MICHAEL and PERMELIA JOHNSON
Michael Johnson was born in England on June 11, 1795. (1)
Married Permelia Standish about 1821, probably in New York. Permelia was born April 26, 1793, probably in Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Hadley and Abigail Standish. (2)
Rosina Johnson, born Dec, 27, 1821.
Emily Caroline Johnson, born Sept. 16, 1823. Married Robert S. Wilson.
Sarah Johnson, born Sept. 23, 1825. Married Richard Dove.
Richmond Johnson, born April 27, 1827.
Michael Horace Johnson, born May 4, 1831.
Adaline Johnson, born Nov. 14, 1834. Married George Ketch.
Because records are not readily available, the family’s early days must be pieced together from a variety of sources, some of which are not particularly reliable.
Michael identified his birthplace as England in census records. No other information about his origins, parentage or immigration has turned up.
Michael “was a tailor by trade,” according to the biographical sketch of his son Richmond, which appears in “A Twentieth Century History of Hardin County, Ohio,” published in 1910. (4) However, census records from 1850 and 1870 indicate he was a farmer, so he must have given up his trade when he left England or when he left New York for Ohio.
It must be presumed that Michael made his way to Ontario County in western New York by about 1820, even though he doesn’t seem to be listed in that year’s census. Within a year, he married Permelia Standish, whose family lived in Ontario County. No record of the marriage has turned up but the wedding probably occurred in 1820 or 1821 since their first child was born on Dec. 27, 1821.
Permelia was a descendant of the Pilgrim Myles Standish. The location of Permelia’s birth cannot be determined with absolute certainty. In census records, her birthplace is always listed as Massachusetts but her baptism is not recorded with those of the older children of Hadley Standish in Pembroke, Mass. According to “The Standishes of America,” Hadley moved from Massachusetts to Vermont in 1793, the year of Permelia’s birth. It seems possible that the family did not have time to baptize the new daughter before their move. Several years later, the Standish family moved from Vermont to Bristol in Ontario County, N.Y., where Permelia and Michael appear to have been married. Beside the exact location of her birth, the spelling of her name is problematic. Her father’s will spells her name “Premell” and a family Bible spells it “Prmel,” while census records spell it “Parmelia,” “Permela” and “Permelia.” And the death record of her son Richmond calls her “Emma,” which may have been her nickname. I have chosen to go with the spelling “Permelia,” which matches her tombstone, Richmond’s biographical sketch and her listing in “The Standishes of America.” (5)
Very little can be said with certainty about the family’s activities before they settled in western Ohio. They seem to have been missed by the census takers in 1830 and 1840. And they seem to have been lost even to other members of the Standish family. “The Standishes of America,” published in 1895, provides only the following snippet in its account of the children of Hadley: “PERMELIA. m. Michael Johnson; res. and d. in Michigan. They had Michael and two others, names unknown.” This entry is not only sparse, it includes several errors. For example, there’s no evidence that the Johnsons ever lived in Michigan and Permelia probably died in Ohio since she’s buried there. Also, the family had six children, rather than three.
According to later census records, all of the Johnson children were born in New York. Richmond’s biographical sketch says he was born in the town of Richmond, which is in Ontario County. The sketch goes on to say, “Richmond Johnson received his education in the public schools of his native county; he was reared on a farm and has spent most of his life in agricultural pursuits, in which he has been more than ordinarily successful.”
In 1835, the family migrated west to Ohio and settled in Goshen Township, Hardin County. The 1883 history of Hardin County states: “Michael Johnson settled in the northwest quarter of Section 30, in 1835; after a residence of several years, he moved away.” (6)
Richmond Johnson’s biographical sketch says that he “moved with his parents to Hancock county, Ohio, in 1839.” However, the account implies that the family moved directly from New York to Hancock County, which would not be the case. Since the family does not seem to appear in the 1840 Census, a move to Hancock County at this point cannot be confirmed.
In any case, the family lived in Hardin County in 1850. In that year’s census, Michael Johnson is listed as a 58-year-old farmer who was born in England. He owned real estate valued at $50, which is an unusually small amount. His household contained Parmelia, age 59, born in Massachusetts; Richmond, 23, farmer, born in New York; Horace, 19, farmer, born in New York; and Adelia, 15, born in New York.
The U.S. agricultural census for 1850 offers an overview of the activity at the Johnson farm. Michael had 18 acres of improved land and 78 acres of unimproved land. The farm was valued at $800 – far more than the amount listed in the population census – and the farming implements and machinery was valued at $125. The livestock included 2 horses, 2 milk cows, 2 other cattle and 6 swine, valued at a total of $140. In the previous year, the farm had produced 3 bushels of wheat, 200 bushels of Indian corn, 35 bushels of Irish potatoes, 250 pounds of butter, 4 tons of hay, 20 pounds of maple sugar and 6 gallons of molasses. And $25 worth of livestock has been slaughtered.
The 1860 U.S. Census reveals some sort of change had occurred in the Johnson family. Permela Johnson, age 69, is listed as living alone in Delaware Township, Hancock County. Meanwhile, Michael Johnson, age 68, is listed as living in the nearby household of George Bradford. He is listed as having “No occupation.” It seems likely that he was ailing even though no disabilities or conditions are noted on the census form.
During the Civil War, the Johnson’s son Horace served in Company C of the 82nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He entered service on Dec. 5, 1861, and was captured at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863. Richmond’s biographical sketch notes that his brother Horace “was wounded and made a prisoner of war, and never recovered from its effects.” (7)
In 1870, the census again lists Michael and Permelia in the same household. The census for Delaware Township, Hancock County, says Michael was a 76-year-old retired farmer and Permelia was 79. Their household appears beside that of their son Richmond, who is listed as Richard Johnson.
Michael died Nov. 5, 1874. Permelia died Jan. 17, 1881. They are buried at the Johnson Cemetery off County Road 17, northwest of Forest. (8)
(1) Michael’s birth date can be calculated from his tombstone, a photo of which is available at Findagrave.com. His burial is listed at the Johnson Cemetery in Hancock County, Ohio, near Forest. His birth date is also noted in a handwritten entry in a family Bible, a photo of which is posted at Ancestry.com. His country of birth is noted in U.S. Census records for both himself and his children. In addition, she is listed as the daughter of Hadley Standish in “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, page 22. (2) The approximate hear of the wedding must be deduced from the birth of the couple’s first child in 1821. Permelia’s birth date is listed – as Prmel – in the Johnson family Bible. A photo of her grave also appears at Findagrave.com but the quality is too poor to confirm some of the information. However, the website lists the inscription as saying she died on Jan. 17, 1881. Permelia – listed as Premell – is listed as a daughter of Hadley Standish in his will, filed in Ontario County, N.Y., Record of Wills, vol. 10, page 244. (3) The birth dates of the children appear in the family Bible. Sarah is listed as “S A Johnson” and Emily Caroline as “Prmel EC Johnson” in this record. Michael Horace is most often listed as Horace in later records. (4) Richmond’s biographical sketch appears in “A Twentieth Century History of Hardin County, Ohio,” by Minnie Ichler Kohler, Lewis Publishing Co., 1910, page 542. It should be noted that Richmond John’s biographical sketch should be treated with a critical eye. While most of the information can be confirmed through other sources, a few statements are incorrect, such as that his parents were both born in New York. It also implies that the family moved right from New York to Hancock County, and it fails to mention all of Michael’s children. The Hardin County history was published in 1910, the year of Richmond’s death. Although the account indicates that Richmond was still alive, it reads like it was written by one of his children – someone who knew him well but slipped on a few of the details. (5) “The Standishes of America,” by Myles Standish, Boston, 1895, page 22. (6) “The History of Hardin County, Ohio,” published by Warner, Beers & Co., 1883, page 617. (7) “Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion,” Vol. 6, page 524. (8) Findagrave.com.