Several Stories About my 4th Great Grandfathers, Samuel Johnson and John McKinney, and their Families.

This page contains the personal stories and adventures of mine and Linda's ancestors.  We have discovered a few really interesting stories of bravery beyond the call of duty, events that are not readily known, adventures participated in by not only the men in our family, but the whole families in some cases, and in some cases, love stories.  They include stories about events that took place that are also recorded in history books, newspaper articles, letters, sworn testimony, and handed down verbally to the following generation.  Some of the events had catastropic endings and some had glorious endings.  We are still finding information on our great grandparents that go back multiple generations to before our nation was established.

Lt. Samuel Johnson, my 4th great grandfather, was born on 03 Apr 1759, in Prince William Virginia.  This is his his story of the his participation in the Battle of Kings Mountain.  His great grand son would marry Mary Kate Beaton, the daughter of Elizabeth Jane McKinney Beaton, who was the grand daughter of John McKinney.

Biography of a Soldier of the American Revolution 

Submitted by Larry Cockerham (a Johnson descendant)

Having worked on my family history for several years and having looked at many Internet websites for information concerning various ancestors, I note a scarcity of information about my sixth great grandfather Samuel Johnson of Wilkes County, North Carolina. His life span (1757-1834) covered a most important part of our countryís history. Samuel, along with his cousins and neighbors, fought and nearly gave his life, in the defense of his homeland against disgruntled Native Americans and the marauding British Army. I was first introduced to Samuel through the genealogical studies of cousin Mary Lynn Johnson Richards who spent decades unveiling our family tree. Mary and many others used their bloodlines to Capt. Samuel as an entry to the Daughters of the American Revolution, and yes, others joined the SAR.

Samuelís story began with his birth in Fauquier County, near Richmond, Virginia in 1757, the sixth child of Jeffrey Johnson III 1722-1788 and Rachel Walker d. 1816. Rachel was the daughter of George Walker and Frances Hardwick. This Johnson line has been traced and documented back through Jeffrey Johnson I who died in 1726 in King George County, Virginia and who was living in Greater Wiccocomicoe Parish, Northumberland County, with his father John Johnson in 1663.

Like most colonial families, the Johnsons vied for land grants and toiled the soil and reaped the bounty of the forests in the fertile Virginia valleys as they worked their way south into western North Carolina. Jeffery Johnson III, Samuelís father, brought his family into Wilkes County about 1771 when he received land grants on the Yadkin River. With the help of slave labor, notably two gentlemen referred to in Jeffrey IIIís will as Harry and Ned, the Johnson family, working long and hard, became quite prosperous.

On the 1830 federal census for Wilkes County, Samuel and family were listed as owning ten slaves. Though he fought for his own freedom and that of his countrymen, he wasnít quite ready to change the system that held black men in bondage. From all accounts of his deeds, there is no reason to suspect that there wasnít considerable respect shared by all occupants of the Johnson plantation. There was work to be done by all from which all could benefit.

Young Samuel worked the familyís farm near Roaring River until he reached manhood and made the acquaintance of William Lenoir and joined the militia as a gentleman soldier.

Sam was well documented as having participated in several raids against the Cherokees under the command of Lenoir and also that of Ben Cleveland. In 1779 he, according to Lyman Draper, "commanded a mounted company against Tories in the Fayetteville region" and "served on Clevelandís New River expedition in early 1780". 

The few years after the colonies made their declaration of independence in 1776 saw the massive struggle build in intensity, first in the north and then spreading to both South and North Carolina in the later part of the decade. An army led by Major Ferguson had for several months brutally killed settlers and pillaged farms in South Carolina. Mountain militia leaders McDowell, Shelby, Sevier, Campbell and Cleveland assembled a force to meet this threat. Samuel Johnson and others from the upper Yadkin Valley quickly rode to join this band of mountain men numbering about fifteen hundred citizen soldiers.

The energy of this little army was focused on what was to become known as Kings Mountain, the rocky precipice where Major Ferguson unwisely "defied God Almighty and all the rebels out of Hell to overcome him" as per Lyman Draperís Kings Mountain and Itís Men. In their haste to encounter the encamped Ferguson, mounted soldiers were separated from those on foot. Thus the mounted Samuel was made part of the attacking force and though he had reached the rank of Captain in the militia, he served as a Lieutenant in this campaign and battle.

According to Draperís account, Samuel was in the company of Lt. Joel Lewis and as the group made their ascent on the mountain. Samuel was shot through his abdomen, with "three bullet holes in one skirt of his coat and four in the other". He reportedly continued to urge his troops forward after he fell from his wounds. The story holds that Samuel asked to be carried to view the body of the fallen Ferguson after the battle and that Col. Cleveland and two other soldiers honored his request. That glimpse of the battle was taken from a pension application filed several years later by his son Lewis Johnson.

Being severely wounded and unable to mount his horse, Samuel was placed on a horse-drawn litter where he could be transported back to Wilkes County and given the chance for survival. As he drew nearer his home, family legend holds that he became so weak that he was left at the home of Reverend Ambrose Hamon, a local Baptist minister. There he was nursed by young Mary Hamon who brought back his strength and apparently sparked considerable emotional interest in the young fallen warrior. They were married 25 Jun 1782.

One of their sons, Ambrose Johnson, filed a declaration as administrator of his motherís estate in 1854 in which he stated that Col. Cleveland presented his battle sword to Samuel as a token of his esteem. Being a working man, Samuel used the sword as a tool on his plantation and unfortunately broke the blade in half. Ambrose stated that he saw his father retool the blade and reinsert it into the handle guard.

Samuel continued to serve in the militia after Kings Mountain. There is an account of an incident in which he was summoned from church at the Roaring River Meeting House one Sunday by a messenger telling of Tory depredations west of the Blue Ridge. Samuel summoned several of his men from the church and they immediately rode off leaving Mary and the other wives to go home by themselves. Apparently these activities were quite common until the end of the war.

Samuel and Mary were the parents of Robert who married Celia Bourne; Nancy who married Jesse Gambill; Chloe who married William Gambill; Polly who married Leander Johnson; Samuel Brumfield who married Susanne Alexander; Ambrose who married Lucinda Franklin; Mary who married William Bourne Jr; Lewis who married Nancy Elmira Martin; Col. John Simpson who married Nancy Adeline Holbrook; and Rachel who married William M. Forrester.

Samuel watched his large family grow and prosper as he continued to work his farm. After a long and productive life he passed to his Maker on 15 Sep 1834 at his home.


John Mckinney, father of Hampton McKinney.  This story is a sworn to and notarized story about American Revolution Patriot John McKinney, my 4th great grandfather, by Helena V. Marshall, who as a young woman became a good friend to John McKinney in his final years of life in Illinois.  The story that John McKinney related to Helena is one of espionage and intrigue during the Revolution. 


Now referring again to the said John McKinney; when I knew him I was a young woman, about twenty years of age and spent much of my time at the home of Hampton McKinney, where John McKinney and his wife lived about half of their time. John McKinney was a small man, being perhaps five feet six or seven inches high and weighing about one hundred and thirty pounds, fair complexion and had blue eyes; when I knew him his hair was perfectly white. He was an excellent conversationalist, was a great reader, had fine memory for historical dates, and was exceedingly tidy in his dress. Prior to the time I knew John McKinney he had lived on a farm in Madison County, Illinois but had broken up housekeeping and spent the remainder of his days with his children. I was accustomed during those days to talk with John McKinney for hours at a time. and he was to me, then a young woman, a most interesting character. I took a great deal of interest in hearing him tell of his services under General Francis Marion of South Carolina in the war of the American Revolution. I remember at the time we had a published volume of the life of General Francis Marion which I read aloud in his presence, and he added much to the bookís interest and instruction by supplementing it with explanatory remarks and illustrations in connection with the items of history upon which it touched. Many of the places referred to in the book, he said he had been over and was with General Marion and his men on many occasions to which it refers. In fact I heard John McKinney tell scores of times of his services under General Francis Marion. The following is a brief subsume as I now recollect it of Mr. McKinneyís statements to me as to his services in the Colonial forces, etc.

I will not be positive that he stated he was born in South Carolina, though the impression left upon me was that he was born there, and enlisted in there, and further evidence of the fact that he lived in South Carolina, or at least married there is this: as before stated, he married a Miss Catherine Eaves, whose mother was a sister of General Wade Hamptonís great grandfather and they, as I understand it were South Carolinians; they named their oldest son Hampton. I do not recall from what place he enlisted, nor do I remember in what place in South Carolina he lived, he always referred to it as simply South Carolina.

He stated at about the age of Sixteen he enlisted in the Colonial Army, and my impression is he served during the remainder of the war; he stated he served under General Francis Marion. He may have stated he served under other officers, but if so I do not recall now under whom else he stated he served. Near General Marionís camp lived a certain influential and wealthy Tory family who made frequent calls at Marionís camp and pretended great friendship for Marion and the Colonists. But Marion suspected him of duplicity, and of real sympathy and friendship for the British, whereupon he called for someone who would undertake the task of a spy in order that the true attitude of this suspected (Tory) might be ascertained. Young McKinney volunteered to act out the roll, and was chosen. He dressed in ragged citizenís clothes and at night was carried to a creek bottom some twenty miles from camp, and was there left alone; by degrees he worked his way towards the Tory house and in the course of a few days reached his destination. There he begged something to eat, and a place to sleep, and finally procured a position as a hireling there on the place.

By pre-arrangement he was to communicate with Marion by means of an improvised secret post office system, and General Marion was thereby kept informed. After remaining for two weeks or more, young McKinney learned for certain of the Toryís disloyalty to the colonists, and was instrumental in bringing about the capture of the Tory farmer and quite a few British officers and soldiers who were at the Toryís house enjoying a feed. It seems that the British were at the Toryís house feasting at night preparing to attack Marionís men the following day, but while yet feasting, and ill prepared for battle, Marion and his men made an attack on them and succeeded in capturing the entire force, officers and men. Young McKinney (had) succeeded in procuring a horse from the pasture, and (had) carried the news to General Marion. McKinney, under the pretext of watering the horses and doing other chores about the place, would go to the improvised post office agreed upon, and there communicate by writing such matters as were of importance, and at night a carrier from General Marionís camp would come to the post office and get the latest bulletins and convey them to Marion.

In recognition of these services, I was told by Mr. McKinney (during the conversation referred to) that General Marion had presented to him a pair of silver spurs and had also afterwards written him a personal letter making mention among other things the spurs which he had presented him and of this services to his country, and in addition to this he told me he had his honorable discharge from the American Army.

Upon being-told of this by John McKinney, I expressed an intense desire to see the spurs and letter and discharge. He told me that they were at his old home in Madison County, Illinois but that he would have some of the boys, referring to his sons to get them the next time they went to Madison, and that I might examine and read them. Not long after this, Hampton McKinney (his eldest son) brought the spurs and letter and discharge to his home where his father was staying and I then had the privilege of examining and reading the letter and discharge, and discussing them with the said John McKinney. I distinctly recall that the spurs and letter and discharge were all brought together in a leather box.  

It would be quite impossible at this late date to state even in substance the entire contents of the letter which purported to have been written by General Marion to John McKinney. I distinctly recall, however, that he addressed him "Dear Johnnie" and wrote to the following effect; that it was not the largest men that did the most to accomplish our liberty for you were one of the smallest men in my command and did more to trap the old Tory than any dozen men had done. You richly deserve the spurs I gave you. I wish they were gold. I also distinctly recall that he mentioned the recent death in Virginia of an officer who was a great friend of McKinney. It was a friendly kindly letter, and Mr. McKinney prized it very much. I cannot be positive as to the place from which the letter was written, though it seems to me Pee Dee was the place. I do positively recollect that frequent reference was made in the letter to Pee Dee.

The question asked to which of his sons to give the spurs seemed to worry John McKinney not a little. Hampton (the oldest) suggested in my presence to give them to Jubilee(the youngest)and his father replied that he knew Jefferson would not be pleased. It was apparent the father preferred Jubilee should have the spurs, but he did not care to offend Jefferson. It was thought by all that I(Affiant)was engaged to be married to Jubilee McKinney, and John McKinney placed the spurs in my keeping, exacting of me the promise that I would never part with them unless to give them to Jubilee. I took the spurs from him and left them at Hamptonís house for safe keeping, where John McKinney died a year or two afterwards. Hampton McKinneyís wife afterwards told me that a few hours before his death John McKinney asked her to bring him the spurs, and after looking upon them, fondly admonished her to tell Helen (the Affiant) to remember her promise. The spurs remained there until the morning Jubilee, with several others, started for the first time to the then Republic of Texas, to inspect the new country. Desiring to escape the further responsibility, I presented the spurs to Jubilee as a parting gift. He took them with him, and I had not seen the spurs since until August 5th 1902, when one of the spurs was exhibited to me by Mr. C. Lee Jester, a son of C. W. Jester, and a great-great-grandson of John McKinney, and I readily recognized it as one of the same spurs(except that the rowel was missing) which John McKinney had shown me and placed with me more than sixty years before. The other spur I have heard was lost or stolen some fifteen years ago. This spur is now, I am told, kept in a time locked safe in the vault of the Corsicana National Bank, at Corsicana, Texas by C. W. and George T. Jester, great-great-great-grandchildren of the said John McKinney but the spur actually belongs to Mr. J. Preston McKinney, who lives near Corsicana, Texas, son of Jubilee McKinney.

Referring again to the letter and discharge mentioned, about the year 1846 I attended in Macoupin County, Illinois the wedding of Nancy McKinney and John Harlin at her fatherís (Hampton McKinney) house.  I remember on the day of the wedding (at which there was naturally something of a family reunion) that Jefferson McKinney was looking over his fatherís papers and he came across the letter from General Marion and discharge which were at that time kept in an old leather pocketbook and he read them aloud and passed them around to the company for examination, after which he placed them back in the pocketbook and said he intended to keep them as long as he lived.

It has always been my impression that Jefferson McKinney brought these documents with him to Texas when he and his family, Hampton and his family, and Jubilee, who was at that time  unmarried, immigrated to Texas in the year 1846, a few days after the marriage of Nancy  McKinney to John Harlan.


Hampton McKinney, my third great grandfather and the founder of Corsicana.  His descendants would play major roles in the growth of the city of Corsicana, Texas.  Son-in-law, Alexander Beaton and grandson-in-law Dr. Samuel Wistar Johnson would become important men in the history of Corsicana, not only in helping to build a wonderful present day city, but starting oil exploration in the Corsicana area, which would become a major industry in Corsicana and across Texas.  The following biography is related by Hampton McKinney's daughter, Elizabeth Jane McKinney Beaton, a couple of years before her death.  I found the stories in the stored files of my grandmother, Mary Kate Johnson Clarkson.  They are also on record in the historical archives of Navarro County and Corsicana. 


 C. L. Jester: Now, Aunt Jane I want you to tell me all you remember in reference to Hampton McKinney, your father, John McKinney, your grandfather, and my great-great-grand father.

Mrs. Beaton: The McKinney family as the name indicates is of Scotch Irish descent but the farthest I can go back is your great-great-grand father, my grandfather, who I remember quite well, although I was quite young when he died.

 John McKinney was born in North Carolina, what year I do not remember, and died in 1843 at my father's house in Macoupin County, Ill. He married Catherine Eaves, who was related to General Wade Hampton and their oldest child, my father, was named Hampton. John and Catherine McKinney had seven children: three boys, Hampton, Jefferson and Jubilee and four girls, Susan, who married Mr. Otwell, Nancy who married Fenwick Kendall, Polly who married Mr. Gilliam and Diana who married William Hadley. Hampton was the oldest and Jubilee the youngest. I can not state the year that my grandfather John McKinney moved from North Carolina to Illinois, but I know it was after 1797 for my father, Hampton McKinney, was born in North Carolina in that year. John McKinney was in the Revolutionary War and I think he must have been associated in some way with General Francis Marion, for he had a pair of silver spurs given to him by the General. These spurs are still in the possession of one branch of the McKinney family at Corsicana. As I remember, my grandfather was a small man, very quick and energetic in his manner, occupied with something all the time. His wife used to say that he would read if the house was burning down. He died at our house in 1843, four years before we moved to Texas, and is buried in a small private cemetery in Macoupin County.

Hampton McKinney, my father and your great-grandfather, moved with his father to Madison County, Ill. He married Mary Clark, whose family was of English descent. They had twelve children, eight girls and four boys: Lucinda and Louisa (twins). Lucinda died when about eight and Louisa was engaged to be married when she died at age twenty; Diadema, your grandmother, married Levi Jester; Monroe, John P. and Thomas (twins); Jefferson who died when small; Nancy who married John Harlin; Jane, myself, who married  Alexander Beaton; Kate, who married Hamilton Morrel and Mary and Martha (twins). Martha died in infancy and Mary married John L. Miller.

Hampton McKinney, owned a large farm in Madisono County, Ill., just across the river from St. Louis. When I was about eight years old, he moved to Macoupin Co. Ill., where we lived there until we moved to Texas. We did not have the luxuries that we have not for they were not to be had, but we always had plenty of everything and father seemed to be in better financial condition than any of the rest of the family. Illinois was not a slave state so we had no servants. My mother and the girls did all the house work and my father and the boys did the farm work. One thing we did have was fine horses, and we could ride, and ride well. Besides my father being a farmer, he was a local Methodist preacher and belonged to the Methodist Church South. He never followed this profession as a means of livelihood, but he loved to preach and gave his services for the simple love he had for the work. I remember the big revivals he used to hold when I was a child. He loved to read and was a constant reader of the Bible - you might say a Bible student, and he always held family prayer in his home every morning as long as he lived. He was a quiet man and took no interest in politics.

My father's brothers, Jubilee and Jefferson McKinney, had visited different parts of Texas on a prospecting trip, and decided Navarro County was the best place to locate, and Jefferson got my father interested in moving to Texas. Jubilee told him so much about the fine land there that he decided he wanted it for his sons. We left Illinois in the summer or early fall of 1846 - a big party of us, My father and his family, (a big family it was, too,) had three or four wagons and a large carryall drawn by two horses for mother and the younger children. His brother, Jefferson, his wife and five children, had two large wagons. His sister, Nancy Kendall, her husband, Fenwick and their several children had one big wagon wagon called a Prairie Schooner. It had a different shape and was much larger that the other wagons. My sister, Nancy, had just married John Harlin and they came to Texas on their honeymoon, so needed only one wagon. There were several young men: Jubilee McKinney, John Gilliam, a cousin and Jim Moore, a cousin of the Kendalls. The young girls in the party were Kate McKinney, my sister, and Kate and Mary Kendall, our cousins. I was just 15 years old at the time. The only things we brought with us were what we would need for the trip - tents, beddings, dishes and cooking vessels. Father and the other men carried their money in a belt which they always wore. It took us two or three months to finish the journey but we did not hurry and when we reached a place we liked we would camp there until we were ready to move on. We came through the Indian Nation, as it was called then, and saw lots of Indians but there were all friendly. The boys would take us girls on horseback to the Indian dances. Just as we were getting into [present] Ellis County there was some talk of unfriendly  Indians but nothing happened.

I will go back now and tell you something about your grandfather and grandmother Jester who were left behind when we moved to Texas. Diadema McKinney was the oldest daughter of Hampton McKinney who lived to be grown and married. She was born in 1821 in Madison County, Ill. and married Levi Jester about 1841 I think. Father and Mother were very much opposed to the marriage so they ran away - I don't know where they married. Afterwards they lived with Uncle William Hadley and didn't come home for a long time. The reason Father didn't want her to marry him was that he just drifted in from Delaware - said he was away from his folks and nobody knew anything about him. But that was all that was against him - he was a stranger and nothing was known about him or his family. He was a small man - your father, Charlie Jester, favored him more than any of the boys. They stayed on in Madison County, Ill. until after the birth of their first child, your father, in 1841, but they lived in Macoupin County when we moved to Texas. Soon after we left, they moved to Waverly where Levi died - I think about 1850 or 1851. After his death, Diadema Jester and her children stayed there until 1858 when they came to Texas. Charlie was then 17 years old and he and his mother made a living for the family. My brother, Monroe McKinney, went back to Illinois and brought them here. Major Beaton gave them a lot and she built a house there.  

Coming back to our arrival in Texas, when we reached Navarro County, we stopped at Dresden and stayed there until the next winter. I know we raised a crop of sweet potatoes and everybody said they were the largest ones ever seen around there. We had a log cabin of one room and a shed and another room off in the yard where the boys slept.

While we lived there, there was a big camp meeting over where Bazette is now and we all went to the meetings. Coming back, we passed right through the place where Corsicana is now located. There was nothing there but it was such a beautiful part of the country that my father decided to locate his certificate there and make a permanent home for his family. He bought an empty cabin, moved it on what was later the site of the R. Q. Mills home and located his head right certificate for 640 acres. My brothers, John and Thomas, each had a certificate for 320 acres and Jubilee located his 320 acres just north of town where the old Jubilee home now stands. He was on the old bachelor list when he came to Texas but he married a Miss Story.

My father was really the first settler in Corsicana and had the first residence, if you can call a one room log house a residence. Afterward, when the town of Corsicana was located, he lifted his certificate and put in in Johnson County; however, he reserved a good part of the town property for his own use.

After the town was located he moved down to where the court house is now, moved two little cabins there and built a hallway between and a shed at the back and we lived there until he built the first hotel where the jail now stands. Called the McKinney Tavern, it was for many years the only hotel in Corsicana. It had two big rooms down stairs with a long gallery in front, two other rooms at one corner and a long ell back for a dining room and kitchen back of that. The upstairs was one big room. There were big fire places in the rooms but no stoves except the cooking stove. In fact, we had the first cooking store ever brought into Corsicana, and probably the first one in the county. Father ran the hotel as a means of livelihood and made a good living for a number of years, but he did not particularly care about that kind of work. We were living there when I met Major Alexander Beaton whom I married in 1852. All my sisters, except Mary, were married while we lived at the Tavern.

Major Alexander Beaton was born in 1820 in Scotland and came to this country as a young man. He was living in Independence, Mo. when the Mexican War began and enlisted there, serving throughout the War. Afterwards he came to Texas where he taught school at Chapel Hill in Washington County, then moved to New Orleans. I think he came to Corsicana in 1850 with Col. Croft, for they were always together. He studied law and after he got his license began to practice here. He and Col. Mills were partners before the Civil War and had their office on the east side of the square. Major Beaton finally became disgusted with the law and quit his practice, dealing solely with land trading. About four months after we married, we built a little home of our own on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Eleventh Street. He was always interested in the growth of Corsicana and it was largely through his efforts that the railroad came here in 1871. When the new part of town was laid off, he gave the land for Beaton Street, specifying that it should be 100 feet wide, and it still bears his name today, we had three children: Ralph, who lives in Corsicana; Kate who married Dr. S. W. Johnson and Tom, who has been dead for years. 

My father, Hampton McKinney, died in 1857 of pneumonia, at the age of sixty years. After his death, my mother lived with us until she died in 1883/84.

I have lived here continuously for 74 years and have seen Corsicana grow and develop from the one room cabin my father built to the beautiful little city of today with its many handsome homes and buildings. Those early days were happy ones for me and I shall always look back on them with much pleasure for they were the days of my happy youth.

[Signed] Mrs. James Beaton 10 February 1921, before Lucille Bonner Notary Public For Navarro County, Texas

Thomas Clark was my 4th great grandfather.  He was the father of Mary Banes Clark, who became the wife of Hampton McKinney.  The story is compiled from several family sources I have found.

Thomas Clark was born in London in the year 1760.  At the age of just 16 years old, he was pressed into the British Army and sent to the Colonies to whip the colonists in 1776.  While fighting the Rebels in Boston in the Revolutionary War, he deserted and joined the American forces. and went to western Pennsylvania and married Miss McHenry, a Scotch woman. They moved to Kentucky in early days and were killed by Indians on 09 Feb 1813 at Mound, Pulaski, Illinois. The History of Pulaski Co., Illinois, Chapter 5, page 535 describes an Indian massacre of a Clark family (including grown adult children) in the fall of 1812. Golconda is down river a bit from Pulaski County.  He left a family of boys and girls. His daughter Mary Banes would marry Hampton McKinney.  In 1846, Hampton would move his family by covered wagon from Illinois to the brand new state of Texas and would leave quite a legacy of pioneer spirit by founding a small town which would grow and prosper over the years to come.