In the 13th century, says Lieutenant Charles Johnston in
his history of this family, "There lived in the mountainous
district of Annandale, Dumbriesshire, Scotland, just north of Firth of
Solway, a small but hardy clan of borderers, whose chief was called
John. They were doubtless of Saxon origin, and up to this
time were little known. Their clanbadge was the Red Hawthorne.
As the clan grew stronger their Chieftain became ambitious to take his
place among the chiefs of the larger clans. Their
motto was: "Viva ut vivas." A little after the
middle of the 13th century of chief of the clan applied to the Earl of
Annandale, who was the grandfather of Robert Bruce, to purchase a tract
of land near the center of the district; the deal was
consummated, and it thereupon became necessary to give name to the tract
in question; Bruce, in the charter, called it Jonistourn (or
Johnston) , and this chieftain, now Lord Jonistoun, was called Sir John
de Jonistoun. His clan was thereafter known as Jonistoun, or
Johnistouns, the name now being spelled Johnstone or Johnston.
Some writers have fallen into the error that the name is synonymous with
Johnson, but a glance at the derivation of the names easily discloses
the error; Johnson is derived from and means the son of
John, while Johnston signifies John's Town; the one shows
locality, the other indicates descent.
"The Johnstons were a prolific clan as well as
hardy, and in the next two centuries after adopting the name, they
became strong enough to excite the jealousy of their neighbors, the much
stronger clan of Maxwell of Nithsdale, and many a bloody fight took
place before the Johnstons established their supremacy at the battle of
Dyfe-Sands, in 1593, in which the Maxwells were completely routed,
leaving their chief, Lord John Maxwell, dead on the field. At this
time the chief of the Johnstons was Sir James, who was succeeded by his
son James, who was created Lord Johnston in 1633; both were of the
Peerage and served in the English House of Lords. The Johnstons
and Scotts, it seems, were near neighbors in Scotland. Sir Walter Scott,
in his "Fair Maid of Perth," gives considerable
prominence to the Johnston Clan, and adds some verses which run as
Within the bounds of Annandale
The gentle Johnstons ride,
They have been here a thousand years
And a thousand more they'll bide.
The seat of the Johnston Clan was at Lockerby, near the
center of the district of Annondale."
After the fall of Londondary, and religious persecution
continuing in their country, a large number of the Johnstons migrated to
Ireland, settling in County Antrim and near Eniskillen, in County
Fermanagh, mostly in the latter county. As early as 1700 several
of these Fermanagh Johnstons came to America, locating in Piedmont,
Virginia, along the base of the Blue Ridge, in what is now the Counties
of Culpeper and Rappahannock, then probably Essex County.
James Johnston, of Fermanagh, had two sons, James and
David, the latter born about 1726. The father having died and the
estate under the laws belonging to the older brother, James, the younger
son David, seeing nothing favorable to his remaining in Ireland, at the
age of about ten years, viz: about 1736 or 1737 sought an
opportunity to join his kinsfolk in America and succeeded in hiring
himself to a ship captain as a cabin boy, and finally landed at Norfolk,
Virginia, and made his way across the country to his relations on the
waters of the Rappahannock. He became the ancestor of the New
River Johnstons. When about twenty-five years of age (1751), he
fell in love and married a pretty Irish girl by the name of Nannie (or
Annie) Abbott, a daughter of Richard Abbott of Culpeper, and selected
his home on Hazel River, near old Gourd Vine Church, in that county.
John Chapman and his brother Richard, had also married
daughters of Richard Abbott. Moredock O. McKensey, from Glasgow,
Scotland, had married Jemima, the only sister of the Chapmans. In
November, 1768, the Chapmans and McKensey sold out their holdings in
Culpeper, and crossed the Blue Ridge and settled on the Shenandoah,
where they remained until the year of 1771, when they removed to the New
River Valley, locating at the mouth of Walker's Creek, in the then
County of Botetourt, now Giles. The peculiar spelling
of McKensey's name will be noted; the author examined the record
of deeds in the clerk's office of the County Court of Culpeper County,
finding a deed made by Mr. McKensey and wife in November, 1768,
conveying a tract of land on Burgess's River, to which deed the name of
McKensey is spelled "Moredock O. McKensey." Burgess's
River has disappeared from all the maps, if it ever had a place thereon,
and diligent inquiry of the Culpeper people failed to disclose its
locality; it is believed however, that the name has been changed
to "Hedges' River."
In September, 1758, Hennings' Virginia Statutes, the
House of Burgesses made an appropriation to pay David Johnston, of
Culpeper, a sum of money for food furnished by him to friendly Indians.
David Johnston remained in Culpeper until 1778, and then came across the
Alleghanies, settling on the plateau or territory between Big Stoney
Creek and Little Stoney Creek at what is now know as the John Phleger
farm, where he died in 1786, his wife in 1813, and they are both buried
on this farm. The house which he built in1778 is still standing
and forms a part of the residence of the late John Phleger, and is no
doubt the oldest structure in the County of Giles.
David Johnston and his wife, Nannie, or Annie, Abbott Johnston, had
eight children, three sons and five daughters, all born in Culpeper, the
eldest; Sallie, had married Thomas Marshall before the family left
James Johnston, the eldest son of David, had visited the
New River Valley in 1775, no doubt on a visit to the Chapmans and
McKensey, and on his return to Culpeper, and in January, 1776, he
enlisted in a volunteer company commanded by Captain George Slaughter,
which company was attached to the 8th Regiment of Virginia Infantry
commanded by Colonel Muhlenberg. James Johnston served two years
in the American Army; his first service or a part
thereof was in South Carolina and Georgia; his command then
marched north and was under the immediate command of General Washington.
James was in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, marched through
the Jerseys, and spent the winter at Valley Forge.
David Johnston and Nannie Abbott Johnston had the
following children: James, who married Miss Copley;
Sallie, who married Thomas Marshall; Elian, who
married Isaac Chapman; Jemima, who married John Chapman, of Wolf
Creek; Virginia, who married Isaac McKensey; David, born in
1768, married Mrs. Sallie Chapman Miller, the widow of Jacob Miller;
Andrew, born in 1770, married Jane Henderson of Montgomery County;
Annie, the youngest daughter, married George Fry, Jr.
This George Fry, Jr., was a son of George Fry who
married the widow of the elder David Johnston, the Settler.
Captain George W. Caldwell, of Mercer, is the grandson of Annie Johnston
Fry, and the great grandson of the elder David Johnston.
James Johnston and his wife, ....... Copley, had several children;
sons, Reuben and David. The family, except David, went to Indiana
about the time of its admission into the Union. David married a
Miss Peck, of Botetourt County, and resided on Sinking Creek, where his
descendants still live. Thomas Marshall and his wife, Sallie
Johnston Marshall, who settled near the present dwelling house of George
L. Snidow, Esq., in Giles County, had four sons and two daughters;
the sons: John, David, James and Thomas; the
daughters, Nancy and Aggie. The family of Thomas Marshall removed
at an early date to Powell's Valley, Virginia.
John Chapman, of Wolf Creek, the son of Richard and
Jemima Johnston Chapman, had quite a numerous family; one
grandson, J. W. Chapman, residing on Wolf Creek, in Bland County, is the
only one of that family now bearing that name that lives in this
country. John Chapman and wife had a daughter who married William
Wilburn, of Sugar Run, and Boston and John Howard Wilburn are her sons.
The late John Chapman Wilburn was also a grandson to the said John
Isaac McKensey and family went to Kentucky quite a
hundred years ago. George Fry and his wife, Annie
Johnston Fry, had a number of children, among them two sons, David and
James, who went to Cabell County, Virginia, as early as 1820, and their
descendants live in Cabell and Wayne, some of whom were men of
prominence, among them Chapman Fry, grandson of James, was long Clerk of
the County Court of Wayne; William, another grandson,
is a lawyer and now the Prosecuting Attorney of Wayne County;
Johnston Fry, a son of James, was for many years Deputy Sheriff of Wayne
County. Some members of this family settled in Boone and Logan
Counties, and their descendants still live there.
Sallie, a daughter of George Fry, Jr., and Annie
Johnston Fry, married David Croy; another daughter of George and
Annie Fry, Eliza, married John Caldwell, who resided for many years in
Mercer County, where he and his wife both died and are buried.
They left a number of children, among them Captain George W. Caldwell,
who was a faithful and brave Confederate soldier, and was for a number
of years surveyor of Mercer County.
The children of Isaac and Elian Johnston Chapman and who
they married, will be seen by reference to the biographical sketch of
David Johnston and his wife, Mrs. Sallie Chapman Miller
Johnston, had two sons and three daughters; the sons: Oscar
Fitzalan Johnston, was born June, 1807, married Elizabeth French,
daughter of Isaac and Sallie Straley French; had three children,
David E., who married Sarah E. Pearis; Sallie V. (Note: Died
December 2d, 1905.) who married, first, Jesse N. Simmons, second,
George O'Rayburn; Oscar H., who died in 1879,
unmarried. Chapman Isaac Johnston, born January, 1809, died
December, 1891, married Elian Chapman Snidow, daughter of John and
Rachel Chapman Snidow; they had sons, David Andrew, who married
Fannie Shumate; J. Raleigh, who married Nona Peck;
Sarah Ellen, who married William Augustus French; Annie
Chapman , who married Charles Dingess French; Rachel Snidow, who
married, first, ......... Daugherty, second, Joseph H. Alvis.
Olivia Johnston married William M. Gillespie of Tazewell County;
had three sons, David Johnston, who married Elizabeth Saunders, Joseph
Stras, who married Mary Higginbotham; Albert Pendleton, who
married Nannie Higginbotham; the daughters, Sarah, who married
Clinton Barnes; Margaret, who married Colonel Joseph Harrison;
Louisa, who married Captain Henry Bowen; Mary, who married Oscar
Barnes; Barbara, who married George W. Gillispie; Ella, who
married Dr. J. L. Painter. Louisa Adeline Johnston married Colonel
Daniel H. Pearis; they had three children, two daughters and one
son: Virginia, who died in 1860, unmarried; George Daniel,
who when little above the age of sixteen years, joined Bryan's Virginia
Battery and was killed in the battle of Cloyd's Farm, May 9th, 1864;
and Sarah E., who married David E. Johnston. Sallie Chapman
Johnston died unmarried.
Colonel Andrew Johnston and his wife, Jane Henderson Johnston, had
five children; three sons and two daughters:
James D., a lawyer of great prominence, married Mary A. Fowler, daughter
of Dr. Thomas Fowler and his wife, Priscilla Chapman Fowler.
Andrew Henderson Johnston married Mary McDaniel, and they had two
children, Walter McDaniel, who married Annie Hays; Jennie, who
married Honorable Thomas H. Dennis. Dr. Harvey Green
Johnston married, first, Annie Snidow, by whom he had four children;
secondly, he married Mrs. Mary Fowler Halsey, by whom he had four
children. Mary Johnston married James M. Carper; they
had two sons and three daughters. Eliza Jane Johnston married
James Hoge, of Montgomery County; they had a large family of
The children of James D. Johnston and his wife, Mary Fowler Johnston,
were: Roberta, who married Dr. John Izard;
Allene, who died unmarried; Sydney F. (now dead), who
married miss Hattie Carey; Mamie, who married Mason Jamison, and
James D., a brilliant young lawyer of Roanoke, Virginia.
The children of Dr. Harvey Green Johnston are: Dr. William A.,
who married Mrs. Dennis; Carrie, who married Mr. J. E. Triplett;
Jennie, who married Mr. William Black; Loula, who married Mr. B.
E. Bransford; Fowler, who died young;
Harvey, Vivian and Ada are unmarried.
Annie Hoge, daughter of James Hoge and Eliza Jane Johnston Hoge,
married Major John Chapman Snidow; had two sons and two daughters;
the sons, William and Walter; daughters,
Florence, who married John T. S. Hoge; Annie C., who married John
W. Williams, who was Clerk of the Virginia House of delegates. The
sons of James Hoge and Eliza Jane Johnston Hoge are Dr. Robert, James,
Joseph, Rev. B. Lacey and Tyler, and a daughter, Jane Nellie.
The descendants of the settler David Johnston, or many of them,
together with the descendants of the settlers John and Richard Chapman,
have not only been prominent and influential people in both civil and
military affairs in the New River Valley, but even in other sections of
the country. In every constitutional convention held in Virginia,
except those of 1776, and the "Black and Tan," of 1869, this
Johnston-Chapman blood has had representatives. Henley Chapman was
in the Convention of 1829-30; his son, General
Augustus A. Chapman, was a member of the Convention of 1850-1;
his son, Mannilius, a member of the Secession Convention of 1861;
a great- grandson of David Johnston and John Chapman was a member of the
late Constitutional Convention of Virginia in the person of Honorable
Albert Pendleton Gillespie, of Tazewell. The second David
Johnston, Andrew Johnston, Isaac Chapman, and his son, John, were
frequently in the Legislature of Virginia; and later, Oscar F.
Johnston, Augustus A. Chapman, and Manilius Chapman were members of the
Virginia Legislature. A grandson and great- grandson
of the settler, John Chapman, together with a great nephew, were members
of the House of Representatives of the United States,
in the persons of General A. A. Chapman, David E. Johnston, and
Honorable Reuben Chapman, the latter of Alabama. Two
great-grandsons of the elder David Johnston and John Chapman have been
Circuit Judges in West Virginia, and one of them, Honorable Joseph M.
Sanders, has recently been elevated to the bench of the Supreme Court of
Appeals of West Virginia. Honorable James French Strother, a
great-great-grandson of John Chapman, is now a judge in West Virginia.
Major Samuel E. Lybrook and William A. French, great-grandsons of John
Chapman, represented Giles County in the Legislature of Virginia;
and Samuel Lucas, a great-grandson of the elder David Johnston, was also
a member of the Virginia Legislature.
About the year of 1800 there came to what is now Giles County and
settled in what is known as the Irish settlement, an influx of the
Johnstons from Fermanagh County, Ireland. Adam
Johnston married in Ireland Elizabeth Stafford, of County Tyrone.
Adam, and his wife, Elizabeth Stafford Johnston, had a numerous family,
among them, John, Adam, James Edward and others. John, James and
Edward had large families, who with their descendants mostly reside in
Giles County. Adam is the ancestor of the larger part of the
Mercer County Johnstons. Edward, usually called "Squire Neddy,"
was Clerk of Giles County Court for several years. Some of
the descendants of John and James Johnston reside in Mercer County,
among them Dr. Charles A. Johnston, George S. Strader, and the family of
Jacob L. Peters. Among these Scotch-Irish settlers who came
about 1800 were the Eatons, Staffords, Egglestons and others.