Friday, September 23, 2011

A Noble Ancestor

One of my ancestors could be considered a stellar man.

His name is Zachariah Johnson/Johnston.  Born in the Augusta Co., VA in the year 1742, he was a prosperous farmer by the time the Revolutionary War began.  He served as a captain in the county militia, patrolled against Indian uprisings, and participated in the Virginia campaign that led to the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.  After moving to Rockbridge Co., VA, he served in the House of Delegates.  Apparently, he knew both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry quite well.

He owned three plantations in Rockbridge county, one in Augusta county, and lands in Kentucky.  He married Ann Robertson, daughter of James, and together they had eleven children.

His parents, William and Ann Jackson Johnson/Johnston, were charter members of the Tinkling Spring Church, presenting son Zachariah for baptism on 26 Sep 1742. 

Tinkling Spring Church

When "Committees of Safety" were appointed in every district, he was made a member with high recommendations from his neighbors.  In this office he discovered so much good sense, and such ability to express his opinions with clearness and force, that he was persuaded to become a candidate for a seat in the Virginia legislature...

A religious man, he represented the area Presbyterians when Thomas Jefferson formulated his bill for establishing reigious freedom, which became law in 1786.  He states:
-"Mr. Chairman, I am a Presbyterian, a rigid Presbyterian as we are called; my parents before me were of the same profession; I was educated in that line. Since I became a man, I have examined for myself; and I have seen no cause to dissent. But, sir, the very day that the Presbyterians shall be established by law, and become a body politic, the same day Zachariah JOHNSTON will be a dissenter. Dissent from that religion I cannot in honesty, but from that establishement I will."

I recently had the opportunity to do some research in Virginia, and decided to visit his grave.  The only real information I had was that he was buried at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery in Lexington, VA.  Off we went.

My husband and I had no trouble finding the cemetery, but finding the grave was a different matter.  When we drove in, we saw a statue of Stonewall Jackson.  It was in the middle of an area similar to a traffic circle.  It was quite stately, but the ground was covered with lemons.
Stonewall Jackson Monument
There were lemons everywhere!

For some reason, it just struck my funnybone!  I asked husband Kerry, who is a walking encylopedia of American History why they put lemons there.  He actually didn't know.  It wasn't until I got home and looked it up that I found out - he just like lemons!  Apparently, he like to suck on them when going into battle.  The lemons around his monument, and around his original grave (before he was moved) were all fresh.  Perhaps they are placed there by VMI, located nearby.

The cemetery was old, and we began going up and down every row.  They were very, very hard to read.

View of the oldest part of the cemetery.

When we had nearly given up, my husband suggested "one more time".  Sure enough, just as luck would have it, we found the grave of Zachariah and of his wife, dear Ann.
There were many other family members buried nearby.  Some of the tombstones were so old and weathered, I could only tell what the names were by tracing my finger along the engraving.

A real treat was yet to await me.  At the historical society in town, a dear woman suggested we drive out to look at his house.  HIS HOUSE??!!  Oh, my!  Where exactly was it located?

We located it by doing a GOOGLE search, and found it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The asking price is $1.5 million.  I want it.  Here is the web site:

Zachariah Johnston house, built circa 1797

This house took my breath away.  Even the drive back to see it was beautiful.  We actually drove right up to the front porch.  I could just imagine stepping out of a buggy right onto the first step.

Some of my ancestors were not quite as prominent as Zachariah.  As a matter of fact, most weren't.  But, chasing them down through court records, moonshine happenstances, brawls, murders, adultery, delinquent taxes, etc. makes them a bit easier to find!

Zachariah and Ann left quite a legacy.  The Library of Virginia in Richmond houses hundreds of his papers, period records and writings.  But, I think the following statement is the best one I've read concerning this ancestor.

We do certify that Capt. Zh Johnston, his wife Ann, his sons John and Zh and his daughter Elizth are in full communion, and free from moral blot known to us: The remainder of his juniors are of fair and unblemished standing in this place. Signed by advice of Session this 21st May, 1792. J. McCue

Free from moral blot.  I like that.  I also like his house.  I want it.

1 comment:

  1. I would love to make contact with you. My husband and I are coming to the area as we re trace the footsteps of my great-great-great-great grandfather Alexander Martin who was indentured to William and then to Zachariah. Please contact me at carlajwicks@gmail .com. Our vacation in the area is May 26 -June 1 this year