family names as Ashley, Massie, John, Benjamin, Thomas, Margery, James and Elizabeth. Some descendants relocated to Ohio after the Revolution while others migrated earlier to Louisa and Amelia Cos., VA and Guilford Co., NC, where they were closely situated with descendants of John’s brother Benjamin.

Benjamin Johnson and Margery Massie

By 1710 in New Kent Co., Benjamin (around 1680-after 1743) married Margery Massie, the granddaughter or daughter of Peter and Penelope, although no marriage record exists in the Anglican parishes that served as official recorders of vital statistics for the area.

Most researchers assign her as the daughter of George Massie, the son of Peter. George presented two daughters for parish christening in 1705, one named Margery. However, to fit into the puzzle, this child would have married within five years to Benjamin Johnson. Researchers have attempted to solve the quandary by saying George delayed the christening for several years after her birth, but waiting a decade until she was almost a teenager seems odd.

Margery’s age could fit within the range of younger children for Peter and Penelope Massie.

Margery and Benjamin originally settled alongside his brother John in the portion of New Kent Co. that became Hanover Co. in 1721. St. Paul’s Parish vestry records in 1712 show John and Benjamin owned property in the same vicinity with George Lovell, William McGehee, John Duffield, Hugh Case, Thomas Stanley and John Harris. (Anglican Church parishes were in charge of “processioning,” or the periodic verification of property lines in their jurisdictions.)

In the next few years, both John and Benjamin and their wives became active Quakers in the Henrico Monthly Meeting. John is first mentioned in the extensive records in 1719 and became the “overseer” of the Quaker meeting at White Oak Swamp, Henrico Co. the following year. In 1720, Benjamin appears in the records. While some researchers concluded that they did not associate with Quakers until 1719, the positions of authority they were given in these records suggest they established themselves as persons of trust in the meetings over time. Wives Elizabeth and Margery also were charged with such tasks as examining the fitness of women for marriage.

Some researchers assert that Benjamin died by 1739, but St. Paul’s Parish land records from Hanover Co. of 1743 show Benjamin living near William Allen, whose daughter married Benjamin’s son.

Virtually all official colonial records of New Kent and Hanover counties were destroyed by fire, so no will of Benjamin or Margery survived. Benjamin accumulated about 1,000 acres in Hanover Co. by the mid-1730s, some of it in partnership with John Moody, on the South Anna River and “Machunk” Creek. As a man who lived at least into his early 60s – or well past the norm for the time -- Benjamin almost surely would have provided for the division of his estate.

Benjamin and Margery had presumed sons David, Gideon and Squire or James, all born between 1711 and 1719.

David (1711-May 19, 1781, Henrico Co., VA) married Mary Woody of New Kent Co. on Nov. 12, 1734 in a Quaker ceremony. They had at least six daughters, who when traceable scattered west into Virginia or to Guilford Co., NC.

Squire or James (April 6, 1719-March 5, 1755) married Agatha Crew on Aug. 4, 1744.

The family of Benjamin and Margery has not been well researched, unlike that of John and Elizabeth. Among other possible children are Nathan, Robert, Micajah or Micah, Jesse, Ashley, Margaret and James.

Gideon and Ursula Allin Johnson

Gideon Johnson is shown as a witness in Quaker records by 1739, adding credibility to his assigned birth in 1717 in the portion of New Kent Co. that became Hanover four years later.

Some researchers speculate that he first married about 1742 a Goodloe, a descendant of George Goodloe of Middlesex Co., VA, who died young.

In the mid-1740s, at about age 30, Gideon Johnson married the mother of all his children, (Nancy) Ursula Allen/Allin (Feb. 16, 1728-c. 1807), the daughter of his Hanover Co. neighbors William and Mary Ann Owen Allin and granddaughter of Thomas Owen of Williamsburg, the colonial capital. Allen became a longstanding family given name.

Among children of record born to Gideon Johnson and his wife Ursula were: William Allen (1749), Gideon Jr. (1754), Abner (1757/9); Mordecai; Peter Benjamin (1766); (Mary) Ursula; Elizabeth; Nancy; Judith; and Naomi.

Most of the children were born in Nottoway Parish of Amelia or in neighboring Prince Edward and Lunenberg counties where Gideon owned properties that, like his father, exceeded 1,000 acres.

Gideon lived in Nottoway Parish on May 23, 1752 when he bought from Samuel Goode 449 acres along Osborn’s Branch on the “lower side” of Saylor’s Creek – the future site of a Civil War battle – that included a Massie cousin among its neighbors. The witnesses were William and Warren Walker, cousins of Gideon’s wife Ursula, and Charles Johnson, Gideon’s cousin.

On Sept. 10, 1755, he added a grant of 604 acres on the north side of Meherrin River in Lunenberg Co. to the south.

On April 9, 1757, Gideon for 24 pounds sold his brother-in-law John Morgan of Cumberland Co. – who married Ursula’s sister Elizabeth – 200 acres of the original Samuel Goode purchase. The land then lay partly in Amelia and partly in Prince Edward Co., which had been created out of Amelia in 1753. This deed places Gideon’s home site 20 miles due east of Farmville, VA near where Saylor’s Creek crosses the Amelia-Prince Edward boundary.

Gideon Sr. witnessed the will of John Watkins April 20, 1762 in Prince Edward Co.,1 but he soon prepared to move south. He was expelled from the Quaker meeting before the family left for NC.

Land records indicate the move occurred by 1764 because Gideon is shown as a resident of Rowan Co., NC on Nov. 3 when he sold his home place of 249 acres on Saylor’s Creek to Col. Thomas Tabb of Amelia with his cousins Ashley Johnson and John Johnson Jr. as witnesses. (A deed disposing of the Lunenberg Co. land has not been located.)

Gideon and his family quickly established themselves in their Dan River Valley home, which was in Rowan Co. at the time, but became part of Guilford Co. in 1771 and eventually Rockingham Co., NC.

In Rowan Co. in 1765, Gideon received an original land grant six miles due west of Wentworth, NC on the south side of the Dan River. That year, daughter Elizabeth married James Wray. And on March 19, 1765, he bought 250 acres on the south side of the Dan River from Peter and Agnes Wilson Perkins of Pittsylvania Co., VA for 120 pounds of English money.

Rowan Co., NC records show Gideon witnessed a land deed from Perkins to Joel Warren, a distant relative of Ursula, for 125 pounds VA money to sell 250 acres on the south side of the Dan River on the same day that Gideon bought his farm. Gideon's neighbors were James Gates and James Presnell of Orange Co., NC, who also bought land from Peter and Agnes Perkins in 1768.

All five sons of Gideon served the colonial cause in the Revolutionary War.

Gideon was a small-scale slaveholder. In the 1790 Rockingham census, he appears to have been living with son Gideon Jr., and that household had two slaves while son William lived nearby with a single slave. In 1793, the records of Granville Co., NC show Gideon – either Sr. or Jr. – bought a slave boy named Nelson from Richard Whitehead of Mecklenburg Co., VA for 39 pounds.

Gideon’s properties lined the south side of Dan River and Moses Creek.

By 1790, daughter Elizabeth Wray and her family also lived adjacent to Gideon and Ursula, but both son Abner and daughter Ursula Pillow had moved west to Nashville, TN. The neighborhood was dominated by the numerous family of Joel and Sarah Allen Walker – Ursula’s sister and her husband, who was also Ursula’s first cousin. Also living adjacent to Gideon was Susannah Scurry, Ursula’s sister and the widow of John Butler and Eli Scurry.

Gideon died in October 1807 in Rockingham at age 90; his will was proven at the November court.

Children of Gideon and Ursula Allin Johnson

• Elizabeth, likely the eldest child of Gideon and Ursula, married James Ray or Wray in 1765 in Rowan Co. with her father Gideon giving consent. Wray likely had been related to the family of the same name associated with the Johnsons in Amelia and Prince Edward Cos. The Wrays lived near her father and brothers in Guilford Co., NC in the late 1700s.

Wray died in 1806.

The Wrays had seven children: Sarah (m. Jean or John Bellanfant), Ursula, Jane, Parson, Payton, Pleasant and William Johnson.

Sarah or Sally married Bellanfant, a Frenchman who reputedly came to America with the Marquis Lafayette’s troops during the Revolution, just after his first wife Louisa “Lucy” Yeoman died while giving birth at sea on the way home from visiting his parents in France, according to a longstanding, but possibly far-fetched family story. Bellanfant lived in the Dan River valley and had real estate transactions with the Johnsons in the 1790s.

Sally became the stepmother of seven children, including twins, all under age 12, and Jean almost immediately died -- before May 1802 -- while fighting a fire in a foundry or blacksmith shop. The eldest child, twin Mary Jessaline Bellanfant, married Alexander Johnson, the son of William Johnson and Sally’s cousin.

William Allen Johnson (Dec. 27, 1749-Feb. 8, 1830) married on March 4, 1773 to Sarah McLaren, the daughter of Daniel McLaren of Dan River, Guilford, Rockingham and later Bedford Co., TN. Sarah (Jan. 25, 1756-Sept. 2, 1835) served as a principal witness for her brother-in-law Abner when he applied for his Revolutionary War pension.

William and his family moved to Middle Tennessee around 1810, after his father’s death, to join his brother Abner and sister Ursula Pillow. They likely settled first in Rutherford Co. before moving south to the Fountain Creek neighborhood of Maury Co. by about 1812.

Like his father, William was a small-scale slaveholder. On the 1823 tax rolls, he listed three slaves to help him farm 272 acres on Fountain Creek. His eldest known son Alexander also listed three slaves for a smaller farm of 93.5 acres.

Alexander (April 14, 1782, Rockingham-Feb. 7, 1857, Maury) married Mary Jessaline "Polly" Ballanfant, the daughter of Frenchman Jean and Louisa “Lucy” Yeoman Ballanfant, on Aug. 6, 1805 in Rockingham Co. Alexander served several terms on the Maury Co. administrative court. With the Pillows, Alexander Johnson was among the leading Democrats in Maury County in the 1840s and often chaired political meetings in support of James Knox Polk, a neighbor, governor and finally the U.S. President.

Son John Johnson (1783-after 1850, Maury Co., TN) married first Elizabeth Arnold and fathered nine children over at least 30 years before the couple divorced. He then remarried to Mary Beaver on Jan. 18, 1843 in Maury Co.

Son William Allen Johnson Jr. (1789-1852, McNairy Co., TN), a Maury Co. constable and military officer, married Mary Griffin. His campaign against Nimrod Porter for Maury Co. sheriff is included elsewhere in this manuscript.

The eldest known child, Celia (Oct. 25, 1776, Guilford, NC), married neighbor John Sanders2 before 1796 in Rockingham Co. They had eight children who came to Maury Co.: Mary “Polly” (m. James P. Kennedy), Alexander McClaren, William Johnson, Duke, Sarah McClaren, James and likely Joseph. John’s brother William Sanders married another of the Bellanfant daughters, Elizabeth, and moved to neighboring Giles Co., TN.

The final known child of William and Sarah -- Mary (March 31, 1784, Rockingham-March 25, 1859, Maury) -- married Benjamin Davis (July 28, 1778, VA-Nov. 22,1845, Maury) and had at least nine children who came to Maury. Three married children of Isham and Martha “Patsy” Allen Mangrum, originally from Greensville Co., VA – who were cousins, too, even though the branches of the family had been separated for more than two decades.

Ursula Allin, the wife of Gideon Johnson Sr., had a sister Mary who married a possible relation named William Allen and moved to Brunswick and Greensville Co. in southern Virginia. A professional Maury Co. genealogist said those Allens 3 were the parents of Patsy Allen Mangrum; an Allen son, Hamlin, moved to Maury Co., and his daughter Eliza married yet a fourth child of Benjamin and Mary Johnson Davis. A fourth Mangrum child married still another of the grandsons of William Allen Johnson.

William Allen and Sarah McClaren Johnson are buried in Johnson-Amis Cemetery in front of the Culleoka, TN post office in Maury Co. Among the 11 children of son Alexander was Louisa Yeoman Johnson who married Lewis Amis on July 15, 1830. The Amis couple and five of their seven children lie in the same cemetery.

• (Mary) Ursula Johnson (c. 1752, Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co., VA- 1822 or after 1830, Maury Co.) married John Pillow, also of Amelia Co., around 1770 when the Dan River valley was still part of Rowan Co.

The Pillows decided to move to Nashville in 1788.

Gideon Sr. had entered 250 acres of new land on the north side of Dan River – across the water from his original holdings -- in May 1780. In January 1787, he “sold” the property for a mere five pounds to son-in-law John Pillow. On Oct. 8, 1788 – after holding the property less than two years – Pillow sold the land to his brother-in-law William Allen Johnson for an unspecified sum.

Also on Oct. 8, 1788, Pillow sold another 640 acres that he had originally patented, also on the north side of Dan River, to William Johnson for 100 pounds.

An October start to the trip to Nashville corresponded to the norm for these early western moves. Families typically raised and harvested a crop, which was sold to provide the money for farm rental and supplies when they arrived at their new homes. Spring moves were avoided because they occupied precious weeks that prevented spring planting. An October trip to Nashville would have placed the Pillows and Johnsons past the mountains well before the passes closed with winter snow.

The Avery or Old North Carolina Trace opened Sept. 25, 1788 to allow more convenient transport for Revolutionary War veterans coming west to claim their bounty lands. The trace, however, was only 10-feet wide and too rugged for wagons, so settlers had to arrange for sending their household goods by water.

The Pillows and Abner Johnson’s family located on Brown’s Creek or near Brown’s Station southwest of Nashville, where John Pillow bought a 50-acre tract from Samuel Barton on July 14, 1791. No record of his Revolutionary War grant has been found.

John Pillow Sr. was killed by Indians near Nashville in May or June 1793, and his wife declined to administer the estate on July 9; that task fell to son William.

The Pillow family migrated into northern Williamson Co. at the turn of the century, but by 1808, most were relocating to Maury Co. with a few working south to Giles.

Among the Pillow children were:

Col. William (1772-1868, Maury Co., TN) who married second Portia Thomas of Williamson Co., TN in 1812; Gideon Pillow Sr. (Sept. 31, 1774-Feb. 26, 1830, Maury) who married Annie Payne (Feb. 20, 1777-April 10, 1864); John (March 25, 1781-July 20, 1854) who married Mary Fitzpatrick and moved to Giles Co., TN; Mordecai (1775-1828, Logan Co., KY) married Mary Baker Johnson, his cousin; Abner (Jan. 23, 1784-Oct. 25, 1860) who married Mary S. Thomas, Portia’s sister; Ursula (1780-after 1836, Nashville) married Capt. William Rains; Elizabeth Ann (1778-after 1860, Maury) married William Murray and Thomas Latchin Due; Mary (Feb. 19, 1777-Jan. 13, 1867, Rutherford Co.) married Hartwell Miles; and Barbary (a) (possibly married a Johnson).

Col. William gained a reputation as an Indian fighter, killing Chief Big Foot, serving under Gen. Andrew Jackson, and eventually settling in Columbia, Maury Co., TN. Abner Pillow surveyed, owned and developed land across Middle and West Tennessee after serving as a major in the War of 1812.

Not only did they become wealthy, but Gideon and Anne Payne Pillow, who are buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Columbia, TN, were parents to one of the most controversial American military commanders of the era -- Gideon Johnson Pillow Jr., who served as a major general in the Mexican-American War and brigadier general for the Confederacy.

Aspersions on Gen. Pillow's competence and courage in the Mexican War led to a major political feud because he was a close friend and political ally of President James Knox Polk.

Gen. Pillow (June 8, 1806-Oct. 8, 1878) married Mary E. Martin in 1831 and, after her death, widow Mary Dickson Trigg

The Pillows married into some of the most prominent families in Tennessee. Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow's sister Cynthia Holland (1810-Sept. 16, 1892) wed, as a second husband, Tennessee Gov. Aaron V. Brown; sister Narcissa (Jan. 17, 1811-April 28, 1883) married George W. Martin, a Giles Countian nominated for governor before his death in 1854; and sister Amanda married Judge West H. Humphreys.

Ursula Johnson Pillow appeared to be living with her son William in the 1830 Maury census, but other sources report she died in1822.

Gideon Johnson Jr. (Nov. 7, 1754-Nov. 1, 1843) was married Nov. 18, 1779 to Mary "Polly" Baker de Graffenreid (Sept. 3, 1764-Jan. 7, 1823), a native of Lunenberg Co. Polly was a descendant of a Swiss “count” who earned his title through land development and founded the colonial North Carolina capital of New Bern in 1711.

Before his marriage, though, Gideon Jr. served as a private in July 1776 under Capt. John Armstrong of Surry Co., NC, and Lt. Joseph Tate of Guilford Co., NC. Armstrong's company joined the 2nd Regiment of the Continental Line at Salisbury, NC shortly after Gideon enlisted. He was discharged by then-Col. Alexander Martin, the later governor of North Carolina who appointed Gideon and brother Abner as his bodyguards.

Born to Gideon and Polly, all in Rockingham Co. were: Sarah (Oct. 9, 1780-1857/8, Weakley Co., TN) married William Hubbard; Mary Baker (Nov. 17, 1782) married cousin Mordecai Pillow; Nancy (July 14, 1784-Sept. 3, 1868, Davidson County, TN) married George Chadwell; Ursula (Dec. 13, 1787-1872, MO) married Charles Powhatan May; Peter Benjamin (April 8, 1790); Jane “Jincy” (Sept. 13, 1795-Oct. 31, 1885, Fannin Co., TX) married David C. Chadwell; Elizabeth (Oct. 13, 1797) married Valentine Chadwell; Elinor "Elsie" (Dec. 4, 1800) married Nathaniel Bell; Tabitha Allen (June 26, 1803-July 15, 1878, Yalobusha Co., MS) married Robert Booker May; and William Weakley (Oct. 10, 1807-March 3, 1874, Williamson Co., TN) married Sarah Kearney Alston.

They were surrounded by family on both sides in the Dan River valley, including deGraffenreids and Vasses from Polly’s lines.

With her brother Vincent, Gideon and Polly moved to Davidson Co., TN near Nashville in 1819 where she died in 1823, and Gideon later continued to neighboring Williamson Co., where he died Nov. 1, 1843.

Peter Benjamin Johnson (1766-1855, Old Springville, Henry Co., TN) fought in the Revolution and married Nancy Hubbard, daughter of William Hubbard. Peter is found in Stewart County, TN in 1820 with his wife, sons Abner and William Hubbard and five daughters. He had migrated north of Nashville with his Hubbard in-laws.

Peter was a veterinarian or “horse doctor,” and on a frontier that had few physicians, Nancy earned a reputation as an “herb doctor.”

Peter and Nancy eventually had 10 children: Abner; Joicey (m. John Leland Hagler); William Hubbard; Milbury or “Millie” (m. Horatio Nelson Marberry); Mary (m. William Kinkead); Charlotte (m. Kenneth Buchanan); Caroline (m. Willis Murphy Watson); Minerva (m. William J. Conyers); Ursula; and Thomas (m. Mary Dudgeon).

Peter and Nancy are buried at Poplar Grove Cemetery in Henry Co.

Mordecai Morgan was named for John Morgan who married mother Ursula Allen Johnson’s sister Elizabeth. This brother is not believed to have moved from Rockingham Co., according to reports about the relocation of the other brothers. Descendants of the Johnson family still live in Rockingham County, including Robert W. Carter Jr., publications chairman of the local historical society and authority on the Johnson and other local families in the 1990s.

Mordecai and his unnamed wife (possibly Jane), however, had landholdings in 1811 in Stewart Co., TN near his brother Peter.

Nancy married Revolutionary War veteran James Cotton (October 1765-Feb. 18, 1838) on Dec. 20, 1786 in Rockingham. The couple had settled in Maury Co. with many of the Pillows by 1808. James Cotton died in McNairy Co., TN, and his widow then moved to Jackson Co., AL where she died after 1848.

They had five children: Peter Johnson (m. Lavinia Tucker); Mary (m. John McCartney); Martha (m. John C. Ashworth and Samuel Boulds Barron); Tabitha Allin (m. William Henry Lewis); and Charles K. (m. Ruth Elizabeth Mahan). One of the Barron children fought in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, just a couple of miles from his cousins’ Missouri homes.

In 1845, Nancy’s brother Abner – then almost 90 – prepared an affidavit on James Cotton’s service and Nancy’s life to qualify her for a widow’s pension.

Judith married a Condon by 1807.4

• Naomi is listed as a daughter in.her father’s will. No other trace of her has been found.

Abner Johnson (1758-Oct. 22, 1850)

Abner was born in Prince Edward Co., VA, shortly after his father had purchased the farm along Saylor’s Creek. No family or religious reason has been found for the naming of Abner or his brother Mordecai or sister Naomi.

Abner is said to have been wounded at the tide-turning battle of Guilford (N.C.) Courthouse although he made no such claim when he applied for a war pension.

In October 1777, while living in the Dan River valley, Abner volunteered for militia service under his neighbor, Capt. John Nelson; if not enough volunteered, then able-bodied men were drafted to fill out the unit. Capt. Nelson's company was organized under Col. Paseley's regiment with Charles Hughes as lieutenant, Allen Walker as sergeant and George Parks and Abner as ensigns. Col. Paseley's regiment from Guilford Co. was joined with Col. Saunders' regiment from Granville County under the command of Gen. Rutherford.

The troops reported to Guilford Court House and then marched to SC through Salisbury and Charlotte, NC and Camden, SC. The destination was Smoky Camp near the town of Purrysburgh, according to Abner's pension papers. The troops ranged across the Black Swamp and as far as Augusta and Savannah in Georgia.

Around May 10, 1778, Abner was discharged, and he made his way back to the Dan River settlement with his neighbor, Capt. Nelson.

In a second stint of duty, Abner was called up for three months as a bodyguard against British and Tory attacks for "Governor Martin," who lived in the same county and was traveling to Nutbush for a meeting of the state legislature. However, a quorum of legislators failed to attend.

Finally, he again was called to accompany Alexander Martin to "Marcurian Tavern" for another session of the legislature, but again sufficient members failed to gather.

(The royal governor of North Carolina at the time was Josiah Martin. Abner, however, accompanied Alexander Martin of Guilford Co., who was only a member of the NC legislature. Alexander later became governor of North Carolina after statehood, and Abner referred to him as governor out of habit and respect in the pension papers.)

Abner's pension affidavit lists no other action except in "scouting parties" when the neighbors "were engaged against the Tories," probably simply other neighbors or small troop units sympathetic to the British.

He produced the testimony of David Dobbins, his brother Gideon and sister-in-law Sarah (Mrs. William) Johnson, but only that of Sarah has survived. In general she confirmed that the entire family lived in households on the Dan River and Abner was absent for long periods to fight in the Revolution.

Stories of service in the Revolution were often subject to embellishment, and the tale persists that Abner fought and was wounded at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781 despite no references in his pension papers. It is difficult to imagine that one of the bloodiest encounters of the Revolution occurred almost in his back yard and he didn't participate despite three tours of duty. Then again, the NC militia embarrassed itself at Guilford Court House, and he may have omitted the service from his official papers.

On March 15, 1781 about 2,000 men of British Gen. Cornwallis bore down on the Guilford Co. Courthouse near New Garden (NC) and the American forces under Gen. Nathanael Greene. The NC militia, the first line of defense, fired prematurely, panicked and then fled into nearby woods, exposing the VA militia. The reasons for the hasty retreat are unknown: no one from the North Carolina troops was wounded or killed in the initial action.

Like many military incidents, the British victory at Guilford Court House, however, really became a defeat, thanks to the heavy losses.

When the gunsmoke cleared, the Americans had withdrawn to the north — survivors of "one of the bloodiest (battles) of the war," says Page Smith, a historian of the Revolution and author of A New Era Now Begins. While the British took the courthouse area (now the site of Greensboro), their casualties came to 554, or one than one fourth of Cornwallis' troops. "It was a devastating setback," says Smith, and demonstrated that the American Continental Line (not the militia) could hold its own against British regulars.

Former British Prime Minister William Pitt later described the Battle of Guilford Court House as "the precursor of ruin to British supremacy in the South." The conflict would surge north over the next two years before Cornwallis surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, VA.

Abner's wounds would have occurred in the disarray after the militia retreat. The Continental Line regulars suffered 144 dead or wounded while the militia men posted 83 wounded. The Americans, however, listed 1,084 missing or deserted, with 552 from the North Carolina militia.

He and Nancy Brackett were married on March 14, 1783. No traces have been found on the ancestry of Nancy; she does not appear to have been the Nancy Brackett who was born around 1761 (the same age) to Thomas and Judith Brackett of Amelia Co.5 However, she may have been the daughter of Thomas’ son Benjamin, who moved to that part of NC.

Abner and Nancy’s eldest children William Allen, Gideon, Elizabeth and Mary were born in Rockingham Co. before the family moved west.

Abner and his family likely came to Nashville in November 1788, with his sister Mary Ursula Pillow and her family. Abner is mentioned in Rockingham land records in 1786 and 1787, but no later; his son Abner Jr. told census takers he was born in TN in 1792; and Davidson Co. court records of the early 1790s refer to Abner Sr. In that era, little of the state was settled except for the eastern mountain counties and the Red River communities around Nashville, also known as Nashboro or French Lick.

Abner does not appear in the 1790 North Carolina census although his father and brothers William and Gideon were still located in Rockingham. Virtually all Tennessee censuses were destroyed before 1820, when Abner was in Maury Co.

He may have moved back to NC briefly because one census shows his daughter Sarah Ann (Ginger) was born there in 1804. That likely was a census taker’s error or a family member’s mistaken memory because Abner’s daughter Elizabeth was married in Davidson Co., TN in April 1804, Abner appears on the Davidson Co. tax rolls in 1805.6

The available records strongly suggest that Abner was a skilled tradesman or laborer, not a farmer. No evidence exists that – unlike his heavily landed ancestors –he ever owned real estate. Unlike most pioneer settlers who came to Middle Tennessee, Abner did not exercise his Revolutionary War land bounty rights. Instead, Abner in 1818 was among 20,485 soldiers who began drawing pensions for his Revolutionary War service under an 1816 law that allowed him $96 a year – or half pay – for five years in lieu of his land rights. He then qualified for lesser income under an 1820 congressional act for veterans who were indigent. Under laws that became effective in 1832, most veterans lost their pensions, and Abner had difficulties qualifying. But in1838 he regained his rights and back pay to 1832.

This lack of land ownership also applies to his sons and most of his sons-in-law, except for William Kenamore. The 1823 Maury tax rolls show they only paid poll tax and held no real estate. But in southern Maury Co., numerous large plantations – especially those owned by Pillow cousins -- would have provided steady work for trades plied by Abner and his sons.

Despite their lack of land – or disdain for farming – the Johnsons were considered influential by contemporaries because of their family connections in southern Maury.

When Abner first came to Maury from Davidson Co. is uncertain. An “A. Johnson” witnessed the deed for the sale of 183 acres in Bedford Co. from Joseph Rosborough7 to Joseph B. Porter for $350 on Sept. 4, 1810. Both Porter and Rosborough were residents of the Giles-Maury border area, and the deed was filed in Maury.8 In a more closely related act, an “A. Johnston” witnessed a September 29, 1812 deed involving land near his cousin Gideon Pillow’s plantation that also involved Peter Booker, whose family married into the Pillow clan. 9

Local histories suggest Abner moved his family first from Nashville to Culleoka or the Fountain Creek area in southeast Maury Co. where his brother William settled. Abner then shifted south of the county seat, Columbia, near the villages of Bigbyville and Southport. Abner and Nancy were firmly established in southern Maury Co., TN by 1820. They were close neighbors to their nephews and large plantation owners William and Gideon Pillow.

The 1820 census shows Abner and Nancy living with only sons Gideon and Mordecai and daughter Sarah Ann still in the home; the other children had married, but all lived nearby except William Allen, who died in 1819.

In 1850, Abner and Nancy were living in a household headed by their granddaughter, widow Matilda Kenamore McCaslin and her three children, with William and Mary Johnson Kenamore, Abner’s granddaughter Sarah Ann Johnson and grandson William C. Duke.

Abner died on Oct. 22, 1850, and Nancy is believed to have died in 1853. She was still alive in late 1852 when she transferred the pension benefits from Abner to herself. Their graves are unmarked, although his name is on a monument in Columbia, TN that honors Revolutionary veterans buried in Maury Co.

Children of Abner and Nancy Brackett Johnson

Among the children of Abner and Nancy Brackett Johnson:

-- Mary “Polly” (1784, Rockingham, NC-September 1870, Christian Co., MO) first married Isaac Berry on Jan. 13, 1803 in Davidson Co., TN. They had at least one daughter, Anna, before he likely died in 1805. About 1811, in Giles Co., TN, Mary remarried to the younger William Kenamore (Feb. 12, 1787, Fairfield Co., SC-Feb. 10, 1862 Christian Co.)

William and Mary had seven daughters and one son (see separate section) while living in Giles and Maury Cos., just south of Bigbyville. In October 1852 William went west to scout for land in Greene Co., MO, and bought a farm in the area that later became Christian Co. just south of Springfield. By 1854, they had relocated with their entire family of grown children.

William operated one of the largest and most prosperous farms in the entire county. But he died just two days short of his 75th birthday as the Civil War raged in his neighborhood, and his son-in-law bought the property in April 1866. Mary moved to her daughter’s James River valley home near what became Nixa and died there in September 1870.

-- Elizabeth (c. 1786, NC-1862) married Andrew McCaslin (1778, PA-1860) in Davidson Co., TN on April 19, 1804. This family, too, settled in southern Maury Co. near the elder Johnsons, McConnells, Edwardses, McCaffertys, McKissacks and related families.

The couple had at least nine children: John J., Elizabeth, Branson, Abner William, Andrew, Isaac Carroll, Jane L. “Minnie,” Grant Allen and James H. Andrew married his cousin, Matilda Kenamore, daughter of William and Mary Johnson Kenamore, on May 23, 1835, but died in the early 1840s, leaving three young children.

The elder McCaslins moved southwest to Hardin Co., TN, where they died.

Gideon (c. 1787, Rockingham-1840s, Maury) appeared on the Maury tax rolls in 1811 and married Celia Travis there on July 16, 1811. By the 1820 census, Gideon had two sons and two daughters.

Gideon was a neighbor of his adopted cousin, William Barnes Pillow, in 1830 in Maury Co. That census shows Gideon with seven likely children — four sons and three daughters.

In the 1840 census, Gideon and his family lived near Ginger Hill in the 8th District of Maury Co. The rolls show as many as 10 children, although two males and two females in their 20s are likely married children and their spouses.

Gideon died during the 1840s in Maury Co., although no burial site has been found countywide. By the 1850 census, Celia Johnson, age 51, was living amidst the Johnson settlements with children Emily, 21, Celia, 18, Felix, 15, and Thomas, 24.

One daughter, Alvis "Ann" Harris Johnson, married Albert Beverly Stubblefield in Maury Co. on May 10, 1832. He was the son of Peter Stubblefield and Sarah Harris, who moved from Wilkes Co., GA to Wayne Co., TN via Maury. Alvis and Albert moved to Springfield, Greene Co., MO in the last of the Johnson family wagon trains in the fall of 1854.

Another likely son was Robert (1812), who was living near mother Celia in 1850 with wife Lucinda and six children: Obediah (1834), Gideon (1835), William (1839, shown as “idiotic”), Alvin or Alvis (1842), Paddy (1844, male) and Elizabeth (1849). The circumstances surrounding Robert and Alvis suggest a relationship to Obediah Harris, who had married Gideon Johnson Sr.’s cousin Rebeckah Johnson and lived near these families in Guilford Co., NC.

At least three children of Gideon and Celia have not been identified. One likely was Edward Cole Johnson, named for his uncle, who married Mary Jetton on Nov. 15, 1842 in Maury Co. Another was Abner Johnson III, who wed Martha L. Chamberlain on April 2, 1845.

-- William Allen (1789, Nashville-1819, Maury Co., TN) left few tracks except at his death. He was listed with brother Mordecai in the 1812 Maury Co. tax rolls. Upon his death, brother Abner Jr. and brother-in-law Andrew W. McCaslin were named administrators because he left no will. His cousin, Abner Pillow, filed suit against the estate in July 1819 for apparent bad debts.

-- Ursula, born about 1791, married Edward Cole Dec. 20, 1806 in Nashville, Davidson Co. Although they settled in southern Maury Co., the couple likely died at dates unknown in Hardin Co., TN near her sister Elizabeth McCaslin.

Ursula and Edward had at least three children. Celia Adeline (1811) married Clarence Daniel Johnson, a likely but unidentified cousin. Martha Ann (1815-1900) married Samuel Alfred Godwin Jr. in 1832, and they raised a family of at least 13 children in Maury and Hardin Cos. Abner Johnson Cole (1822-1879) married Martha Poteet and died in Lawrence Co., TN.

-- Abner Jr. (December 1792, Nashville -after 1876, Christian Co., MO) enlisted June 22, 1813 in Capt. Benjamin Reynolds’ company of Brig. Gen. Roberts’ Mounted Rangers during the War of 1812. He apparently re-enlisted in Maury as “Abner H. Johnson” in May 1814 in Capt. Samuel Ashmore’s company – the only reference found to the middle name or initial of him or his father.

Abner then fathered a child out of wedlock by Lucy Travis, the sister of brother Gideon's wife Celia, and in February 1816, he was brought before the county court on bastardy charges. The family reported to the court that the child, however, died by May, and the charges were dismissed because the county no longer was potentially liable for welfare costs. (Nevertheless, Lucy is shown as a single mother with a son under 10 in the 1820 Maury Co. census.)

On Nov. 11, 1817 in Maury Co., Abner Jr., a brick mason, married Mary "Polly" Mobley, the daughter of Ezekiel and Susannah “Sukey” Mobley, originally from Wake Co., NC – a couple who divorced after Ezekiel abandoned his family by 1824. In 1830, Abner Jr. lived next door to his father in southern Maury Co., not far from the Pillow plantations.

Abner Jr. and Polly moved to Giles Co. by 1840 and were still living there in 1850 with son John W. (1828), a schoolteacher. Abner and Polly moved to Porter Township, Christian Co., MO, during the Civil War. They may have been living near Batesville, AR during the 1860 census. According to Narcissa's obituary, Abner Jr. and a son laid the brick for the new courthouse at Ozark in 1867.

Abner Jr. and Polly are found in Porter Township in the 1870 census. Mary died before 1876 when she is not shown with her husband in the state census for Christian Co. Abner vanished by 1880 and apparently died in Porter Township, although he possibly moved to and died in Reno Co., KS where his son Lee located. One of Lee’s daughters, Mary Matilda, however, returned to Christian Co. after marrying Henry Harrison Keltner, who owned a farm near McConnell Cemetery in Porter Township.

Abner and Polly had a daughter, Narcissa Eveline (April 24, 1825, Maury-Feb. 11, 1906, Nixa, MO), who married William Carroll Edwards on Christmas Eve 1846 in Maury Co. Son Charles Leroy "Lee" (1825), married Nancy R. McCafferty in Maury Co. on Dec. 22, 1849. Both couples moved to Nixa, Porter Township, Christian Co. to raise their families.

Another daughter, Eliza (Oct. 29, 1823-Feb. 14, 1901), married blacksmith Robert S. Barnett in Maury Co., and the couple moved to Giles, where they joined her parents in the 1840s. They had six children. Robert and Eliza moved the family to Batesville, Independence Co., AR where he died before the Civil War, but by 1867, she relocated them to Porter Township, Christian Co., next to her parents again.

Eliza’s son John Lucius Barnett (1853-1918) in November 1876 married Mary Melissa Hunt, the daughter of Henderson Maynard and Judah Hunt. John and Melissa Barnett had at least seven children, six of them daughters. Son Robert Frank married his cousin Hester McConnell of Nixa, the daughter of William Alexander McConnell and Mary Bell Ray.

A daughter of Robert and Eliza Johnson Barnett, Sarah A.E., married Matthew Duff McCroskey Jr. in 1868 shortly after the family moved to Christian Co.

Eliza Johnson Barnett died on Valentine’s Day 1901, and she is buried at Nixa’s Payne Cemetery. Both her son John Lucius and grandson Robert Frank died in the great flu epidemic of 1918 and are buried in McConnell Cemetery.

At least one other child of Abner Jr. and Mary, shown in the 1830 census, is not accounted for.

Grant Allen (1796-Dec. 9, 1839), along with his brother Mordecai is one of two men aged 18 to 25 still in Abner Sr.’s household in Maury Co. in the 1820 census. This man had an extremely violent history, but the name of Grant Allen – in honor of great-grandfather William Allen and his second wife Francis Grant – was passed down through several generations and branches of the family.

In Grant’s initial scrape with the law, the Williamson Co. Independent Gazette on Aug. 31, 1822 reported that “Grant A. Johnston has committed murder on the body of a Mr. Joseph Sanders” in Maury Co.

Joseph Sanders apparently was the son of Grant’s cousin Celia Johnson (Oct. 25, 1776, Guilford NC), the daughter of William Allen Johnson, who had married John Sanders. The incident, understandably, sparked years of ill feeling that may have soured relations between the two branches of the Johnson family.

This murder case and its resolution dragged on for years, and Grant was represented by his influential cousin William Pillow.

In 1832 Grant was charged with the stabbing of John Hutchinson based largely on the testimony of the husbands of two cousins -- members of William Allen Johnson Sr.’s family and Grant’s known personal enemies. This criminal case lasted two years, but the outcome is not known.

Grant undoubtedly generated some family empathy because he was an epileptic and died in a seizure. The records of Maury Co. show the coroner conducted an inquest after his death on Dec. 9, 1839. The coroner’s jury reported on Dec. 11 that "he came to his death by the act of God in a fit, which he has for a long time been addicted to - on Monday the 9th day of the present month - near the residence of Gabriel Brown.” The jury members included his brother Gideon, brother-in-law David Ginger, possible relations William P. and Henry T. Johnson, and a known cousin through the Pillows, William Due.

The records were found among the county court’s files on appropriations for the coffins of paupers in Maury, but the inclusion apparently occurred because the county had to pay for his inquest, not the coffin.

In the 1830 census, Grant and his unknown wife had three young children, a boy and two girls, and he is shown as the parent of one student in the 1838 school census of Maury Co. He was the father of 13-year-old Sarah Ann Johnson in the Kenamore-Johnson household in 1850. But that leaves the three older children unaccounted for.

Sarah Ann moved to the Ozarks with Johnson-Kenamore clan. She married John Partin, another native Maury Countian, on Dec. 1, 1853 in Greene Co., MO, which then included the Christian Co. land where the families settled. She died in Taney Co. before 1874.

  • Peter Benjamin (1798) also was living beside Abner Sr. in 1830. On Oct. 9, 1817, he married "Beady" or Betty/Elizabeth Mobley (1807), a native of Wake Co., NC, and they had at least seven children: Cynthia (1827), Nancy (1830), Haywood (1834), Mary (1837), William (1840), Theodore (1844) and Martha (1847).

Betty was the sister of Polly Mobley, who married Peter’s brother Abner Jr.

In 1850, Peter and his family were neighbors of Jeremiah and in-law James W. Edwards in Maury, but no evidence yet exists that these Johnsons, too, moved to Missouri.

-- Mordecai (c. 1800-after 1860) was living beside his father in Maury County in 1830. Maury records show that he married Winnie Story, daughter of James Story and wife Hannah Self, on Jan. 25, 1823. The Storys had lived in both Giles and Maury and married into families who moved to Christian Co.

Around 1840, Mordecai and Winnie Johnson relocated their family to Phillips Co., AR. Few clues exist about the move unless it relates to the Pillow family. Mordecai was close to his Pillow cousins, naming a daughter after the wife – Portia Thomas – of Col. William Pillow. Mordecai named his eldest son Wilkerson Barnes after the uncle of Portia Thomas.

Before the Civil War, Mordecai’s first cousin once removed – Gen. Gideon Johnson Pillow Jr. --accumulated large plantations and hundreds of slaves in Phillips Co., where he eventually moved late in life and died. (The county, seated at Helena on the Mississippi River, had the largest concentration of slaves in Arkansas.)

Other Pillows acquired extensive properties and slaveholdings there, but continued living in Maury Co.

For example, in 1836, Jerome Bonaparte Pillow (1809-1891, Maury), the brother of the general, had 572 acres with 23 slaves and a pleasure carriage on the Maury tax lists – at the tender age of 27. He later owned a large plantation and slaves and excavated Indian sites on the banks of the Mississippi in Phillips Co. The Ginger family named sons after this man, which suggests that David Ginger worked on his plantation and/or lived on his property in southern Maury. Granville A. Pillow, another brother, had 690 acres and 13 slaves in District 8.

Mordecai, who was Jerome’s landless neighbor in District 8, Maury Co., may have moved to Phillips Co. as an overseer or other Pillow plantation employee.

Mordecai and Winnie had up to nine children: Wilkerson Barnes, possibly Mordecai (m. Mary Willis), Myra, Mary T., Grant Allen, Nancy G., Portia, Louisa and Frances. After Winnie’s death, Mordecai remarried to a woman named Rena.

-- Nancy (1802, Davidson Co., TN) married William B. Duke (b. 1799, GA or NC) on Feb. 21, 1820 in Maury Co. William B. was the son of Mary Williams and Eppes Duke, an official of Warren Co., NC and member of the prominent Duke family of colonial VA who later moved to Georgia. William and his brothers moved to Maury to farm after the War of 1812. Nancy and William had at least 15 children, most of whom moved to Decatur Co., TN, although others went to southern Illinois and Missouri.

In 1830, William B. Duke (b. 1790s, GA) and Nancy (b.c. 1802) had five children under 10, and they were living in the Kenamore-McCaslin-Edwards settlement of southern Maury, not far from a grouping of Abner Sr., Jr., Mordecai and Peter Johnson.

By 1840, the Dukes had moved to Hardin Co. In 1841, William was declared insolvent and moved the family; by 1850, shown as a "wagon maker," William and the Dukes were living in Humphreys Co. of western TN. They had returned by 1860 to Hardin Co., but relocated by 1870 and 1880 to Decatur Co., TN.

Their son, William C. Duke, a 28-year-old student, lived in Maury with the senior Kenamores, Abner and Nancy Johnson and other relatives in the 1850 census. At his age, he was probably a law student who “read the law” or apprenticed under a practicing attorney for admission to the bar.10 However, Hardin Co. records indicate he was on the lamb from the law.

In September 1848 he was charged with assault and battery, and William Stricklin posted a $250 bond. Duke left the county and in January 1849, William Stricklin was assessed the $250, which he could not pay. In September 1849 a petition was circulated for his relief "as surety or bail for one William C. Duke for his appearance on a charge of an affray....said Duke having absconded and left the said Stricklin to suffer the penalty of said bond.” On the back of the document is a note from William Stricklin stating, "I want you if you please to try and clear me of that bond that I am bound with C. Duke. W. Hill told me last Court if I would bring him back I should be clear. I found him and fetched him back and give him up and put him in jail and now they (illegible) a judgment of one hundred and fifty dollars against me after I brought him back.”

(This same William Duke, shown as a laborer, age 27, is listed in the Giles Co. household of William and Anna Kenamore Edwards, in 1850. Anna Kenamore was his cousin, but his mother’s age.)

Sarah Ann (1804, Davidson Co., TN-1894, Nixa, Christian Co., MO) married David Ginger (1798, Burke Co., NC-1879, Nixa), a stonemason in Maury Co., TN. Ginger came to Maury Co. from Burke and eastern TN with his parents, Henry and Chana Jane “Nancy” Luster Ginger, but they left in the early 1820s with the rest of the family for new lands opening in southern Illinois.

David likely stayed in Maury because he was a skilled tradesman who would fare better in a more highly developed, wealthier community than found in backwoods Illinois, and he shortly married Sarah.

The marriage of David and Sarah is not recorded in Maury, although it likely occurred there in late 1823 or early 1824. The county clerk at the time, Joseph Brown Porter, left for Texas in mid-term to pursue the Hardins,11 a family of former county officials and soon-to-be Western outlaws who had killed his son on the town square. The deputy clerk took over the office’s operations, but spent most of his time tending his tavern, which still stands in Columbia, the county seat. Many known marriages in 1823 and 1824 are not documented in the records, which the county poorly maintained in a dank basement for the past 180 years.

Land records through 1860 indicate that no Ginger owned land in Maury Co., but census and other records show David lived in a neighborhood dominated by the presidential Polk family and the well-to-do Pillows along with their cousins, the Johnsons, south of the county seat.

The Gingers lived on the northern fringes of Maury Civil District 7 (Tennessee counties use civil districts rather than townships) between the pikes that lead southwest to Mt. Pleasant in Maury and to Campbellsville in Giles Co. Nearby was the home of Sheriff Nimrod Porter, who lent his name to the son of David and Sarah born in 1829 – just before Sarah’s cousin William A. Johnson ran a spirited campaign to defeat the officeholder.12

The sons of Col. William Polk – cousins of President James Knox Polk -- had divided a 5,600-acre tract south of Columbia won from the governor of North Carolina in a bean game called “rattle and snap.” George Washington Polk built the imposing brick mansion and tourist attraction now known as “Rattle and Snap” on his share of the property in the early 1840s; both David Ginger, a stone mason, and his brother-in-law Abner Johnson Jr., a brick mason, likely worked on that project.

Next to the Polk plantation were large properties owned by sons of Gideon Pillow (1774-1830), the nephew of Abner Johnson Sr.

Between the Pillow and Polk properties was an elevation known as Ginger Hill, with a valley below known as Ginger Hollow, where David and his family lived, as tenants, on land also controlled by his wife’s Pillow cousins.

By 1850 the Gingers were living within hailing distance of William McConnell, the Edwardses, Londons and other allied families near Southport, apparently still in Ginger Hollow. The Gingers had at least three sons, John Bailey (1824, Maury-Feb. 19, 1863, Vicksburg, MS), Nimrod Porter (July 25, 1829, Maury-after 1910, Christian Co., MO) and David Jerome (Nov. 7, 1831, Maury-July 28, 1919, Nixa, MO), and a daughter, Emily (Aug. 18, 1826, Maury-1911, Paragould, AR).

The Gingers came to Christian Co., MO in the early 1850s, probably 1852. David Ginger Jr. once owned the site of McConnell Cemetery in Porter Township between the farms of James H. and John W. McConnell.

David Sr. died in 1879 and is buried in Ginger Cemetery, which is across the road from McConnell Cemetery near Nixa. Sarah Ann lived until 1894, when she was age 90. She apparently worked as a midwife or herb doctor because she is described as a “doctor” in the 1880 Porter Township census.

Son John Bailey Ginger married Nancy Susan London, daughter of John and Permelia Cheek London, on Feb. 5, 1847 in Maury Co. They moved from Christian Co. to Salem, Dent Co., MO in 1856 with her sister Emily Frances London and husband Grant Allen Kenamore and two of the London brothers, George and William. A third sister, Martha London, became Mrs. Trustan Hubbard and moved to Salem, too, where all except the London brothers are buried.

John died in 1863 as a Union soldier at the Battle of Vicksburg.

Son Nimrod Porter first married a London cousin, Mary, daughter of Levi, before 1850. After arriving in Missouri, Nimrod married Frances Caroline Warren (1828) of Giles Co., TN as his second wife in 1856. Nimrod, who was named for the sheriff, and Caroline, who was blind before age 40, raised at least five children, including two by his first wife: Sarah E. (1851), Mahala Jane (1852-1930, m. Robert L. Scruggs), Jerome Bonaparte (August 1857, m. Mary Alice Gibson Sellers) and Thomas Nimrod (1859). Nimrod lived past 1910 and died at the home of his daughter Mahala Scruggs in Logan Township, Christian Co.

Son David Jerome Ginger (1831-1919) married neighbor Narcissa Ann Bledsoe, daughter of John and Mary Bacon Bledsoe, in 1871 before the Rev. James Wright Edwards in Porter Township, Christian Co.

Daughter Emily Ginger married Claiborne Pillow (1826-1895) before 1850 in Maury Co., and by 1854, they moved for a short time to Christian Co., MO. But in 1860, they were living in Greene Co., AR near the Missouri Bootheel where they died. They raised four sons and two daughters there.


 Aurora B. Johnson (1812 in TN-1870) married Parmenas Cox (1805-1857), a substantial landholder along Sugar Creek of Giles Co., bordering the line with Alabama. The Coxes had these children: Samuel (1829-1858), Amanda (1832, m. Andrew Jackson), Louisa (1835, m. W.J. Hill), Malinda (1840), James (1843-1863, d. in Confederate Army), Caroline (1848, m. William Malone), Silas (1850) and Parmenas Jr.

Louisa's divorce case in 1860 in Giles Co. included affidavits from her elderly “aunt” Mary Johnson Kenamore, then in Missouri, and cousin, Nancy Kenamore McCafferty, also a Missouri resident. This reference, however, may not indicate that Aurora was the daughter of Abner and Nancy Brackett Johnson. The court case instead may show a relation to “Sugar Creek Jake” Jacob Kennemer, who was the likely brother of William Kenamore, husband of Mary.


1Prince Edward Co. Will Book, 1754-1784.

2 John Sanders was the son of James Sanders of Rockingham who lived from 1717 to 1834 -- based on the family Bible and newspaper accounts at the time of his death.

3 Based upon dates and ages, the Allens of Greenville Co., VA appear to have been the grandchildren of William and Mary (Allin) Allen, not the children.

4 Allens of the Southern States, Norma Carter Miller, M.A. and George Lane Miller, Ph.D., Gateway Press: Baltimore, 1989, p. 245.

5 This Nancy reputedly married William Hobson during the Revolution and died as Nancy Hobson.

6 Davidson Co. then included Williamson.

7 An in-law of the McConnell family, who had settled near Bigbyville in southern Maury Co. and the Johnsons.

8 Maury Deed Book D, p. 243.

9 Maury Deed Book E, p. 138.

10 The only other William Duke in the county, age 24, had a child named Keziah and lived next to a 55-year-old Keziah Duke, obviously his mother.

11 The descendants of this family included John Wesley Hardin, the attorney and outlaw.

12 Sheriff Porter memorialized this campaign in his diaries housed at the University of North Carolina: “Major William A. Johnson, an officer in the 51st Regiment, a constable -- had been justice of the peace for many years – had 300 connections, they being all the Pillows, Johnsons, Gingers, Kennamons (sic, Kenamores)…many other influential ‘him’ and ‘her’ connections…had all been my warm supporters and intimate friends” before that election. William Allen Johnson was the son of William Johnson, the eldest brother of Abner Johnson Sr. Maj. William’s brother Alexander ranked among the leaders of later President James Knox Polk’s faction of the Democratic party that controlled county politics.

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