This & That
The story of Thomas Johnson's wife's ordeal
By Jack SwiftThere is an intriguing story concerning Johnson County and its name that I want to bring to my readersí attention. I will summarize it due to space limitations. The story includes background information about the man who was honored (and justly so) by having our county named for him. He was Thomas Johnson.
He was one of the first Johnsons to settle in what is now Johnson County. He came to this area from Russell County, Virginia sometime during the period between 1799 and 1805. He continued to reside in this area until his death in 1835. It was about a year after his death that a newly formed county that was carved from Carter County was named Johnson County in his honor.
I suppose the following narrative could be called the rest of the story. From the information I have, Archibald Scott was a pioneer settler who lived on the headwaters of Wallenís Creek with his wife and five children in a log house he built himself in what was then Washington County, Virginia. That area later became Russell County but is now Lee County, Virginia. His wife was the former Fanny Dickinson of Prince Edward County, Virginia. In June of 1785, the family had gone to bed when a band of Indians broke through the door and killed Scott and his five children. Mrs. Scott was taken captive and forced to walk toward an Indian town a great distance away.
The story goes that Mrs. Scott suffered greatly and became extremely tired and was in great pain both physically due to the hardship she was experiencing and emotionally due to seeing her husband and children slain before her eyes. The Indians stopped to hunt food and she was left to be guarded by one of the band while the others were gone. Her guard slept or was distracted enabling her to escape.
Evading the Indians, she traveled through the wilderness with no food except that which she could derive from nature such as the juice of young cane stalks, sassafras leaves and a few other plants that she found edible. She saw many wild animals such as buffaloes, elks, deer, bear and wolves but she had no means of killing an animal for food. She was becoming weaker all the while. She hid from her captors in hollow logs, hollow trees and thick bushes and was near death but she must have been a remarkable person to endure through it all.
One account tells that she came to a place that had two distinct directions to choose from. She started in one direction but noticed that a little bird flew by her and fluttered in the opposite direction. She began to go in the same direction again, but the bird flew past her again and fluttered in the opposite direction. She then felt that it was the direction of providence and the path she took led to a settlement. She later learned the direction she started would have led her back into the wilderness.
After some years following her ordeal, she married Thomas Johnson for whom Johnson County, Tennessee, was named. They had a number of children. Thomas Johnson is reportedly buried on Little Doe. The site is currently unknown. His wife, Fanny, died in May of 1796 in Russell County, Virginia. A son, Thomas Johnson, Jr. is buried in a cemetery near the Bud Forrester farm. As has been recounted many times, due to the hardship of traveling to Carter Countyís seat of government, Elizabethton, a number of pleas were made to move the county seat to a more centrally located site. Those pleas were to no avail. Finally, in 1835, James Powell introduced a petition calling for a separate and distinct county. The bill passed in early 1836. Some wanted it to be named for Colonel James Taylor and others wanted to name it for Johnson. After much discussion the county was named Johnson County and the county seat was named Taylorsville in Taylorís honor. The name of the county seat was renamed Mountain City in 1885 ó a very appropriate name since it is surrounded by beautiful mountains.