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Notes on the Descendants of

Isaiah Johnson and Mary Oxley

of Bertie and Lenoir (Dodd) Counties, North Carolina

by Neil Allen Bristow

Evidence is persuasive that many of the Johnsons of Leon County, Florida were the descendants of Isaiah and Mary (Oxley) Johnson from Bertie County, North Carolina.

From Albemarle Sound to the Neuse River

Isaiah Johnson had been in Bertie by 1747, when he appeared as a witness to a deed.1   Two decades later he and his sons Isaiah and Elijah were named by their grandfather John Oxley in his will dated 24 Feb 1767.2   Isaiah and Mary had moved south to Dobbs County on the Neuse River by 1758, and he sold his land in Bertie to another son, John, in 1767.3   John (who may have been from an earlier marriage) then sold the parcel three years later to Thomas Clarke.4

The senior Johnson had purchased land in what was then Dobbs County in 1758. (Dobbs, created in 1758 from Johnston, became Glasgow and Lenoir in 1791.) Only fragmentary records from Dobbs and Lenoir Counties survived a courthouse fire in 1878. However, a few extant deeds held by the parties, as well as a set of deed indexes provide some clues about the Johnsons and their neighbors.

According to deed indexes, Isaiah transferred land to his sons Elijah and Isaiah "Johnston" about 1780 or 1781.5   Isaiah and Elijah were taxed in Dobbs around 1790, along with some other people from Bertie, including George Oxley, Mary Oxley Johnson's brother.6

A later deed (1826) refers to "a patent granted to Elijah Johnson [????] dated 27 November 1787 then with the third line of the said [????], a patent granted to Isaiah Johnsons Senr dec[d], to a stake in Isiah Johnsons corner... "7

Elijah also purchased land in the mid 1780s from Francis Harper (an in-law)8   and a few years later additional land from Azariah and Ephraim Moore.9   (His granddaughter Louisa Johnson married John Richardson Moore in 1834.)

Isaiah Johnson Sr. had probably died by the end of the century. In 1800 both two Elijahs and one Isaiah were tallied in Lenoir County. He was clearly dead by 1804, when on 16 March of that year Elisha (sic) Johnson reached an agreement with William Moseley regarding "a dividing line in the said land of Isaiah Johnson senr. Left to his sons namely Isaiah Johnson and Elisha Johnson as William Moseley became purchaser of one half of the said land." The agreement was witnessed by Gabriel Johnson.10  The family did have a fondness for Old Testament names.

In 1810 there appears to have been at least two Elijahs and one Isaiah. In 1820 only Isaiah is listed. 11

Where was the land in Lenoir? According to descriptions such as the following Isaiah's land seems to have been in the northern part of the county: "Certain parcel of land situation ---- in the aforesaid County --- Between Wheat Swamp and Loosing Swamp beginning at a gum in Roderick Powels line formerly Isiah Johnsons line, to the main road leading from snowhill to Jones Ferry"12

The younger Isaiah Johnson's family is a mystery aside from a 1790 Dobbs tax entry which charged "Isaiah Johnston" with one white male above 16 years, one under 16 and one female, and one slave.13   If the Isaiah Johnson enumerated thirty years later in 1820 was Isaiah and Mary's son (and not a grandson), he remained on the Neuse after his brother Elijah moved south.

There seems to have been at least one other member of the family in the area, but the relationship of Gabriel and Ezekiel and other Johnsons of Lenoir to either the elder Isaiah Johnson or his son, Isaiah Jr, is not known. About 1801, Elijah Johnston conveyed to Ezekiel Johnston some land.14   Ezekiel sold some or all of this to Roderick Powell in 1833.15   Ezekiel may have been a either younger brother of Elijah, born after John Oxley died in 1767, or perhaps a nephew, son of Isaiah Jr or John. (His name was omitted from Elijah's will, so it is not likely that he was a son, unless he had died before his father.)

Elijah Moves South to Sumter

Elijah had married a Dobbs County neighbor, Elizabeth Harper, daughter of Alexander and Margaret Harper, around the end of the Revolution. Elizabeth's name appears with Elijah's on deeds as a seller as early as 1798 or 1799.16

Elijah and Elizabeth moved to Sumter District (later Sumter County), South Carolina, where his will was written in 1836.17   (Elizabeth had died two years before.) He named five sons (Daniel, Isaiah, Elijah, Harper, and Blaney) and three daughters (Gatsy Harper, Betsy Forehand, and Margaret Binder). At least three of the sons moved to Leon County, Florida over the next three decades. The two youngest sons (Harper and Blaney) remained in the Sumter/Clarendon area through the 1860s.18   Some of his daughters' families may have moved to Florida as well.19   Judging by the birthplaces reported for Elijah's grandchildren, some of his descendants spent some time in Georgia, but the location of their waypoint is unknown.

Several Isaiahs and a couple of Elijahs appear in the 1820 census indexes for South Carolina. The names are paired only in Sumter, but Elijah's son Isaiah was thirty years old and probably rated an entry of his own.

Indexes for Georgia in 1820 and 1824 show two Elijah Johnsons, one in Hall County and another in Burke. A third was in Washington County, but he was there through 1830, when our subjects had already arrived in Florida. No Isaiah Johnsons were indexed. (The Elijah in Burke does not seem to have been related.)

On to Florida

In 1830 Isaiah and Elijah (who were sons of Elijah) were in Leon County, Florida. They had not been listed in an 1825 tax list, so they arrived in the second half of the 20

On the census list in 1840 were Isaiah, Elijah Jr and Elijah Sr.21   And in 1845 the two Elijahs and Isaiah appeared on a tax list.22   Some of the decendants of Elijah James Johnson give his death as 1836, but the foregoing entries suggest he lived for another decade. He is absent from the 1850 census, when only a 38-year-old Elijah appears. A widowed Nancy Johnson was tallied next to Calvin and near Daniel.23

Also in Leon were, among others, a George C. S. Johnson, from Maryland. Later censuses reveal several other Johnsons from South Carolina and Georgia, who may (or may not) have been related. I would be grateful to anyone who can help me sort them out.

Isaiah Johnson is buried in the Moore-Johnson Cemetery, west of Tallahassee, under a stone that identifies him as "Born in Lenoir County NC." Nearby are his daughter Louisa, her husband, John R. Moore, and a number of other descendants.24


A database with these Johnson, Oxley, and related families (as well as a few strays whose connections remain unclear) has been posted on RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project.



1 Bertie Deeds G: 48. On 5 Jul 1747 Wm Stancill & his wife Africa sold 245 acres on the Cashy River to Joseph Jordan for £62/10/0. Recorded Aug 1747.

2 The will of John Oxley, dated 24 Feb 1767, cites his daughter Mary Johnson, son-in-law Isaiah Johnson and grandsons Elijah and Isaiah. Bertie Wills A: 81. The family name of Isaiah and his children is spelled in various records about half the time as "Johnston" with a 'T'.

3 "Isiah Johnston" of Dobbs County to his son John Johnston for 1 shilling 200 acres adjacent to Wills Quarter Swamp, 27 Mar 1767. Witnessed by John Barber, George Oxley. Loose Deeds 2: 210. In Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., Deeds of Bertie County, North Carolina, v 1 1757-1772 (Keysville, VA: Dr Stephen E. Bradley, Jr., 1992), 913. John may have been an older child by a previous marriage and therefore not kin to John Oxley, who thus had no reason to include him among his heirs.

4 John Johnston, planter, son of Isaiah Johnston to Thomas Clarke for 25 pounds proclamation 200 acres adjacent John Williams, south side of Wills Quarter Swamp, 20 Sep 1770. Witnessed by Peter Clifton, George Oxley, and Thomas Boswell. Loose Deeds 2: 217. Bradley, 930. (Seven decades later John Johnson, son of Oxley Johnson, Sr., married Martha A. Clark in Barren County, Kentucky. Although there is not a shred of proof, it would not surprise me to find that Martha's antecedents reach back to Tidewater North Carolina.)

5 Old Dobbs Deed Book 13 (Apr l779 to Apr l784): 47, 52. Exact dates unknown because the deed books themselves no longer exist. The deed indexes (which did survive) were transcribed by Martha Mewborn Marble, who oversees the fine Dobbs/Lenoir GenWeb pages.

6 Clarence E. Ratcliff, North Carolina Taxpayers 1701-1786 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1989), 107, 150. Heads of Families in North Carolina, 136. The names of Reddick and Hardy also appear in the Newberne District. Dobbs County was created in 1758 and abolished in 1791, its records going to Lenoir County.

7 R. J. Powell to Matthew Moseley, 3 Oct 1826. Enrolled 17 Oct 1826, D. Caswell, Clerk. Collection of Martha Eleanor Moseley, NC Archives, Raleigh, NC. Transcription thanks to by Martha Mewborn Marble.

8 Old Dobbs Deed Book 13 (Apr 1784-Apr 1789): 107. (Index)

9 Old Dobbs Deed Book 13: 225, 258. (Index)

10 Moseley Collection. Original source not stated. The earlier sale by Elijah Johnston to William Moseley was recorded in Lenoir Deeds 19 (1799-1801): 66.

11 AIS Census Indexes.

12 Matthew Moseley to Tully Moseley, 14 Mar 1831. Enrolled 9 February 1832, by Mortimer Bright, Reg. Moseley Collection. Snowhill is in Greene County.

13 Heads of Families, 136.

14 Lenoir Deed Book 19 (1799, 1800, 1801): 260. (Index)

15 Signed by mark. Wit: J. P. Dunn, Abraham Congleton. Enrolled 28 April 1834, Will Lovick, Reg. Moseley Collection. (Whether the Johnson connections with the Powells were confined to business between neighbors or whether there was a familial tie is likewise unknown.)

16 Lenoir Deed Book 18 (1798, 1799): 138. (Index) (Elizabeth Johnson appears alone about 1833, but is probably another person.)

17 Sumter Wills M: 13 (Bundle 50, Package 6). Transcript

18 1850 Census Sumter County, South Carolina, 408. 1860 Census Clarendon County, 228. Blaney married twice and had at least 21 children. Only one child of Harper's is known, but there were likely more. An apparently widowed Elizabeth Johnson with five children was tallied next to the brothers in 1860, but her husband has not been identified. Johnsons remained in the area into the 1900s and several are buried in the Manning Cemetery. See "WPA Tombstone Inscriptions" (FHL Fiche #9,000,015).

19 The name of Gatsy recurs in the family: a niece and grandniece shared this unusual name, as did a few other women who may have been kin. Gatsy probably married a cousin on her mother's side, but I have not identified any of the girls' husbands. The descendants of James Forehand (born in South Carolina abt 1790- died abt 1865), who moved to nearby Holmes County, include a number of boys named Johnson (but no Iasiahs or Oxleys). However, there is also a cluster of apparently interrelated Johnsons and Forehands in south-central Georgia (Dooly County) which may account for the names.

20 1830 Census Leon County, Florida, 122, 129; 1825 Leon County tax list.

21 1840 Census Leon County, Florida, 66, 67, 72.

22 1845 Leon County tax list. Thanks to Betty Norem, who contributed a transcription to the US GenWeb Archives.

23 1850 Census Leon County, Florida, 52, 55, 58. The 1836 date may come from confusing father and son.

24 Thanks to Brent and Vickie Stevens who contributed data on inscriptions to the US GenWeb Archives. Thanks also to Malcolm Johnson who tipped me off to the site.


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Copyright © 2003-2005, Neil Allen Bristow. All rights reserved.
This page updated 26 Jan 2005.