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 Jacob Johnson

Jacob Johnson

Death 4 Jan 1812 (aged 33)
Burial Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 23297 · View Source
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Jacob Johnson was the father of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States.

His date of birth is believed to be around 1778. Some sources indicate that he was born in Newcastle, England and sailed to America around 1795; but other sources indicate that he was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and that it was his grandfather (and possible namesake) who sailed to North America from England.

Historian Rev. Nash A. Odom writes that "In the year 1760, Peter Johnson, migrated from Kintyre Scotland to North Carolina with his large family and settled in Cumberland County. The preaching instinct broke out again and a number of the Johnsons became ministers. One was the father of Jacob Johnson, who moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and was the father of President Andrew Johnson." Author Billy Kennedy writes that Jacob's father, named Andrew, a Presbyterian, came to North Carolina about 1750 from Mounthill, Ireland.

Whatever his beginnings, it is known Jacob was in Raleigh, NC in the early 1800's. On September 9, 1801, 23-year old Jacob married Mary "Polly" McDonough and together would have 3 children: William Patterson Johnson (1804–1865), Elizabeth Johnson (1806–unknown), and Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808–July 31, 1875). Andrew is said to have been named after his uncle or grandfather, Andrew McDonough.

The Johnson family lived humbly in a log home located on the property owned by Casso's Inn, a popular antebellum inn located northeast of the present-day North Carolina State Capital building. Casso's Inn was run by Peter Casso, a Revolutionary War soldier. Mary worked as a weaver and clothes washer, and Jacob worked as a hostler. Jacob also served as a militia Captain of Muster Division 20, as a sexton for the Presbyterian Church, and as a porter for the State Bank of North Carolina (chartered in 1811). Jacob is also reported to have been the sole bell toller in Raleigh.

Jacob died a hero's death at age 34, when he valiantly saved two fisherman whose boat had capsized. It was December, 1811, and Colonel Thomas Henderson, the young editor of the Raleigh Star, and his friend Mr. Callum, were fishing on Walnut Creek, near Hunter's Mill, when the enthusiastic group of fishermen capsized their fishing skiff. (A third occupant of the skiff, Mr. Pearce, had no trouble getting to shore.) Jacob Johnson jumped in the water and saved Henderson and Callum, to the detriment of his own health. Jacob died several weeks later, ironically, while ringing the funeral bell at church.

His obituary from the Raleigh Star newspaper (dated January 10, 1812) read as follows:

"Died, in this city, on Saturday last, Jacob Johnson, who had for years occupied a humble but useful station in Society. He was a city constable, sexton, and porter of the State Bank. In his last illness he was visited by the principal inhabitants of the city, by all whom he was esteemed for his honesty, industry, and humane and friendly disposition. Among all whom he was known and esteemed none lament him more (except, perhaps, his relatives) than the publisher of this paper; for he owes his life, on a particular occasion, to the boldness and humanity of Johnson."

Jacob's grave remained unmarked until 1867, when the current marker was erected. The writing on the marker has been obliterated from weather and vandalism, but an early account indicates that it was inscribed as follows:

"In memory of Jacob Johnson. An honest man, loved and respected by all who knew him."

Then-president Andrew Johnson was invited by Raleigh Mayor William D. Haywood to attend the public erection of Jacob's monument. He agreed to attend the dedication; this marked Johnson's only trip to the south during his term as President. He departed Washington, DC on June 1, 1867, stayed at Richmond, Virginia on the 2nd, and arrived in Raleigh on the 3rd. Johnson stayed at the Yarborough House Hotel on Fayetteville Street during his stay, and delivered a lengthy speech about various topics shortly after arriving.

The childhood home of President Johnson home (shown here), where his parents raised him, is now preserved at Mordecai Historic Park in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Family Members

Gravesite Details Father of President Andrew Jackson




  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 24 Jul 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 23297
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Jacob Johnson (Apr 1778–4 Jan 1812), Find A Grave Memorial no. 23297, citing City Cemetery, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave (contributor 8) .