Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History

Record Detail

Record #53 from Free Black Families of Colonial Delmarva (abstracted by Paul Heinegg)

State Virginia
County (Primary) Northampton
Other Counties Accomack, Somerset, Sussex,
Family Name Johnson
Family History Notes The Johnson family originated in Northampton County, Virginia, before 1650. Members of the family were in Somerset County, Maryland, by 1665, in Delaware by 1677, and in North Carolina by 1720. Included below are the members of the family who moved to Maryland and Delaware during the colonial period. For the complete family history, see the Johnson History in the Virginia section. 1. Anthony1 Johnson "Negro," probably born about 1600, was free before 10 January 1647 when he purchased a calf from James Berry by deed proved in Northampton County, Virginia [ODW 1651-54, 123]. He patented 250 acres in Northampton County at "great Naswattock Creek" for the transportation of five persons including his son, Richard Johnson, on 24 July 1651 [Patents 1643-51, 326]. His wife, Mary, and their two daughters were excused from paying taxes by the Northampton County, Virginia Court on 28 February 1652 [ODW 1651-54, fol.161]. In 1665 he and his wife Mary, his son John, and his wife Susanna, and their slave John Casor moved to Somerset County, Maryland with Randall Revell and Ann Toft, who claimed them and many whites as head rights for 2,350 acres of land [Patents 8:495-6]. Anthony and his wife sold 250 acres of their own land, left 50 acres to their son, Richard, and took fourteen head of cattle, a mare, and eighteen sheep with them [Accomack DW 1664-71, fol.10; p.12-fol.12]. On 10 September 1666 he leased 300 acres in Somerset County on the south side of Wicomico Creek in Wicomico Hundred, called "Tonies Vinyard," for two hundred years [Land Records O-1:32-33]. He apparently died before August 1670 when "a jury of white men" in Accomack County decided that his land should be escheated since "he was a Negroe and by consequence an alien" [Virginia Genealogist 2:20, 109-113]. His lease in Somerset County, Maryland, was renegotiated by his widow, Mary, for ninety-nine years with the provision that her sons, John and Richard, would assume the lease after her death [Land Records O-2, 20-21]. Her slave, John Casor, recorded his livestock brand in court with her consent on 3 September 1672, and she recorded her mark a few weeks later on Mary recorded her livestock mark on 26 September 1672 [Archives of Maryland 54:760-1]. He was called "John Cazara Negro" when he was a witness (signing) to a power of attorney by which she assigned her son, John, authority over her property and authority to sue for some debts in Virginia, and he was also witness on 3 September 1672 to her deed of gift to her grandchildren. She called herself "Mary Johnson ... Negro (the relict of Anthony Johnson ... Negro deceased)" in the deed by which she gave cattle to her three grandchildren, Anthony, Richard, and Francis [Somerset County Judicial Record 1671-75, 159-62]. She was called "Mary Johnson of Wiccocomoco ... widow" in July 1676 when she purchased a mare and assigned it to John Corsala (her slave) [Somerset County Judicial Record 1675-7, 95]. She was called executor of Anthony Johnson deceased on 17 January 1690 when Edward Revell acted as her attorney in a suit she brought in Accomack County court [WDO 1678-82, 154]. She was living in Sussex County, Delaware, in March 1693/4 when Mary Okey appeared in court to support her complaint that her son, John, was not maintaining her as he had promised [Court Records 1680-99, 646, 655]. The children of Anthony and Mary Johnson were 2 i. John1, say 1631. 3 ii. Richard1, born about 1632. iii. a daughter, excused from paying tax by the Northampton County court in February 1652, perhaps the Joan1 Johnson who in 1657 received 100 acres in Northampton County from "Deabendanba, Kinge of nusangs," being land next to her brother, John [Whitelaw, Virginia's Eastern Shore, 671]. iv. a daughter, excused from paying tax by the Northampton County court in February 1652. 2. John1 Johnson, born say 1631, received a grant for 550 acres in Northampton County on 10 May 1652 "at great Naswattock Cr. adjacent to 200 acres granted Anthony Johnson" for the importation of 11 persons including Mary Johnson [Patents 3:101]. He received this patent after suing a white resident of the county, also named John Johnson, who tried to illegally take possession of the land. In 1660 he was head of a household of two tithables in Northampton County, called John Johnson Negro [DW 1657-66, 57-58, 103; DW 1651-54, fol.200]. He and his wife, Susanna, sold their land in 1664 [Whitelaw, Virginia's Eastern Shore, 671]. In November 1654 he and Mary Gersheene, an African American servant of his father were punished for fornication [ODW 1654-55, fol.35, ODW 1651-54 p.226-fol.226]. On 17 January 1664/5 his wife, Susannah, petitioned the Northampton County court to release him from jail where he was held for begetting a child by Hannah Leach who was probably white [Orders 1664-74, fol.92]. In 1665 he moved to Somerset County, Maryland, with his parents. He was called "John Johnson Negro" on 11 March 1667/8 when he and two white men, Alexander King and John Richards, were charged in Somerset County court with stealing corn from an Indian named Katackcuweiticks. They confessed their guilt and were ordered to deliver two barrels of corn to the King of the Manoakin at Manoakin Town. He was sued by Randall Revell in Somerset County court for a minor debt on 13 January 1674/5 and appeared as a witness in a court case against Revell. The justices were at first doubtful about admitting the testimony of an African American against a white person. However, his testimony was allowed after he assured the court that he was a Christian and "did rightly understand the taking of an oath." He gave his age as thirty-seven in his deposition in 1670. He testified again in 1676 and was witness to several deeds. Edward Surman appointed him as guardian ("assistant") to his children by his will which was proved in Somerset County court on 10 January 1676/7 [Archives of Maryland 54:675, 707, 712; Judicial Records 1670-71, 10, 15, 6, 205; 1671-5, 41, 260, 267-8, 429, 457; 1675-1677, 47, 78]. He moved to Sussex County, Delaware, where he received a patent for 400 acres on Rehoboth Bay in September 1677. He purchased 200 acres in Sussex County and sold this land by deed which he acknowledged in court in April 1683. In August 1683 he was accused of murdering his wife, Susan. The court took depositions from John Okey and Jeffry Summerford, and released him because they saw "no sign of murder." He appeared in Sussex County court as a witness on seven occasions between March 1680/81 and February 1688. He sued John Okey for debt in May 1685. And he was a defendant on sixteen occasions, mainly for debts. The court postponed action on one of these cases because he was in Virginia between December 1684 and May 1685. He was identified as a "Negro" on only three of these occasions; one was a case in which he had the estate of Nathaniel Bradford in his custody. In August 1704 he was called "John Johnson, Free Nigroe, Aged Eighty Years and Poor and Past his Labour" when the Sussex County court agreed to maintain him for his lifetime on public funds. He was apparently still living in November 1707 when Walter Groombridge had a suit against him for a debt of ?3 [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 103, 110, 144, 166, 190, 193, 204, 214, 216, 229, 235, 251, 253, 299, 315, 342, 356, 365, 384, 447, 462, 516, 540, 635, 797, 857, 919, 1201, 1314]. John1's children were 4 i. John2, born perhaps 1650. ii. Anthony2, born perhaps 1655, who was devised a cow and a calf by the will of his grandmother, Mary Johnson. He was a sued in Sussex County, Delaware Court on 7 May 1706 and was a witness in a Sussex County case in November 1709 [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 1227, 1291]. iii. ?Joan2, "Negro," married John Puckham, a baptized Monie tribesman, on 25 February 1682/3 in Somerset County, Maryland [Register of Liber IKL, Somerset Courthouse, cited by Torrence, Old Somerset, 143]. See the Puckham history. iv. an unnamed son, born say 1667. William Futcher claimed in February 1689 Sussex County court that Johnson's son had been bound to serve him for nine years. The suit was canceled because of Futcher's death [Court Records 1680-99, 294, 322, 342]. Perhaps this was William Johnson "Molater" who bound himself to serve Ralph Doe Carpenter of Somerset County for four years on 2 June 1700 in order to pay his debts. On 31 March 1702 the Somerset County court ruled the indenture was insufficient and set William at liberty [Judicial Record 1701-2, 105-6]. v. ?Comfort, born say 1680, "free Nigrene," presented by the Sussex County, Delaware Court for having a bastard child in 1699. James Walker of Rehoboth Bay agreed to pay her fine and give her a three year old heifer in exchange for her serving him an additional thirteen months, and she bound her two-year-old son to him until the age of twenty-one [Court Records 1680-99, 768, 774, 775]. In February 1706 she confessed to having a bastard child by Justice William Bagwell's servant, Patrick Delany, and in May 1706 she admitted to having a child by Rice Morgan [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 1218, 1219, 1276, 1281].(1) 3. Richard1 Johnson, born about 1632, was one of the five persons his father claimed head rights for in 1651. On 8 February 1653 Governor Richard Bennett instructed Nathaniel Littleton to deliver a black cow to him. On 28 September 1652 he claimed two headrights, and on 21 November 1654 he received a patent for 100 acres in Northampton County adjoining his father and his brother John [ODW 1651-54, fol.103, p.133; Patents 1652-55, 296]. On 19 January 1663/4 he was called "Richard Johnson negro" when he brought suit in Accomack County court against Richard Buckland about a house he had built for Buckland [DW 1663-66, 54]. He remained in Accomack County on 50 acres left to him by his father when his father took the rest of the family to Maryland [Accomack DW 1664-71, p.12-fol.12]. He purchased 590 acres near Matomkin from Christopher Tompson in December 1675 and conveyed half this land to his son Francis in 1678 [WD 1676-90, 14; Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1088]. He was taxable in Accomack County on 2 tithes from 1676 to 168? (called Richard Johnson, Sen.) [Orders 1676-8, 34, 57; WDO 1678-82, 18, 100]. He was involved in a number of court cases in Accomack County. He was sued for debt by Christopher Thompson on 14 September 1677 [Orders 1676-8, 66, 84]. On 17 November 1681 his suit against (his son) Richard Johnson, Jr., was dismissed; on 18 October 1682 he admitted to the court that he owed William Parker 682 pounds of tobacco; on 3 December 1684 he admitted that he owed Walter Harges 1,000 pounds of tobacco, and he was sued by John Cole for 5,978 pounds of tobacco. He died before 19 March 1689 when his wife Susan Johnson, called a widow, was sued by Hendrick Johnson for some cooper's work he had performed for her after her husband's death [WDO 1678-82, 55, 155, 268, 322]. She came into court to give account of the estate of William Silverthorne which included several yards of linen lent to "Richard Johnson Negro Since deceased" [W&Co 1682-97, 142, 155, 157]. She may have been white since their son Richard was called a "Mulatto." Their children were i. Francis, born perhaps 1655, received a calf by his grandmother's 3 September 1672 Somerset County deed of gift. He apprenticed himself to George Phebus in Somerset County for three years to be a cooper in November 1673 [Judicial Records 1671-75, 161-2, 336-7]. He moved to Sussex County, Delaware, with his uncle, John1 Johnson, by 8 September 1685 when he was summoned as a witness in a court case between William Futcher and John Crew [Court Records 1680-99, 99]. He sued Henry Stretcher in Sussex Court in November 1686, and he was called "Francis Johnson, the Negro" in June 1687 when the court ordered William Orion to pay him 20 shillings for taking up his runaway servant, John Martin.(2) He testified in court for Henry Stretcher in October 1687. He was in Accomack County about February 1689 (called "Francis Johnson Mollatto" and "Brother" of Richard Johnson) when he agreed to complete a fence which Richard contracted to build for Colonel John West. In 1689 he sold the land in Accomack County which his father had conveyed to him in 1678 in order to pay a debt of 6,000 pounds of tobacco [WD 1676-90, 507a, 508; W&cO 1682-97, 155a, 156, 187-187a]. He was living on land adjoining William Futcher in Rehoboth Bay, Sussex County, in December 1690 and testified in Sussex County in March 1693 in a case between John Barker and Aminadab Handsor [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 757; Court Records 1680-99, 600]. He was called a "Mollatto" on 30 March 1699 when he purchased 300 acres, called "Rotten," on the north side of Indian River in Sussex County, Delaware [DB A-1:83, 226]. On 4 November 1707 Hill Drummond brought suit against him in Accomack County court for uttering scandalous words [Orders 1703-9, 103-103a]. On 8 April 1713 he paid Comfort Driggers' fine of 500 pounds of tobacco for the illegitimate child she had in Accomack County earlier that year. Perhaps Elizabeth Johnson, who gave evidence against Comfort, was a relation of his [Orders 1710-4, 56a, 58]. He was security in Accomack County court for Edward Winslow and his wife Anne who failed to appear to answer Thomas Dashiell and Ephraim Heather of Somerset County [Orders 1714-7, 19].(3) He may have been the Fran. Johnson who William Driggus appointed as one of the executors of his 7 June 1720 Somerset County will [WB 17:285]. ii. Richard2, born say 1660, received a calf by his grandmother's 3 September 1672 Somerset County deed of gift [Judicial Records 1671-75, 161-162]. He and his wife, Anne Johnson, were servants of John Cole of Accomack County in 1680. She was required to serve her former master, William Whittington, an additional four years for having two illegitimate children while in his service [Northampton Orders 1678-83, 34; Accomack WDO 1678-82, 288-9]. On 3 September 1679 he was called Richard Johnson, Jr., when John Cole and his wife sued him in Accomack County court for kicking Mrs. Cole. On 5 August 1681 he deposed that about Christmas of 1680 he was the servant of John Cole of Motamkin [WDO 1678-82, 108, 288]. On 3 April 1688 Adam Michael sued him for 5,000 pounds of tobacco as a penalty for his nonperformance of a bond, and on 20 December 1688 Colonel John West sued him for failure to build a fence consisting of 400 wood panels for his cornfield (called "Richard Johnson Mollatto"). Richard completed only 40 or 50 of the panels before turning the work over to "his Brother Francis Johnson" in exchange for a gun and several other items. On 16 June 1689 Captain William Custis won a suit against him for about ?1. Maximillian Gore acted as his security. He was a tithable head of an Accomack County household in 1692. Esther Pharis identified him as the father of her illegitimate child who was born on 4 June 1695 [W&cO 1682-97, 129a, 132a, 150a, 155a, 156, 160, 258a; Orders 1690-9, 153, 173]. He was called "Richard Johnson, Mollattoe" in September 1699 when the Sussex County, Delaware Court presented him for stealing a mare belonging to William Faucett of Somerset County. He was excused after explaining that he had already returned the mare, "taking of the Mare threw mistake, being so like his mare" [Court Records 1680-99, 780]. On 8 October 1707 he was called Richard Johnson "Mulatta" in Accomack County court when Hill Drummond brought a suit against him for debt [Orders 1703-9, 103-103a]. He may have been the Richard Johnson of Carteret County, North Carolina, who purchased 130 acres on Core Sound on the east side of North River from George Cogdell and sold this land on 2 October 1724 to (his nephew?) Jacob Johnson and (his niece's husband?) Theophilus Norwood. The deed was proved by John Simpson and Enoch Ward, who also proved the will of (his brother?) William1 Johnson [DB C:113-4]. 4. John2 Johnson, born perhaps 1650, was named as John Sr.'s son in 1670 when they recorded their livestock brand in Somerset County, Maryland [Archives of Maryland 54:757]. On 29 August 1677 he purchased a 44 acre lot on the east side of the Chesapeake Bay and south side of the Wicomico River which he named "Angola." This land probably adjoined "Tonys Vineyard" where his grandmother was then living [Maryland Provincial Patents, Liber 20:224-5; Davidson, Free Blacks, 29]. The land was escheated in 1706 with the notation, "no heirs as I understand" [Maryland Provincial Rent Roll, Vol. no. 1, 34]. He was in Sussex County, Delaware, in December 1680 when he was fined for singing "a scurlous disgracfull song" about Samuel Gray and his wife and would have been whipped if William Futcher had not posted security for him. He married Elizabeth Lowe (an English woman) in Sussex County, Delaware, on 13 March 1680/1 [Court Records 1680-99, 2, 23]. She was probably the Elizabeth Johnson who was twenty years old on 14 August 1683 when she appeared as a witness in court. He apparently left the county sometime before February 1683/4 when he was accused of killing a sow belonging to Andrew Depree and taking the meat to John Okey's house [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 228, 260]. On 5 March 1699/1700 the Kent County, Delaware Court referred to him and his wife as "John Johnson a free Negroe, and Elizabeth his wife (an English woman)" when they were accused of running away and leaving their seven year old daughter, Susannah, in the custody of Thomas Nicholls. The court bound her to Nicholls until the age of eighteen [Court Records 1699-1703, 14]. He may have been identical to John Johnson "Negro" who was sued in Cecil County court on 14 June 1710 for failure to pay his taxes in 1707, 1708 (on two tithes), and 1709. He was called a "Negro" in the same court when Paul Phillips sued him for debt and he sued Anne Millener. On 31 September 1704 he bound his daughter Sarah Johnson, who was about seven or eight years old, to Paul Phillips until the age of twenty-one. Phillips had assigned the indenture to Thomas Wouleston by 9 June 1713 when the court ordered her to serve the remainder of her time to him according to her indenture [Judgment Records 1708-16, 70, 71, 85, 88-9, 202]. John was the father of i. ?John3, born say 1682, a "Malattoe" servant boy ordered by the Sussex County, Delaware Court in September 1698 to serve his master, Justice John Hill, another seven months for running away for a month [Court Records 1680-99, 744]. ii. Susannah, born about 1693. iii. Sarah, born about 1696-1697, seven or eight years old on 31 September 1704 when her father bound her as an apprentice to Paul Phillips in Cecil County. Their descendants in Maryland and Delaware were most likely: i. Sarah, a "Malatto" who was the servant of Nathaniel Horsey in Annamessex Hundred, Somerset County, when she admitted that she had an illegitimate child by "Ned Negroe" belonging to her master [Judicial Record 1713-15, 176, 219; 1715-17, 43-4]. ii. William, a "Molatto," died before 25 July 1778 when John Rowland was granted administration on his Sussex County estate. His inventory amounted to ?122 and included a parcel of books and carpenter's tools His widow received ?16 as her third and ?38 was distributed to the unnamed heirs [RG 4545, roll 132, frames 244-6]. iii. Thomas, born say 1750, a "Melato," owed 5 shillings to the Worcester County estate of Mr. Alexander Buncle on 3 February 1761 [Prerogative Inventories 72:137-42]. iv. Sabra, born say 1750, a "free Mallatto," admitted to the Worcester County, Maryland Court in June 1769 that she had an illegitimate child by Ned Dutton in November 1768. She paid her fine and James Riggan of Pocomoke Hundred paid her court costs [Proceedings 1769-79, 40]. v. Milby, convicted of assaulting John Regua/ Ridgeway in February 1754 Sussex County court [Delaware Archives RG4815.017, 1753-1760, frames 49, 66, 86], taxable in Little Creek Hundred, Sussex County from 1773 to 1777, head of a Little Creek Hundred, Sussex County household of 6 "other free" in 1800 [DE:488]. He died about 1805 when Mary Johnson was granted administration on his estate [RG 4545, roll 131, frame 290]. vi. John5, a taxable "Molattoe" in Baltimore Hundred, Sussex County in 1777. vii. William, head of a Worcester County household of 7 "other free" in 1790. viii. George, head of a Worcester County household of 6 "other free" in 1800 [MD:798]. ix. Levi, head of a Somerset County household of 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:491]. x. Rachel, born before 1776, head of a Worcester County household of 4 "free colored" in 1830. Other Johnson families: 1. William Johnson, born say 1705, a "free negro," petitioned the Prince George's County court on 27 June 1732 saying that he came into Maryland as a free man with Captain William Spaven who sold him as a slave to Colonel Joseph Belt. Captain Spaven testified that he met up with William Johnson in London, that Johnson stated that he was in great necessity, asked what voyage he was bound out on, and agreed to go with him to Maryland. When they arrived in Maryland, Spaven sold Johnson to Colonel Belt for his lifetime. The court ruled that Johnson serve five years from the time of his arrival in 1729 [Court Record 1730-2, 541]. He may have been the ancestor of some of the members of the Johnson family who were free on the Western Shore: i. Polly, head of a Baltimore Town household of 3 "other free" in 1790 and 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:246]. ii. Michael, head of a Washington County household of 7 "other free" in 1800 [MD:644]. iii. Rachel, head of a Montgomery County household of 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:236]. iv. Nicholas, head of a Baltimore City household of 6 "other free" in 1800 [MD:246]. v. Susanna, head of a Baltimore City household of 3 "other free" in 1800 [MD:246]. vi. James, head of a Baltimore City household of 3 "other free" in 1800 [MD:246]. Talbot County 1. Margery Johnson, born say 1698, the servant of Clement Sale, confessed to the Talbot County court in November 1717 that she had a child by Phoenix, a "Negro planter" of St. Peter's Parish [Judgment Record 1717-9, 6-7]. She may have been the ancestor of i. Frederick, head of a Talbot County household of 5 "other free" and 2 slaves in 1800 [MD:517]. ii. John, head of a Kent County household of 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:162]. iii. Robert, head of a Kent County household of 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:162]. iv. Suky, head of a Dorchester County household of 5 "other free" in 1800 [MD:674]. Somerset County 1. Abigail Johnson,born say 1740, was the servant of Andrew Francis Chaney of Somerset Parish, Somerset County, on 16 March 1761 when she confessed that she had a child by Hector, a "Negro" slave of Thomas Williams. The court ordered her sold for seven years and ordered her son David sold for thirty-one years [Judicial Records 1760-3, 130b-131]. She was the mother of i. David, born about January 1762, head of a Lewis and Rehobeth, Sussex County household of 7 "free colored" in 1820 [DE:302]. Another member of a Johnson family was i. Abraham, a "Malatto man" listed in the inventory of the Dorchester County estate of Govert Loockerman on 18 August 1728 with one year left to serve [Prerogative Court Inventories 1728-9, 13:184]. Endnotes: 1. Patrick Delaney's age was adjudged as thirteen years by the Accomack County, Virginia Court on 7 February 1700 [Orders 1697-1703, 84]. 2. Francis Johnson was identified by race in only one of the seven times he was named in Sussex County court [Horle, Records of the Sussex County Court, 356, 425, 468, 481, 720, 757, 863]. 3. Edward Winslow provided security for William Driggers in Somerset County court when he was convicted of having an illegitimate child by Mary Winslow [Somerset County Judicial Records 1707-11, 95-6].
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[Author (if known)], Free Black Families of Colonial Delmarva (abstracted by Paul Heinegg), [Date (if known)], Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva’s Black History, Nabb Research Center, Salisbury University.