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Martha L. Johnson family


Biographical Note

Martha L. "Patsy" Robinson Johnson was born in Frederick County, Virginia on February 19, 1803. Evidence suggests that she was the daughter of William and Martha Robinson of Orange County, Virginia. Martha married Robert C. Johnson (ca.1798-1863), the son of Valentine and Ann Johnson of Orange County, probably in the late 1820s. The Johnsons moved several times during the following two decades. In 1833, they lived at Amherst Court House and at Lynchburg, where Robert was a merchant. The next year, they were living in Patrick County, Virginia, where Robert was keeper of a public house and served as master commissioner of the Patrick County superior court. The family was still in Patrick County as late as 1839, though Robert was operating the Red Sulphur Springs tavern that year. In 1840/41, Robert was keeping tavern in Danville, Virginia, while Martha and his daughters lived in Stanardsville (Greene County).

The Johnsons seem to have settled by 1843 in Carroll County, Virginia, where Robert kept a tavern. Evidence in the collection suggests that he also operated a store and served as Hillsville postmaster and commissioner of the revenue. The couple had three daughters: Ann, Martha and Alverda.

The Carroll County census for 1860 lists Robert Johnson as "insane." He was hospitalized in the Eastern Lunatic Asylum (Williamsburg, Virginia) later that year and died there around October 23, 1860. By 1880, Martha Johnson was living with her son-in-law, John Early, and his children in Carroll County. She died April 15, 1886.

Ann Johnson (1828-1879), oldest daughter of Robert and Martha Robinson Johnson, was born in Orange County, Virginia. She married John Early (born c.1821), and the couple had several children, including Peter S., Robert J., James L., and William H., and Martha (c.1851-1864).

Alverda "Buddie" Johnson (1830-1917) married twice, first to James H. Hounshell in 1849. The couple had one daughter, Martha (1852-1865). After Hounshell's death, Alverda married Robert Toncrey (born ca.1815), a local dentist, in 1863. The couple's children included Mary E., Laura E. and Alverda J.

Martha Loury Johnson (1832-1916) married William Craig Thornton (1825-1913) in 1848. William worked at times as a tailor, a dry goods merchant, and operator of Hillsville's Thornton Hotel. He also served as justice of the peace. The couple raised a large family, including Alverda R., Emma R. ("Sissie"), Ann Eliza, Margaret B., Martha Elizabeth, Ida May, Agnes W., Jesse Maud, Dora N., Robert Cave Johnson, and William Hiram.

William Lithgow Robinson, Martha Johnson's nephew, was born around 1837. He enlisted in the Danville Blues on April 23, 1861; prior to enlistment, he had worked as a clerk. In October 1861, Robinson was hospitalized at Orange Court House, Virginia with periostitis; he returned to duty on November 18. He was again admitted to the hospital on March 11 for contusion of the leg and was discharged April 5, 1862. Robinson's own letters indicate that he was infected with typhoid in 1861, probably resulting from the contaminated water at Manassas, where, he wrote, "All the streams and springs were contaminated with putrefying bodies of men and horses." He also mentions being wounded in the leg during hand-to-hand combat in October 1861. By 1863, Robinson was working as deputy clerk of Hastings Court House and as chief of police in Danville, Virginia. He died March 1, 1914 and is buried in Danville's Green Hill Cemetery.

Creating a sketch of this family proved difficult. Martha Robinson Johnson seems to have been known as "mother" by both her children and her grandchildren; likewise, Ann Johnson Early was referred to as "Sister Ann" by all family members. The prevalent use of nicknames within the correspondence compounds the difficulty in identifying individuals, as does the large number of extended family of both Johnsons and Robinsons. (Among Martha's siblings mentioned in this collection are Thomas A., William R., Norborne and Richard Robinson; named within the collection as siblings of Robert are Belfield C., Benjamin V., George W., and William B. Johnson, Mildred C. Collins, Lucy Leggett, and Sallie Ann Dickerson.) The sketch above is based on interpretation of the documents and surviving public (especially census) records, and therefore likely contains errors.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Martha L. Johnson Family Papers

Identifier: Ms-2001-065
Scope and Contents This collection contains the papers of the family of Martha L. Robinson Johnson, nineteenth-century matriarch of a Carroll County, Virginia family. The collection consists largely of correspondence to Johnson from various family members and friends, providing a chronicle of the life of a Southwest Virginia family during the mid-nineteenth century, mostly from a feminine perspective. The letters focus on childbirth, death, illness, folk medicine, fashion, sewing, knitting, quilting,...
Dates: 1821 - 1882

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Digital Record 1
Collection 1
Folk, historical, and patent medicine 1
Traditional medicine 1
United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 1
Women -- History 1