This Day in History – August 13

James JohnsonOn August 13, 1826, congressman and soldier James Johnson passed away in Washington, D.C. Johnson was born January 1, 1774 in Orange County, Virginia to Robert and Jemima (Suggett) Johnson. His father moved to the land that would become Kentucky in 1779 and helped build Bryant’s Station. After some time, the Elder Johnson sent for the family and James arrived with them in 1781, when he was seven years of age; Robert Johnson struck out to build his own station in 1784. Johnson’s Station was also known as Great Crossing and was located at where the Alanantowamiowee Trail intersected the North Elkhorn Creek in present-day Scott County.

Johnson’s family was prominent; James and his younger brothers Richard Mentor Johnson and John Telemachus Johnson received preparatory educations. The three Johnson sons led political lives. From 1837 to 1841, Richard served as ninth Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren. John, a Transylvania University alum, was a long-time member of the Kentucky House of Representatives and ordained Methodist minister.

At 34, James became a representative of Scott County in the Kentucky Senate, serving from 1808 to 1811. His tenure ended with his entering into armed service as a lieutenant colonel in the War of 1812. With two of his sons in the company, he led a decisive charge into British lines at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, where his superior officer and brother Colonel Johnson was said to have slain Tecumseh. Johnson was also present at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815, as a major in Gray’s regiment, Kentucky Detached Militia.

Upon returning to Kentucky, Johnson became very active in the stagecoach industry. In Stage-coach Days in the Bluegrass, J. Winston Coleman wrote that “Colonel Johnson was associated with numerous enterprises of early travel and transportation, and was proprietor of a freight line which maintained the steamboat Providence, carrying freight from Leestown on the Kentucky River at Frankfort to Natchez and New Orleans.”  Johnson organized several stagecoach companies, including Johnson, Weisiger and Company, a line that ran from Frankfort to Louisville. At this time, he was reported to have been one of the wealthiest men in Kentucky, holding a plantation at Great Crossing.

Johnson was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from March 4, 1825, until his death in Washington, D.C., on August 13, 1826. He was buried in the family cemetery at Great Crossing.

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