|Colonel Richard Johnson
And his Descendants: The Series
April 20, 2007
It will be necessary to read a series of articles in order to follow the descendants of Colonel Richard Johnson of King & Queen County, Virginia. The Colonel had many descendants who eventually moved to the Deep South and west. His descendants have generally been traced into the early 1800s. Later articles may extend our knowledge of them further into the 1800s.
The advice, contributions & judgment of Lea Dowd, Rhoda Fone, Suzanne Johnson, Linda Sparks Starr, Suzanne Johnston & Karen Wood, was absolutely vital in producing these accounts and is very much appreciated. Each provided crucial documents that made it possible to make firm connections between the various Johnsons discussed in this series. In particular, Lea Dowd located and obtained several Johnson wills in England.
They are all very experienced in genealogical research. In addition, the difficult task transcribing of several seventeenth century wills was done by Linda Sparks Starr with the assistance of Lea Dowd and Jerry Starr. Complete transcripts of long wills have been made available on Colonial Virginia Connections at http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~lksstarr/html/colrichardjohnson.html
The heaviest reliance is on documentation, usually parish records and court documents such as deeds, wills, tax lists, etc. Letters and newspaper accounts where available were also used. Interpretations of the documents conform as closely as possible to what we know of the norms and laws of the colonies. The contributors here are very familiar with colonial spelling and handwriting and also the laws of guardianship, land transfer, estate settlement, and other legal issues.
Tracing Johnsons presents a particular difficulty. There were so many of them in Colonial Virginia and they used such common names as John, James, Thomas, Richard, Mary, Elizabeth, Anne and Jane. Not only were there many apparently unrelated Johnsons, but also DNA testing has demonstrated the lack of a genetic relationship in some widely published claims about family histories. Descendants of these unrelated Johnson families occasionally moved together to different counties or states. For example, Quaker John Johnson’s descendants moved to Amelia County and also to Louisa County. In Louisa, they settled near Col. Richard Johnson’s descendants and thus might be thought related to them, but that is not the case. At least five different Johnson families have been identified in Louisa County. The 1770 tithables list includes 18 Johnson men! Even those Johnsons living adjacent to each other cannot be assumed to be related.
Ages have generally been estimated from the earliest appearance of a name in the record. It has been my experience that those estimates are underestimates of age rather than over-estimates. Birth order can be difficult to estimate, but again first appearance in a document or the marriage of a daughter can help.
The truth has a kind of consistency to it and that is what is sought. Even with diligent care, mistakes can and do happen, thus regular revision of the articles can be expected. After all, truth is the daughter of time!
Colonel Richard Johnson of
King William County, Virginia
by Bonnie Flythe
Richard Johnson of Bilsby (or Bilsley), Lincolnshire, England was born in 1629 according to his Virginia tombstone. When he first arrived in Virginia from England is not certain, but it was at least by 1675. Some of his children either migrated with him or were born in the new world and they will be traced in this series.
The Colonel, his sons and some of their descendants lived in the burned counties of King and Queen, Hanover, and King William. Tracing his activities requires strict attention to detail & I have included long abstracts of relevant documents in order to provide other researchers with the possibility of further exploration and research. When documentary evidence about a family is extensive, the inclusion of so much detail is not really necessary.
The 1667 estate of Mathew Huberd of York County, Virginia includes a debt owed to him by Mr. Richard Johnson of London. (Weisiger, York Co.…., 197) This is probably Col. Johnson, later of Virginia. He would have been about 38 years old at the time and may have already been involved in trade with colonists in Virginia. Any marriage that he might have contracted in England at this time is undiscovered, but it seems unlikely that he would have stayed single for so long.
An early mention of Richard Johnson, a resident of the Parish of Stratton Major in New Kent County, appears in the records of York County, Virginia:
York County. Richard Johnson. By this letter of attorney on 24 Jan. 1675, before me Nicholas Heyward, Notary and Tabellion Publick, dwelling in London, appeared Mr. George Lee, Citizen & Grocer of London, who appoints Richard Johnson of New Kent County, in Va., Merchant, his attorney; but if he refuses or is not living, then William Cole of Warwick County, Esq., to be my attorney, to make over to Robert Spring of York co., Merchant, all of said George Lee’s plantation in Bruton Parish, York, Co. 350 acres, next to plantation of Daniell Parke, Esq, for 200 pounds. Spring has paid 45 pounds and Lee to take bills of exchange of 154/17 (Weisiger, York Co…1672-1676.., 169)
York County. I, Richard Johnson of New Kent County in Va. Merchant, by virtue of a letter to me from Mr. George Lee, Citizen & Grocer of London, have received bills of exchange drawn on several persons payable to Robert Spring, and by him endorsed and made payable to said Lee, whereof I have sold to said Spring all of said Lee’s plantation, 350 acres in Bruton Parish, York Co. 24 April 1676. Signed: Rich: Johnson. Wit: Theo Hone, Sam: Weldon. Rec. April 24, 1676 (Weisiger, York Co…1672-1676., 170)
From this, it is obvious that Richard Johnson was a merchant as well as plantation owner and, like most merchants, he probably made several trips to England on business. At his death, he owned extensive tracts of land and was a wealthy and prominent Virginian.
In April of 1679 Capt. Richard Johnson was providing defensive preparations for the colony:
Capt. Richard Johnson appointed by Assembly to equip the store house and ammunition house to be built Att the head of Mattopony, at or above the Indian townes, one store house or garrison with a small house for ammunition of the dimensions aforesaid, and that capt. Richard Johnson doe procure and provide the severall necessaryes above mentioned, for which he shalbe allowed by the publique in tobaccoes, to be paid in New Kent county at the rate of tenn shillings per hundred with caske. (Hening's Statues at Large, Vol. II p. 434)
This would certainly conform to what might be expected of a Militia leader. The Militia was required to assemble & drill once a month with each militia man providing his own weapon, horse and equipment.
That same year, he patented land. These are the first known land acquisitions by the Colonel:
Mr. Richard Johnson 523 acs on NE side Matapony River May 1679 Beg at Mastecock Sw, To run of Pesticock Sw granted to John Hume 1674 .. trans 11: (CPv.2, 199)
Mr. Richard Johnson. 270 acres, New Kent Co., on NE side of Matapony Riv., on br. of Aqumtanacock Sw: joining Wm Watts land that he lived upon 13 May 1679. Beg At Chees Cake path, dividing this & land of Mr. Carleton; by Mr. Homes (Holmes) path; to Maj. Wyatt, & c. Granted to Wm Watts, 18 Feb. 1673/4, deserted, & granted sd. Johnson by order & trans. of 6 pers. (CPv.2, p. 199)
A few years later, he patented more land, this time in Rappahannock Co.:
 Col. Richard Johnson 20 Sep 1683, 150 acs Rappa Co. on maine Sw of Piscaraway Cr p. 326. Adj Thomas Harper & Robert Clements. Granted to James Baugham 27 Feb 1665/6 deserted & granted to Thomas Batts; assigned to James Baugham Jr who deserted; granted to sd Johnson by order 16 Apr 1680. Trans 3: Garrett Hamon, Jon. Canady, Jon. Davis (CPv.2, 266)
Through an appointed agent, the Colonel quickly proceeded to sell this land.
Recognitr in Cur Com Rappa 6th die Febry 1683/4 et reocrdatr xx8th die
Know All Men by these presents that I Richard Johnson of the Parish of Stratton Majr: in the County of New Kent Gent., authorize Wm: Leigh of the aforesaid County true and lawfull Attorney to signe and deliver and also to acknowledge in open Court a legall assignmt of a Pattent of One hundred and fifty acres of land Lying in Piscataway in the County of Rappa: as by the Pattent bearing date the twentieth day of September 1683 may appeare unto James Boughan of Piscataway in the County of Rappa: giving my said Attorney full power to act in every respect as if I myselfe being personally present could doe and although the matter may require more speciall then is herein comprised and I doe hereby warrant my said Attorney in soe doing. In Testimony whereof I have sett my hand seale this seaventh day of June One thousand Six hundred eighty three. Wit: Joshua Story, Richard Gregory. Signed: Rich: Johnson
Recordatr 3 die Martii 1683/4 Test Wm. Colston, Cl. Cur (Sparacio, Old Rappahannock Co…..,87-88)
Know All Men by these presents that I William Leigh of the County of New Kent do (by virtue of a Letter of Attorney) from Col: Richard Johnson bearing date the Seaventh day of June in the yeare One thousand Six hundred eighty and three) assigne and make over in the name and behalf of the said Richd. Johnson have conveyed to Mr. James Boughan of Piscataway in the County of Rappah: his heires forever all the said Johnson’s Right to the within Pattent of One hundred and fifty acres of land with warranty against the sd Johnson or any persons that can lawfully lay claime under him. In testimony whereof I have sett my hand and seale the fifth day of Decembr: 1683. Wit: Wm. Colston. Signed: Wm. Leigh, Attorney of Col. Richd: Johnson (Sparacio, Old Rappahannock Co….. pp. 87-88)
So by 1783, Richard Johnson had attained the rank of Colonel in the Militia. A relationship between George Lee, William Leigh and Col. Richard Johnson can be speculated about, but a merchant can have many interactions with others simply on the basis of business interests. They are not known to be relatives.
1683 was a very active year for the Colonel and he continued to acquire large tracts of land in Pamunkey Neck:
Apr 1683 Col. Richard Johnson & Mr. John Pigg, 1150 acs N side the freshes of Mattopany Riv beg at Mouth of Holly Poynt Cr adj land Robert Bagby; William Herendo & Mr. Richard Whitehead by an Indian field [See King & Queen Co.] (CPV2, 259)
The next year, Richard was mentioned in a letter to Arthus North by Wm Byrd:
1684 February 25. :…. Where Tom Pate and my selfe did not forget yours & Dick Johnson’s good health (The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds.)
Obviously, he was sufficiently acquainted with William Byrd to be called by an informal version of his Christian name.
When Richard was about 57 years old, his wife, Susan Duncombe, died. Her tombstone states that this happened on August 8, 1686 when she was only twenty two years and three months old. The date of Richard’s marriage to Susan is unknown although a Susan Duncombe was married in London on Nov. 8, 1684 (LDS site, IGI). The husband’s name was not in the record so we cannot know for sure if this was Richard’s young wife.
Susan, daughter of William Duncombe, was christened on June 3, 1664 in Godalming, Surrey, England. (FamilySearch.org, IGI) The date of her christening easily fits her stated age in 1686. Her tombstone says that she was the daughter of William Duncombe of Holbeach, Lincolnshire, England. Apparently her father had moved to Holbeach some time after Susan was born. Richard and Susan could not have been married very long considering her age. This hints at earlier marriage or marriages for Richard, probably in England, but the evidence for this has not been found.
Richard Johnson was the father of at least three sons. The birthdates of the sons are not known, but they have been proven to be Richard, William and Thomas. Col. Richard Johnson’s King & Queen Co. will dated 1698 made provision for the death of any one of them before they attained the age of twenty-one or had not fathered children. Therefore some of them were most likely born after 1677. One or more of them may have been a child of a wife previous to Susan. There is no evidence at all that Richard remarried after Susan’s death.
The son William showed up in the records of King William County as an appraiser in 1702, on the Quit Rent Rolls in 1704 and as a patentee on 1705. He was probably born at least by 1681, most likely earlier. Another son, Thomas, was the father of a child in 1713. He therefore was born at least by 1691 (22 years earlier to allow for the marriage). The son Richard’s birth is more difficult to calculate. He married in 1716 so was born before at least before 1695. According to David Hackett Fischer in Albion’s Seed, male members of the Virginia elite married at a mean age of 27 or over in the early 1700s. When the Colonel died, I do not believe that he was the father of three small children. At least some of his sons were nearly of age.
Richard was also the father of a daughter, Judith, who married in England & never left there. According to the IGI files of the Family History Library, Judith was christened on Feb. 12, 1684/5 in Bilsby/Billsby, Lincoln, England. They were using the old dating system so Judith’s christening date was Feb. 12, 1685 according to our current calendar. The record came from the Bishop’s Transcripts.
This Judith was also mentioned in the 1698 will of Col. Richard Johnson’s brother Thomas. Thomas lived in Billsby, Lincolnshire, England apparently for his entire life. The mother of the child was not mentioned in any known record. The reading of 17th century handwriting and spelling was particularly difficult and we can not be sure of all the words in the will. A portion of Thomas’ will, transcribed by Linda Sparks Starr, is abstracted here:
IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN. I Thomas Johnson of Billsby in the County of Lincolne gent being sicke and infirme in body but of sound and perfect memory (praised be God) doe make this my last Will and Testament in manner and forme following
Imprimis I recommend my Soul into the hands of Almighty God trusting through the merrits of Christ to receive remission and pardon for all my Sinns And my body I commit to the Earth to be decently interred according to the Discretion of my Executrix hereinafter named in the Parish church of Billsby aforesaid And as to my temporall Estate wherewith it hath pleased Almighty God to bless me I Dispose of the same as followeth
Item I give and bequeath unto my niece Judith Johnson Daughter to Mr. Richard Johnson of Virginiah Merchant All and singular my messuages cottages Lands Tenements and hereditaments lying and being in Sutton in the Marsh Mannby Manor by ruin Chappell Loggsthlupe Oxby And all the Land I lately purchased of John Willerton [Millerton] in Christhorpe for and During the terme of her naturall life and to the Heires of her body lawfully begotten And for want of such Issue I give the same Lands Tenements and premises to my Sonn in Law William Duncumbe and his Heires for ever But my further mind will and meaning is that the profitts rents issues of the said Lands from the time of my decease my Executrix and Trustees hereinafter named shall be accountable to her for the same when or as soon as she attains the age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen
And as to all other my messuages cottages Lands Tenemants and hereditaments lying and being in Spittoste Billsby Thurlby Hill [well] and Northorpe Spaynuby cum Mumby together with eighteen acres of pasture lying in Crustion Pr and purchased with Mumby Farme of Squire Don I Doe give and bequeath unto my loving wife Judith Johnson for and During the terme of her naturall life and from and after her decease I give the same to my said niece and her Heires forever. And for want of issue of her body lawfully begotten I give all and singular the said messuages lands tenements and premises to my said Sonn in Law William Duncombe and to his Heires forever All which said premises are situate lying and being in the said County of Lincolne
Item I give and bequeath unto my said Sonn in Law William Duncombe and to his Heires forever All that my close of pasture ground containing four acres be the same more or less lyeing in Mablethorpe in the said County
Item I give and bequeath unto my said niece Judith Johnson the summe of fifteen hundred pounds to be paid her by my Executrix when she attaine the age of one and twenty years or day of marriage which shall first happen
And my further will and mind is that my Executrix shall have the care tuition guardianship educacon and bringing up off my said niece till she shall attaine to the said age of one and twenty yeares or day of marriage which shall first happen. And provided my said Executrix shall depart this life before my said niece shall attaine the said age of one and twenty years or day of marriage then my will and mind is that Mr. Anthony Garley aforesaid and my said Sonn in Law William Duncombe shall have the
whole Sole full and the same power as my Executrix now hath by this my last Will and Testament And if my said niece Judith shall marry or take or accept any person to be her husband contrary to the advise consent and approbacon of my said Executrix or of the said Anthony Garley and the said William Duncombe then she shall have only the sume of five hundred pounds to be paid her upon the day of her marriage and shall have not other benefit of this will.
And if it shall happen that if the said Mr. Richardson (sic) ffather to my said niece shall at any time after my decease pretend to the Guardianshipp educacon and bringing up of my said niece as being her ffather or otherwise or offer to take her away from my Executrix in her life time or from the said Anthony or William after her decease or pretend _sn __ form in order to obtaine or gett any part of the said porcon either Land or money then my mind and will is she shall only have the summe of five hundred pounds to be paid to her upon the day of her marriage.
And if my said niece when she shall attaine the age of fourteen yeares shall offer to elect or choose any other Guardians than what are above named then my further mind and will is upon any such election she shall have noe benefit of this my will but only the said Sum of five hundred pounds to be paid as aforesaid and if he or she shall make any such defaults contrary to this my will then my Will and mind is that all the said Lands shall goe to the use and behoof of my said Sonn in Law William Duncombe and his Heirs for ever
Item I give to my Coz Sussan Barrisford [Barristor] etc tenn pounds and my Cozen Wyld tenn pounds To Mrs Wood a Guinea to buy her a Ring To Mrs Garley a Guinea to buy her a Ring twenty shillings apiece to such Servants as shall live with me at the time of my decease.
All the rest of my goods and chattalls I give unto my loveing wife whom I make whole and sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament revaking all all former Wills by me heretofore made. I doe hereby declare this to be my last Will In witness where of I have hereunto Set my hand and Seale this Sixteenth Day of November Anno Dio one thousand
Six hundred ninety eight. Tho: Johnson Sealed published and declared in the presence of with some interlinacons Tho. Veale Robert Hardy John Johnson (Typescript by Starr, Linda Sparks & Jerry March 2007, Public Record Office)
It would appear that Susan Duncombe Johnson should be the mother of Judith Johnson. However, Richard Chapman says otherwise. He stated that Judith was the result of “another venter in England” (see section on Richard Johnson, Jr.). In addition, the child Judith was raised in England and never traveled to Virginia. I doubt that Susan would have traveled to America with her husband, voluntarily leaving her small baby in England, never to see her again.
Richard Johnson may have been married to Judith’s mother who died in childbirth or soon after. He then may have very quickly married Susan. This certainly implies that Susan could have been the mother of only one of the sons, but the wording used by Richard Chapman in his Letterbook does not imply that.
Thomas Johnson also expended an effort in his will to prevent Judith and her father Col. Richard from having much to do with each other. According to the provisions of his will, he was obviously concerned that the Colonel might attempt to take control of some or all of Judith’s property. Judith was to be financially penalized if, at age fourteen, she selected as her guardian her father or any other person not designated by Thomas. In addition, Thomas Johnson made his wife Judith Betts Duncombe Johnson a guardian of his niece Judith in the event of his death. It is also interesting that Thomas Johnson did not mention his nephews William, Richard and Thomas in his will. They did not even receive a memento from him.
Judith Betts married William Duncombe on Feb. 28, 1660 in London (IGI). They were apparently the parents of Susan and William Duncombe and perhaps others. Thomas Johnson had married the former Judith ________ Betts Duncombe, widow of William Duncombe about 1669 and they were the parents of Mary, Thomas, and Judith Johnson. By the time Thomas Johnson wrote his will, these children were apparently deceased. According to the IGI, Judith was christened March 2, 1671 and died Dec. 7, 1683. Thomas Johnson, their son, was born on Sept. 7, 1672 and died two days later. Lastly, Mary was born on August 5, 1675, but she is not mentioned in the will of Thomas Johnson and is assumed to have been deceased at that time.
When she was fourteen years old, Judith Johnson married Hardoff Westneys on April 30, 1699 in Bilsby, Lincoln, England (IGI). The University of Nottingham holds the estate papers of the Eyre Family of Grove, Nottinghamshire and the catalog description states:
Thomas Johnson of Bilsby (d 1699) held lands in Lincolnshire and Nottingham. On his death his lands passed to his stepson, who died soon afterward in 1703. Johnson's niece Judith, wife of Sir Hardolph Wasteney of Headon, inherited at this time. The lands then passed to Sir Hardolph's great niece, Judith Laetitia Bury, who married Anthony Eyre of Adwick le Street, Yorkshire in 1755. (U of Nottingham, RefNo. Ey)
Judith Johnson Westneys died in Newark, Nottinghamshire and was buried on Sept. 22, 1727 (FamilySearch.org, IGI). Her husband, Hardolf Westneys, died on Dec. 17, 1742. They did not have any children.
There seems to be no easy or clearly documented solution to the puzzle of Col. Richard Johnson’s marriages or liaisons. Was he married to Judith’s mother and then married very quickly to Susan? He would have been marrying Susan (if the 1784 marriage is correct) probably while Judith’s mother was pregnant with Judith. Who were the mothers of the sons? The research, now in England, continues. The wills of the Colonel’s other relatives and ancestors are sought along with their marriages & funerals. Another article on the Johnsons in England will hopefully appear in the future.
By 1689, the Colonel was a resident of the Pamunkey Neck region of St. Peter’s Parish, New Kent County when he was included in a processioning order by the Vestry:
Vestry 4 May 1689 The inhabitants belonging to St. Peter's Parish in Pamanach Neck, viz: Mrs. Susana Page, Thos Spenser, Jno Borross, Mrs. Gooch, James Henderson, Wm Turner, Col. Johnson, John Davis, Robt King, Mr. Gideon Macon, Geo. Cox, Thos Carr, Bird Chastain, James Adams, Thos Nichols, Edm Smith, Hen Dillon, Capt. Fran Page, Mr. Goodin – (Chamberlayne , The Vestry Book & Register of St. Peter’s … , 18-19)
We also see evidence of Johnson’s troubles with arthritis. Gout is somewhat hereditary and can be made worse by excessive consumption of meat and alcohol. It was a complaint of the wealthy.
Wm Byrd letter to North: I dranke your health the other day with Dick Johnson (who
hath___ the gout) & Tom Bray. (Johnson identified as “Col. Richard Johnson of K & Q co., a member of the Council 1695-1698 and Thomas Bray “of New Kent Co., son of James Bray of James City Co.) (The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds….., p. 102)
The Colonel may have wanted to be a member of the Council of Virginia and used his influence to gain that position. We don’t know, but the following message is interesting:
1691 November 16 Lord Howard of Effingham [in letter to] Council for Trade & Plantations Requests that Col. Richard Johnson's name be placed before that of Mr. Robinson's on the Council of Virginia, the former having been the longer inhabitant of the Colony. (Public Record Office Class C.O. 5/1306. Miscellaneous Correspondence between the Lieutenant Governor and the Committee for Trade and Plantations, Shipping and Customs Returns and Petitions. 1691-1692. f. 338]
This implies that he was a member of the Council, but could also mean that he was on the list of recommendations that the Governor would use to draw names to send to London for approval.
Richard Johnson had been a Colonel of the Militia since 1683. In 1692, George Anderson apparently tried to submit to the House a travel expense request involving Col. Richard Johnson. This request was rejected because it would set a precedent:
 April 19, 1692 "That part of the Claim of Geo: Anderson for two days Carrying Lettrs to Coll. Rich: Johnson from the Hono'ble Ralph Wormeley Esqre, conceived to be noe Country Charge by you, the said Ralph Wormeley Esq're declaring it was to Carry Ord'rs about the Militia, is conceived to be a Country Charge and therefore out to be allowed.
 April 26, 1692 "To the third about the Claime of Geo: Anderson ... The House are of Opinion the same is noe Country Charge, and ought not to be allowed, for that Coll Johnson is a militia Officer under the Comand and within the District of Ralph Wormeley Esq're, and that if carrying Lett'rs, Orders or Instructions from Superior to inferior Officers within the same district should be once admitted a publick Charge, the same would be of evill Consequence and accumulate the Charge Equivalent to maintaining of the Eleven Souldiers at the heads of the Rivers, to which the allowing this Claim would be a leading President (McIlweine, Legislative Journals….., p.165, 169)
In 1695, Johnson purchased more land in the Pamunkey Neck area: