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Richard M Johnson narrative

Personal and Family Life

     By Ann Bevins


            I was born in the fall of 1780 at John Floyd’s station on Beargrass Creek near present-day Louisville, Kentucky.  My parents Robert and Jemima Suggett Johnson had come to Kentucky from the Johnson’s ancestral home, Montebello, near Gordonsville in Orange County, Virginia, the previous winter.  Late in the fall, after my birth, we – my parents, my sisters Betsey, who was eight years old, and Sallie, two, and my brothers James, six, and William, five, and I – moved to Bryan Station near Lexington.  There we lived until we moved to my parent’s stockaded station at the Big Crossings on North Elkhorn Creek.  My father had purchased a 2,000-acre land grant from Patrick Henry in 1780.  We also acquired a large part of the 3,000-acre grant that Henry assigned to James Madison in 1784.

            After we moved to the Crossings, several other brothers joined our family: Benjamin in 1784; Robert in 1786; John Telemachus in 1788; Joel in 1790; George W. in 1792; and Henry, in 1794.  We were reared in a timber frame house that stands very close to the site of our old fort and to the site of the Baptist church of our family.

            We together imbibed the free spirit of Democracy.  The principles of civil and religious liberty were unfolded to our youthful minds, as we regaled ourselves at the family board, or surrounded the social fire, when the toils of the day were ended.  The sentiments were thus engraven upon the tablets of our hearts. (q.v., Meyer, 48.)

            Denied marriage to the woman I had earlier loved, in the years before the War of 1812, I took Julia Chinn as my companion.  Julia had been reared by my mother, one of the most exemplary and pious of women.  Julia was of mixed blood.  We became very close and she took charge of my business and property when I was away from home.  We lived at the Blue Spring Farm, which is about a mile and a half from the Crossings, where I and the Kentucky Baptists had established an academy for the education of young men from the Choctaw and other tribes.

            Julia gave me two daughters, Adeline and Imogene, who married fine young men from the neighborhood.  I saw that they were well educated, and when they married, I gave to them and their husbands fine farms.  Julia and Adeline died during the 1833 cholera epidemic.  Imogene and her husband Daniel went on to bring up a fine family.  Many people criticized me for my open devotion to my immediate family but I always remained true to them.

            At one time, I owned the land between my Blue Spring Farm and my White Sulphur Springs resort in western Scott County.  The Choctaw Academy moved around 1830 to a location near the property that I owned when I was Vice President of the United States, known as Longview.  Then it moved to a piece of land near the Springs where I had another home, a one-story frame dwelling of Greek Revival design.

            My financial situation became quite precarious after the failure of our ill-fated Yellowstone Expedition.  After my death, Adeline’s son, Robert Johnson Scott; my favorite nephew, Richard M. Johnson, Jr., and Imogene’s family acquired my remaining land.

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