| James Johnson was born in Limerick, Ireland, 16 January 1761. At about age 7 or 8, he came to America with his family and settled in Rockbridge County, Virginia. Little is known of parents or siblings, though family tradition holds that his father’s name was Noble. In 1781 James Johnson enlisted in the American Army, Second Regiment, Southern Detachment (Maryland Line), serving under General Nathaniel Greene. He took part in the battles of Guilford Courthouse, Camden, and Eutaw Springs. He was wounded at Camden and taken prisoner by the British at Eutaw Springs. He was taken to Charleston, South Carolina, and imprisoned 13 months on board a prison ship. A eulogy, written a month after his death, describes conditions on the ship: he “was fed on half rations, slept without bed or covering, and lived almost entirely without clothes.” According to D.R. McAnally, his eulogist, he and 3 other prisoners agreed to attempt escape, but recognized, floating beside the ship, the body of a fellow prisoner, who had tried several nights before, and so abandoned the attempt.
After the Revolution, James returned to Virginia, where he remained until 1791. In that year he moved to South Carolina, where he met and married Ann Cole.
Ann Cole was born in New York State on 5 January 1771. While still a child she moved with her family, first to Virginia and then to South Carolina.
James Johnson and Ann Cole were married in South Carolina on 22 July 1791, possible in Newberry District. In 1792 they joined the Methodist Church: “under the ministry of that man of precious memory in the South, Tobias Gibson.” According to Methodist Church records, Tobias Gibson was at Bush River in 1792, and Bush River was in Newberry District.
In 1798 James and Ann brought their family to Buncombe County (later Henderson County), North Carolina, where James secured a grant of land, and settled between Hendersonville and Horseshoe. They had joined the Methodist Church during the first year of their married life, and their home in Henderson County became a favorite stopping place for Methodist ministers and Shaw’s Creek Campground an early Methodist gathering place. When he was in his sixties, James Johnson learned to read and for almost 30 years delighted in reading the Bible and other religious material.
The Johnsons had 9 children, all of whom lived to marry and raise families, and many western North Carolina families of today can trace their ancestry to James and Ann Cole Johnson. Their children were: Hugh Johnson married Sarah Lane Bradley, Sarah Johnson married Andrew McBrayer, Uranah Johnson married Charles Greer, Malinda Johnson married John Reese; Mary Johnson married James Osborne, Ann Johnson married Nicholas Osborne, Joseph Johnson married Nancy Edwards, James Johnson married Rixey Davidson, and Noble Johnson married Charlotte Edwards.
In their latter years James and Ann lived with the family of their youngest son, Noble Johnson. James Johnson is listed as a recipient of a Revolutionary War pension.
Shaw’s Creek Campground and cemetery were given to the Southern Methodist church by James’ sons, Hugh and Noble. Services are still held there at the small clapboard church, and on the second Sunday of August each year the Johnson Family Reunion is held on the grounds. Afterward, many descendants walk across the dusty county road to visit the grave sites of James, who died 2 July 1853; and Ann, who died 25 January 1857.
–Heritage I, article #408, p. 245