THOMAS VESTAL JOHNSON AND
SARAH MARGARET "SALLIE" BAILEY
Born 31 July 1844(45) and was the 3rd child of William Harrison Johnson and Nancy Wood
Thomas Vestal first married Sarah Margaret "Sallie" Bailey on September 30, 1868, in Rome, Georgia, according to Georgia marriage records. The 1870 census shows them living with their eleven-month-old son William Osborne "Ozzie" (also called "Willie" or "Ossie" at times) on the farm near William and Nancy, with Thomas shown as a farm laborer, probably on William's farm. Ozzie was born 25 June 1869. Sallie either never recovered from the birth of Ozzie or had problems from a second pregnancy, because Pearson said she died from problems related to childbirth. When Ozzie was about six, Thomas married Hattie. Thomas' parents continued raising Ozzie in Rome.
An old journal, which appears to be a sort of autograph book which belonged to Sallie, is in the possession of Jolene Doering. The book is about eight by eight inches with a navy cover. The front of the book has inlays of abalone shell and other materials to form flowers. An attempt was made to reproduce this writing, but the pages are yellowed and the writing so faint that it would not reproduce. Among the pages are two written by Thomas Vestal Johnson. The first dated January 22, 1864, read:
January 22, 1864
A place in thy memory dearest -
Is all that I claim
To pause and look back when thou hearest
The sound of my name.
8th Ga Regt.
Remember me when I am gone, think of me
sometimes, pray for me often
& I'll remember thee
T. V. Johnson
Of the many other entries, one of the latter is a very lengthy one dated May 18, 1870, Floyd County, from E.A.M. and addressed to "Mrs. Johnson," and mentions that the writer hopes she is soon well enough to take care of little Ozzie and her husband. Sallie died a few weeks later.
WILLIAM OSBORNE JOHNSON
William Osborne Johnson was born 25 June 1869. On 19 July 1891 he first married Daisy Dean, who was born in October of 1872, and their children were Nettie J. born in March 1892, and Eva, born in November 1894. After the death of Daisy on 5 May 1904, W. O. married Mattie Roberson, probably born in 1883 and died in 1933, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Roberson. Mattie is buried in Beech Creek Methodist Cemetery. Their children were Donald, born in 1906; Eunice, born in 1908; Annie Mae, born in 1911; Sarah, born in 1913; and Copeland, born in 1917. Mattie died in January 1925, at which time her obituary in the Rome News-Tribune lists her age at 30 rather than 41 as the census age would indicate. Then, a W. O. married Amanda, who died five years later at age 52. Obituaries for Mattie and Amanda were both in the Rome News-Tribune under the Lindale News column logo written by Charles J. Ogles. Dave Dixon believes this to be a different W. O. Johnson. Probably this explains why in the obituary for Amanda in 1930, the lists as survivors are five stepdaughters (which I had earlier thought to be Nettie, Eva, Unis, Annie Mae, and Sarah) with no mention of her two stepsons (Donald and Copeland). It was the wrong woman. Certainly the name is very common and it is almost impossible to sort through the Johnsons living in Floyd County at that time. Although this information is gathered from census records and obituaries, it must be noted that the ages of W. O.'s wives in the obituaries do not match exactly with the ages given in the census.
The 1910 census shows Nettie living in Floyd County, Georgia, with her aunt and uncle, Mabel Dean and Joseph H. Jeffries, Sr., as well as cousins Joseph, Jr., and Andrew, and her maternal uncle William A. Dean. In that same census, Nancy Wood Johnson is shown at age 88 living with her son George Hillyer Johnson, daughter-in-law Ardecie, and grandchildren Robert Linder, Clay S., Martha G. and Hillyer George on Grady Street in Rome, Georgia.
THOMAS VESTAL JOHNSON AND
HARRIETT "HATTIE" ARAMINTA CLEMMONS
Thomas Johnson married Harriett (Hattie) Araminta E. Clemmons on August 3, 1875, in Chattoga County, Georgia, according to pages from the Clemmons family Bible. The original Clemmons Bible was handed from Thomas' last wife Attie to Hillyer because Hillyer's wife Luda was her sister. It appears that these records were copied from another source for Hattie by her brother John Robert Gibson Clemmons after her marriage. Apparently the Bible has now been lost, but the pages from the Bible were located by Hillyer's and Ludie's son Elmer and his wife and Doris and given to Carolyn Smith. Copies of these pages are found later in this text. According to Thelma, the Johnson family Bible given by Thomas to Claud was destroyed in a fire when the barn in which it was stored burned.
The Clemmons/Akridge/Price Families
Harriett Araminta E. Clemmons was the daughter of Mary Jane Akridge and Thomas Linzy Clemmons born 29 Mar 1853. She told her children she was half Cherokee. According to some family members, she had very blue eyes and thick hair which was still black with no gray at the time of her death. According to Thelma, Harriett's Cherokee name was Nec-o-Lena Ros-i-Lee or Necolena Rosilee. No records have been located to corroborate this except the fact that Hattie was born in Chattooga County, Georgia, which at that time was all Cherokee land. Donald Johnson’s research uncovered that Nancy Price was Cherokee, but no closer Cherokee relationship has been found. Possibly, Hattie was just entertaining her children with the story of her ancestry, or other members of the family were Cherokee and passed for white.
The marriage of Mary Jane and Thomas Clemmons was on 5 August 1847, as recorded in the Clemmons family Bible and as reported in the Southern Christian Advocate, and they had two other children: John Robert Gibson Clemmons was born January 12, 1851, and died in 1910 at Summerville, Georgia, and Amanda Lucretia Clemmons was born April 30, 1848. John R. Clemmons married Kathrine Edmondson, daughter of William O. and Nancy Edmondson. The 1870 census shows only John and Harriett living with Mary Jane after the death of Thomas in 1864. Mary Jane Akridge was born in Georgia April 7, 1826, to Levi and Nancy Price Akridge and died December 12, 1871. Nancy Price Akridge was born May 10, 1799 and was the daughter of Charles Price, Sr., who died in 1841, according to Georgia probate records.
Nancy Price married Levi Akridge, who was born in 1790 in Georgia and died 24 January 1841 in Cherokee County, Alabama, according to Calvin H. Akridge of Kensett, Arkansas. Their children were Charles born in 1815, Ezekiel R. born in 1819, Simeon born in 1823, unknown girl born in 1823, Mary Jane above, John B. born in 1830, Joseph P. born in 1834, Levi Y. born in 1836, Elizabeth born in 1838, and Cicero V. born in 1839. The last two children were born in Alabama, and the others born in Georgia. Levi Akridge was the son of Ezekiel Akridge who was born about 1760 and died in 1843 in Clarke County Georgia. Carla Valette Randall, of Decatur, Texas, believes the wife of Ezekiel to be Mary Braswell. In the 1850 Census, Nancy is shown having returned to Chattooga County, Georgia, as head of household living with three sons and farming. Levi served in the War of 1812, and Nancy applied for his pension after his death.
According to Clemmons family Bible records, Thomas Linzy Clemmons was born January 8, 1810, in North Carolina and died May 23, 1864. Thomas and Mary Jane were married May 23, 1864. Thomas was the son of Christine and Samuel Thompson Clemmons. Samuel was born January 10, 1781, to William Clemmons of Montgomery County, North Carolina. William died two months before Samuel was born, according to Thelma C. Landrum, author of the book SAMUEL THOMPSON CLEMMONS AND HIS DESCENDANTS. (This book is about the uncle of the Samuel to whom this family is related.) Even though his family lived in North Carolina, Samuel was listed as having been born in Virginia.
Thelma Johnson Haley remembered a large photograph or painting of Hattie Clemmons and Thomas Vestal Johnson. In a letter to her cousin Carolyn Johnson Smith in 1985, Thelma said,
"Our grandmother was half Cherokee Indian. In those days most of the part Indian people did not want anyone to know. But Dad said she was half Cherokee. I used to look at the large picture of her and Grandpa hanging on the wall. She was so beautiful, had blue eyes and long black hair. It looked like her complexion was soft light brownish.
I have been trying to find out the amount of Indian we are. Grandpa was Irish. But, I do remember Dad and Grandpa taught me Indian dancing, etc. They would beat the drums."
From this it is difficult to determine whether this is fact or merely two men indulging a child. However, other members of the family also believe Harriett to have been half Cherokee. No proof of this has been located. At the time of her birth, the area in which Harriett was born was supposed to be limited to Cherokees or whites married to Cherokees.
Thomas and Hattie Johnson with their baby Claud moved to McLennon County in Texas near Waco about 1877, leaving Ozzie with William and Nancy Johnson in Rome. They chose the Waco area because they had relatives there, but the names of the relatives are not known, nor whether they were Johnson or Clemmons relatives. Thomas and Hattie appeared in McLennon County on the 1880 census. After nine or ten years in that area and the births of three more children, they moved to Grayson County, Texas, near Van Alstyne and Pilot Grove, where they remained for the rest of Hattie's life.
THE CHILDREN OF THOMAS AND HATTIE JOHNSON
The children of Thomas and Hattie Johnson and their birth dates were:
Ø Claud Iverson Johnson, born May 31, 1876, in Rome, Georgia, married Daisy Alma Morse, daughter of Edward and Rose Greenwood Morse, on 2 October 1898 at the Congregational Church in Denison, Texas;
Ø Versa LaVert Johnson, born March 15, 1878, in Waco, Texas, (incorrectly listed as female on the 1880 Texas census) married Rongna Snedal, of Norwegian descent whom the family called "the foreign woman" and whose sister was reported to be the first woman osteopath in North Texas, Necolena Rivers McCrarary;
Ø Vestal Akridge Johnson, born July 24, 1880 in Waco married Vallie Ward, who was the sister of Carl's wife and died May 1966 in Salem, Oregon;
Ø Venice Carrie Johnson, born September 27, 1882, in Waco and married James Davis Sanders and died 12 June 1921;
Ø Hillyer Alton Johnson, born July 24, 1886, on the farm near Van Alstyne, Grayson County, who married Luda Garton (died in Fort Worth on 22 December 1966), and whose wife Luda was the sister of Thomas' third wife Attie Garton;
Ø Carl (said he had no middle name--used "Bob") Johnson, born May 6, 1888, on the farm married Lela Ward, sister of Vallie;
Ø Pearson (or Pierson) Madison Johnson, born April 18, 1890, on the farm and whose family is covered later;
Ø Guice Winfield Johnson, born September 25, 1893, who married Anna Wilson Kingsted first and then Fern, and who died in 1961 according to dates taken from the Johnson family Bible and supplied by Tressie Johnson Setliff before the Bible was destroyed in a fire.
It is possible that Hattie had health problems for the last several years of her life. The boys spent a lot of time in the care of Swedish neighbors. As a result, the boys learned to speak Swedish and Hillyer even came to believe the Johnson family was from Swedish origin. During her pregnancy with Guice, Hattie had a lot of health problems resulting from her diabetes. A distant family member or servant, Catherine "Aunt Kate" Lattimer, came from Georgia to take care of Hattie and the children. According to Thelma Haley, Aunt Kate was the best friend of Hattie. Kate's fiance had been killed in the Civil War and she had never married. Hattie developed a lot of swelling in her legs and feet which the doctor diagnosed as dropsy, and which he treated by splitting her feet to apply leeches for the swelling. She never recovered, but developed gangrene and died on Christmas Day, 1894, after being ill for almost two years. Her burial site has not been located.
Sometime after Hattie's death, Thomas, the children, and Aunt Kate moved to another home by covered wagon. Thomas and the older boys slept in a half‑dugout until the new house was completed. Aunt Kate and Guice slept in the wagon until the house was completed. Pearson told the story that he slept under the wagon unless there was rain, in which case he slept on the bed of the wagon with Guice.
When Pearson was eight, Thomas and the children went back to Georgia on the train for the death and funeral of Pearson's grandfather, whom Pearson thought he remembered as his paternal grandfather. This is consistent with the death of William Johnson, who died a month before Pearson's ninth birthday. Pearson said his grandparents lived in a big white house with a porch on three sides and pillars so large that he and Guice could not get their arms around the pillars. He thought it was at 6 Peachtree Street, but no such street was located in Rome, Georgia. It was while they were in Georgia for this funeral that Thomas learned that the children had inherited land through their mother's family and he went to check on this land on the children's behalf while the children returned to Texas with Aunt Kate.
According to Pearson the land was in Hannibal, Missouri, but according to Thelma, it was at Hope, Arkansas. Both agreed, however, on the other details. It could even have been from Cherokee County, Alabama, where Harriett's grandfather died. When Thomas located the land, he found it covered by the buildings of a small town. When he went to a lawyer to discuss legal proceedings to reclaim the land, he was persuaded by the lawyer that the process would be very expensive, lengthy, and would undoubtedly fail. After he returned home, Thomas learned that the lawyer whom he consulted was actually the owner of the buildings on the land in question, but Thomas never pursued the matter further. Calvin Hugh Akridge of Kensett, Arkansas, believes the land would have been in Lonoke County, Arkansas, and was probably land which once belonged to Levi Y. Akridge. This is consistent with the fact that Hattie's brother, John Clemmons, owned land in Lonoke County, according to D. P. Henley II of Summerville, Georgia.
After they returned to Texas, the family unit sort of dissolved. Pearson and Guice went to live with their oldest brother Claud and his wife Daisy in Denison so that they could attend school. The 1900 census shows Catherine Lattimer living with them as a servant. It is believed this is "Aunt Kate." According to Thelma, Aunt Kate eventually went back to Georgia and married. The same census shows Thomas living with his only daughter Carrie and her husband James Sanders in Duke, Oklahoma. Carl and Vestal also lived with Carrie. Versa boarded with the Hebron Holder family in the same county and Hillyer boarded with the Ervin Banks family. According to Thelma, Thomas regretted leaving Ozzie in Georgia with his parents and said he would never remarry until the boys were all grown.
Hillyer, Pearson, and Guice were frequent companions through childhood and their early adult lives. They had a childhood playmate, Dwight, who had been born in Grayson County but had moved away as a toddler and came back with his mother each summer to visit relatives. Thomas leased a plot of land and hired a man to clear the land of trees and break the soil. The brothers and their friend were walking by the land and saw the hired man asleep under a tree while his mule grazed nearby. Knowing Thomas was paying the man by the day, they decided to check up on him again the next day. Sure enough, the man was taking another nap under a tree. In the tree over the man's head was a hornet's nest. The boys decided to toss rocks at the nest to get the hornets buzzing and wake the hired man. They hit the nest and it fell onto the man's face. He screamed and went running, the hornets chasing and stinging him. When the boys saw him next, his face was swollen beyond recognition, and he had stings wherever skin was exposed. He was extremely ill. Once they saw the man's condition, all four boys began crying and apologizing. Nothing Thomas could do to them was as bad as the sight of what they had caused. The friend Dwight's last name was Eisenhower, the man who later became President of the United States.
The children received some religious training. Both Thomas and Hattie were Presbyterians. Since there was no Presbyterian church nearby in Grayson County, Pearson remembered that when he was about four, he and Guice were christened in the Methodist church. His mother believed (correctly) she was dying and wanted to be certain the boys were properly christened before she died. Aunt Kate tried to be a strict disciplinarian, and as a form of punishment made the boys memorize and recite chapters of the Bible. They not only knew how to read at an early age but knew a lot of scripture from memory.
The boys and Venice Carrie were never allowed to celebrate Christmas in any way, not even to say "Merry Christmas," because Thomas thought it would be disrespectful to their mother's memory to celebrate on the anniversary of her death. In the fall when he sold his cattle and crops, Thomas would take the boys to town, give them some cash, and tell them to buy what they wanted for Christmas. Pearson remembered that he once bought a nice pocket knife and some horehound candy. In general, though, Thomas was very stingy with his money where his boys were concerned and they had little cash. When they worked for others, they usually had to give the money to their father. Pearson said his father had a rule that if you were not in school but lived at home, you had to pay room and board.
The 1910 census shows that in the Martin Township of Harmon County, Oklahoma, Venice Carrie and James Sanders lived in dwelling 72 with their children. This was in Section 13 of Township 1, Range 26. In dwelling 73, lived Claud Johnson and his wife Daisy with their children and Claud's brother Pearson, aged nineteen. In dwelling 74, lived Thomas Vestal Johnson and son Guice. In dwelling 75, Hillyer Johnson and his wife Luda and son Floyd G. lived. In dwelling 55, Carl Johnson and Lela lived. Venice's husband James Sanders was the census taker, or enumerator, on this part of the census.
THOMAS VESTAL JOHNSON AND
BEATRICE VITURA "ATTIE" GARTON GALAHAR
Thomas married a third time at Dennison, Texas, on 25 May 1911 to Beatrice Vitura "Attie" Garton Galahar, widow of Ed Galahar, the eldest sister of his daughter‑in‑law Luda. According to Pearson, Attie and Luda were related to William Sydney Porter, who wrote as O. Henry. Attie was apparently never able to bear children. She was the daughter of Dickson C. and Susan C. Clark Garton. Dickson Garton was born 2 March 1851 and Susan C. Clark was born 19 February 1878, and they were married on 3 January 1878. In addition to Attie, their other children were: William Mark, born 3 October 1881; Murry Dodson, born 12 June 1884; Lucinda "Ludy" born 7 February 1886; Dessie Lauretta born 7 February 1890; Clara Bess born 17 August 1892; John Lewis born 24 September 1894;and Lola Cenora, born 3 January 1897. William Mark married Martha Ellen Cornell on 14 May 1911. John Lewis married Minnie Ola Cummins on 22 December 1912. Lola Cenora married Robert Greer Cummins on 12 January 1913. Dessie Lauretta married Preace Srader on 19 February 1904. Lucinda "Ludy" married Hillyer Alton Johnson .
Attie remarried after the death of Thomas Vestal Johnson to Joe Patterson. Mr. Patterson made violins. He decided to take a correspondence course to learn chiropractic healing, and eventually crippled some Hollis residents with his treatments. He had to leave town to avoid irate patients and their families. Some time after the death (or disappearance) of Mr. Patterson, Attie applied to the State of Oklahoma for a Confederate widow's pension as the widow of Thomas Vestal Johnson. She was told funds were depleted by this time and she received no help. Attie next married a man named Mr. Meeks. She next married John Wesley Reynolds on 2 November 1949. According to her nephew Elmer Johnson, her last husband was a large, brutish man who beat Attie. Eventually, he beat her to death at their farm home in the Vinson community near Hollis in the mid 1950's. No charges were ever brought against the man by authorities (according to the Sheriff of Harmon County, a man had the right to beat his wife and this made it a civil rather than criminal matter) and Mr. Reynolds refused even to pay for Attie's funeral.
Never very successful for long at any endeavor, Thomas made and lost several fortunes. At the time of his death Thomas and Attie lived in Hollis, Oklahoma, with Hillyer and Luda. Thomas was dependent on money from his sons for his livelihood, as he was much of his life, other than the small Civil War Pension of five dollars a month he received the last two years of his life. Thomas died 28 August 1918 from complications of a stroke.