James Johnson

Spouse: *****

Child: William, Sr.

Biographical Details:

The surname "Johnson" is evidently derived from a patronymic of the proper name "John" and, as such, is obviously formed following traditional usage prevalent in northern Europe, that is, in English adding the suffix "son" (or in other languages the grammatical equivalent, e.g., "o-vitch" in Slavic, "sen" or "son" in Scandinavian, etc.) to a father's given name.1  As noted elsewhere, patronymic naming conventions are of ancient origin and long antedate more recent use of true surnames.  (Indeed, at the present day in Iceland family surnames are not used and patronymic naming still remains standard practice.)  Of course, "John" is one of the most common of all English masculine names and derives from ancient Hebrew forms transmitted through later Christian tradition.  Within the United States, statistics compiled from the 1990 US Census indicate that "Johnson" is the second most common family surname having a frequency of 0.810% in the general population.2

According to family tradition it is believed that James Johnson was of English descent and settled on the Red Oak Mountain in the year 1740 (or possibly a few years earlier).3  At this time this area was included in Orange County, Virginia; Culpeper County not being organized from the northern and western parts of Orange County until 1749.  It is not known where James Johnson may have originated.  However, it is plausible that either he or, perhaps, his father would have come to Virginia as an indentured servant and, accordingly, would have likely worked on a tobacco plantation in the Tidewater before receiving his freedom and moving "up-country".  Subsequently, a deed was made in 1750 between James and Sarah Cotton and James Johnson for a lease of land a few miles east of Red Oak Mountain.4  Beyond these sparse and uncertain details, nothing definite is known of James Johnson.  Even so, it would seem probable that he remained resident in this locality for the remainder of his life.

Source Notes and Citations:
1. Patrick Hanks (ed.), Oxford Dictionary of American Family Names, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, periodically updated.
     "English and Scottish: patronymic from the personal name John.  As an American family name, Johnson has absorbed patronymics and many other derivatives of this name in continental European languages."
back to bio.

2. Genealogy, United States Census Bureau, Washington, DC, periodically updated.  (Available electronically at www.census.gov/genealogy/www/)
     This ranking is also evident in the 2000 US Census and rather than a fundamental indication of the original frequency of occurrence of the surname within the British Isles, almost certainly reflects the common practice of Anglicising various immigrant surnames during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
back to bio.

3. Anonymous, A History of the "Red Oak" Johnson Family, privately published.  (Not currently in print - facsimiles available at the Rappahannock County Historical Society, Washington, VA)
     "We have been told that the first Johnsons settled on the Red Oak Mountain sometime in the year 1740, and on the 19th day of July, 1764, William Johnson, I, son of James Johnson bought a grant of land, most of the Red Oak Mountain, etc., for the sum of Fourty-four (44) pounds, current money of Virginia.
     The first house on the Red Oak Mountain owned by William Johnson, I, is still standing and owned by one of his descendants and used as a tenant house.  This house and some land is owned by Henry B. Wood (a grandson of Henry Clay Johnson, a son of William, III, of William, II, and of William I).  The deed or grant of land was written on sheep skin and is still in the family of his descendants.  The Johnsons are English descendants."
     "There is another grant the first Johnsons had dated June 25, 1751 signed by Fairfax and written on sheep skin and is the property of Albert Johnson (son of Silas Johnson, son of James of Ben of William Johnson, I, of Red Oak)
     I find where there was a James Johnson on the Red Oak in 1736.  Don't know how long the Johnsons had been there.  This James Johnson was the father of the 1st William Johnson of the Red Oak."
     Internal evidence suggests that this History was written in the late 1950's by a member of the family still resident in Rappahannock County, Virginia.
back to bio.

4a. James Cotton, et ux to James Johnson   Deed dated November 14th, 1750, between James Cotton and Sarah, his wife, and James Johnson, all of Culpeper County, Virginia, on the Gourdvine River and joining John Brown etc., a contract was made and five shillings paid and at the end of the year one peppercorn was to be paid on Labor Day.  (Deed Bk. A, Culpeper Co., VA, pg. 235, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, (microfilm: roll - City and County Records #1).

b. James Cotton and Sarah, his wife to James Johnson  Contract   Dated November 15th, 1750, between James Cotton and Sarah, his wife, and James Johnson, with consideration of fifteen (15) pounds current money for one whole year for a lease of land on the Gourdvine River and joining John Brown.  This is part of a portion grant to Joseph Bloodworth and Conrathe Amburg (sic - Conrade Amberger).  Coming due August 2nd, 1736. (Deed Bk. A, Culpeper Co., VA, pg. 236, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, (microfilm: roll - City and County Records #1).

c. The grant mentioned above issued to Joseph Bloodworth and Conrade Amberger on August 2, 1736, was for four hundred acres located on the south side of the South Fork of the Gourd Vine River in Orange County (later Culpeper County).  Within this context, the present Thornton River can be identified with the Gourd Vine River of eighteenth century land records; however, it may have specifically been just the North Fork with the present Hazel River, thus, being identified with the South Fork.  Even so, other landmarks and streams can still be identified as they were in the eighteenth century.  (Land Office Patents, Bk. 17, pgs. 140-1, Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, (microfilm: roll - Land Office Grants and Patents #15).)
back to bio.

Return to Index