"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thomas Johnson

This 1926 bust of Thomas Johnson by Joseph Urner stood on the lawn in front of the Frederick City Hall, formerly the Frederick County Courthouse.

The plaque attached to the base of the bust describes Thomas Johnson:
** Revolutionary Patriot **

Bosom Friend of Washington
**** Diligent worker for
independence and nominator
of Washington for commander
in chief of Continental Army
** Member of Council of Safety,
Continental Congress and of
Maryland Convention to ratify
The Articles of Confederation
*** First Governor of State of
Maryland and Associate Justice
Of United States Supreme Court
** To Thomas Johnson is largely
due the surrender by other
colonies of their claims to the
great northwest territory ****

Born Calvert County
November 4, 1732

Died at Rose Hill, near Frederick
October 26, 1819

Charles Willson Peale painted this portrait of Thomas Johnson when he was Governor of Maryland.

Johnson was born at St, Leonard's Creek in Calvert County. An historical marker in St. Leonard's identifies the Brewhouse on Mackall road as the place of Johnson's birth.

Surveyed 1651
5½ Miles.

Mackall’s Landing.
Birthplace of Thomas Johnson (1732–1819), member of Continental Congress 1774. Nominated Washington as Commander-in-Chief Continental Army 1775. First elected Governor of Maryland 1777. Associate Justice United States Supreme Court 1791.
The Brewhouse at Mackall's Landing is privately owned and difficult to see but a sign by the driveway gives us a good image of the building.

The house is Mackall's Landing is not the house Johnson was born in but a later house on the same spot.

Johnson's association with George Washington is given in this "Washington Slept Here" historical marker on Rt. 15 (Catoctin Mountain Highway) near Willow Road.

George Washington
On August 5 and 6, 1785, and again June 30 and July 1, 1791, was the guest of Thomas Johnson at the latter's manorial residence which stood on the site of the present farm house, about 150 yards east of this point. Thomas Johnson, a member of the Continental Congress from Maryland, on June 15, 1775 nominated Washington for commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Johnson later became the first governor of Maryland.
A nearby Civil War Trails marker adds this:

 George Washington slept here twice. Richfield was the first Frederick County home of Maryland's first elected governor.  Thomas Johnson. Brigadier General of Maryland troops in the American Revolution and Washington's longtime friend.
Johnson bought the property for his "manorial residence" in 1776 and built a house here in 1780 after leaving the office of Governor. He lived here until 1794 when he went to live with his daughter at "Rose Hill." His time at Richfield included his short stint on the U.S. Supreme Court and his service on the commission that oversaw the establishment the city of Washington.

The old farm house at Richfield is not Johnson's 1776 house  that one burned in 1818 as was replaced by an Italianate house between 1825 and 1830. That house was destroyed by a tornado in 1928 and was rebuilt in the same Italianate style. (See: Landmarks: George Washington Slept Here, Twice)

After the death of his wife, Ann Jennings Johnson, the elderly Thomas Johnson retired to Rose Hill the home of his daughter Anne Jennings Johnson Grahame and her husband  Major John Grahame.

Johnson lived at Rose Hill until he died on October 26, 1819, He was originally buried at  All Saints churchyard in Frederick. He had been a parishioner at All Saints Church since 1808. The original grave marker read:

Thomas Johnson
Nov. 1 1732
Oct. 26, 1819
The First Governor of 
the State of Maryland
1777 - 1779

In 1913, his body was moved to a much more elaborate monument in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

In Memorium
Thomas Johnson
Son of
Thomas Johnson
Dorcas Sedwick
Born Calvert Co.
   November 4, 1732
Died in Frederick Co.
   October 25 1819
First Governor of Maryland
1777 - 1779
Erected by some of his descendants

Delegate to the Assembly
of September 1765.
Member of the Committee of
Correspondence and Council
of Safety 1774
Voted for the Declaration
of Independence.
Brigadier General of
Provincial Forces 1776
While a member of the
Continental Congress
George Washington
Commander in  Chief of the
Continental Armies
June 5, 1775
Chief Judge of the General
Court of Maryland
Appointed by Washington
Associate Justice of the
Supreme Court

Thomas Johnson
First Governor
of Maryland

Thomas Johnson
Brigadier General
Maryland Militia
National Society
of the
Sons of
The American Revolution

The 1926 bust of Thomas Johnson has (in June 2017) been removed from the City Hall lawn. Johnson seems to have become the victim of the unpopularity of Roger Brooke  Taney.  The Frederick City Aldermen  ordered Taney statue removed from the front of City Hall and the statue  of Johnson was removed, too, since he owned slaves. 

Here Johnson's bust sits with Taney's bust an a plaque dedicated to Harriot and Dred Scott in storage at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Johnson (and the other monuments) will be replaced in Mt. Olivet between the Francis Scott Key Memorial and Grave Site and the Francis Scott Key Chapel.

No comments:

Post a Comment