From the King’s Tree to Ray City: Family of JHP Johnson

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson of Ray City, GA

For more than forty years Joseph Henry Pascal “Joe” Johnson was a resident and merchant of Ray City, GA. The Johnson’s were among the pioneer families of Wiregrass Georgia, and among colonists who settled in the 1700s at the King’s Tree in South Carolina. His father was a captain with the Confederate States Army. His grandfather fought in the Indian Wars and was a Major General of the State Militia.  His great grandfather was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and his great great grandfather was a South Carolina colonist in 1732.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson, tintype. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson, tintype, as a boy in Clinch County, GA. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

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SON OF CAPTAIN ROWAN BURNETT JOHNSON

JHP “Joe” Johnson was born February 22, 1859 in DuPont, GA. He was a son of Rowan Burnett Johnson and Caroline Amanda Floyd (1842 – 1872). His mother died when Joe was about 13 years old. His father was remarried to a widow, Emaline Dame Clifton.

Rowan Burnett Johnson and Emaline Dame Johnson, father and step-mother of J.H.P. Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Rowan Burnett Johnson and Emaline Dame Johnson, father and step-mother of J.H.P. Johnson. Image courtesy of Julie Hutson.

Memoirs of Georgia” Vol. I, Pg 500 Southern Historical Association, 1895

Rowan B. Johnson, planter, Dupont, Clinch Co., Ga., was born in Lowndes county, Nov. 29, 1830. Three years afterward his father moved to Ware, now Clinch county. He was raised on the plantation, and has devoted himself to agriculture all his life. His education was limited to such as could be obtained at the common schools of the county. When only sixteen years of age he was elected captain of the militia – District 1280 – at a time when it was regarded as a local distinction; and in 1850 was elected a justice of the peace. In 1862 he enlisted in Company B, Second Georgia battalion, and was made first lieutenant. In 1863 he joined the Sixth Georgia regiment, Western division, was commissioned captain of Company I, and served through the war. Returning from the war he resumed farming, and was soon afterward elected a justice of the inferior court, and served a term of four years. In 1892 he was again chosen to represent Clinch county in the General Assembly and as a democrat defeated his populist opponent by and overwhelming majority – more than doubled him. In 1884 he was nominated to represent Clinch county in the General assembly and defeated his opponent by a large majority. Two years later he was again a candidate, and was defeated by a small majority; but in 1869 he was elected to fill the unexpired term of Hon. James P. Mattox (deceased), showing that the people appreciate his ability and services, and have confidence in him as a faithful custodian of their interests. While in the general assembly he was a member of the committees on agriculture, counties and county matters, military affairs and penitentiary. These frequent political successes testify to the strong hold he has on the confidence and esteem of his fellow citizens. Mr. Johnson has been married three times. His first wife was Miss Aleph, daughter of John Tomlinson, who died in 1862. For his second wife he married Miss Amanda, daughter of Jason Floyd, who died in February, 1870. He next married Mrs. Emeline (nee Dame), widow of William H. Clifton, and daughter of George Dame. He is a master Mason, and a prominent member of the Primitive Baptist church.

Rowan B. Johnson was a devout Primitive Baptist. In 1859 he deeded the land for the site of Prospect Church.The church is situated about four miles north of DuPont, GA. This church was constituted January 22, 1859. Rowan B. Johnson died on 19 June 1904 at age 73. He was buried at Prospect Church Cemetery.

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GRANDSON OF MAJOR GENERAL DAVID JOHNSON, JR.

JHP Johnson’s grandfather was Major General David Johnson, Jr., of the Georgia State Militia. He fought in the Indian Wars of 1836 and raised five sons who fought in the Civil War, including JHP’s father, Rowan B. Johnson.

Nancy "Mary Ann" Burnett and Major General David Johnson, Jr. were grandparents of Joseph Howard Pascal Johnson, of Ray City, GA.

Nancy “Mary Ann” Burnett and Major General David Johnson, Jr. were grandparents of Joseph Howard Pascal Johnson, of Ray City, GA.

The following information on General David Johnson, Jr, Grandfather of JHP Johnson, is adapted from the Miles Files of the Virginia Eastern Shore Library:

Major General David Johnson, Jr. was born on 29 January 1804 at Bulloch Co, GA. He was born in Bulloch County, now Emanuel County, Georgia, the seventh child of eleven born to Martha Hardeman and David Johnson (R.S.). He grew up on the Fifteen Mile Creek, waters of the big Ohoopee River. When he was 20 years old he moved with his father and family to what is now Clinch County, GA. They lived there for about three years when they moved to Leon County, FL, then a territory. After helping his father get settled in Leon County, he moved back to Irwin County, now Lowndes County, in 1828. He married circa 1828 and settled near where Valdosta now stands. He married Nancy ‘Mary Ann’ Burnett, daughter of John and Molsy Sheppard Burnett. They moved back to Ware, now Clinch County, GA and lived there the remainder of his life. He fought through the Indian War of 1836 and won a Commission of Captain. He was noted for his coolness and bravery. Captain David Johnson’s Brigade of Georgia Militia was ordered into Federal Service of the United States by Governor Charles S. McDonald from the first day of November to the thirty-first day of December 1834 [1839?]. He was commissioned Major General of the 2nd Brigade, 6th Division of the State Militia on 16 December 1850. He resigned 22 February 1861. He felt very strongly over his failure to keep the Militia under his command active although the same condition existed all over Georgia in the State Militia, so when the Civil War and possible invasion seemed imminent and the State Militia was not ready for the emergency, General Johnson felt like he was partly to blame, which of course was not true. General Johnson lost two sons in the Civil War; Private Bryant Johnson, Company H (Thomas County Volunteers), 29th Georgia Infantry, died March 11, 1862 of measles and pneumonia in the hospital at Savannah,GA; and Private William S. Johnson, Company G, Clinch Volunteers, 50th Georgia Regiment, died on May 22, 1864 from gun shot wounds in a hospital at Stanton, VA. His other three sons served also: Captain Rowan Burnett Johnson, Company J, 11th Georgia Cavalry; Lieutenant David Hardeman Johnson, 11th Georgia Cavalry; and Private Joseph Burton Johnson in Company H (Thomas County Volunteers), 29th Georgia Infantry. General Johnson survived the war and lived until he was 77. An article in The Valdosta Times on 20 May 1876 reported the General accidently shot himself in his right hand and left knee after returning from a hunt. The Valdosta Times of 23 April 1881 reported his death on 9 April 1881. “He left an aged wife, six children and a host of devoted friends to mourn his departure to that other world. The writer knew him well and knew him to possess a heart filled with the milk of human kindness and a head stored with that ripeness of judgment.” Maj. Gen. David Johnson Jr. was buried at Fender Cemetery, Lanier Co, GA

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GREAT GRANDSON OF DAVID JOHNSON, REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIER

The following information on David Johnson, Revolutionary Soldier  and great  grandfather of Joseph Henry Pascal Johnson, is adapted from the Miles Files of the Virginia Eastern Shore Library:

David Johnson (R.S.) was born in 1765 at Lorens Co, SC. It is said that his grandfather, David Johnson, was among a colony of 40 Scotch-Irish families under the leadership of Roger Gordon who settled near on the on Black River at “the King’s Tree,” South Carolina in 1732. This colony came up the Black River and disembarking from their vessel at Brown’s Ferry, blazed their way through the forests along what is now the Kingstree-Georgetown road to the King’s tree. These were the first settlers in Williamsburg Township. (Page 10, 21-22, History of Williamsburg.) The greater number of these families had lived in Ireland for many years before coming to America. They had migrated from England and Scotland to Ireland on account of fair promises on the part of the English King. David Johnson, born ca 1760-65, served in the Revolutionary War under Colonel Philemon Waters troops, Colonel Middleton’s Regiment, and General Sumter’s Brigade for 10 months until the end of the war. (See Stub Entries to Endents for Revolutionary War Claims, Book L-N No. 512 Lib. M.) His signature was compared to a bond in Bulloch County Court, 1810 term of Superior Court. Hustus Studstill and Josiah Sirmans were indicted in a case (later dismissed) and David Johnson and Jonathan Studstill were sureties. This was an original signature on the bond and it was the same as signature on Indent Record for Revolutionary War. David Johnson (R.S.) married Martha Hardman, daughter of Capt. Thomas Hardyman (R.S.) and Elizabeth (—–), in 1792 at Effingham Co, GA.The Hardymans (Hardeman) came from Virginia to South Carolina, St. David’s Parish of old Cheraw. Elizabeth Johnson, David’s sister, married Joseph Hardman, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Hardaman about 1781. Page 245 of “History of the Old Cheraws” by Rev. Alexander Gregg, DD shows William Johnson, Ensign, Captain Thomas Hardyman, and Ensign Joseph Hardyman in September 1775 being commissioned as Officers in Colonel Powell’s Regiment of Militia for duty in the Revolutionary War. David and Martha Hardaman Johnson settled on Fifteen Mile Creek which was a part of the Big Ohoopee River in Bulloch County, now Emanuel County. They settled there about 1794 after their first land grant from Washington County, now Emanuel County. The census for 1840 shows David and Martha Johnson in Emanuel as follows: 2 males under age 10, 2 males age 10-16, 1 male over age 45, 1 female under age 10, 1 female over age 45, 2 female slaves & 2 male slaves. About 1823, David and Martha Johnson sold out in Emanuel County and moved to what is now Clinch County, GA. After a few years they moved to Leon County, Florida, acquiring property there January 31, 1827. They are included in the 1830 census of Leon County, Florida as follows: 2 males age 15-20, 1 male age 60-70, 2 male slaves under age 10, 1 male slave age 10-24, 1 male slave age 36-55, 3 female slaves age 10-24. David Johnson died in Leon County, Florida on April 14, 1834 and Martha died March 23, 1837 in Leon County, Florida. They are both buried in a cemetery on his home place in Leon County, Florida. There are no markers on their graves. David made a will on 19 March 1834 at Leon Co, FL:

I, David Johnson, being of sound mind, but in low state of health; and knowing that all men must dye; do this day freely give in this deed to the heirs of my beloved son Young Johnson after my death a certain Negro woman by the name of Lucy, her children Neis, Peter, Moses & Hanner and her increases after this, they are to be kept by him after my death by the said Young Johnson. Moreover, I do give and bequeath to the said Young Johnson all my dwelling house and kitchen furniture and working tools, also five cows and calves. I also do give & bequeath a certain Negro man Clint and a feather bed and furniture belonging to said bed to my beloved son Joseph Johnson after my death. I do also give and bequeath a certain yellow Negro woman called Dinah to my beloved daughter Martha Sirman after my death. I do also give and bequeath a certain Negro woman called Flora to my beloved son David Johnson after my death. I do further give and bequeath the remainder of my beloved children all of the remainder of my stock of cattle after my beloved son Young Johnson gets his five cows and calves out of my stock. I do give and bequeath the above named cattle to my beloved daughters Risa Register, Amelia Wilks, Lavina Mosely and Mary Jones. I have already given as much as I do conceive to be right to my other two beloved children John A. Johnson and Elizabeth Rich. Witt: Allen Skipper, Benjamin Skiper & Nathan Powell.

A daughter of David Johnson, R.S.,  was Martha Johnson who married Lowndes County pioneer Benjamin Sirmans.

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GREAT GREAT GREAT GRANDSON OF DAVID JOHNSON, COLONIST OF SOUTH CAROLINA

David Johnson, it is said, came to South Carolina and settled in 1732 at the King’s Tree, near the Black River.

 Detail of Sam Cook's 1773  map of South Carolina showing the location of Kingstree.

Detail of Sam Cook’s 1773 map of South Carolina showing the location of Kings Tree.

THE KING’S TREE AT WILLIAMSBURG, SC

Williamsburg, named after William of Orange, was one of eleven townships ordered by King George II in 1730 meant to develop the “back country” of the Carolina Province. The township was a part of Craven County, one of the original four counties that encompassed present South Carolina. Williamsburg Township then included most of the present Pee Dee region. The township consisted 20,000 acres (80 km²) and was located in front of the Black River. It was later divided and became a number of separate counties, including present Williamsburg County, South Carolina. A white pine tree on the Black River was marked by early surveyor with the King’s Arrow to claim it for the King. The tree was referred to as “The King’s Tree,” and became the center of the new township. Kingstree eventually became the chief town of Williamsburg township. In 1732 a colony of forty Scots-Irish led by Roger Gordon came up the river by boat and settled in the vicinity of the King’s Tree. They were poor Protestants who had come from northern Ireland. They had settled there seeing a better life than in Scotland, before migrating to America.

Portrait of Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Hardeman Sirmans and Elizabeth Knight , Berrien County, GA

Ray City History
Hardeman Sirmans (1821 – 1896)  Elizabeth Knight (1830 – 1912)

Hardeman Sirmans was born October 25, 1821 in Appling County, Georgia, the son of Jonathan Sirmans and Martha “Patsy” Rouse.

During the Indian War in 1838-39 Hardeman Sirmans and his father served as privates under Captain Levi J. Knight (later General Knight) in the Lowndes County militia. They both appear on the 1838 Muster Roll of Captain Knight’s Independent Company.

In 1847 Hardeman married Elizabeth Knight, daughter of General Levi J. Knight and Ann D. Herrin. She was born in 1830.

According to Folks Huxford,

“Mr. Sirmans served in the Indian War as a private in a volunteer company of Lowndes County militia commanded by his father-in-law, Capt. (afterwards General) Levi J. Knight, August 15th to Oct 15 1838. He was 1st Lieutenant of the 664th militia district, Lowndes County, 1845-46, then served as Captain in same district 1847-1851. For nearly twenty years Mr. Sirmans was a member of the Masonic order, receiving his degrees in Butler Lodge, No. 211, F. & A.M. at old Milltown (now Lakeland) in 1858. He withdrew and was granted a demit Dec. 8 1877, on account of his church’s attitude toward secret orders. He united in 1877 with Empire Primitive Baptist Church and was baptized. On Jan. 21, 1888 he withdrew from the church, but was restored Nov. 21, 1888. On Nov. 26, 1892, charges were preferred against him in his church for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election; however, the church minutes state he ‘satisfied’ the church, Dec. 24, 1892, and the charges were dropped. He remained a member until his death Sept. 21, 1896. His children seemed to have disagreed over the division of his estate, and it was finally divided by arbitration in Berrien Superior Court, March 8, 1897. Mrs. Sirmans died Sept. 6, 1912, and was buried by her husband in the cemetery at Empire Church.”

Before the Civil War, Hardeman Sirmans was a slave owner. One of his slaves was Richard McGowan. For a time after the war, Richard McGowan continued to live on the Sirmans farm, working as a farm laborer.

Children of Elizabeth Knight and Hardeman Sirmans:

  1. Levi Winfield Sirmans 1848 –  married Nancy R. Clements
  2. Jonathan D Sirmans 1850 – 1926 married Nancy Elizabeth Clements
  3. Sarah Malissa Sirmans 1852 – 1898
  4. Lott W. Sirmans 1854 – 1898 married Josephine Knight
  5. Thomas Hardyman Sirmans 1860 – 1931
  6. Martha Elizabeth Sirmans 1862 – 1935 married Joe S. Clements
  7. Joseph O Sirmans 1862 – 1848 married Olive Pearl Matheny
  8. Jay Sirmans 1864 – 1916 married Rachel Allifar Smith
  9. Clara Sirmans 1868 – 1928 married Frank Gallagher
  10. Christiana Sirmans 1869 – 1943 married Joseph Bartow Gaskins
  11. Annie B. Sirmans 1872 – 1963 married John Chilton Matheny
  12.  Valeria Sirmans 1874 – 1961 married James Isaac Lee

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George Washington Knight and the Populist Party

George Washington Knight was born September 8, 1845 in Lowndes County, GA.  His parents were Ann Sloan and Aaron Knight (1813-1887), brother of Levi J. Knight.

At age 16, on  July 3, 1862, George W. Knight enlisted as a Private  in Company E, 54th Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry.  His  unit fought all over Georgia; at Dug Gap, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta, and other battle locales.  Matthew Hodge Albritton, James Baskin, William Gaskins, Samuel Guthrie, William J. Lamb, Jeremiah May, Rufus Ray, and Samuel Sanders, among other Berrien countians, also served in this Company.  On April 20-21, 1865, two weeks after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, the 54th Georgia Volunteers, under the command of General Howell Cobb, joined in the last defense of Macon.

George Washington Knight surrendered as a corporal with Company E, 54th Infantry Regiment Georgia on May 10,  1865 at Tallahassee, FL.

On Sept 20, 1865 George W. Knight married Rhoda Futch, a daughter of John M. Futch. She was born October 31, 1846; died January 4, 1909.  At first, the newlyweds made their home on a farm owned by George’s father.  But within a few months George bought a farm on Ten Mile Bay near Empire Church, about five miles northeast of the site of Ray’s Mill. George and Rhoda resided on this farm the rest of their lives.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight

“In 1892 Georgia politics was shaken by the arrival of the Populist Party. Led by the brilliant orator Thomas E. Watson this  new party mainly appealed to white farmers, many of whom had been impoverished by debt and low cotton prices in the 1880s and 1890s.”   Georgia farmers were being driven into ruin by the combination of falling cotton prices and rising railroad freight taxes .  Populism attracted followers in all of the southern states, but it was especially strong in Georgia.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons.  Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

Populist Party 1892 Campaign Buttons. Campaign buttons for the Populist Party candidate, James B.Weaver, in the presidential election of 1892.

The Populist Party ran a candidate for president, as well as candidates for Congress, Governor of Georgia, and the Georgia Assembly.

George Washington Knight was the Populist party’s candidate for Georgia state senator of the Sixth District in 1894, but was defeated.

The platform of the Populist movement called for financial policies to drive up the price of cotton, banking reform, government ownership of the railroads, direct election of senators, and an agricultural loan program, known as the Sub-Treasury Plan,  which would help farmers get the best prices for their crops.

“Realizing that the white vote would probably split between the Populist and Democratic parties, the Populists—and Tom Watson in particular—tried to gain the support of African Americans. Although never calling for social equality, they invited two black delegates to their state convention in 1892 and appointed a black man to the state campaign committee in 1894. They also demanded an end to the convict lease system, a program by which the state leased its prisoners to private mining companies. Work in the mines was dangerous, conditions were brutal, and most of the prisoners were black. Democrats quickly accused the Populists of allying with former slaves. Such racist claims drove many whites from the People’s Party movement, and the contest was marked by fistfights, shootings, and several murders.”

On election day, the Democratic party triumphed over the Populists in the races for the top offices. But the Georgia elections of 1892 and 1894 that kept the Populists out of state offices were marked by blatant corruption.  In 1894 ballot boxes in many Georgia counties were stuffed with more votes than there were voters.

When the Populist ran a presidential candidate in the election of 1896, it split the democratic vote giving the national election to the William McKinley and the Republicans. At the state level, the Populists lost the gubernatorial race to the Democrats. After the defeat of 1896, white Populists slowly drifted back to the Democratic Party, although many of the Populist issues continued in Georgia politics. The Populist Party had never convincingly embraced African-American voters,  who quickly returned to the Republican party.  The Populist party was not always acceptable to the Primitive Baptists of the Wiregrass, either.  In November, 1892, for instance, in Empire Church near Rays Mill (Now Ray City), GA charges were preferred against Hardeman Sirmans “for voting the Populist ticket in the preceding General Election.” 

In later years, George Washington Knight returned to the Democratic party.

He died 8 Feb 1913 in Lakeland, Berrien, Georgia. Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight are buried at Empire Church, Lanier county, GA.

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Rhoda Futch and George Washington Knight, Empire Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

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