Monday, December 16, 2013

Ten Generations

Journey from Fairfield, Connecticut to Lockport, New York.

            A Glimpse into the Lives of Our 
      Johnson Ancestors

Walter S. Johnson (1890 – 1980) & Laura Wiseman (1888 – 1981)

Charles W. Johnson (1863 – 1951) & Ella Mary Sherman (1863 – 1918)

 Ira W. Johnson (1836 – 1915) & Anna Mason (1842 – 1885)

Alexander Johnson (1805 – 1895) & Emeline Rand (1819 – 1852)  

Ira Johnson (about1775 – 1816) & Sally Sturges (about 1778 – 1869) 

 Augustus Sturges (1757 – 1826) & Mercy Conger (1763 – 1851)

Joseph Sturges 1707- after 1762) Ann Barlow (about 1721 - 1801

Christopher Sturges (abt 1680 – 1755) & Mary Godwin (    )

Joseph Sturges (about1653 - 1728) . . .  (Christopher’s mother is unknown) 

 John Sturges (1623 - 1700)  & Deborah Barlow (     )   

 to my sister, Bess

I was astounded to learn that the roots of my father’s family predate the Revolutionary War. Why was such an interesting family history not passed down through the generations? I wonder, at what point was it lost and why? Was life on the frontier so fraught with difficulty that it made looking forward preferable to looking back? As far as I know, my parents, Walter and Laura Johnson, did not know that the family history in the United States went back any earlier than the Civil War. Did my grandparents, Charles and Ella Johnson know? Surely my great grandparents, Ira and Anna Johnson must have known that the family origins were in Connecticut.
My father’s mother, Ella died decades before I was born .I recall visiting my grandfather only a couple of times. He, and his third wife, Cellesta, lived in an apartment in Lockport, Niagara County, New York, not far from the locks. We visited them only rarely. When we did, Mother and I talked with Cellesta while Dad talked with his father. It was all rather formal and solemn. 
(Second generation back.)

Charles W. Johnson was born in January 1863 in Niagara County. He and Ella Sherman married in about 1889. Ella was born in New York, State. Their first child, my father, was born on October 15, 1890 in Olcott, New York. Four more children followed. Wesley was born in August, 1894. The twins, Earl and Pearl, were born in September 1899, and Avard was born in 1901. I do not recall ever having met any of Dad’s siblings.  Charlie, as my grandfather was known, owned his own farm. Dad said that he also sold fertilizer. My impression was that Dad was close to his mother, but not his father. Sadly, Ella died in 1918 before her younger children reached adulthood. Charlie lived to the age of 87, then died in Lockport in 1951 when I was 12 years old. He, and all three of his wives, are buried at North Ridge Cemetery in Cambria, New York, next to where Mother and Dad are buried.
(Third generation back)
Ira W. Johnson, Charlie’s father, was born west of Rochester, in Sweden, Monroe County, New York, on June 18, 1836. He married a Lockport girl, Anna Mason.  I would like to know how they met. Anna was born on May 15, 1842. On that same day, her father was buried. Eight years later, her mother died. According to the 1880 US Census, Anna’s mother was born in England and her father was born in Ireland. Anna’s older brother, Thomas Mason stated just the reverse in the 1900 US Census; that his mother was born in Ireland and his father in England. In either case, they were migrants to the United States.
Ira and Anna Johnson’s first child, Hattie, was born in 1860, in Barre, Orleans County, New York. Their second child, Charles, my grandfather, was born in January 1863 in Lockport. Five more children followed. The youngest, Walter LeVern, was born in October 1879. So, there were two Walter Johnson’s in the family, uncle and nephew. They were born only eleven years apart from one another.
 The United States first employed national conscription during the American Civil War. In 1863 Ira registered from Lockport.
Anna died in 1885 at the age of 43. Walter LeVern was only about 6 years old when his mother died. Below is the obituary that appeared in the Lockport Journal on Monday September 21 or 28.

             ANNA M. JOHNSON
died suddenly Aug, 5,1885. The deceased
was born in the town of Lockport, May
15,1842. At a very early age she was left
an orphan. Her father, Chas. Mason, was
buried on the day of her birth, and her
mother died when she was eight years
old. She leaves one brother, residing in
New York city, and three half-sisters, two
of whom reside in Texas and one in Ohio.
Of her immediate family she leaves a husband
and six children to mourn her loss

About 1891, Ira married a widow, Augusta Redmond VanDeKar. The marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce. Then, in 1907 Ira and the widow Susan Sackett Strickland were married in Ontario, Canada. We learn from the marriage license that each of them is Methodist and that Ira’s occupation is “traveler.”
The Lockport City Directory in 1889 and 1890 lists Ira’s address as 8 Monroe Street. In the US Census of 1910 Ira’s occupation is listed as “Agent of Extracts.” He died in 1915 at the age of 79 at the home of his is son Walter LeVern, in Newfane, New York. Ira and Anna are buried at Chestnut Ridge Cemetery in Lockport.

(Fourth generation back.)

          Alexander E. Johnson, Ira’s father was born about 1805 in Oneida County, NY. Ira’s mother, Emeline Rand was probably born in New York state. The couple had seven children, of which Ira, the only boy, was the second. In the 1885 New York State Census, Alexander declared himself to be a farmer. The US Census of 1850, 60, 70, and 80 list him as a laborer. He was also skilled in making medicine, something he apparently passed on to his son Ira, the “Agent of Salves.” Internet searches reveal that Alexander Johnson held a patent for a cure for inflamed eyes.

87.343 Alexander Johnson, Brockport, N.Y. - Medical Compound. - March 2, 1869
Claim - A remedy for sore or inflamed eyes, composed of camphor - gum, one quarter ounce; white vitriol, one ounce; alum, one ounce; calomel, one -eighth of an ounce; Tilden's extract of opium, one eighth of an ounce; the whole to be dissolved in one quart of clean rain water, in the manner and for the purpose specified and described.”

          Emeline died on August 12, 1852 at the age of 42 when her youngest child was only about four years old. After her death, Alexander married the housekeeper, Triphoena, and had two more children. He died at the age of 90 in Rochester, New York. His obituary says, “Mr. Johnson settled in Brockport where he was a prominent member of the Methodist Church.”  The Methodist religion was passed on through the generations. My parents were members of the St. Paul’s Methodist Church in Niagara Falls.
          Alexander and Emeline are buried in Brockport Cemetery, in Sweden, New York.

(Fifth generation back.)

          Because Ira Johnson Sr. is Alexander’s stepfather, and it is not known who his real father was, I will trace the line back through Alexander’s mother, Sally Sturges. She was born about 1785 in Connecticut. When she and Ira married, it was the second marriage for each of them. Sally’s son, Alexander was from her first marriage. Ira also had a son, Lyman, from his first marriage. The couple had two more children. In 1811, they moved from New York’s Oneida County west to Genesee County. In 1816, Ira died while in his early 40s, when the children were still very young, Sally then married Harvey Fields. She lived to be 84 years old, and died in Clarendon, Orleans County, New York on June 10, 1869. Sally is buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Clarendon, as are her parents and other family members. Ira and Sally helped to open up the frontier, along side Sally’s parents and many brothers and sisters living in Genesee and Orleans Counties.

(Sixth generation back.)

          The westward movement of the Johnson branch of our family began when Sally Sturges’s parents, Augustus Sturges and Mercy Conger Sturges decided to leave Connecticut.
          Augutus was born on October 19, 1757 near Redding or in Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut. In 1777, when he was 20 years old, he enlisted in the Fifth Continental Regiment to fight in the Revolutionary War. He served at Valley Forge and was discharged on March 5, 1780.
          Mercy was born about 1761 in New Fairfield, Connecticut. She and Augustus married in the home of Mercy’s family in New Fairfield. She was about 20 years old. At the time of their marriage, Augustus was living in Redding, near where he was born. The couple soon began their migration by moving north about 140 miles to Rensselaer County, New York. The boarder between New York and Connecticut was in dispute. The 1880 US Census shows the family in Stephentown, New York. In later years, Mercy, in an application for a pension, states they had lived in Petersburgh, New York. (Stevenstown is eighteen miles north of Petersburgh, and was a part of Petesburgh until 1791 when the towns were separated.) The first European settlers to Rensselaer County were the Dutch who had come in the 1750s. After the Revolutionary War, many of the veterans settled there.
Augustus and Mercy’s daughter, Sally was born in 1785 in Connecticut. It is possible to trace the migration of the family through Census Records. The 1790 US Census shows them, with two sons and a daughter under the age of 16, living in New Milford, Litchfield, Connecticut.
When the 1800 US Census was taken, they were living in Stephentown, Rensselaer County, New York. Then, in 1810, the family, now with four boys and two girls, lived more than 140 miles further west in Oneida, New York. Oneida County still had no western boarder, and theoretically extended all the way to the Pacific Ocean. By the time of the 1820 US Census, they had moved another 130 miles west to Sweden, New York.
          In 1818, Augustus applied to the government for a veteran’s pension. He stated, in the application that he was in poor health, was totally blind in one eye, and could see but little with the other eye.
          The family made one more short move to Clarendon, in Orleans County; adjacent to Niagara County. Clarendon is about seven miles north and slightly west of Sweden.
Amidst trying to survive on the frontier, the family kept growing. They had twelve children. Two of the children, David, a merchant, and Joseph, a distiller, built a distillery in Clarendon. David became a man of considerable wealth. A description of him is given in The History of Clarendon p. 24.

“David Sturges, the proprietor of the old red store from 1829 to 1836, and then in the stone  store, which he built, until his death in 1843, was, in his day, the prince merchant of Clarendon.  He owned land in different portions of the town and had his fine chaise, that, in 1840 cost $250 in New York, and drove a spanking team, the best around; a self-made man, who, had he lived, would have been one of the millionaires of the country….”  
     “…When David Sturges was buried, his coffin cost $25, which was considered expensive for 1843. It was of mahogany, and lined with silk velvet, the most beautiful coffin that Clarendon had ever seen (usually coffins ran from $3.00 to $10.00).”

Augustus died in 1826. After his death, Mercy lived with the family of their daughter Eunice in Clarendon. Mercy died at the age of 90, on August 12, 1851. At least seven of their children were still living. She and Augustus are buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Clarendon.
(Seventh generation back.)

          Prior to Augustus and Mercy’s westward journey, the Sturges family  lived in and around Fairfield County, Connecticut for four generations.                                                                                                                            

          Joseph Sturges, the father of Augustus, was born about 1707 in Stamford.  He was baptized on October 5, 1712. On October 8, 1721, he married Anna Barlow, the daughter of Samuel Barlow. The couple had five children. It is possible that he is the same Joseph Sturges (Stirgis), who took part in the 1757/1758 campaigns of the French and Indian War (See Rolls of Conn. Men in French & Indian War, 1755-1762 (Coll. Conn. Hist. Soc. [1903-1905])
            After Joseph died, Ann married William Knowles of New Milford. She died in her 80th year and is buried at Stratfield (Pequonnock) Burying Ground, Stratfield.

(Eighth generation back.)

          I do not have much information about Joseph’s parents, Christopher Sturges and Mary Godwin. Christopher was born about 1680.The couple was married in Fairfield in 1701 then, resided in Stamford, Connecticut. Mary’s grandparents, George Godwin and Ellen Smith were married in Fairfield on February 21, 1651. Christopher died in Stamford in 1755. Mary and their seven children are included in his will.

(Ninth generation back.)

           Joseph Sturges, Christopher’s father was one of seven children born to John and Deborah Sturges. Joseph was born about 1654. His first wife was Sarah Judson, daughter of Jeremiah Judson, but it is not known if she was Christopher’s mother. She was born on April 7, 1662 in Fairfield. Sarah was the widow of David Watkins. Soon after Sarah died, about 1700, Joseph married Mary Sherwood, the widow of Thomas Morehouse. Sixteen years younger than Joseph, Mary was born in Boston in 1670. Joseph was the father of at least 12 children. He died in 1728.  According to records compiled by Francis A. Baker (See Books of Interest at the end of this account.) Joseph died insolvent. Mary died on July 9, 1746 at the age of 77. They are buried in the Old Burying Ground of Fairfield

(Tenth generation back.)

          John Sturges, Joseph’s father, was probably born in England. He crossed the Atlantic in 1653 when he was 30 years old. Many think that he traveled to Fairfield via Barnstable, Cape Cod. The first English settlers arrived at Plymouth in 1624. By the 1640s, when their numbers had grown to ten thousand, settlers began moving to Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine. On July 13, 1637, English settlers defeated the Pequot Indians at Fairfield. A monument now stands commemorating where the “Great Swamp Fight” took place.
          According to the Fairfield town records, John Sturges settled there in 1660, when he was 37 years old. Soon after arriving in Fairfield, he purchased a homestead belonging to Richard Fowles. On May 14, 1669 John Sturges was admitted as a freeman. This gave him the right to vote and to become a member of the governing body. Newcomers to Fairfield had to be approved to live there, as the founders wanted to preserve a cohesive like-minded community. Attendance at worship services was a requirement. In 1669, John Sturges was also appointed selectman, one of a board of town officers chosen annually in New England communities to manage local affairs. As years went on, he continued to purchase more property. (Sounds much like Dad.)
          In 1652, before arriving in Fairfield, John married Deborah Barlow. They prospered and had six children. His will, dated March 1697, says that he owned a large amount of land and, I regret to report, at least two slaves. It says, he wills his negro woman, Jenny to his son, Christopher, and his negro boy, Jack to his daughter, Abigail. Slavery was not abolished in Connecticut until 1848.
          John Sturges died in 1700 in Fairfield.

          To this day, descendants of my great grandparents, Ira W. and Anna Mason Johnson, reside in Niagara County. Some have returned there after having lived elsewhere. Some have moved east, sometimes to Connecticut, while others continued the westward movement. After learning about this family history, I began to think that perhaps moving to Australia was just a continuation of the journey.


Special thanks to Barbara Petty. She is the great great granddaughter of my great grandmother, Anna Mason Johnson.  After having found me on the internet, Barb sent me documentation of the family that had taken her many years to collect.  Without the information she sent, this history would be unknown to me.

 Please contact me if you would like to receive the documentation.


Baker, Francis A., editor. Genealogies of the Following Families: Baker Family, Steele Family, Sturges Family, Shepard Family, Hall Family, Hatch Family, Lytle Family: 2116 Aldrich Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN, 1909. (online at

Copeland, David Sturgis. History of Clarendon from 1819 to 1888: Buffalo Courier Company, 1889

Helmert, Alan. The Puritans in America: A Narrative Anthology: Harvard University Press,

Jacobus, Donald Lines. History and Genealogy of the Families of Old Fairfield Volume II Part 2: Original  DAR Fairchild, 1930. Baltimore, MD Genealogical Publishing Company, 1991

Jacobus, Donald Lines, The American Genealogist, Volume 49, 1973

Johnson, P. Anna. Australia Years: The Life of a Nuclear Migrant: Lulu, Raleigh, North Carolina, 2006.

Johnson, Walter S. Transcript of a recording made in 1979.

Lindsay, David. Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims: Thomas Dunne Books, imprint of St. Martin’s Press, 2002

Parry, Kate E.: The Old Burring Ground of Fairfield, Connecticut: A Memorial of Many of the Early Settlers in Fairfield. Hartford, CT, American Publishing Co, 1882

Schneck. Elizabeth Hubbell. The History of Fairfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut: from the Settlement of the town in 1639 to 1818, Vol. 1: pub by the author, 1889.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Marion Grace Banks Johnson 1914 - 2001

Remembering Marion 

With youngest child, Jim.

                                                                * * * * * * * * * * * *

A story by daughter, Marna ...

 Mom the horsewoman!
Our horses spent more time on the outside of the pasture than inside.  The grass was always greener.....  Anyway, this Sunday morning, the day Colonial Village Presbyterian Church was to be dedicated, (Taylor and Mom gifted the land) one of the horses escaped.  It eventually was found down Miller Road, where Taylor's brother Jack lived.  Mom, who helped me water the horses, and occasionally tie one up, but NEVER rode one, had walked down the road in search of the horse, carrots in one hand and lead rope in the other.  Jack somehow caught the horse, threw  Mom on, with no bridle, saddle or lead, and slapped the horse's behind.  Off the horse flew toward home, with Mom taking the one and only ride I ever knew of, somehow holding on for dear life.  As the two of them flew down Miller Road, who should drive by, the minister, on the way to the dedication.  We got the horse in the barn, piled in the car and sat at the dedication.  The look on the minister's face was worth a million words!  "Did I just see you a minute ago?????"