Zopher Johnston: Revolutionary War Soldier





SUBMITTED BY:  Stevie Hughes, Stevie1302@aol.com                     Revised 01-2006

Zopher Johnston Senior was born about 1762 at the Forks of Delaware, Northhampton County, Pennsylvania.  He came to Greene County with his father,  Zopher Johnston “The Elder”.   The name of Zopher Senior’s mother is not known.

The Johnston family lived near Winchester in Frederick County Virginia in 1781.  In the summer of that year, Zopher Senior joined the Virginia Militia as a substitute for his brother, Joseph.  Zopher Senior served two different terms for a total of about six months service.  He was at the battle of Yorktown, working in the hospital, and witnessed the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.  On 10-24-1832, at the age of seventy, Zopher “Johnson” applied for a revolutionary war pension.   Zopher stated he heard the siege guns firing “night and day”.  After the surrender, he returned to his home near Winchester, there finishing his service and returning home.   Zopher was called upon a second time by the Virginia Militia.  British prisoners had been taken to Winchester, and Zopher was called to guard the prisoners and march them to Hagarstown, Maryland.  This was his second and final service for the Virginia Militia.

It is believed, Zopher Senior was probably married about this same time.  The name of his wife is not known.  He is in the 1782 Frederick County Virginia Tax List (the 1790 reconstructed Census) with two persons in his household.

By 1790, Zopher Senior came to Greene County with his Father, Zopher “The Elder”.  Both are found in Captain Tate Company 1791/92 Greene County Tax List.  The family resided in northern Greene County near today’s Baileyton Road.  Zopher  Senior is in the 1809 Tax List with 189 acres of land located on Roaring Fork of Lick Creek.   His sons and grandsons would continue to live on the Roaring Fork farm for another seventy years.

Zopher Johnston Senior is found in numerous Greene County Court records where he served on juries and supervised road construction.  He was also an Ensign in the local Militia.  In the 1830 Census, he is shown with one young female, age 15-20, in his household and one young male, age 0-5.    We do not know who this young female is; however, it would seem likely she is a daughter, perhaps widowed, who lived with her young son, taking care of the elderly Zopher Senior.  The census implies that Zopher Senior’s wife was deceased by 1830.  The Greene County historian, T. Elmer Cox, relayed a story that Zopher Senior lived in a separate cabin on a knoll above Baileyton Road at Roaring Fork.  His son, John, lived in his own cabin nearer to the road.  The ruts left by wagon wheels leading up to the knoll were clearly visible only a few years ago.

In 1832, Zopher Senior applied for a Revolutionary War Pension.  He drew $20 per year and is listed among those drawing pensions in Greene County.  Zopher Johnston Senior is buried in Kidwell Cemetery.  A military marker was placed sometime after 1966, the date of the Buford Reynold’s Cemetery survey.   Zopher is not included in this 1966 cemetery transcription.   The military marker gives Zopher Senior’s date of birth as 1754 and his date of death as 1839.  These dates are suspect.  It is more probable Zopher was born about 1762.  This is based on his 1832 pension application where he stated he was 70 years of age.   Zopher was probably deceased by 1836.  He is not included in the comprehensive 1836 Civil Districts List.  In the listing are his three sons, John, Joseph and Zopher (Junior), who is listed with no designation of “junior”.   This implies the father, Zopher Senior, was deceased by 1836.

The lack of census records for 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 prevent a clear determination of how many children Zopher Johnston Senior had.  Also, he did not leave a Will.  We do know, however, that almost without exception, his known children married into other District 12 families, or those in contiguous districts.  Furthermore, these “core” families continued to intermarry among themselves over a very long period of time.  These “core” families included Brown, Cooper, Foster, Maloney, Sample, Cox and Willis.  Therefore, by reviewing the Greene County Marriages between the years of 1783 (inception) up to 1830, a reasonable presumption can be presented on the children of Zopher Johnston, Senior, Revolutionary War Soldier.  Additional substantiation can be made based on the annual Greene County Tax Lists during these periods of time, the subsequent naming patterns of future generations and where these families migrated during the 1850’s when they left Greene County.  By 1850, the family surname had permanently changed to “Johnson”.

The following children of Zopher Johnston Senior, Revolutionary War Soldier, are well documented:

1.  Mercy/Martha, born c. 1782, Virginia, who is believed to be the oldest child.  On 11-02-1802, “Marsy” Johnston married Robert Foster.   Mercy and Robert Foster lived next door to Zopher Johnston Sr. on the Roaring Fork farm.  They had at least seven children, and possibly 9.  Several of their children migrated into Harrison County Missouri in the 1850’s.   Two of their sons, Joseph A. Foster and Moses Foster remained in Greene County.  Robert Foster died in 1833.  Mercy Johnston Foster died in1850 before the  Census was enumerated.  It is probable they are buried either at Kidwell Cemetery or in the Old Cooper Burial Ground in Greene County.  For further information on this family, please refer to the Robert and Mercy Johnston Foster Family.

2.  John, born c. 1788 Virginia.  On  2-7-1809  John married Caty McKahen, bond by John Graham.  After his father’s death, John is listed in the District 12 Tax Lists as owning 94 acres of land, virtually one-half of his father’s 189 acre farm at Roaring Fork.  His brother, Joseph, owned an equal 94 acres.  John and Caty Johnston had eleven children.  John’s Will was probated on 2-5-1855.  John’s burial place has not been located.  He is probably buried at either Kidwell Cemetery or the Old Cooper Burial Ground.  John bequeathed the farm to his son, Joseph A. Johnson.  During the 1850’s, Caty McKahen Johnson and six of her sons migrated to Missouri.  The son, Landon Carter, was the only son to remain in Greene County.    For further information on this family, please refer to the John and Caty McKahen Johnston Family.

3.  Zopher Junior, born 10-15-1790 or 1791 in Greene County, TN.  Zopher Junior was the first child born in Tennessee.  On 1-18-1817, Zopher Junior married Phebe Cooper, bond by William A. Hankins.  Phebe was the daughter of Jane (Brown) and Christopher Cooper Senior.  Zopher Junior and Phebe resided on a 65 acre farm near Phebe’s father.  Shortly before the 1850 Census, Zopher Junior purchased 103 acres of land from his nephew John Foster.   In the 1850 census, Zopher Junior resided by his brothers, John and Joseph.  Based on early census records, Zopher and Phebe had six children.   Of the children who survived, most of them migrated with their parents, Zopher Junior and Phebe, to Hamilton County Illinois.   On 10-13-1852, Zopher Junior sold the 103 acre farm to Cornelius Hardin.  A parcel of 50 acres was sold to Lemuel K. Cox on 9-1-1853.  Zopher Junior purchased his land in Illinois in December 1853.  Phebe (Cooper) Johnston died on 6-6-1862.  Zopher Johnston Junior died on 12-6-1866.  It is believed they are buried on their farm in southern Illinois.  Zopher and Phebe Cooper Johnston are the great-great-great grandparents of the author of this paper.  For further information on this family, please refer to the Zopher (Junior) and Phebe Cooper Johnston Family.

4.  Joseph, born c. 1792 in Greene County, TN.  On 12-18-1816, Joseph married Elizabeth Cooper, bond by William A. Hankins.  Elizabeth was the daughter of Jane (Brown) and Christopher Cooper Senior.  Joseph also owned 94 acres of the original Roaring Fork farm in District 12.  Based on early census records, Joseph and Elizabeth had seven children, three sons and four daughters.  Elizabeth (Cooper) Johnston died before the 1850 census.   Joseph continued to live on the Roaring Fork farm.  The last year he appears in a Greene County Tax List is in 1871.  It is believed he died the following year.  Joseph and Elizabeth Cooper Johnston are probably buried in the Old Cooper Burial Ground.    It is believed most, if not all, of their children migrated to Missouri during the 1850’s.  Joseph passed the 94 acre Roaring Fork farm to his only male relative living in Greene County.  This was Landon Carter Johnson, Joseph’s nephew.   For further information on this family, please refer to the Joseph and Elizabeth (Cooper) Johnston Family.

5.  Phebe, born c. 1800.  On 1-15-1822, Phebe married Sherwood Hatley.  Sherwood Hatley had served in the War of 1812 in North Carolina.  He arrived in Greene County about 1820. Phebe and Sherwood had seven children, four sons and three daughters.  Their son, John, was killed in action during the Civil War.  The oldest son, William Calvin Hatley, migrated to Missouri in the 1850’s.  His wife and children were in Hamilton County Illinois by the 1860 Census.  Phebe Johnston Hatley died between 1845 and 1848.  It is almost certain she is buried in the Old Cooper Burial Ground.  Sherwood Hatley remarried in 1849 to Amanda Williams; then after her death to Sarah “Sally” Clark.  Sally is known to be buried in the Old Cooper Burial Ground.  Sherwood remarried to his fourth wife, Bethena Reynolds England in 1865.  He died on 3-17-1875 and is buried in the Old Cooper Burial Ground.  For further information on this family, please refer to the Sherwood and Phebe Johnston Hatley Family.

The above five children can be very well substantiated as children of Zopher Johnston Senior either from Court records, Land records, Tax Lists, naming patterns of their children, and subsequent relocations when they migrated out of Greene County. 

The following are possibly children of Zopher Johnston Senior based on who they married, where they resided in District 12, and continued association with the Johnston Family. What is uncertain, is if these women are daughters of Zopher Johntson, Senior or are daughters of Zopher’s brother, Moses.  Moses was still in Greene County in 1807 and possibly later.   Moses is in nearby Hawkins County in 1813; however, men who are believed to be his sons, Moses Jr. and Zopher (s/o Moses), are found in Greene County records up to 1830.  If they are not Zopher Johnston Senior’s daughters, they are definitely his nieces.

6.  Sarah/”Sallie”, born c. 1885.  On 5-15-1806 “Sally” married John Graham, bond by James Gibson and Jotham Brown.  The bondsman, Jotham Brown, almost guarantees Sarah/Sally Johnston was a member of the extended Zopher Johnston family. In the 1830 Census, Sally and John Graham have three children in their household:  one son, born c. 1815-20; and two daughters, one born c. 1826-30 and one born c. 1815-1820.   John Graham was the bondsmen for the 1809 marriage of Zopher Senior’s son, John (child #2).   The relationship between the Graham and Johnston (later Johnson)  families continued for over sixty years and included pension affidavits, marriage bonds and interfamily marriages.  As of this date, research is not complete on Sarah and John Graham.  John may be John Graham Junior, the son of John Graham Senior, who was deceased by 1813 and named in his father, James Graham Senior’s Will of 1813.  What is known to date, is that James Graham Senior also had a son, George who married Nancy Long in 1807.  They are the parents of James and George Graham Junior who lived in District 12 and are buried at the Cross Anchor Church Cemetery.  George Graham Junior also died in 1813, and his widow, Nancy Long Graham remarried to Eliakim Cox   In the 1830 Census, Eliakim Cox and his wife, Nancy, lived next door to Zopher Johnston Junior (child #3).  Over the ensuing 15 year period, four marriages occurred between the Eliakim Cox and Johnston families.  John Graham who married Sallie Johnston in 1806, may be the John Graham, age 65, (born 1785) who is in the 1850 Greene County census, with a younger wife, “Rebeckah”, who he married in 1833.  If this is indeed the same John Graham, the first wife, Sallie Johnston, died before 1833.

7.  Elizabeth/”Betsy”, born c. 1797.  On 10-20-1817, “Betsy” married William Crumley Senior, bond by William Crumley Senior and Jotham Brown Senior.  A William Crumley married Lydia Brown (daughter of Old Jotham Brown), Betsey’s cousin, on October 1, 1807, bond by William Crumley Junior, David Brown, Jotham Brown and James Gibson.  To convolute matters even further, a Lydia Brown (daughter of Sylvanus Brown) married Aaron Crumley, in 1814, bond by Aaron Crumley, William Crumley Junior and William A. Hawkins; and in 1816, Rachel Brown (daughter of Sylvanus Brown) married Isaac Crumley, bond by Isaac Crumley, William Crumley Junior and William Brown!  The Johnston/Brown/Crumley group were intermarried several times.  And the children of these unions, also continued the “family tradition”.  William and Betsy Crumley are not found in the 1830 Census of Greene County, Tennessee.  It is believed they removed to Lee County, Virginia.

8.  Mary/”Polly”, born c. 1800.  On 3-18-1819, “Polly” married Jotham Brown.  As with the name of Zopher Johnston, there are multiple Jotham Browns in early Greene County.  The patriarch of this Brown family, was Jotham Brown who died about 1797 in Montgomery County Virginia.  Four of his five sons came to Greene County by 1805, including his son, Jotham Brown Junior.   Several of Jotham Brown Senior’s sons, named their sons “Jotham”.  It is believed the Jotham Brown who married Polly Johnston in 1819, was the son of David Brown.  Polly Johnston Brown died before 1824, when Jotham Brown, son of David, remarried to Polly McCurry on 3-31-1824.  This Jotham Brown did not remain in Greene County.  The following comment was found in the book, Pocket Note History, by T. Elmer Cox, published after his death:  “October 19, 1970.  Robert Howe, from Iowa, …. is looking up his great grandfather, Joatham Brown (1798-1848) who married Polly McCurry who lived until 1921.  Eliakim Cox security for this marriage which was performed by John Hardin. Joatham was brother to Sylvannis Brown whose father was David who made a will.  Joatham moved to Missouri with his family in the late 1830’s and disappeared in 1843.”

The last marriage to occur in early Greene County that could be for a daughter of Zopher Johnston Senior occurred in 1825:

9.  Lydia, born c. 1805.  On 2-10-1825, Lydia married John Small.  No bondsman is stated, but on the marriage license it reads:  “married at house of William A. Hankins in presence of George McCahen and Mary Foster.”  William A. Hankins was the bondsman for Zopher Johnston Senior’s sons, Zopher Junior (child #3) and Joseph (child #4).   Mercy/Martha Johnston Foster (child #1), is a known daughter of Zopher Johnston Sr.   Zopher Senior’s son, John, (child #2) married Caty McKahen in 1809.  Thus, all of the people mentioned on the marriage license have a known association with the Zopher Johnston Senior family.   John Small was a neighbor of Zopher Johnston Sr. in the 1828 District 12 Tax List.   In the 1830 Census, John and Lydia Small lived three households from Aaron Crumley (see Child #7, above, Betsy Johnston Crumley) and six households from Christopher Cooper Junior, whose mother was Jane Brown Cooper, daughter of Old Jotham Brown from Virginia.  John Small was twenty years older than Lydia.  In 1830, they had four daughters in their household, two of whom must have been from a prior marriage.   John Small is in the District 12, 1833 Tax List.  This family was no longer in Greene County by 1840.  There is no remarriage for Lydia (Johnston) Small in the Greene County records.   A genealogy history found in the Cox Library in Greeneville on A. (Alexander) B. Small, may or may not be relevant to this family.  A. B. Small served in the Mexican War between 1845-48, dating his year of birth c. 1825.  Excerpting from the papers, “A. B. Small was born in the small Sinking Creek community of…..rural Greene County.  Both parents died young and we do not know their names.  He was raised by his grandfather, Daniel Small.”  The 1830 Census of Greene County lists only four families with the surname of Small:  John , age 40-50;  Daniel Jr. age 30-40; Knight age 30-40; and Daniel Senior age 70-80.  All of these men are in the 1840 Greene County census except John Small.  In the 1840 household of Daniel Small Senior is a boy age 10-15 (born 1825-30).  This young boy is presumably A. B. Small.

10.  OTHER.  Some early researchers of this Johnston Family have included another daughter.  She is Martha Johnson who married Isaac Justice on 11-02-1802, bond by Francis Johnson.  The marriage occurred on the same day that “Marsy” Johnston (child # 1) married Robert Foster.  The author of this paper does not believe Martha who married Isaac Justice is a daughter of Zopher Johnston Senior.  Subsequent research has proven that “Marsy” Johnston’s name was also stated as “Mercy” and as “Martha”.  Needless to say, Zopher Johnston Senior would not have named two daughters, “Martha”.  The marriages were performed by different Justices of the Peace.  This infers the marriages were not “double weddings” of sisters, but in fact, took place in different parts of Greene County.   The first born son of

Martha and Isaac Justice was named Francis; surely after the bondsman to the wedding, who was probably Martha’s father or brother.  By 1850, Isaac Justice still lived in Greene County with his wife, “Mary”.  She is his second wife, Mary/”Polly” Woltz, who he married in Washington County on 10-21-1817.  His son, Francis Justice, was still in his 1850 household.  There is no known or documented relationship between the Francis Johnson, Isaac Justice and Zopher Johnston families of early Greene County.  Thus, as of this writing, there is insufficient evidence to presume Martha Johnson, wife of Isaac Justice, was a daughter of Zopher Johnston Senior.

We invite you to visit the family website, www.johnsonfamilyhistory.org.  Many early documents from Greene County on all Johnston/Johnson families are transcribed at this website.  We also invite you to participate in the Johnson/Johnston DNA Project administered by Family Tree DNA.  Information on the DNA testing is included at our website.




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Frederick County, Virginia