Before I go further, no I did not post for Weeks 1 or 2 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. I didn’t know about the challenge for Week 1. It took me all of Week 2 to decide whether or not to write. So here I am for Week 3. With that said, let me continue. I will use boldface the first time a name (or a couple) is introduced.
Thirty years ago (shhhh!), my interest in genealogy began when I was the wee age of eighteen. I was introduced to family history via a photocopy of a manuscript written by a first cousin twice removed. Her name was Myrtle (KUHN) LARMORE (1891-1986), and she had spent quite some time gathering and writing information on the descendants of our ancestors Thomas JOHNSON and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON who moved by covered wagon from what is now Union Grove Township, Iredell County, North Carolina, to Brown Township, Hancock County, Indiana. My mother received a copy of the manuscript the early 1980s from, I think, my Uncle Bill (her brother). I confiscated it immediately.
Because I started with this family, my JOHNSON ancestry is the nearest and dearest to my heart, and the family of Thomas and Rachel JOHNSON is my favorite, if you are allowed to have a favorite. Anderson JOHNSON was the father of Thomas JOHNSON, and Strangeman JOHNSON was the father of Rachel JOHNSON. Myrtle said that five of Anderson JOHNSON’s children married five of Strangeman JOHNSON’s children. I have evidence of four couples. The fifth one I suspect but have yet to find evidence.
I grew up hearing a few family stories. My mother had heard that seven of Anderson’s children married seven of Strangeman’s children. We heard they came from Iredell County, so in 1978, when we left Indiana after the hard cold winters two years in a row and moved, amazingly, TO North Carolina, our North Carolina ancestors suddenly became more relevant. When we ended up living in Catawba County, about 30 minutes away from the county seat of Iredell, it had to be more than a coincidence. Was it providence?
I don’t know why family history intrigued me, nor from where my need to know and understand my past came. It may have been because my mother talked about it a lot. It probably was. I loved to imagine the “olden days.” Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but this one manuscript written by Myrtle (KUHN) LARMORE in her own handwriting when she was 84 years of age was the thing that would make me an addict – a genealogy addict.
On the cover page of Myrtle’s manuscript, she wrote that Anderson JOHNSON and Strangeman JOHNSON were of “no relation.” Whether or not they knew it, Strangeman was second cousin once removed of Anderson. I have lunch with my second cousin once removed about every month, so I would be surprised if they didn’t know they were related. Rachel and Thomas were third cousins once removed – certainly official “kissing cousins.” They had four ancestors in common, actually. I haven’t even begun to sort that out DNA-wise. They are both descended from John JOHNSON and wife Lucretia (MASSIE) JOHNSON, and from Gerrard Robert ELLYSON and his wife Sarah (-?-) ELLYSON of early Virginia. I have a slew of Autosomal DNA matches on Family Tree DNA that I suspect come from these these lines. Oh… how to sort them out! But I digress.
I was able to discover Anderson’s and Strangeman’s relationship because as providence (there’s that word again!) would have it, my first genealogical adventure was made easier as these lines were Quaker. I was led by a fellow JOHNSON researcher to William Wade Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy volumes and to Willard Heiss’ Abstracts of the records of the Society of Friends in Indiana. It was through these books that I discovered Thomas and Rachel’s relationships and ancestries. Friends kept excellent records.
I find the pre-Civil War Society of Friends fascinating. I have become proud that my heritage includes Quakers. Back then, I spent hours in the libraries and countless nickles photocopying. I found and purchased all three volumes of Rita Hineman Townsend’s Hutchins – Hutchens : descendants of Strangeman Hutchins, born 1707, of the James River in Virginia and Surry (Yadkin) County, North Carolina, as my Strangeman JOHNSON is Strangeman HUTCHINS’ grandson.
My Thomas and Rachel moved by covered wagon from the south to the Midwest as did many pre-Civil War Quakers. They were avoiding war and getting away from slavery. They were religiously persecuted and fined or arrested.
Below is an image of Myrtle’s story of the move to Indiana by Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON in 1840. Notice that she does not mention they were members of the Society of Friends. I believe that this knowledge had become lost to the family.
This page is transcribed as follows (boldface mine to signify newly introduced names into this article):
In 1840 the Johnson families moved to Indiana, becaused [sic] they feared the trouble over Slavery, that was brewing at that time. Our Grandmother Sarah (Johnson) Kuhn would tell us how tired they would get tired riding in the bumpy covered wagon, how they would get out and walk behind, with the pet dog. She was only 7 years old.
Thomas Johnson settled on 40 acres, north and west of Wilkinson, Ind, what is now 234. The house was built back off road and was reached by a long lane. The house faced the South as the road at that time ran South of the house along an open ditch. Hancock County. The original house was damaged by a cyclone in June, 1902. At that time was owened [sic] by Ord W. Kuhn (grandson of Rachel and Thomas Johnson). A new home was then built near the road 234 in 1902 or 1903.
The original barn was moved near the new home and is still standing 1975.
The land is now owned by ?.
It was in the log cabin our grandparents George Kuhn married Sarah Johnson, Jan 5 – 1855.
Myrtle’s story of the move of Thomas and Rachel JOHNSON to Indiana was brief, but the pictures it put in my mind made me wish I could be there. I imagined my great, great grandmother Sarah at age seven walking behind the covered wagon for weeks. I could, and still can, feel how bumpy the wagon ride must have been. I wonder what the pet dog looked like, and whether it was male or female, what its name was, and how long it lived. I imagine the modest Quaker clothes they must have worn. I was later able to experience the excitement of finding the certificates of removal from the Deep Creek Monthly Meeting in North Carolina and the receipt of them in Indiana, but the treasure lies in the imagery from the story that my great-great-grandmother told her children and grandchildren of the move. That is something that you cannot get from an official record.
Thomas had a brother Jesse E. JOHNSON who married Rachel’s sister Lydia JOHNSON. Evidence shows that the families migrated from North Carolina to Indiana at the same time. It would seem logical that the families would travel in groups. They obtained their Quaker “certificates of removal” on 2 May 1840, and were received in Indiana on 24 November 1841. Below are screenshots from my 1987 notes showing this evidence.
What is interesting is that there is no mention of Thomas’ family or his wife in these certificates, although I know they also moved. Was this an oversight, something that wasn’t necessary, or was only Thomas a Quaker at this point? Thomas’ father Anderson was a very devout Friend. It only seems logical that Thomas, Anderson’s oldest son, may have been, too. I believe that ultimately most, if not all, of the children of Thomas and Rachel joined the Christian Church during the latter days of the Stone-Campbell Movement.
I have found and transcribed Thomas’ will and walked some of his land. I have mapped, photographed, and walked the land Anderson JOHNSON owned in Iredell County, North Carolina. In the 1980s, one of his descendants who still lived in that area and who grew up on that land took me on a tour. Amazingly, she didn’t know that Anderson JOHNSON was her ancestor, nor did she know that they were Quakers.
I have found Strangeman JOHNSON to be more elusive. He did come to Indiana, but information about his wives and where he lived still stump me. Strangeman was disowned by the Society of Friends Deep Creek Monthly Meeting in North Carolina with no reason given. There seems to be no record of his being reinstated, and this has kept me from a simple path to Rachel’s maternal ancestry. On 6 March 1798, in Rowan County, North Carolina, Strangeman JOHNSON took out a marriage bond with a promise to marry a Mary WHITAKER. The bondsman was Elijah MARLOW. Most likely, Strangeman and Mary married. Most likely, she was the mother of his children. Maybe she even lived to move to Indiana with him in the 1830s. But as of yet, I can’t find her name in anything other than this marriage bond.
Thomas JOHNSON was born 3 January 1794, in North Carolina, to Anderson JOHNSON and Sarah (BROOKS) JOHNSON. The evidence for their marriage and his parentage is available in Hinshaw’s North Carolina Volume. Thomas was the oldest of Anderson and Sarah’s known children.
Rachel was the daughter of Strangeman JOHNSON and probably Mary (WHITAKER) JOHNSON. This probably is one of the most frustrating dead ends facing me because this is my Mitochondrial DNA line. Rachel is currently my official Maternal Most Distant Known Ancestor, but on Family Tree DNA, I use “probably” Mary (WHITAKER) JOHNSON as my Maternal MDKA text – to give me better luck at finding someone familiar with her name. Her parentage seems to be unknown, and not just to me.
My mtDNA Haplogroup (using the Full Mitochondrial Sequence) is U5a1.
Since Thomas was a Quaker, it would seem that like most of his persuasion, he was pacifist. In Ancestry.com’s U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments database on-line, a Thomas Johnson, 5’6″ tall, born in Surry County, North Carolina, enlisted at Columbia, Tennessee, on 19 October 1813, at the age of 19. He deserted one day later on October 20th. Did he go to jail? Was he fined?
Thomas obtained a marriage bond on 30 March 1818, in Surry County, North Carolina, with the promise to marry Rachel JOHNSON. They married – this I know. I wonder where? They did not marry in the Quaker church as in the 8th month of 1818, at a meeting at Deep Creek in North Carolina, Thomas condemned his marriage out of unity. This means that he had married someone who was not a Friend (Rachel, daughter of Strangeman JOHNSON), and he condemned his action as wrong, asking that he be reinstated into the Society.
In the 1820 and 1830 censuses, a Thomas Johnson resided in Iredell County, North Carolina. This Thomas Johnson held no slaves either decade. By the 1840 census, Thomas had moved on to Brown Township, Hancock County, Indiana, with a household size of 10, including 8 under the age of 18.
Thomas and Rachel had at least eight children that I know of, and two more who are attributed to them that may have been theirs or a relative’s. The eight I have verified are shown numbered here.
- Mary Polly JOHNSON; born 12 October 1822 in North Carolina; died 13 June 1900 in Wilkinson, Hancock County, Indiana. Married Isaac John HAMILTON.
- Anderson H. JOHNSON; born 14 January 1826 in North Carolina; died 5 February 1893 in Brown Township, Hancock County, Indiana. Married Sarah LAKIN.
- William W. JOHNSON; born 23 June 1828 in North Carolina; died 29 November 1902, Madison County, Indiana. Married Mary Polly SHEETS.
- Edith JOHNSON; born 23 December 1830 in North Carolina; died 15 February 1889 in Indiana at age 58. Did not marry.
- Sarah JOHNSON; born 30 September 1832 in Iredell County, North Carolina; died 22 July 1917 in Wilkinson, Hancock County, Indiana. Married George KUHN (originally spelled COON). These are my great-great-grandparents.
- Tabitha JOHNSON (Tabitha is pronounced with a long i); born 17 May 1835 in North Carolina; died 2 March 1897 in Indiana at age 61. Did not marry.
- Rebecca “Christine” JOHNSON; born 14 April 1837 in Iredell County, North Carolina; died 13 February 1856 in Hancock County, Indiana, at age 18.
- Jane “Jennie” JOHNSON; born August 1840 in Indiana; died 15 May 1912 in Brown Township, Hancock County, Indiana; married Joseph BAER.
Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON may have had a son Thomas JOHNSON, Jr. who married Hannah WALES and a son Hutchins JOHNSON who died young. I have gathered some information on these two, but have not verified that their parents are Thomas and Rachel. For the next few weeks, I will most likely write on the descendants of Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON, and perhaps even more on Anderson JOHNSON and Strangeman JOHNSON. And maybe someone out there can help me fill in the danged mystery of Mary WHITAKER! You would be my genealogy angel.
My 3rd great-grandparents Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON are buried in Simmons Cemetery, Jackson Township, Hancock County, Indiana. Their home in Hancock County, Indiana, is now gone. When or if Thomas left the Society of Friends is still unknown to me. I have neither photographs of nor memorabilia from them. Their faces remain a mystery. Yet, they are my favorite ancestors.