Judge Johnson of Jasper, FL had Troupville Connections

David B. “DB” Johnson was born in Lowndes County in 1833.  As a young man he completed preparatory work at Troupville Academy before beginning an education in law at Benton Academy and Business College, Benton, TN.  Eventually completing his law studies under his own initiative, he became a lawyer  then a Judge of Hamilton County, FL.

David B. Johnson (1833-1921), a student of Troupville Academy, veteran of the Indian Wars and Civil War, went on to become a Judge in Hamilton County, FL. Image source: Nevan1941

David B. Johnson (1833-1921), a student of Troupville Academy, veteran of the Indian Wars and Civil War, went on to become a Judge in Hamilton County, FL. Image source: Nevan1941

David B. Johnson is represented in  the Biographical Souvenir of the States of Georgia and Florida: Containing Biographical Sketches of the Representative Public, and Many Early Settled Families in These States (1889),   and in the History of Florida: Past and Present, Historical and Biographical, Volume 2, (1929).

His father, John J.  Johnson, was an Englishman who came to America in the year 1812, when but a boy, and settled near Milledgeville, GA, where he grew up to manhood.  He moved to Appling County, Ga., and there established himself as a planter and married Elizabeth Staten (1798-1882), a [sister] of Burzille [Barzilla] Staten (1791-1846), a respectable and well-to-do Appling County planter.

About 1830, John J. Johnson and his brother-in-law, Barzilla Staten, brought their families to eastern Lowndes County, GA, settling in that part of the county which was later cut into Echols County. (Barzilla Staten served in Levi J. Knight’s company of men in the Indian Wars, and was severely wounded in 1836 during a skirmish at Cow Creek a few miles south of his home.)

Children of John J. Johnson and Elizabeth Staten:

  1. Zilpha Johnson (1820- abt 1892)
  2. Eleanor Johnson (1825-)
  3. John S. Johnson (1826-1908)
  4. Mary Johnson (1827-1903)
  5. George J. Johnson (1832-1851)
  6. David B. Johnson (1833-1821)
  7. Catherine Johnson (1837-1919)
  8. Burzille [Barzilla] Staten Johnson (1840-1864)

The sixth of these children, D. B. Johnson, is the subject of this sketch. He was born in Lowndes County, Ga., June 17, 1833. 

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…with a clear, strong mind, given a religious training that made for righteousness, he grew up to manhood’s estate under conditions which helped to make him a typical Southerner, enthusiastic, earnest, warm-hearted, broad-minded, ready to attempt to do large things in a large way, for he was cast in a generous mould.

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He attended the common schools of Lowndes County; spent one year in the academy of Troupville, Ga., and in pursuance of his father’s plans to educate him for the profession of the law, was sent to a college then at Benton, Tenn.  Before he had risen to sophomore he fell in love with miss Cyntha Honey [or Honea] , a young lady of Benton, married her, and, packing up his books, took them and his wife and returned home to tell his parents what he had done. He had just passed his eighteenth year.  The problem of life was then presented to him in a very practical shape and he set about in a business-like way to settle it. He began farming and followed it successfully for several years. He lost his wife one year after marriage -1852 – and married again six years later; his second wife was Margery P. Morgan, of Echols County, Ga. 

Johnson lived in a period when men’s souls were tried as by fire, and he rendered a remarkable service both as a soldier and patriot, first in the Florida-Indian war of 1856, and subsequently during the unhappy war between the two sections of the country, in behalf of the Confederacy.

In 1860 the opening of the war found Mr. Johnson on a farm in Hamilton County, Fla., with a wife and family and other responsibilities, but he gave them up and went into the service…

He was one of the first to enlist from Florida, joining the Confederate Army in Jasper as a member of the company organized by Captain Jenkins, which afterwards became Company B, Tenth Florida Regiment, Finnegan’s Brigade, Mahone’s Division, A. P. Hill’s Corps.

D. B. Johnson enlisted in Company C, Tenth Florida Regiment on December 3, 1861  in Liberty County, FL at Rico’s Bluff on the Apalachicola River. (His brother, Barzilla Staten Johnson, joined for service August 15, 1861 and served in the same regiment; Barzilla S. Johnson died of disease May 21, 1864. )

During his period of service he participated in many hard-fought battles, and was an ideal soldier.

He served for some time in Florida, participating in the battle of Olustee and some others of lesser note, and was subsequently ordered with his regiment to the army then in Virginia. He joined Lee above Richmond and took part in may of the hard-fought battles of the Virginia campaigns.  He was wounded in the second battle of Cold Harbor, and was disabled from service for a few months…

Among other Confederate units engaged at Cold Harbor in early June, 1864 was Company E, 50th Georgia Regiment, which included Green Bullard of Rays Mill, GA.

Johnson rejoined the command and served faithfully throughout the war, and surrendered with the fragment of Gen. R. E. Lee’s once magnificent army at Appomattox, Virginia, April 9, 1865.

At the close of the war he returned to Hamilton County, Fla., and resumed farming, which he followed up to 1872. 

… he once more took up the burden of civil life, and during the heart-breaking reconstruction days was a source of inspiration to his associates, as he had been one of courage and good cheer in camp, and of unfaltering courage on the battle field. Accepting the verdict of the war, he threw himself into the important work of bringing about a return of prosperity to his beloved state…

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He then turned his attention to the object of his life – the law – an object which had been frustrated by his youthful marriage, the war, and other hindrances.  He read privately, attended the courts and familiarized himself by observation with the rules of practice and routine of office and was admitted at Jasper, Fla., in 1879.  Since that time he was steadily engaged at the practice, eschewing politics and all other interests and pleasures.  He  reared a family of four children, three boys and one girl.  Two of his sons, John O. and Quarterman S., became successful teachers; his third son, Bartow B., graduated in law in 1888 in the University of Georgia, and became [1889] the junior partner of his father. Ida C., the youngest child, remained at home with her parents.

Children of Judge David B. Johnson

  1. John O. Johnson
  2. Quarterman S. Johnson
  3. Bartow B. Johnson
  4. Ida C. Johnson

Johnson’s ability as a lawyer was confirmed when he was raised to the bench of Hamilton County, and so efficient was he in that capacity that he was returned to the office a number of times.

 Judge David Bryan Johnson was one of the legalists and jurists of Jasper who was devoted to the welfare of the public, and represented Florida with hospitality, grace and tact in all his public acts.

In 1896, D. B. Johnson was a member of Hebron Primitive Baptist Church, Hamilton County, Florida

His life has passed away, but his memory will remain as long as Jasper has a history. He was not alone a citizen of Jasper; he was more. He was at once a fine product and a worthy representative of the best forces that have made this country what it is..

He was spared for many years of usefulness, for he lived until 1921, passing away in his eighty-seventh year. For many years he was one of the most honored members of the Jasper Camp of Confederate Veterans, and served it as commander at the time of his death.

As a judge he was singularly careful of the proprieties, patient, painstaking and courteous, kind to all appearing before him. He knew neither friends, enemies nor strangers, his dominant idea being the proper application of the law to the case in hand. He was fearless, yet cautious; gentle, but firm; and in the proper case his warm heart turned the scales of justice toward the side where Mercy sat. But however brilliant the lawyer or jurist, and however much these terms tend to obscure the man, it is, after all, the character of the man that gives color to the brilliance of either. The lofty, noble character of Judge Johnson made possible the able lawyer and jurist; yet it is not the lawyer or jurist who is revered by his former fellow citizens and family, but the man…

Judge Johnson died October 13, 1921. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery at Jasper, Hamilton County, FL.

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Map of Old Troupville, GA with Notes on the Residents

Year of the Tiger

In Wiregrass Georgia, 1849 may have been the Year of the Tiger.  Several previous posts have related the story of the Berrien Tiger, a large panther which attacked Jim Hightower (aka James Stewart, step-son of Thomas B. Stewart) near the Alapaha River in 1849 (see Eyewitness Accounts of the Berrien Tiger).

Here is a family story shared by reader Lloyd Harris, of another “Tiger”  encounter which occurred that same year near Argyle, GA, about 35 miles east of Ray City.

When I was young my grandfather related a long ago memory of his grandfather’s encounter with a panther or panthers in the south Georgia wilderness. Our family story coincides with the Berrien Tiger accounts as they happened at approximately the same time. My great great grandfather, James Harris, told this story of his own childhood to my grandad when he was young.

James Harris, 1880s

James Harris, 1880s. Image courtesy of Lloyd Harris.

The  incident happened when James Harris was about five years old, and coincides with the 1849 date of the Berrien Tiger.

Family of James Harris

James Harris was the first of eleven children born to George Harris and Julia Ann Westberry. He was born near Quitman, Georgia, February 16, 1844. 

His father, George Harris, was the son of Thompson Harris (1784-1870) and Nancy Ursery (1784-  )   A Confederate Widow’s Indigent Pension application for Julia Ann (Westberry) Harris in 1908 reflects George Harris’ birth in 1817 in South Carolina. Another source relates that he was born in Appling County, Georgia between 1817 and 1822, after which the family lived in Clinch County.  George was a blacksmith and in addition assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges. His father’s work was known throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee. A trademark of their bridges was the integrated use of iron and bored wooden pegs to hold the timbers together.

George was a blacksmith and wheelwright. Family tradition relates that he assisted his father Thompson Harris in constructing covered bridges throughout Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.

The church records of Union Church show that George and Julia Harris were received and baptized into its membership August 7, 1841, and were dismissed by letter March 12,1842. They became members of Providence Primitive Baptist Church near their home soon after that church was constituted in 1844. Their subsequent records cannot be traced due to the loss of church records.

The Harris home and farm in Clinch County, Georgia was on lot 325 in the 7th District which lot was traversed by the county line between Clinch and Ware Counties when Clinch was created in 1850 from Ware County. This property is situated about three miles north of the present village of Argyle. George Harris was granted this lot from the state on June 3, 1849; also granted the adjoining lot 324 on October 3, 1848. He sold lot 324 to his brother, William Harris, November 2, 1849, and then lived on lot 325 until he sold that parcel of land to Richard Bennett on August 12, 1852.

Tale of the Panthers

There is a family tale handed down through many generations relating to frontier life. The event happened in 1849 during the time the Harris family was residing in Clinch County. George Harris was away leaving his wife Julia and the children home alone in a pioneer homestead. Speculation would be that he was away with his father building bridges or hunting. During one night panthers roaming from the nearby Okefenokee swamp menaced the home ranging closer and closer to the cabin. To keep the predators from entering the home the frantic family prayed through the night and burned their beds, and chairs keeping a large fire going. The tactic flushed the space with light and served to repel an attack by the curious cats.

The Harris family story of a young pioneer family praying, hanging blankets over windows, and burning the bed, tables and chairs was passed down serving to entertain several generations with a true historical drama of frontier Georgia living in the nineteenth century.

George and James Harris in the Civil War

George Harris  and his son James both served in the War Between the States. George  Harris enlisted as a Private in the fall of 1862 as a member of the 3rd Cavalry Battalion which was formed during the winter of 1861-1862 with six companies. He along with his unit served on the Georgia coast, scouting and patrolling, until a reorganization of troops occurred on January 1, 1863.  George Harris’ unit was merged into the 4th (Clinch’s) Georgia Cavalry Regiment , and he was placed in Company I. Lieutenant Colonel Duncan L. Clinch and Major John L. Harris were in command.

At the reorganization,  James Harris joined his father’s unit, Company I, 4th Georgia Cavalry as a private.  He participated in the Battle of Olustee, Florida and in the battles around Atlanta. Family tradition relates he contracted measles during the siege of Atlanta and was in the city when it fell to the Union armies under General William T. Sherman. His unit apparently left him outside of the city but in the line of the advancing enemy soldiers. James was convalescing on a farm (place unknown) when “Yankees” were seen approaching. He was hidden by the host family in the stump of a huge oak tree that had “bushed” up. James remained concealed in the oak bush throughout the hot summer day until the Yankees left. Though suffering from sickness, and within a stones throw of the Union soldiers, he remained quite and motionless evading capture! Records also indicate he participated in battle at John’s Island, South Carolina. He surrendered at Thomasville, Georgia and was paroled at Tallahassee, Florida on May 15, 1865.

After the war James Harris married Mary Alice Stone.  She was born February 16, 1842, the daughter of George W. R. Stone and Nancy Howell. The Harris and Stone families are listed in the 1850 Census of Ware County.  James and Alice raised a family and engaged in farming near Adel, GA in present Cook County. He was a skilled blacksmith and wheelwright, as well. James Harris is listed in the 1880 and 1900 census of Berrien County, Georgia.

For James Harris, 1897 was a particularly trying year.  That summer a hailstorm hit the Harris farm, damaging his house and property.

James Harris' plantation hit by storm, 1897.

James Harris’ plantation hit by storm, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
June 18, 1897

Storm Near Cecil.

Cicil, Ga., June 12. – A heavy and damaging hail storm passed three miles north of Cecil late yesterday afternoon.  The cloud traveled in a southeasterly direction, touching the plantation of Mr. James Harris, three miles northeast of this place.  The storm was accompanied by a terrific wind, which destroyed a large amount of Mr. Harris’ fencing and a portion of the roof of his dwelling.  No deaths or personal injuries have been reported.

In November, 1897,  Harris took another blow when his gin was burned down.

James Harris' gin house hit by fire, 1897.

James Harris’ gin house hit by fire, 1897.

Tifton Gazette
November 19, 1897

Gin House Burned

Cecil, Ga., Nov. 17 – At a late hour last night the gin house and contents of Mr. James Harris living two miles northeast of this place, was destroyed by fire. The origin of which is unknown, but is thought to be an incendiary’s work. The amount of the damage could not be learned to-day, but it is thought that it may exceed $1,000. SHEBA.

James’ father, George Harris,  died between 1892 and 1894 in Echols County, Georgia. His mother, Julia Ann Harris, applied for a Confederate Widows pension in 1908 and 1909 in Berrien County, Georgia. George Harris and his wife are buried in Union Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery in Lanier County, Georgia in unmarked graves.

In 1919, James Harris sold his farm near Cecil, GA.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

James Harris sells out in Cecil District, Georgia, 1919.

Tifton Gazette
August 29, 1919

    Adel News.  There has been a good deal of activity in the sale of farm lands in Cook county this week.  Mr. W. S. Kirkland sold his farm to Mr. Jim Buck Whiddon and later bought Mr. John Taylor’s place which he also sold.  It is understood that the first brought $15,00.  Both of the places are in the Brushy creek neighborhood.  Mr. James Harris sold his place in the Cecil district to Mr. General Taylor for $15,000 also.

James Harris was a resident of Cecil, Georgia in Berrien/Cook County until his death. He died in Adel, Georgia December 12, 1928.   Alice died October 28, 1928, in Adel Georgia.  They are both buried at the Fellowship Baptist Church Cemetery in Cook County near Cecil, Georgia.

Rjames-harris-gravesite

Special thanks to Lloyd Harris for the contribution of images and content for this post.

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