Bessie Johnson: Lady in Red

Bessie G. Johnson (1911-2005), a daughter of Chloe Gardner and James Howard Pascal Johnson, came to Ray City, GA with her parents some time before 1918. She grew to womanhood in Ray City and on August 15, 1932 married Robert Lawton LeSueur from Americus, Georgia.

There is a family story concerning Bessie as a young bride,  “about a red dress she once had when she first married Robert Lawton LeSueur from Americus, Georgia.  Gramma Bess bought a red dress from the local clothier back in the day. Granddaddy Lawton made her return it because ‘she was too beautiful in it.’ He meant it. She never wore a red dress again.”

In a nod to the “lady in red”  an old photo of Bessie Johnson holding her brother, Maurice, was colorized to illustrate a family cookbook compiled few years ago.

Bessie Gardner Johnson with brother, Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Colorized photo of Bessie Gardner Johnson with brother, Maurice Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

From Julie Hutson’s Waiting on the Bread cookbook, comes a personal recipe of Bessie Gardner Johnson:

Bessie’s Squirrel Stew
Bess Johnson LeSueur’s infamous recipes! Not for the faint of heart!

ingredients

Squirrel Preparation:Dress three young squirrels and let soak for several hours in water with one tsp. salt. Transfer to pot, cover with water (add red pepper pod, if you have one) and bring to a boil. Simmer until meat is tender. Pull meat from bones. Strain liquid to avoid small bones. Put all together in pot.

Add:
2 cans of tomatoes
2 large onions (chopped fine)

DIRECTIONS
Cook Slowly for one hour, covered.
Add:
1.   Juice of one lemon

2.   dash of hot sauce

3.   1/2 stick oleo

4.   2-3 tblsp. Worcestershire sauce

5.   1 cup ketchup

6.   salt and pepper to taste

Let simmer 30 minutes. Add 1 can yellow creamed corn. Simmer a few minutes longer (about 10 minutes), stirring all the time to keep it from sticking. You may add more seasons, if you like. The longer it simmers, the better. If it is too thin, add some bread cubes. Serve with bread, pickles. slaw and potato chips.

Bessie Gardner Johnson LeSeur died on January 31, 2005.  Her obituary appeared in the Cordele Dispatch.

Bess Johnson

Bess Johnson

 

Cordele Dispatch
February 1, 2005
Cordele, GA

AMERICUS, GA.  Mrs. Bess Johnson LeSueur, 93, died Monday Jan. 31, 2005, at Magnolia Manor Nursing Center.  Funeral services will be conducted at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2, in the chapel of Hancock Funeral Home with the Rev. Rusty Mauldin officiating.  Internment will follow in Oak Grove Cemetery.  The deacons of the First Baptist Church are requested to serve as honorary pallbearers.

Mrs. LeSueur, a native of Dupont, was born Aug. 1, 1911, a daughter of the late Joseph Henry Paschal Johnson and Chloe Ann Gardner Johnson.

Mrs. LeSueur, a loving mother and grandmother, was a member of the First Baptist Church, the Junior Service League and the Day Lily Garden Club. She was a member and past regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Council of Safety Chapter.

The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. today, Feb. 1, at Hancock Funeral Home.  Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society c/o Mrs. Ann Harris, 1801 Rose Ave., Americus GA 31709 or to First Baptist Church, 211 S. Lee St., Americus GA 31709

Survivors include a daughter, JoAnn LeSueur Chappell of Americus; a son Ronald Carey LeSueur of Florida; a daughter-in-law, Claudia Sims LeSueur of Americus; two brother and sisters-in-law, Bruce and Myrtle Johnson of Callahan, Fla., and Maurice and Frances Johnson of Carrollton; grandchildren, Michele and Tommy Holman of Canton, Camille Swain of Woodstock, Robert Lawton LeSueur III, William McCall Calhoun Jr., Anne Davis and Mary Calhoun, all of Americus and Virginia and James Morton of Athens.

30

Merchant of Ray City: Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson was born and raised on the old Johnson farm in Clinch county,  about four miles north of Dupont, GA.  His father, Captain Rowan Burnett Johnson, gave a portion of his land for the site of the primitive baptist Prospect Church,  J.H.P. Johnson lived in DuPont for some years prior to moving to Ray City about 1913.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson, of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson, of Ray City, GA. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

In 1900 the newlywed J.H.P.  “Joe” Johnson  supported his bride, Chloe Ann Gardner, as a merchant in the Dupont district of Clinch County, GA. In the Clinch County census of 1910 Johnson reported his occupation as “farming”.  Some time about 1913, the Johnsons moved to Ray City, GA where  Joe served on the board of directors for the Bank of Ray’s Mill , and owned  several retail buildings  prior to the Great Depression.  By 1930 J.H.P.  the census shows he was back in the occupation of farming, but he was always in the retail business.  His death certificate in 1953 gave his usual occupation as “merchant and farmer,”   and his type of  business was  owner of a general merchandise store.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson and grandchild. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson and grandchild. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

The Clinch County News
February 27, 1953

Death Of J.H.P.  Johnson

Aged Clinch County Native Passes at Ray City

    Mr. J. H. P. Johnson, known to his old home-county people as “Joe” Johnson, died in the hospital at Lakeland last Saturday morning, age 83 years following a long illness.  Funeral and burial was had at Ray City last Sunday afternoon, the funeral being in the Ray City Baptist Church and conducted by the pastor, Rev. John W. Harrell, assisted by the Methodist Pastor, Rev. D. R. Dixon.
    Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Chloe Gardner Johnson; three daughters, Mrs. Paul King of Orange Park, Fla., Mrs. R. Lawton LeSueur of Americus, Mrs. W. M. Carlton of Nashville; and six sons, R. G. Johnson of Elberton, J. Wallace Johnson of Valdosta, Floyd V. Johnson of Charlotte, N. C., J. H. Johnson and Maurice Johnson of Ray City, and R. Bruce Johnson of Callahan, Fla.
    Mr. Johnson was the last surviving one of the children of the late Hon. Rowan B. Johnson, 1830-1904, well known Clinch County citizen and legislator of years ago.  The elder Johnson died in June, 1904, while a member of the legislature from Clinch serving his fourth or fifth (though not consecutive terms) from this county. The mother of the deceased was Mrs. Caroline Floyd Johnson, daughter of Jason Floyd of Liberty County.  The deceased was born and reared near Prospect Church, on the old Johnson farm now the plantation of Mr. G. C. Griner; and lived in DuPont for some years prior to moving to Ray City about forty years ago.  He engaged in merchandising in Ray City until forced by ill health a few years ago to retire.
      Mr. Johnson was a very fine, upright man,and had many friends.  He was always genial and friendly, and leaves behind the record of a good, clean life filled with many deeds of kindness exemplifying many fine traits of character.
      Mr. G. A. Gibbs of Homerville, is his nephew.  Mrs. O. C. Dukes of Homerville, and Mrs. M. G. Hughes of DuPont, are second cousins.

Death Certificate of Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson. Courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Death Certificate of Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson. Courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Grave of Joseph Howard Pascal Johnson and Chloe Gardner Johnson, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Grave of Joseph Howard Pascal Johnson and Chloe Gardner Johnson, Beaver Dam Cemetery, Ray City, Berrien County, GA

Johnson Brothers and the Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company

Maurice (Morris) Johnson, Robert Bruce Johnson and James Howard Pascal Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Maurice (Morris) Johnson, Robert Bruce Johnson and James Howard Pascal Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Chloe Gardner Johnson and Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson came to Ray City from DuPont, GA some time before 1918, bringing their children with them.

  1.  Rowan Glenn Johnson 1901 – 1962
  2.  Joseph Wallace Johnson 1903 –
  3.  Mildred “Dish” Lee Johnson 1905 –
  4.  Floyd B Johnson 1906 – 1982
  5.  Lawton Walker Johnson 1908 – 1945
  6.  Bess “Bessie” Gardner Johnson 1911 – 2005
  7. Blanche G. “Bat” Johnson 1914 –

The three youngest sons of Chloe Gardner Johnson and Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson were born at Ray City, GA.

8.     James Howard Pascal Johnson (1918-1988)
9.     Robert Bruce Johnson (1919-2008)
10.     Maurice (Morris) Johnson (born abt 1923)

 The Johnson kids grew up in Ray City and attended the Ray City School ( see Ray City School 1934 and Glee Club Gave 1939 Christmas Cantata).

A photo in the collection of Julie Hutson appears to show the three youngest Johnson boys on an excursion to Apalachicola, Florida circa 1930. They are posed on the waterfront with a crate of oysters from the Apalachicola Fish and Oyster Company. The company was incorporated in Florida in 1930.

Maurice Johnson, James Howard Johnson and Robert Bruce Johnson with a crate of oysters from the ApalaMaurice Johnson, James Howard Johnson and Robert Bruce Johnson with a crate of oysters from the Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.chicola Fish & Oyster Company.i

Maurice Johnson, James Howard Johnson and Robert Bruce Johnson with a crate of oysters from the Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company

Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company, 1947. Image courtesy of The Florida Memory Project http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/55947

Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company

Apalachicola Fish & Oyster Company, 1947. Image courtesy of The Florida Memory Project http://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/63808

The Johnsons Were at Home in Ray City, GA

The old Johnson Home Place was near Ray City, GA. It was the residence of Chloe Gardner and Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson. Chloe  was originally from Florida (see Family of Chloe Gardner Johnson) and JHP Johnson grew up in Clinch county, GA (see  From the King’s Tree to Ray City: Family of JHP Johnson) , his family having settled there in 1822.

Chloe Gardner and Joseph Henry Pascal "Joe" Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Chloe Gardner and Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

The Johnsons, Joe and Chloe, came to Berrien County some time before 1918 and made their home near Ray City, GA.  In the 1920s this was perhaps the finest home in the Rays Mill district, its $6000 value being equaled only by the home of Elias Moore “Hun” Knight.

Johnson Homestead near Ray City, Georgia circa 1923. Depicted are Chloe Gardner Johnson and her three youngest children- Robert Bruce Johnson, James Howard Pascal Johnson and Maurice (Morris) Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Johnson Homestead near Ray City, Georgia circa 1923. Depicted are Chloe Gardner Johnson and her three youngest children- Robert Bruce Johnson, James Howard Pascal Johnson and Maurice (Morris) Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

In 1929, the editor of the Nashville Herald called on Chloe at this home while visiting Ray City:

Just before taking leave of the little city it was our pleasure to visit the garden of Mrs. J.H.P. Johnson, which is a marvel, especially considering the dry weather.  Our observation of the garden and surroundings, convinced us that there is no danger of the family going hungry unless they should suddenly become too weak to pull up vegetables, milk a cow, kill a chicken, or clean a hog, as there was plenty of evidence that this family believes in living at home.

Johnson Home in Ray City, GA

After the old Johnson home place burned, Chloe Johnson moved into a small home on Johnson Street in Ray City, GA.  Although they lived in town, Chloe was still a “farm woman” and attended the 1931 summer course for Farm Women at Camp Wilkins, UGA in 1931.

The image below is the Ray City home of Chloe Gardner Johnson photographed on a rare south Georgia snow day in 1958.   This home still stands on Jones Street in Ray City, although the exterior was covered with a type of shingle siding in the late 50s or early 60s .

1958 Ray City home of Chloe Gardner Johnson.  Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

1958 Ray City home of Chloe Gardner Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

On Jones Street

This house was built for Mrs. Chloe Johnson, postmistress of Ray City, GA.  At that time the post office was located just down the street on the northeast corner of Jones and Paralleled Streets.

2008 photo of Chloe Gardner Johnson's home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA.

2008 photo of Chloe Gardner Johnson’s home on Jones Street, Ray City, GA.

Chloe Johnson’s Bible and Census Records

Chloe Gardner Johnson, long time resident of Ray City and member of New Ramah Primitive Baptist Church, GA kept a record of birth dates in her family bible.

Chloe Johnson's Family Bible page showing birth dates. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Chloe Johnson’s Family Bible page showing birth dates. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Joseph H. P. Johnson
and
Cloe A Johnson
was married Dec. 17th 1899

JHP Johnson
was born Feb. 22 – 1869

Cloe A. Johnson
was born Nove. 17 – 1879

Roan Glenn Johnson
was born Nove 17 – 1901

Joseph Wallace Johnson
was born April 23 – 1903

Mildred Lee Johnson
was born Jan. 12, 1905

Floyd Bennett Johnson
was born Sept 16 – 1906

E. Lawton Walker Johnson
was born June 14 – 190

James Howard Pascal Johnson
was born July 31 – 1918

Robert Bruce Johnson
was born Aug – 14 – 1919

Maurice Johnson
was born May 28 – 1922

Bat Johnson
Born Jan 5, 1914

Bess Johnson
Born Aug 1 1912

 Cloe and Joe

In the summer of 1900, the newlyweds Chloe Gardner and Joseph Henry Pascal  “Joe” Johnson were enumerated in DuPont, GA where they were renting a house.  J.H.P Johnson was working as a merchant while Chloe kept house. Six months earlier they had been married at the Methodist church there in DuPont  (see Family of Chloe Gardner Johnson.)   Note the spelling of the bride’s name in the census enumeration,  “Cloe”.   Family members report, “Chloe didn’t pronounce her name like the traditional way, she pronounced it ‘Chlo’. And apparently was pretty insistent on it being pronounced that way!” 

1900 census enumeration of Joseph and Chloe Johnson, DuPont District, Clinch County, GA.

1900 census enumeration of Joseph and Chloe Johnson, DuPont District, Clinch County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/12thcensusofpopu188unit#page/n480/mode/1up

The 1910 census enumeration found Chloe and Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson in the town of DuPont, Georgia Militia District 128o, Clinch County, GA. The census taker’s notations are somewhat confusing, but appear to indicate that JHP Johnson was a farmer and that Chloe and their young sons, Rowan “Glenn” Johnson and Joseph “Wallace” Johnson, assisted with the farm labor. By 1910, other children in the Johnson household included Floyd Johnson, Lawton “Walker” Johnson and Mildred Johnson.

1910 census enumeration of J.H.P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Dupont Town, Clinch County, GA.

1910 census enumeration of J.H.P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Dupont Town, Clinch County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po176unit#page/n1140/mode/1up

 Before the 14th Census, 1920, Chloe and “Joe” H. P. Johnson had moved near Ray City, GA arriving there some time before 1918.  It was around this time that JHP’s stepmother, Caroline “Carrie” Daye Johnson, passed away, his father had died in 1904.  The Johnsons owned a farm, free and clear of mortgage, located on one of the “settlement roads” near Ray City.  Rowan Glenn Johnson, their eldest son, was employed as a salesman in retail drugs. Local histories say  son Wallace Johnson was working for the Bank of Rays Mill by age 14, which would have been circa 1917. But the 1920 census does not document his employment. In the later 1920s, Wallace Johnson worked as an assistant cashier at the Citizens Bank of Ray City.

1920 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Berrien County, GA.

1920 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson, Berrien County, GA.

http://www.archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n323/mode/1up

By  1930, Chloe and  “Joe” H. P. Johnson had one of the finest homesteads in the Ray City, GA area, owning a home was valued at $6000. In all of Ray City and the Rays Mill District, only E.M. Hun Knight had a place of equal value.  Although they lived in town, Chloe was still a “farm woman” and attended the 1931 summer course for Farm Women at Camp Wilkins, UGA in 1931.

1930 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson in the Rays Mill Precinct, Berrien County, GA.

1930 census enumeration of Joe H. P. Johnson and Chloe Johnson in the Rays Mill Precinct, Berrien County, GA.