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 Zachariah Johnston

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Zachariah Johnston

  • Birth 1742 Fishersville, Augusta County, Virginia, USA
  • Death 7 Jan 1800 Lexington, Lexington City, Virginia, USA
  • Burial Lexington, Lexington City, Virginia, USA
  • Plot White 2A, 77
  • Memorial ID 22321220

Zachariah Johnston was the son of William Johnston and Ann (surname unknown). He was most likely born at his father's home "the Barrens" or "Old Stone Fort," in Augusta Co., VA (see photo of sign at his home). He was baptized on 26 Sept 1742, by local Presbyterian minister, Rev. John Craig, in Augusta Co., VA. Based on this, he was born slightly BEFORE this date. A grandchild's bible says he was born in 1743 instead, but Rev. Craig's date above would appear to supersede it.

Zachariah married Ann Robertson, the daughter of James Robertson and Elizabeth Crawford, in 1762 in Augusta County, Virginia.

They had 11 known Johnston children:
John Johnston, MD, 16 Nov 1761 or 18 Nov 1765
James Robertson Johnston, 19 May 1763
William Johnston, 10 Apr 1766
ELIZABETH JOHNSTON, 22 Feb 1768 (Mrs. Robt. McChesney)
Zachariah Johnston, Jr.,18 Jan 1770
Thomas Johnston, 10 Jan 1772
Anne Johnston, 27 Oct 1774 (Mrs. Jos. White)
George Johnston, 9 Feb 1777, did young in the Jackson River
Alexander Johnston, 6 May 1779
Margaret "Peggy" Johnston, 10 Apr 1781 (Mrs. Robt.White)
(Cannot find the following)
Jane Johnston, 28 Oct 1783 (Mrs. Jas. Sharpe)

He was a farmer, leader, orator (was compared to Patrick Henry), statesman, advocate and defender of religious freedom, Presbyterian, patriot, Revolutionary soldier, chair of the House of Delegates' committee on religion for the act for religious freedom and student and later, trustee of Liberty Hall Academy (appointed in 1793 to 1800). He represented Augusta County and later Rockbridge County, in the Virginia House of Delegates 1797-98 and was primarily instrumental in getting repeal of the obnoxious act of 1796. He was a delegate to the Virginia Convention in 1788 and got the uncontested, popular vote for his region for ratification of the Constitution. He made the final speech on the floor before it was passed (some quotes below).

Note: I later discovered that Zachariah's brother in law, Alexander Robertson of Mercer County, KY, voted NO in the 1788 ratifying convention in VA. Plus that his wife's kin, "William Robertson, the celebrated historian, whose nephew, John Henry, was the father of Patrick Henry." (Need to verify the latter, see wife Ann's father, James Robertson's bio).

His father died in about 1769 and Zachariah inherited his childhood home. At unknown date, he added on to his father's home and it is still in very good condition today. He had his 2nd and last home of limestone, built near Lexington, Virginia in about 1793. The builder's name, John Spear is on the side of the house and is dated at completion, 1797. It's in excellent shape and still owned by his/my Paxton relatives, who have just put it on the market in 2007. It's beautiful inside and out and still has items owned by Zachariah. This includes the framed letter Thomas Jefferson wrote him to come visit him at Monticello, a grandfather's clock (click on photo on wife's site to see notes), large table, chairs, walnut highboy dresser (all dark wood), etc. Priceless. I was privileged to have toured inside both of his homes. See photos from my visits there, on this site and his father's. Click on them for detailed captions (Several home photos were removed, WHY? Only 7 now appear in 7-13).

Page 336.—20th March, 1769. Zachariah Johnston and Ann to Thomas Calbreath, £5, 241 acres, part of 270 in Beverley Manor on Long Meadow of Middle River of Shanando, formerly belonging to William Johnston, who died intestate; descended to Zechariah as his eldest son and heir, joining Thompson's land. Delivered: Wm. Galbreath (sic), 26th June, 1794. Lyman Chalkley's Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement, Vol. 3, p 482. Thomas Calbreath is Zachariah's brother in law.

Augusta Co., VA: Page 156.--16th March, 1773. Robt Thompson and Agness, Jas Thompson and Rebecca ( ), to Zachariah Johnston, 400 acres in Beverley Manor, conveyed by Beverley to John Seawright, and by him to John Thompson, 24th November, 1743; John Thompson dying intestate, land descended to his son Thos, his heir-at-law, who conveyed 200 acres to his brother Robt, and devised 200 acres by his will, 25th March, 1760, to said Jas Thompson. Chalkley's Vol. 3, p 529.

In 1780, Zach Johnston contributed 4 beeves (plural of beef), £2100., per the Augusta Lists, III, p 2. Revolutionary Claims for inspection.

VA Grant Bk 14, #399, 936 acres, in consideration of part of a Military Warrant No. 4 to John Swope, military surgeon (?) in the VA Navy, issued the 27th day of August 1782, lying and being in the District set apart for the Officers and Soldiers of the VA State Line.
VA Grant Bk 14, "#400-401," 1000 acres, Military Warrant issued 5 Jun 1783, surveyed 5 Aug 1785, lying and being in the District set apart for the Officers and Soldiers of the VA State Line. Survey #6986.
VA Grant Bk 14, "#401," 666 2/3 acres, Military Warrant #752 to Richd Smart, issued 5 Jun 1783, surveyed 2 Aug 1785, lying and being in the District set apart for the Officers and Soldiers of the VA State Line.

Photo of page on the right, is from a "Common Place book," which formerly belonged to his father, which Zachariah took over. It records many financial transactions. His writes his own name in the body and he signs it.
"page 62
February ye 11th 1782 Rec’d
of Zechariah Johnston three
guineys Weighing Each one
pound six shillings & ten pence
(signed) John Bredon (or Breder)"

"the Above Acompt J Bred
All But one and four pence
(signed) Zch. Johnston"
(acompt is an installment, on an account and I suspect a guiney, or guinea, herein, is a coin) Do not reproduce photo or text.

See photo of survey #89, for Zachariah Johnston for 666 2/3 acres, dated 3 Aug 1784 on part of a military warrant #752 (to Richard Smart for 3 yrs as a Masters Mate of the VA State Navy), on a NE branch of Rufsells Creek.

Land Office Military Warrant, No. 3668, for Officers and Soldiers of the Commonwealth of VA, warrant to survey for Zachariah Johnston afsee (assignee) of Richard Smith, for 200 acres in consideration of his services as a soldier in the Virginia continental line, dated 11 Jan 1785. See photo.

4 Mar 1786, Articles of Agreement between Wm Galloway of Botetourt Co., and Zech Johnston of Augusta Co., for the consideration of 3 years rent completed at £45 plus £14 in hand, paid by Johnston to Galloway for 115 acres conveyed to him by Thos Fulton, adjoining to and interlocked to Johnston’s tract he purchased from the Commonwealth (VA) under the “Escheat Law” (property owner died without heirs, becomes the state’s). Signed by Wm Galloway and Zech. Johnston. See my photo.

In 1786 Zachariah Johnston made the following speech in the Virginia House of Delegates Assembly in favor of the act establishing Religious Freedom: "Mr. Chairman, I am a Presbyterian, a rigid Presbyterian as we are called; my parents before me were of the same profession; I was educated in that line. Since I became a man, I have examined for myself; and I have seen no cause to dissent. But, sir, the very day that the Presbyterians shall be established by law, and become a body politic, the same day Zachariah JOHNSTON will be a dissenter. Dissent from that religion I cannot in honesty, but from that establishment I will."

Taken from Zachariah Johnston's 25 Jun 1788 often quoted speech at the Virginia Convention debates ratifying the Constitution:

"It is my lot to be among the poor people. The most that I can claim, or flatter myself with, is to be of the middle rank. I wish no more, for I am content. But I shall give my opinion unbiased and uninfluenced—without erudition or eloquence, but with firmness and candor. And in so doing, I will satisfy my conscience. If this Constitution be bad, it will bear equally as hard on me as on any Member of society. It will bear hard on my children, who are as dear to me as any man's children can be to him. Having their felicity and happiness at heart, the vote I shall give in its favor, can only be imputed to a conviction of its utility and propriety." ...3rd paragraph.

"As to the amendments now on your table, besides the impropriety of proposing them to be obtained previous to ratification, they appear to me, to be evidently and clearly objectionable ……That article says, That no free Government, or the blessing of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent re- currence to fundamental principles." This article is the best of the whole--Take away this, and all is gone. Look at the first article of our bill of rights. It says that all men are by nature equally free and independent. Does that paper acknowledge this? No, --It denies it. They tell us that they see a progressive danger of bringing about emancipation. The principle has begun since the revolution. Let us do what we will, it will come round. Slavery has been the foundation of that impiety and dissipation that have been so much disseminated among our countrymen. If it were totally abolished it would do much good." ...5th and 6th paragraph.

"I am happy to see that happy day approaching, when we lose sight of dissections and discord, which are one of the greatest sources of political misfortunes. Division is a dreadful thing. This Constitution may have defects." "There can be no human institution without defects. We must go out of this world to find it otherwise. The annals of mankind do not shew us one example of a perfect Constitution." ...8th paragraph.

He ends his speech with: "I am for adopting the Constitution without previous amendments. I will go any length afterwards to reconcile it to Gentlemen by proposing subsequent amendments. The great and wise State of Massachusetts has taken this step. The great and wise State of Virginia might safely do the same. I am contented to rest my happiness on that footing."

Farmer Zachariah Johnston from long meadow run became the idol of the valley inhabitants. Dr. Archibald Alexander saw him as their “Champion” and attributed his forcefulness to his earnest…..) The Johnston family moved from the Tinkling Spring community in 1792 as is attested by the Church letter, signed by the pastor, Rev. John McCue……more…..” (Left due to ZJ’s move to new home in Lexington. Rev. McCue bought ZJ's home). Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom, Howard McKnight Wilson, see JOHNSTON on p 231 and 235.

MB kindly contributed a photo copy of the 14 Feb 1802 Christian Co., KY filed Deed Book A, page 111-114 on the right, settling Zachariah's estate. Executors, sons John and Zachariah, Jr. sold to their brother in law Robert McChesney/McKinsey (husband of sister Elizabeth), both of Rockbridge Co., 1000 acres for £500. The land was located on the "east side of the west fork of red river where the Carolina line crosses it." It was for "land lying in the District set apart for the officers and soldiers of the Virginia State line in the state of Kentucky" by a 27 May 1799 dated patent. It was surveyed 7 Nov 1797 for Adam Craig.

Then on pages 115-117 dated 11 Feb 1802, John Johnston Executor of the estate of George Johnston and executors John and Zachariah, Jr. for Zachariah Johnston, sold to Joseph White of Rockbridge 1000 acres, again for £500. It was located on the South side of the Cumberland River, and was surveyed on 16 Jun 1785 and patented on 10 Jun 1800. (WHO is George Johnston? It sounds like he's a brother is my guess.) It was signed on 25 Jul 1802 and file "August September 4, 1802" in Christian Co., KY

According to James Willson McClung's Significance of Rockbridge Co., VA, 1903, page 58-59: Johnston's (2nd) home was built in 1793 on land originally deed in 1742 to Joseph Lapsley, from the Borden Grant of 1739, consisting of some 92,000 acres. Lapsley sold it to Johnston in 1793 and Johnston built the first home on this site. Following Johnston's death, it passed to his son James, then to heirs on to current heirs: M. Paxtons.

In 1793, Johnston left Augusta Co for his home called "Stone Castle" about 2 miles south of Lexington. He died there. Hist Pap,Vol 2,190WLU

1 Dec 1795, Indentured orphan, Alexander Martin in Bourbon, KY writes a letter to Zachariah and mentions at the end, "Remember me to your ­­­Mrs(?), Jas), and Jo(John)­ and Betsey and all of the family both abroad and at home.

Mead Properties described the Stone House in 2007. "First public offering in 210 years. Zachariah Johnston's 1797 stone family home, in the meadows of Woods Creek and private golf course at town's edge. Updated by descendant Matthew Paxton, Jr. family with guidance of noted restoration architect Thomas Craven, preserving the original flooring, stone fireplaces, Georgian woodwork, and detailing. On the National Register."

Zachariah is in the NSDAR Linage Books, Ancestor #A064126.

Several photos I added were removed by FaGrave, though I took them myself plus some others took as well. Sadly all my notes went with them in the captions.

He is also mentioned in The Scotch-Irish in America, Proceedings and Addresses of the 7th Congress at Lexington, VA, June 20-23, 1895, Scotch-Irish Society of America, Nashville, TN, 1895, p 97 and 328. It repeats many of the other sources herein; called the "Patrick Henry of West Virginia," he was an intimate friend of Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe" and descended from the Johnstons of Armandale (sic)." It's Annandale.

See the book, Rockbridge County Artists & Artisans, by Barbara Crawford and Royster Lyle, Jr., 1995, for photos of a few items of Zachariah, from his last home. Royster gave me a signed copy of his book.

BIO researched and written by LSP. Do not reprint this or any of my attachments/photos, from this site.

Family Members



His worn gravestone says:

Here Lies
The body of
Who died January the 7th 1800
in the 57th Year of his age
Death thou hath conquered me,
I by thy dart am slain,
But Christ hath conquered thee,
And I shall rise again.

A marker from the National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution is at the base of his gravestone.

  • Created by: LSP
  • Added: 20 Oct 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 22321220
  • LSP
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Zachariah Johnston (1742–7 Jan 1800), Find A Grave Memorial no. 22321220, citing Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, Lexington, Lexington City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by LSP (contributor 46860931) .