"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

Joseph Urner 1926

This monument was unveiled in front of the courthouse on July 4, 1929. Judge T. Scott Offutt, president of the Maryland Sons of the American Revolution,  made remarks, amounting to a complaint that things just aren't the way they used to be. (Offutt's first name, Thiemann, earned him a place on a  list of  “The Strangest Names In American Political History”.)  Presiding over the event was former Judge Glenn H. Worthington, who as a six-year-old, had witnessed the battle of Monocacy on his family's farm; He was president of the Thomas Johnson Memorial Association. The association had been formed in  January of 1917 by Sterling Galt publisher of the Emmitsburg Chronicle and William Delaplaine.   It took 12 years to get the memorial built. (see The Catoctin Banner Dec. 28, 2017.)  

This photo of the memorial was published in the souvenir pamphlet of the dedicatory ceremonies.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “The well-known portrait of Thomas Johnson and his family, by Charles Willson Peale, was used by Joseph Urner, sculptor, son of Chief Judge Hammond Urner, in the creation of the bust.” The 1772 painting may be seen at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Another Charles Willson Peale portrait, shown below, portrays Thomas Johnson when he was Governor of Maryland. This is the portrait in the Gallery of Governors in the Maryland Statehouse.

This rather similar image, by H.M. Snyder, appeared in Thomas Scharf's 1879, History of Maryland.

Governor Thomas Johnson

And this portrait of Thomas Johnson, made by Jan Hesselius before 1778, belongs to the collection of the U.S. Supreme Court.

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

In 1775, in the Maryland Gazette, Thomas Johnson of St. Leonard's Creek, offered $8 reward for the return of Benedict, a “very talkative”, “lu┼┐ty country-born” enslaved man who had run away wearing “a country cloth waistcoat and breeches, and an iron collar.”  While the subscriber is likely Governor Johnson's father, Thomas Johnson, Jun. at Annapolis is listed as a contact.

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 and 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.

James W. Brooks motored by Rose Hill in 1929, and published this sketch by Calvin A. Fader in the Washington Sunday Sun. 

Rose Hill Manor
While American history has been long in the making it is remarkable how many homes from the Revolutionary period remain in service today. To the right just beyond the corporate limits of Frederick northbound on U.S. Route 15 stands Rose Hill Manor once the home of Thomas Johnson, Maryland's first governor and patriot who nominated George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.
Johnson lived at Rose Hill until he died on October 26, 1819. His obituary in the Maryland Gazette read:
Johnson, Thomas, died on Tuesday morning, 26th ult., at Rose Hill, the seat of John Grahame, near the close of his 87th year, a venerable patriot, and a native of Calvert County. For the last 40 years he was a resident of Frederick County. He was the first Governor of the State after the Declaration of Independence. His body was interred in the family burial vault, in the Episcopal burial ground of Frederick. Nov. 18, 1819
As Helen W.  Ridgely remarked in 1908, the Johnson vault at All Saints' Episcopal Cemetery “was built entirely underground and with not enough elevation of the sod to show where it is.”  Mrs. West continues, “The late Mrs. Ann Graham Ross, his great-great-granddaughter, had a pure white block of marble placed over the traditionary spot on July 4, 1894, members of the Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution taking part in the ceremonies, and the Rev. Osborne Ingle reading the service from, the governor's, own prayer book.” (cf. The Frostburg Mining Journal, July 7, 1894.)

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

By the 20th century, Frederickers had lost track of Johnson's remains. When the churchyard at the All Saints' Episcopal burying ground was being cleared in 1913, he was re-discovered.

The 1894 marker as well as Johnson's body, and those of his family were moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in 1913. And this elaborate monument was constructed later.

In Memoriam
Thomas Johnson
Son of
Thomas Johnson
Dorcas Sedgwick
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

This coat of arms is not the Johnson coat-of-arms but the Calvert coat-of-arms representing the state of Maryland. The motto is “Fatti Maschii Parole Femine.”

The Johnson coat-of-arms would have the motto: “Confide et Certa,” or “Trust and Strive.” 

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

In June 2017, the 1926 bust of Thomas Johnson had been removed from the City Hall lawn. 

Johnson seems to have become the victim of the unpopularity of Roger Brooke Taney.  When the Frederick City Aldermen ordered Taney's statue removed from the front of City Hall, the statue of Johnson was removed, too, since he had been a slave owner.

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


And here's Urner's statue of Johnson in place at Mt. Olivet in August of 2017 with a dark patina and gold trim.

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