DESCENDANTS OF WILLIAM JOHNSON
THE EARLY COLONIAL PERIOD
Colonial Maryland Timeline
1631 - Virginian William Claiborne, opens a trading post on Kent Island, the first colonial settlement in the Maryland region
1632 - Charles I grants the Maryland region to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, who dies before the charter is signed. His son Cecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, is granted the charter.
1649 - the colonial assembly approves the Maryland Act of Toleration, granting religious freedom to all Christians.
1654 - Clairborne overthrows Calvert's government
1658 - Calvert's government is restored
This period begins with the arrival of our earliest know immigrant ancestors, William and Alice Johnson sometime in the mid 1600s. What follows is some brief history concerning the founding of the colony of Maryland. Perhaps the Johnson family should give thanks that the first Colony in Newfoundland did not thrive.
The Origins of Maryland
Maryland developed from a tract of country belonging to the original grant of Virginia. George Calvert, the First Lord Baltimore, was looking for land with a similar climate to that of England on which to establish his new colony. He had founded a colony on the Island of Newfoundland in 1627, but due to extreme bitter cold in the winter, the colony was abandoned and the colonists returned to England on the ships, the Ark and the Dove. He then put his sights on obtaining land in Virginia, parts of which had already been colonized. In 1632, King Charles I of England granted what is present-day Maryland and Delaware to George Calvert. George wrote the Charter of Maryland, but died that same year. His son, Cecelius Calvert, the Second Lord Baltimore, along with his brother, Leonard Calvert, were determined to complete their father's mission and establish a colony in which those in England who suffered from religious persecution could live in a land where freedom and tolerance would reign. That land would become Maryland.
Maryland did not receive the name that was initially planned for it. When George Calvert wrote the Charter, he left the space for the name blank, thinking that King Charles would like to write in the name, "Crescentia," the land of Increase of Plenty, when he signed it. Following George's death, Cecelius presented the Charter to the King who was surprised that the name of the colony had not been entered. The King decided that the new colony should be named after the Queen, "Terra Maria", which is Latin for "Mary Land." (Pogue 1968, 32)
In order to get the best applicants for the new colony, Cecelius Calvert "advertised" the new world. He did a tremendous sales job on the new territory, basing his remarks only from reports he had received from explorers such as Captain John Smith, who had not seen the land all the way up the Potomac River himself.
Cecelius' salesmanship proved effective as he recruited near twenty "Gentlemen" as well as shipbuilders, carpenters, wainwrights, brick makers, farmers, and their wives. There were people from all classes of Englishmen, both Catholics and Protestants (Anglicans). Some of those aboard were indentured servants who gave up their freedom in exchange for their paid passage to Maryland which would then be repaid through work in the new
colony. It has been reported that at least two persons of African descent were among the initial passengers as well.
To avoid the risk of starvation which had plagued the colonies of Jamestown and Plymouth, Cecelius spent one year carefully preparing for the journey. He planned the departure from England in winter so that the colonists would arrive in Maryland in the spring when planting season began. An abundance of food was stored on the ship which included items such as wine, beer, flour, cheeses, dried fish, and an abundance of vegetable seed. He also required each man and woman to take along enough clothing for one year, as well as additional supplies.
The Journey of the Ark and the Dove
On a misty morning on November 22, 1633, after Leonard Calvert received explicit instructions from his brother, Cecelius, ordering privacy and silence regarding religious matters, approximately 140 people set sail from England on two ships, the Ark and the Dove. The Ark, captained by Richard Lowe, was a very large ship for its time, with a cargo capacity of about 300 tons, measuring about 110 feet long, 30 feet wide, and 13 feet deep. The Dove, captained by Richard Orchard, was an armed pinnace about one-seventh the size of the Ark.
The ships' course was not set directly toward Maryland, rather, to avoid the brisk winter blasts of the North Atlantic, they sailed southward to the coast of Africa. They planned stops at the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa before sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean to Barbados Island in the Caribbean. Following the calm waters of the Caribbean, they were to stop at Old Point Comfort in Virginia before proceeding to Maryland.
Soon after leaving England, they ran into a terrible storm in which the Dove was forced to return to the harbor and wait it out. The Ark was unable to find the Dove and, assuming the worst had happened, ventured on alone. The colonists "fought boredom, lived in cramped quarters below deck, and slept on thin, straw-filled mats. The women had scant privacy. Men took turns at the bilge pumps. One could bathe only in saltwater, and certainly personal discomfort and dirty linen weighted less in the balance than the danger of being washed overboard. Meals of salted meat, hard biscuits, and dried peas made one wish for more fresh water." (Brueger 1988, 8)
On January 3, 1634, the Ark reached Barbados where the passengers rested and gathered fresh water and food supplies. Just then, to their surprise, they saw the Dove appear on the horizon! The two ships were reunited and continued the remainder of their journey together.
On February 27, the ships arrived in Old Point Comfort, Virginia, to give some letters to the Governor of Virginia. There they bought pigs, cows, and other supplies. They set sail again on March 3 up the Chesapeake, rounded the corner at Point Lookout, and entered the Potomac River. Of the Chesapeake Bay, Father White wrote: "the baye is the most delightful water I ever saw between two sweet landes." (Pogue 1968, 48). They passed the St. Mary's River and continued to rest on an island which they named St. Clement's Island. There they erected a wooden cross and Father White said the first mass on Maryland soil on March 25, 1634. This was the beginning of St. Mary's County and Maryland. March 25 is celebrated each year in St. Mary's City as Maryland Day.
At St. Clement's Island, there was no protected harbor. So, Leonard Calvert decided to look for a better place. Captain Fleet in Virginia had told him that there was a good location further down the Potomac. They sailed past Piney Point to the St. Mary's River and, probably because the tide had changed, they were able to come ashore. About the St. Mary's River, Father White wrote: "This river makes two excellent bayes, wherein might harbour 300 saile of 1000 tunne a peece with very great safetie, the one called St. George's bay, the other, more inward the St. Marie's." (Pogue 1968, 49)
Initial Settlement in St. Mary's
Once ashore, the colonists were met by Algonquin Indians, who were characterized by Father White as looking warlike with red and blue lines painted on their faces, dressed in deerskin, and decorated with shells, teeth, beads, and feathers, but "of a very loveing and kinde nature." (Brueger 1988, 9) The Yaocomaco Indians shared their cleared land with the colonists and brought them food such as game and boiled or roasted oysters. They showed the male settlers how to hunt with a bow and arrow and how to catch oysters. The Indians were largely responsible for the success of the colonists. Sadly, however, the Indians eventually disappeared from Southern Maryland. Apparently, whenever an Indian was involved in any way with an offence, the blame was put on members of the closest tribe. The Indians, having a high sense of honor, could not tolerate false accusations and eventually moved elsewhere. (Pogue 1968)
Lord Baltimore's vision for the newly colonized society was to have a hierarchical system of landlords and tenants of the manorial system that characterized England's past. Early life in St. Mary's fulfilled that vision. The Gentlemen who arrived on the Ark and the Dove were selected by Baltimore to dominate the settlement in St. Mary's. These Gentlemen were the sons of prominent Roman Catholic families in England. The majority of the settlers, however, served on the manors as indentured servants or tenant farmers.
Lord Baltimore had made plans for providing land grants which generally awarded a colonist's contribution to the settlement. Settlers who had paid their own transport and that of five "able men" between the ages of 16 and 50, were promised 2000 acres (1000 after 1635). This grant entitled a subscriber to erect a manor and name it whatever he wished. Those accompanied in passage by fewer than five servants received 100 acres for themselves and an additional 100 for each servant. Married settlers received 200 acres, 100 per servant, and 50 acres for each child under 16 years of age. Women were also entitled to land. If widowed and with children, a woman could receive the same grant as a man. An unmarried woman with servants could receive 50 acres for each of them. Settlers paid rent on surveyed land and did not receive the title until they received their patent signed by the governor on behalf of Lord Baltimore.
The early years of the colony were a very harsh existence for those early settlers. The mortality rate for the early settlers was fairly grim. People died as a result of the “seasoning” mentioned below, which came as a shock to the systems of the early settlers. Indeed, the mortality rate was so great and there were so many orphaned children that Maryland set up the “Orphan’s Courts” to see that the surviving children were adequately care for. That institution, a testimony to this early grim period, has survived until this very day in Maryland. Records of the proceedings of these early Orphan’s Courts still exist. Here is an interesting description of the severity of this winnowing process:
Population and Patterns of Immigration
Initially, the population in Maryland increased from the first 140 settlers who arrived on the Ark and Dove to an approximate 600 inhabitants by 1640. A period characterized by severe depression and political turmoil caused a reduction in the population to only about 200 by 1645. In the late 1640's, the recovery began with a rapid growth in population throughout the remainder of the colonial period.
Mortality rates in transit and upon arrival
in Maryland were often high. Colonists were faced with an initial period
of "seasoning" that some did not survive. Diseases such as malaria,
smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, and influenza were prevalent.
The price of tobacco influenced immigration patterns. When prices were high, merchants actively recruited additional servants from England. When production overflowed the market and brought prices down, immigration slowed.
In 1831 the St. Mary’s County courthouse burned which destroyed many of the records from colonial times and early revolutionary periods. Fortunately some records that were filed in duplicate in Annapolis did survived. Maryland, being a proprietary colony, the proprietor, Lord Calvert, was entitled to charge the owners of land for the ownership of that property. These “ground rents” eventually became part of Maryland history and even as I recall ground rents were still in use when I was young as a way to enable people to buy homes. You didn’t have to buy the land, you rented it, and thus saved that expense. These Rent Rolls for the early colonial period did survived and you will see references to them with respect to William and Alice Johnson and their children. The owner of property also had to go through a process whereby the land was surveyed and then registered and some of those early records have also survived. Here is a description of that process from the Maryland State Archives website at:
Since all land in Maryland had been given by the King to Lord Baltimore, an individual who wanted a grant of land would have to apply to Lord Baltimore, or to Lord Baltimore's Land Office. Until 1680, the records might read that whereas "John Doe" was due so many acres of land, because he had brought himself, and/or family and or servants into the Province, an order [Warrant] was issued to the county surveyor to lay out so many acres of land. and to create a document known as a Certificate of Survey.
The earliest volumes of warrants also contain various records that were duplicated in the Patent Record series [MSA S11]. Some photostats. Indexed. General index in Warrants, Index series [MSA S22]. Partially described in: Land Office and Prerogative Court Records of Colonial Maryland, (Annapolis: Hall of Records Commission, 1946), pp. 24, 30-31.
The certificates of survey, describing tracts of land in various counties, are arranged chronologically. They give the actual dimensions, or metes and bounds of the survey, and are usually accompanied by a scale drawing of the survey. Boundary trees and rocks, and bodies of water, may be indicated. Index 114 contains Certificates, Patented series, (all counties) [MSA S1188-S1210], Certificates, Unpatented series (all counties) [MSA S1211-S1233], and Petitions series [MSA S26]. Entries give tract name, name of person for whom land was surveyed or who was filing the petition, and number of certificate or petition. Arranged by county and then by tract for certificates and individuals for petitions.
The next step was to obtain a patent for the land. Patents are documents granting ownership rights to some previously unpantented property. It has the nature of a deed and contains a description of the property and conditions of tenure. It sometimes happened that a man might apply for a warrant and have the land surveyed, and the would die before the land was patented. The warrant and certificate of survey might be in the name of "Richard Roe," and the patent might be in the name of John, Joseph, Mary, and Elizabeth Roe, children of Richard Roe, deceased. The patent records contain patents, certificates of survey, and some warrants of survey. Early entries also include probate records and records pertaining to indentured servants. The Archives also has an Index to Patents.
Rent rolls and debt books kept track of who owed taxes to the Proprietor for their land. After the Revolutionary War these were replaced by assessment lists. Transfers of property between private individuals and were recorded in the Provincial Court Land Records and after 1785 in the State Land Record Abstracts. Disputes between landlords and tenants are found in the ejectment papers.
These Rent Rolls are important for our purposes here as you shall see below. Here is a description of what is found in the typical Rent Roll entry:
Proprietary record of who patented tracts of land. Entries consist of name of person for whom the tract was surveyed, list of subsequent transactions, name of present owner, acreage, and quit rent.
Descendants of William Johnson
Generation No. 1
1. WILLIAM1 JOHNSON1 was born Abt. 1640 in England, and died Aft. 1678 in St. Mary's Co., Maryland. He married ALICE UNKNOWN2 Abt. 1660 in England3. She was born Abt. 1645 in England, and died Aft. 1678 in St. Mary's Co, Maryland.
Children of WILLIAM JOHNSON and ALICE UNKNOWN are:
i. WILLIAM2 JOHNSON, b. Abt. 1668; d. Aft. 1696.
2. ii. JOHN JOHNSON, b. Abt. 1675; d. Bef. April 02, 1745, St. Mary's Co., Maryland.
I. EXPLANATORY NOTE – WILLIAM & ALICE ( ___ ) JOHNSON
It is believed that the original ancestor of this branch of one of the Catholic Johnson families of St. Mary’s County is William Johnson. Ms. Cryer estimates that he was born somewhere in England in about 1640. William was married to Alice Johnson but we do not know her maiden name or where she came from in England. We do know from Gust Skordas’ book Early Settlers of Maryland that she was an indentured servant and did not pay her own way from England to the colony. William, on the other hand, did pay his way because the entry for him indicates that he “Immigrated” which means he paid his own passage. Alice is listed as “Service” which means typically that she would have worked as an indentured servant for the person who paid her passage. A typical period of indentured servitude at that time would have been 4 or more years. Recently I discovered a different listing in A Supplement to Early Settlers of Maryland, by Dr. Carson Gibb, Ph.D., which can be found online at the Maryland Archives at:
In this original document Wm. Johnson receives "one hundred acres of Land for himself & Alice his wife, his own transportation and wife time of service."
Perhaps this suggests that William arrived in the Colony first and that Alice did not arrive until somewhat later. Further research in the original documents is perhaps in order here.
However, thanks to Ray Johnson, Jr., we have found at least one source that lists and William and Alice Johnson coming to the Chesapeake Bay area in about 1670. This website has a listing which includes William & Alice:
Unfortunately we do not have a original residence for William or the ship that carried them to America. Also it unclear where Lutoft is as I have not been able to find a listing for this in the United Kingdom. Here are the listings from the website:
Original Residence: Lutoft
Page in Original Document: 67
Original Residence: ----
Page in Original Document: 508
"Bristol and America"
Bristol and America, A Record of the First Settlers in the Colonies of
North America 1654-1685
Including the names with places of origin of more than 10,000 Servants to Foreign Plantations who sailed from the Port of Bristol to Virginia, Maryland, and other parts of the Atlantic coast, and also to the West Indies from 1654 to 1685. This list is compiled and published from the records of the Corporation of the City of Bristol, England.
"Passengers to America"
Passengers to America, A
Consolidation of Ship Passenger Lists from The New England Historical and
Prefaces also provide some background and historical information. The list, as published, provides mainly a list of names from the records, only some of which have additional information regarding origins, destinations, ships, and dates.
Much of what we know about William in St. Mary’s County comes from the Early Rent Rolls. Since early Maryland was a proprietary colony the owners of land owed rent to the landlord, who were the Calverts, who had been granted the original right to colonize Maryland. The following two entries are found in the early Rent Rolls:
St. Mary's County Rent Rolls, 1639 to 1771
William & Alice Johnson
St: Peters Well. 100. 0.4.0. Surveyed Jul 30, 1678 for Tho: Melton At Obadiah Dunn's land.
Possessor: Widow ALICE JOHNSON
100. 0.4.0. Philip Key from John Johnson, March 9, 1737.
St. Mary's County Rent Rolls, 1639 to 1771
New Town Hundred
Hopewell. 75. 0.2.0. Surveyed Jun 9, 1679 for Arthur Dahahay on the W side ma: fresh Britt Bay.
Possessor: Wm. Johnson.
75. 0.2.0. Richard Cooper from William Johnson, April 24, 1730.
To understand where these properties were located it is important first to understand something about the organization of early St. Mary’s county lands. From 1637 until 1775, all the land was owned by the Calverts and 'granted', which meant in effect leased, by their authority as owners to:
individual (lesser) proprietors in blocks of 1,000 acres or more to form 'manors' or feudal estates, in return for rent paid to the Proprietor (Calvert), or
from the Proprietor's great manors (there were 62) himself directly to individual 'freeholders' or immigrants in smaller acreage also in return for rent or
to friends, relatives etc. with various arrangements.
These 'manors' were then parceled out by these lesser proprietors (wealthy nobles) to 'tenants' or small farmers (landless immigrants) in return for rents paid by them to the 'lord of the manor' . The 'demesne' or main mansion and grounds remained under the direct control of the Calverts.
Since the early Johnsons were not in the wealthy noble category but in the small farmer category we will concentrate on the small plots of ground and their location within a given “Hundred.” The “Hundred” is a division of land that dates back to Feudal times in England. Traditionally it was the amount of land that would roughly support a company of men for defense of the land, or 100 men. Hence since Maryland was a Feudal type proprietorship the early term continued in use. As can be seen in the above cited Rent Roll entries Ms. Cryer credits William with ownership of two properties, one in the Chaptico Hundred and one in the New Town Hundred. For our purposes here it is the first one that is important.
The crucial information we gain from the Rent Roll for the St. Peters Wells property is that Alice inherited a 100 acre plot originally surveyed in July of 1678 for one Thomas Melton. The property would have been located in the “Chaptico Hundred.” (See Map) These early plots of land were designated by name. In this case “St. Peters Well.” Citing William’s Will she states that the eldest son was left the property called “Hopewell” by his father’s will and that the younger son John inherited “Peters Well.”
Ms. Cryer has not found further information on this William Johnson, including any children, and she does not set forth anything about him and the “Hopewell” property. Perhaps this is the William Johnson who paid rent to Richard Cooper on this 75 acre tract on April 24, 1730.
The “Peters Well” property however does have a history that we can trace into later generations. Ms. Cryer used it as a tool to trace the history of the early Johnson families. She traced “St. Peters Well” as it was willed from generation to generation and later as it was transferred from family member to family member.
Also since Ms. Cryer first wrote her book Peter Himmelhaber has done some invaluable research on identifying these named plots of land in early colonial St. Mary’s County. He has taken the known information and demonstrated where those plots of land were with respect to known present day cities, roads, creeks, etc. What we learn from this map below is that indeed St. Peters Well was located near modern day Chaptico in St. Mary’s County. He has also plotted an additional piece of property that was later surveyed for William’s son John which consisted of 103 acres and was known as “Addition to St. Peters Wells.”
MAP OF ST. PETERS WELLS