A Short History of My Life
January 1st, 1874.
Here begins another story in the journey of Life. Here I would raise a memorial, and say hitherto hath the Lord blessed me.
I desire here to state some facts that may be of interest to my children about myself. I was born in Buckingham County, State of Virginia, on the 24th of June, 1818. My Father was Glover Johns and my Mother, Martha Jones. My Grandparents on both sides lived in the same part of Virginia. My Father was a Planter all of his life. He commenced life poor, but by industry acquired considerable property for that poor country. In person he was large and had considerable energy and strong common sense. He had great integrity of character but made no pretension of religion. He was an amiable man and indulgent to his children and servants. My Mother was said to be a very pretty woman, when young. She was very domestic and industrious in habits. She was of medium height and inclined to be fleshy. She died when I was only about ten years of age, in 1829. She was then about 43 years old. She was a member of the Baptist Church and died a very happy death. There were five children of us. One died in infancy. Of the four who survived, three were boys and only one daughter. The oldest was Frederick, the next Alfred and then our sister Mary Elizabeth, and I the youngest. My brothers and sister were well educated for that day. My brother Alfred studied law and went to Mary and Williams College. My oldest brother Frederick was never married and had a delicate constitution, died of consumption in Mississippi in 1842 at the age of 36. He was a man of great decision and purity of character. He was a very pious man and an elder in the Presbyterian Church for many years. My Father sold his land in Virginia and removed to the state of Tennessee in 1831. He had then about 70 negro slaves. He settled in the neighborhood of Nashville, Tenn., and remained there two years. While we remained there in Tennessee, my sister was married to Mr. William Cowan of Memphis. In the Autumn of 1833, my Father removed to the state of Mississippi and settled near the town of Clinton, in Hinds County, ten miles from Jackson, the Capital of the State. He bought a tract of land and raised cotton. In the summer of 1834, my Father died of conjunctive fever. The cotton crop was now exciting a great deal of attention and emigration was pouring in a constant stream from the older slave states to the southern states. While in Mississippi I went to school to old Mr. David Confort, a good old man who devoted his life to teaching. In the winter of 1835, I went to live with my sister in Memphis.
In the summer of 1835, my brother Alfred was married to Miss Mary Wharton of Huntsville, Alabama. After my father's death, my brother, influenced by the spirit of speculation that prevailed in the country, went to merchandising and in the pecuniary pressure that came on the country in 1837, they lost most of their property. In 1836 I left Memphis and went to Miami University at Oxford, Ohio. Here an event occurred that very seriously affected my character and destiny for time and eternity. Up to this time, I had been a wild and sinful boy. A few months after I went to college, my attention was turned to the subject of religion and as I hoped, the Lord changed my heart and made me His child. What a change and what a blessing to me! I must forever adore the amazing grace of God that arrested my wayward steps and brought me to accept of Christ as my Savior. My college life was a very happy and pleasant one, though I regret that I did not improve my time in study as I ought. I had for my companions many noble young men. What a thing it is for a man to become a Christian while young. I know it has been a great blessing to me in my subsequent life. I graduated in the year 1840. Soon after my graduation I was married to Miss Katherine Woodruff of Oxford, Ohio. We returned immediately to Mississippi, where my brothers were still living on the place where my father died. My sister and her husband had lost most of their property in Memphis, and gone to Mississippi, to live too. They had failed through their extravagence and mis-management. At this time there was real financial embarassment. Cotton was down very low. Land and negroes were very low priced. My brother was very deeply in debt. I had inherited from my father about eighty acres of land and fifteen negroes. While in college I had designed studying theology but my heath was so poor when I left college that I determined to give it up. My only course was to go to planting. I tried it and lived on the place with my brother Alfred. In the winter of 41, my brother Alfred and myself took part of the negroes and went over to Louisiana, forty miles from Vicksburg, made a settlement on the Tensas River. The families remained in the old place at Hinds County, Miss. In the summer of 41 my wife and myself went on a visit to Ohio, to visit with her relations and spent some time with her sister, Mrs. Chauncy Olds of Chillicothe, Ohio. We returned to Mississippi in the Fall. In the month of September 1842, our first child was born. This was my daughter Louisa, now Mrs. Morgan. In the Spring of 43, I removed to a farm two miles from Vicksburg, Miss. There we remained one year. I ought to have mentioned that in 1842 I built a house on my 80 acres of land. My sister being very poor and with a family of children, and her husband a very inefficient man, I made her a present of the house and land, and I determined to remove to Missouri. In the Spring of 1844, I left Mississippi and removed to Missouri. My father-in-law, Mr. Woodruff had removed from Ohio to St. Charles, Mo. We rented a farm three miles north of St. Charles, owned by old Mr. James Lindsay. On March 25th, 1844, we landed in St. Louis. It was a flourishing city then, though compared to what it is now, very small. There wasn't a railroad in the state and I don't know that there was one in Illinois. St. Charles was a half dead town of some 700 people. The county was thinly settled. The best improved lands were selling from $4.00 to $10.00 an acre. Corn was worth from ten to twenty cents a bushel. Wheat from thirtyseven to forty cents, horses from twenty five to forty dollars.
The year 44 was memorable for the great flood in all the western rivers. Such an overflow was almost unprecedented. All the lowlands were covered with water. There was great destruction of property. Thousands had everything swept away. There was great suffering in the Summer and Fall. West, very sickly. In the Spring of 45, I rented a farm from Boal in the prairie, six miles below St. Charles, and removed to it. My second daughter, Mary, was born on the first day of January, 1845. The summer previously my wife had a severe spell of fever from which she never entirely recovered. In January, I went south and spent about two months on business with my brother, Alfred. In March, 1845, we left the Lindsay Farm and lived about two months in town, in the house now owned and occupied by Mr. Frank Yosti, the house on the Boal Farm not being ready for us sooner. This farm was overflowed the previous year and was cleaned in fine order for cultivation. Mr. and Mrs. Woodruff lived with us. We Brought four or five negroes with me. We raised a fine large crop of corn that year. I sold it in St. Louis for twenty cents a bushel, considered a good price at that time. In the Fall of that year, I took my family south and spent the winter with my brother in Louisiana. He had improved a plantation on Pantha Lake, about 20 miles from Millington Bend on the Mississippi River in Madison Parish. My wife's health was very poor, threatened by consumption. There was quite a crowd at my brother's. Dr. Wharton, Alfred's father-in-law, and Dr. William Wharton, and his family were there. The winter was a very cold one. We returned to St. Charles in the Spring. When I came to St. Charles in 44, the Reverend A. Munson was pastor of the Presbyterian Church. He resigned and left in the Fall of that year. About that time the Rev. Dr. Daniel Baker held a protracted meeting in the church of great interest. Quite a number were brought into the Church. In 45, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Smith became Pastor. In the Summer of 46, my wife's health became feeble with confirmed consumption. In June Mr. Chauncy Olds and wife came on a visit to us from Ohio. He was my brother in law, (we) having married sisters. They remained 'til my wife's death in August. She died a most happy and triumphant death. In 46, I bought the tract of land which I now own lying on Maria Chochi Lake, three miles below town. I bought it of Dr. Thompson for about $9.00(?) per acre. About sixty acres in cultivation, with a log cabin on it. I built a small brick house in the Spring of 47, and went there to live. In the year 1847(?) I greatly enlarged the farm, bought the land adjoining and broke up a good deal of prairie. On November 2nd of that year I married Jane Amanda Durfee, daughter of Mrs. Anne Glenday and Rev. Thomas Durfee, who died many years ago. He came to Missouri at an (early?) date from Massachusetts. He was esteemed by all who knew him, as an excellent and useful minister of the gospel in the Presbyterian Church. My wife was born in Callaway County, Mo, near the Aux Vasse Church. where her father preached, but spent most of her life on the farm in St. Charles, now owned by her mother and formerly the home of Mr. Thomas Lindsay, her Mother's Uncle, who lived there many years and at his death gave the farm to Mrs. Durfee. He was the father of the Presbyterian Church in St. Charles, a Scotchman of great firmness of character, of extensive reading, and a considerable mathematician. Wrote a great deal on the prophecies in the Bible. In August 1848, our daughter, Mattie was born. I ought to have mentioned that after our wedding we started on a trip south, spent most of the winter with my brother, Alfred, in Louisiana about 20 miles from Milligan's Bend, in Madison Parish. In the year 1848, Mrs. Durfee quit farming and came to live with us. In the next year or two nothing of special interest occurred. My health was not good and my daughter Mary had badly salivated and her lower lip was seriously injured. Our second daughter, Charlotte Elizabeth, was born Feb. 1850. We had as our Pastor during this time Rev. Harry Ruggles, a very interesting young man of deep piety. He was in delicate health and after remaining with us about 18 months left and in a year or two died of consumption. In consideration of the unhealthiness of the prairie on Maria Chochi, we concluded to leave it and come to town to live and to be near schools for the children. We rented a house on the corner of Fourth and Madison Sts. We came to town on the first of July 1851. In Aug. of this year Frederick our first son was born. I continued to carry on the farm for one year with the negroes. The next year I sold the stock and horses, rented the farm out and hired the negroes. In the Spring of 1853 I built the house where I now live and moved into it Aug. of this year. In June previous our second son Arthur Clifford was born. I believe that in 1850 my wife's sister Maggie went on to Massachusetts to her uncle Dr. Nathan Durfee, who offered to educate her. In the Spring of 1852, Mrs. Durfee went on a visit to Fall River, Mass. and returned in the Fall with Lucy Brigham, a cousin of my wife's. She came out to teach. Her father is a Congregational minister. In Sept. 1853, she died of dropsy of the chest and is buried in Lindenwood. Here in this house we have lived for nearly twenty one years. In that time seven children, four sons and three daughters, have been born to us: Glover, George, Annie, Maggie, John Jay, Blanche, Shirley Winston. Two of them, Maggie and Blanche, were taken from their earthly to their heavenly home very young. They were lovely in their lives and beautiful in death. Three of our children have married in that time, Louisa, Nan, (Mary perhaps) and Lizzie. We have tried hard to educate our children and train them in the fear of God. We have succeeded to a good degree. Our oldest son has just graduated from Missouri Medical College in St. Louis with honors and gives promise of success and usefulness. Our daughter Mattie has been teaching for several years and is a young lady of superior mind and character. Our daughter Lissie( Mrs. Gauss ) is a very accomplished musician. Arthur, our second son, is in business in St. Louis and promises to make a first rate business man. Glover is at Wabash College in Indiana and is doing well from his grades which I have just seen. George is attending Old St. Charles College and is studying well. In these twenty years in this house we have enjoyed a great deal. We have had to exercise great economy to get along with so small an income and so large a family. The Lord has been very good and gracious to us. His goodness and mercy have followed us all our days. By the mercy of God all our children who are old enough have been brought into the Kingdom of Christ. This is a great comfort to us and the Lord be praised for it.
- Note for Milligan's Bend:
- Probably Millikin -- There is a station called that not far from Eudora [AR] but in La. He may have been speaking of the other and of the bend south of this.
- Note following text: The diary of John Jay Johns.
- This is a copy of a copy that was made by F. Winston Johns, Grandson of John J. Johns, on Jan. 27th, 1952.