Notes on the Oxley Johnson Family - 2
by Neil Allen Bristow
The younger Oxley Johnson was born 26 August 1833, in Barren County, Kentucky. A few years after his father's death he moved to Mammoth Cave in nearby Edmonson County. About the time of his marriage he was living a few miles up the Green River in Woodsonville.1 He married Martha Ann Stallsworth, daughter of Henry Harrison Stallsworth and his first wife, Amanda Staples, in their native county 28 February 1858.2 The newlyweds followed her father and brothers and cousins to Harrison County, in northern Missouri on the Iowa line. Who led the migration and how they traveled by steamboat or rail or road remains unknown. Their eldest child, Mary Catherine, was born 7 December 1860, probably in Missouri, although she later told a census-taker that she was born in Iowa. She married in 1884 John William Lowe, another Missourian whose family had moved to Kansas.
Oxley left his young wife and daughter to enlist in the Union Army 24 Aug 1861, serving alongside many of his neighbors in Company D, 23rd Regiment, Missouri Volunteer Infantry.3 In late September, with enough men on hand, the regiment joined other units at Benton Barracks in Saint Louis where they were offically mustered into Federal service and where the raw recruits received some military training. Throwing together in close quarters tens of thousands of farm boys and other young men who had limited exposure to disease was a recipe for medical trouble. While in Saint Louis Oxley contracted measles which severely affected his sight, as well as chronic diarrhea which troubled him for years.4 In late October 1861 the regiment was dispatched on an expedition by rail to central Missouri to counter rebel activity in the Southern-leaning area known as Little Dixie.5 The long, slow, two-day trip to Macon of over 150 miles on open flatcars in cold weather almost killed him. After a few days under canvas at Macon waiting for transport, the sick were taken by boxcar another 62 miles to Chillicothe, where a temporary hospital had been set up. His spell in the hospital was broken by medical leave allowing him to go home to Cainsville.
While Oxley was home Martha gave birth to their second child, Nathaniel, 30 Jan 1862. Taking care of a newborn, a toddler, and an invalid demanded great strength from Martha. For a time they rented a room from her aunt, Elizabeth Stallsworth Samples.6 Nathaniel died at less than two years of age; he is buried in Fairview Cemetery near Cainsville.7
He never rejoined his comrades on active duty, and was discharged 2 Jun 1862 at Saint Louis on grounds of "illness and absence." His discharge papers described him as being 28 years old, with "dark complexion, hazel eyes, dark hair, 5 feet 10 inches high.".8 Oxley never saw combat. While he was out sick and recovering, the regiment did take part in the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862, and many of his healthier comrades were killed or captured by the Confederates.9
It took a while to get back on his feet after his short but nearly fatal time in the service. According to Martha's cousin, Lucinda (Samples) Zimmerman, in February 1862, "He was still poorly as a person could be and could scarcely see his way. I next saw him about 1st of April 1862 when he returned home from Army. He was very poorly & continued so all summer. He lived on my father's place. I see him every few days all that summer he was confined to his bed a good deal of the time ..."10
John William Johnson, born 21 March 1864, married Mollie Matthews 22 Feb 1884, in Wilson County, Kansas. (There was a young Mollie Matthews teaching school in Harrison County in 1880; if she fudged her age on the marriage license, she could be John's bride. A romantic notion, her following him 200 miles south across the Great Plains.) They had three boys and three girls.
In 1865 Oxley moved into Cainsville, where he found work at the lumber and grist mill owned by Samuel H. Glaze and his partners, where he was employed for about nine years. He was also active in the community. "[H]e joined the Christian Church and was baptized in Grand River in 1865. In 1866 he helped organize the I. O. O. F. lodge at Cainsville."11 During his time at the mill he was injured by a splinter in his eye. While he was recuperating his brothers in the Odd Fellows lodge granted him sick benefits for a couple of months.12
A second daughter was born 15 April 1865, named Martha Sherman, and was called "Sherm" to distinguish her from her mother. Sherm married another school teacher from Missouri, Henry C. Downey. He taught school in the now-vanished crossroads of Brooks, in southeastern Wilson County, Kansas in the mid-1880s, where the Johnson clan had settled. Henry must have come into some money, because soon after he entered into a series of business ventures, mostly in Oklahoma and the Indian Territory. Mary Catherine's daughter, Iva Dell (Blossom) Lowe visited the family at Chandler, Oklahoma, in the summer of 1904 and wrote several times of "going uptown to Uncle Hank's Drugstore for some ice cream."13 (The building was still standing in 1994, basically unaltered, with its brick exterior and stamped metal ceiling intact. A flower shop has replaced the City Drug Co., but Robert Mascho, grandson of Henry's partner Alfred Mascho, is one of many Maschos still living in town.)
Oxley also was elected township constable in 1866, and re-elected in 1868 and 1870. His conduct in that office, serving legal ppers and assisting the Justices of the Peace, must have satisfied his neighbors because in 1874 he was elected township collector.14
Another girl, christened Lucinda after an aunt, was born 10 July 1867. She was known as Nannie. Sarah Ellen, called Sadie, came along three years later, 18 February 1870. Nannie and Sadie married two brothers, Charles Wilson Graves and Losson Nathan Graves, who were neighbors in Wilson County. Blossom Lowe kept in contact with her Graves cousins for many years. She preserved a couple of newspaper clippings reporting family gatherings about 1908.15
The 1870 census found Oxley working as a miller, with a family consisting of Martha and five children. Mary C and John W attended school; Martha, Lucinda and the infant Sarah were at home.16
Lillie Bell was born 18 March 1873. She married a railroad man, George Fogleman, 22 October 1897. Her niece, Blossom, visited her in Chanute, Kansas, around the birth of her only child, Ruth, in 1904.17
There may have been another child born in the late 1870s, whose name has been lost because it, like Nathaniel, died young or was stillborn.18
Oxley returned to farming in 1874, taking up 140 acres in Clay township, northwest of Cainsville.
|From the 1876 Atlas of Harrison County|
When Congress authorized pensions for disabled Union veterans in 1877, Oxley applied. He was rejected. Over the next four decades he fought for a pension, enlisting the aid of his army comrades and neighbors to validate his claim. He eventually qualified for benefits under the Act of 1890.20
Just after the 1880 census came Orval A., born 26 July, who was counted in the Kansas State Censuses of 1885 and 1895, and the Federal Census of 1900.21 His name appears on a Neodesha high school graduation program but then he disappears with no further trace. He may have changed his name to Richard Marion Johnson. Richard married a young widow, Emma Walker Brundadge, about 1908. Emma's first husband, Wilford Brundadge, had died in a mishap in the rail yards at Beaumont, Kansas. Dick and Emma later moved to Noel and Joplin, Missouri. Among their children was a third Oxley Johnson.22
In the early 1880s Oxley served as a school district director, even though his eyes continued to trouble him.23
In 1883, after 25 years in northern Missouri, the Johnson family moved to southeastern Kansas, where Oxley bought a farm outside Neodesha, at the crossroads of Brooks in Newark Township of Wilson County.24 The farm, which had been known as the Joshua Shay homestead, was on the southern county line, just E of modern State Highway 37. The land was identified as the E 1/2 of SW 1/4 and W 1/2 of SE 1/4 of Sec 31 of T 30S, R 17E, and totaled 149 acres. On 24 April 1889 he succeeded his son-in-law, Henry C. Downey, as postmaster at Brooks, holding the office for a year.25
Oxley's younger brothers William and James also settled in Wilson County. William had lived in Daviess County, Kentucky and the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and James in southeastern Missouri before coming to Kansas.
Just after the turn of the century Oxley retired from active farming and moved to Neodesha. His white frame house, at 220 Indiana Street, was still standing and in good repair a century later. In 1910, he was counted there with Richard and Emma.26
The Oxley Johnson Family
Front: Oxley, Martha Ann, Lillian B. "Lillie" Fogleman.
Back: Sarah E. "Sadie" Graves, Martha "Sherm" Downey, Orval/Richard Marion,
John W., Lucinda E. "Nannie" Graves, Mary Catherine Lowe.
Taken in Neodesha around 1899. (Thanks to Marty Fuller, a granddaughter of Lillian.)
Oxley Johnson is wearing his "Gold Bug" hat again. This hat is a yellow crusher which was used in the campaign of 1896 when Bryan and McKinley were opposing candidates. He says he will wear it a half day for Capper and Campbell, a half day for the Republican county ticket and a half day for George Linn, the only Socialist trustee ever elected in Neodesha township. As Mr. Johnson says, "This is the only "Gold Bug" hat living today." Mr. Johnson has willed the hat to his grandson, Oxley Johnson, Jr.
Martha Ann Stallsworth Johnson died 7 Feb 1910.29 Much to the confusion of his descendants, when Oxley remarried 23 Nov 1911, he chose as a bride his granddaughter's mother-in-law, Katherine (Coombs) Bristow, who was 23 years his junior. When he died in 1919, his passing was noted by a lengthy obituary in the local paper.30
Oxley and Martha are buried in the Neodesha Cemetery, west of town, surrounded by their children and in-laws.
A Johnson Family Album
Oxley Goes to War
Oxley Battles for a Pension
Oxley's Trial for Murder
1 Oxley Johnson Pension files, Claim No. 237,502. Photocopy of original documents in National Archives. Affidavit of Oxley Johnson, 4 Oct 1884. See also affidavit of Berry Eaton, 26 May 1891. "He was raised in 1-1/2 miles of me in Edmonson Co, Kentucky, close to the Mammoth Cave..."
2 Sandra K. L. Gorin, Marriage Records of Barren County, Kentucky, 1850-1860 (Glasgow, Ky. : S.K.L. Gorin, 1990). Oxley later reported (in Pension documents) that the marriage had been performed in nearby Hart County by Jacob Lock.
3 Pension files. Compiled Service Records.
4 The hundreds of pages of affidavits and depositions by comrades and neighbors as well as medical reports contained in his pension files (although sometimes contradictory) establish that Oxley did not enjoy robust good health after the war, though his disablities were not as great as he claimed, nor as insignificant as some of his detractors maintained. Measles, a viral infection, sometimes does lead to conjunctivitis, inflamation of the lining of the eye, which can be severe, even to the point of blindness. Diarrhea can be caused by several infectious agents, but for it to linger for years suggests he may have contracted amoebic dysentery or some other parasitic disease.
5 The best report of the unit's weeks in Saint Louis and the trip is that of 1Lt John A Fisher, given as an affidavit 21 Jun 1888, although statements by other comrades support Fisher's narrative. Oddly, neither the county history nor any of the other published sources mentions the expedition to Little Dixie. Goodspeed says only that the company, commanded by Capt W.P. Robinson, remained near home "preserving the peace and protecting the lives and property of Union men in the county" until some time early in 1862. History of Harrison and Mercer Counties, Missouri (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1888 ), 330.
6 Pension files. Statement of Emily (Samples) Chapman (3 Feb 1886).
7 Inscription. "Nathaniel L. / Son of O. & M.A. Johnson / age 1 year 11 months 25 days." Fairview Cemetery, Clay Twp. Cited in Harrison County [MO] Genealogical Society, Harrison County Cemetery Records, 60. However, the birthdates for most of the surviving children were included in pension papers (4 May 1898 and 2 Apr 1915).
8 Pension files. Copy of discharge. That he actually went back to Saint Louis and rejoined the regiment long enough to be discharged is borne out by the statement of Pleasant Wishon that he saw Oxley "about 2 weeks or along up to 1st of April  when the regiment was ordered down the river ... The way I fix as having seen him at Benton Barracks is that I borrowed money of him to have my picture taken in St Louis." Deposition (28 Oct 1885).
9 The 23rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry lacks a formal Regimental History. Major Rex Allen Gooch has made an excellent start with his Web site. Additional bits and pieces can be found on the Harrison County Genweb site.
10 Pension files. Lucinda Zimmerman (3 Feb 1886). She added later (14 May 1888) that he was totally disabled for the first 18 months at home and only about "half and half" after that. Statements of other kinfolk and neighbors agree that it took at least a year for him to recover most of his health. For example John T. Crawley (3 Feb 1886) said Oxley was "entirely disabled for about a year after he came home" and was "laid up off and on" until 1883. Martha's aunt Hannah (Stallsworth) Brinton (3 Feb 1886) opined he was "wholly disabled a year or more after he came home."
11 "Oxley Johnson is celebrating his 85th birthday today." Clipping from an unidentified Neodesha paper, [26 Aug 1918]. However, his obituary (see below) gives the date of his church membership as 1861.
12 Workmen's Compensation Insurance protecting those injured in industrial accidents was decades in the future. Mutual help programs, such as the one offered by the IOOF to Oxley, were a good recruiting tool for many fraternal groups. The injury did complicate Oxley's pension claim. Pension files. William D. Bryant, Letter 22 Nov 1890, stated that he was secretary of the IOOF lodge at the time of the accident, exact date unspecified.
13 Blossom Lowe Diary. Collection of Neil Allen Bristow.
14 Pension files. Oxley Johnson (7 Jun 1880). See also John C. Stoner (1 Feb 1886 and 9 Jul 1888).
15 Collection of Neil Allen Bristow.
16 1870 Census, Harrison County, Missouri, 90. Madison Twp, family 66.
17 Blossom Lowe Diary.
18 In the 1900 census Martha reported that she had borne eight children of whom six were living. See 1900 census, Wilson County, Kansas, ED 172, sh 126. Newark Twp. If these figures are correct they support the idea that Richard Marion may have been a grandson rather than a son. See below.
20 The Dependent Pension Act of June 27, 1890 required only that the veteran be disabled, not that the qualifying disability have been incurred as a result of military service. For the story of the struggle, see my pension notes.
21 1880 Census, Harrison County, Missouri, 6. Clay Twp, family 58. 1885 Kansas Census. Wilson County, 23. Newark Twp. (Gives names only, no ages, etc.): Orville, Martha, Nannie, Sadie, Lillie. Mixed in with Graves in-laws. Also 1895 Kansas Census. Wilson County, 6. Newark Twp. Oxley Johnson 59 KY Farmer; Orval 14 M MO; Martha 55 F KY; Lilia B 22 F MO. 1900 census, Wilson County, Kansas, ED 172, sh 126. Newark Twp.
22 For Wilford's obiruary see Neodesha Register, 7 Jun 1907.
23 Pension files. H. H. Stoner (12 Apr 1904). Herschel Halleck Stoner (1861-1933) who was a teacher, saw Oxley about once a week, and recalled "I distinctly remember that there were occasions when he was unable to bear ordinary daylight." He was a cousin of John Caleb Stoner.
24 Neodesha Register, 22 Sep 1938. "History of Brooks and Vicinity"
25 History of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas (Fort Scott, KS: Monitor Publishing, 1902), 897. In 1890 he was also the railroad agent for Brooks. Pension papers, Wm. D. Bryant (22 Nov 1890)
26 1910 Census, Wilson County, Kansas. ED 219. 6B. Neodesha.
27 Fragment of Neodesha High School graduation program. Undated, but Orval Johson, who was among the graduates, would have been 18 in 1899. Collection of Neil Allen Bristow.
28 Clipping from an unidentified Neodesha paper, undated, but after September 1914 when his namesake was born. Another humorous item titled "FIFTEEN OLD SOLDIERS SHOT" recorded an impromptu picture-taking of a group of Civil War veterans.
G. H. Anthony of Fredonia, A. L. Scott of Sycamore, Dr. T. Blakeslee, R. M. Jones, John Whitzell, W. J. Brittain, George Briggs, L. M. Greenup, H. Woodring, Wm. Housley, Oxley Johnson, Ed Van Buren, Thos. Toller, J. M. Hopkins and John Jackson, all of Neodesha, chanced to meet in front of Eson's store last Friday afternoon and Arthur Jones loaded an Eastman kodak [sic] and stepped out in front of the store and shot them all at once, each with a pleasant smile on his face. All of the above groupe [sic] were soldiers of the Civil war and they are about the liveliest bunch of boys who fought for their country in that unpleasantness that could be found anywhere, and to prove that some of them at least still retained some of their old-time form A. L. Scott and Dick Jones cut loose and danced jigs that would make the average darky go way back and sit down.Thanks to Marty Fuller for images of the clippings.
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This page updated 24 April 2007.