Sarah JOHNSON was my matrilineal great-great-grandmother. I have found or heard so much about her that I could probably write this story half asleep with my eyes closed. Yet, I wish I knew more.
Birth and Early Childhood
Sarah was born to Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON who were distantly related through several endogamous Quaker lines. Presuming the family resided on the land of Thomas’ parents, Sarah was born in Iredell County, North Carolina, on the north side of Hunting Creek. The date was 30 September 1832, and she would tell her children and grandchildren that she was birthed by a “black midwife.” My mother said she was told that Sarah was very proud of that. Sarah was the fifth of the eight children of Thomas and Rachel, and one of their six girls.
When she was seven years old, her family traveled by covered wagon to Hancock County, Indiana, and settled in Brown Township.
On 18 January 1855, at the age of 22 in the log cabin built by Thomas Johnson about 15 years earlier in Brown Township, Hancock County, Indiana, Sarah Johnson married George Coon.
They began having children nearly right away, with their first, John Winfield, born in February 1856, followed by Thomas Harvey “Harve” in 1857, and Allen Monroe in 1862.
Their first daughter was Tabitha “Bithy” (pronounced with a long “i”), born in 1864. Bithy was followed by Emery born 1872, Ord Wiley born 1874, and finally Minnie Magdalene born 1877, my great-grandmother.
This tintype is of Sarah and Bithy when Bithy was probably 4-5 years old, so the photo was taken circa 1868-1870. It may be the earliest image ever taken of Sarah. I wish I knew. It is in my possession which I inherited through my matrilineal line.
Complete Family Photo
The family called her “Mum.” I learned of her as “Mum.” She became the matriarch.
Below is a complete family photo taken when it looks like Minnie was probably about 17-19, so circa 1894-1896, making Mum in her mid-60s. I do not know who owns originals of this photo, what size it was, or whether this one has been restored or retouched. Other family members have a print copy, including me.
The first one is of Bithy’s family. I had uploaded it to Find A Grave at some point, but then saw it was getting snagged and put in Ancestry trees, so I took it down. Please don’t use someone else’s photos without requesting and receiving permission first. I love to get contact from family members and interested parties! It’s so easy to ask, and it can put us in contact. If you are a descendant of someone in a photo, I may give you a higher resolution! Who knows?
Anyway, in the following photo, from oldest to youngest, are Mum, Bithy, Nova, and Charlotte. Baby Charlotte was born in November 1904, so this photo was taken sometime in 1905 when Mum was around 73 years old. The original photo is owned by my cousin P, and she gave me permission to use a scanned image in this article.
The second four-generation photo is from Mum’s son Allen’s family. From oldest to youngest are Mum, Allen, Myrtle, and Baby Helena. Helena was born November 1911, so the photo was taken in 1912, and Mum was probably around 80. The original photo is now owned by me, given to me by third cousin J.
These four-generation photos are probably the only ones that were ever taken. Mum’s great-grandchildren through the rest of her children were born after her death.
I would imagine that during her long life, Mum made a few quilts. I inherited one. It is cotton with a thin batting, 6.5′ long by 5.25′ wide. This is an amazing piece and a wonderful inheritance. I was told over and over by my mother that this MUST stay in the family, so I have made sure that it will stay in the family.
The Last Years
If I have counted correctly, excluding children who died at birth or before age 3, Mum headed a family of 7 children, and at least 20 grandchildren, 32 great-grandchildren, 69 great-great grandchildren, and several generations more. Most of us still reside in east central Indiana.
In the ending years of her life, Mum lived with Obe and Minnie VAN DUYN, my great-grandparents, and died at their house in Wilkinson, Indiana, in 1917 of gangrene of the foot caused by diabetes. As you can see, she lived a long and loving life. In her young years, she joined the Christian church in Brown Township. Her sons were farmers and/or preachers, harvesting food and people, and her two daughters themselves became matriarchs in their own rights.