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The Johnston family connection

Claude H. Moore 1916-1994

November 4, 2013

Several years ago in this column I wrote an article on Governor Gabriel Johnston (1699-1752) who was the Colonial governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752. Since that time I have run across much data on other members of his family who lived in North Carolina, and too, I have since visited the Johnston family cemetery in Annandale, Scotland. Johnston County was created in 1746, was named for Governor Gabriel Johnston and at first embraced much of Lenoir, Greene, Wayne, and Wake counties.


The genealogists in Scotland think that the first Johnstons in Scotland came over with William the Conqueror in 1066. The name was originally Johnstone. “The seat of the Johnston Clan is Lockerby, near the center of the district of Annandale, Castle of Lockwood, situated at that place.” Huga de Johnstone was Laird in East Lothian, Scotland, in 1214. The generations run thus: John de Johnstone Sr., John de Johnstone Jr.; and seven generations later, there was Sir Adam de Johnstone (1413-1455), and the 17th generation, James Johnstone (1625-1672) became the first Earl of Annandale, Scotland. His son, Captain John Johnstone married Elizabeth Belchier, a French protestant, and had the following children: John, died in Scotland; Gabriel, Governor of North Carolina; Gilbert who married and lived at Brompton plantation in Bladen County; Samuel Johnston, who lived in Onslow County; Elizabeth who married Thomas Kenan.


Governor Gabriel Johnston married Penelope Galland, the stepdaughter of Governor Charles Eden and they had one daughter, Penelope, who married John Dawson. Governor Johnston later married Frances Butler.


Colonel Thomas Johnston married Rebecca Woodhouse and lived on a plantation in Onslow County and was a member of the Provincial Congress.


Elizabeth Johnston (c. 1700-1789) married Thomas Kenan (1700-1766) and settled on a plantation near Turkey, N.C., and they were the parents of General James Kenan; Owen Kenan (killed in 1781 during the Revolution in a skirmish with Loyalist troops near present-day Bonnettsville); Michael J. Kenan, officer of the Revolution; Mrs. Arabella Kenan McIntyre; Mrs. Elizabeth Torrans; Thomas Kenan; Mrs. Penelope Clinton; and Mrs. Jane Kenan Love Morisey. Their plantation home was located on Old Warsaw Road near the present county line. (Penelope Kenan Clinton was the wife of Richard Clinton, the county’s namesake.)


Gilbert Johnston fought at the Battle of Culloden in Scotland in 1746. Later that same year he married Caroline Johnston and settled in Bladen County. Their children were: Gilbert, Henry, Caroline, Gabriel, Robert, William, Isabel and John.


Samuel Johnston Sr. settled in Onslow County in 1736. He had married in Dundee, Scotland. He was Surveyor General of North Carolina. He and his wife had two children: Samuel Johnston Jr., and Hannah Johnston. Hannah married Judge James Iredell.


Samuel Johnston Jr. (1733-1816) and his sister were reared by the Starkey family of Swansboro. He studied law in New England and in 1754 he settled in Edenton at a plantation called “Hayes.” He represented Chowan County in the Colonial Assembly and in 1776 he embraced the American cause and served in the Provincial Congress. After the Revolution he became a Federalist; was elected governor in 1787; later U.S. Senator; and in 1800, was appointed as Superior Court Judge.


There were other illustrious members of the Johnston family, and today, there are descendants of this ancient family scattered all over the United States.


* Reprinted with permission of the Mount Olive Tribune