Letter From Deacon Nathan Johnson to Martin W. Johnson

Town of Russia, June 29, 1842

The following letter is a transcription of an original 3-page stampless letter written by Deacon Nathan Johnson of the Town of Russia to his brother Martin W. Johnson, who had migrated out to Mantua, Portage County, Ohio. According to the book "Russia Union Church, 110th Anniversary, 1820-1930", an epidemic that local residents called the "black tongue" prevailed in the area in 1842 and Nathan Johnson gives a first-hand account of its effect when it swept through his neighborhood. This is an important local historical document - it provides an articulate account of the epidemic, may be the only documentation of the deaths of some of the individuals mentioned, and shows the difficulty of maintaining contact with relatives who moved "West" at this early date.

The original letter is on heavy, still-supple rag paper, and is folded so that it forms its own envelope. Postage rate is hand-marked in pen as 25 cents. Every word of Nathan Johnson's handwriting is legible, with no need to guess any words. Spelling, punctuation and format are given exactly as on the original.

1842 letter

My notes about persons mentioned come from a preliminary scanning through a few articles on our own site. If you have further information about your ancestors mentioned in the letter please contact the site coordinator or Jane Dieffenbacher (Fairfield Town Historian and president of the Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society). The original letter was donated to the Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society in June 2000.

Envelope dated June 29
Addressed to: Martin W. Johnson
Portage County

Russia June 27th 1842

[page 1]

Dear Brother & Sister A long time has passed away since we have heard a word from you. Thomas wrote you last July stating some particulars with regard to Father's last sickness & death. it is possible you never received it, at any rate we have had no answer; we felt anxious to hear from you - I hope you will answer this immediately & inform us whether you have received the letter above referred to & of your welfare. It has been very sickly in this town for several months past and there has been a great many deaths there has been various diseases but the most prevailing one has been a kind of throat complaint which effects the throat and head frequently breaking and discharging from the throat, ear, or head, it has proved fatal in some instances especially among aged people, it has not prevailed in our immediate neighborhood until lately. Mrs. Almon Backer was the first case. She has been quite sick and not yet recovered but probably will, Rhoda has been quite sick with it for several days but has got comfortable again now, and Roxena also. S. Hubbard has had a pretty severe attack of the same complaint but is getting along, we hope the sickness is subsiding. I will mention some of the deaths that have occured within five or six months past from various causes. David C. Corp, Widow Taylor, William Worden, Gardner Hinkly, Benjn. Merriman this Mon Mrs. Nathaniel Waters Mrs. Nathan Millington Miss Ann Wood Mrs. Booth an old lady, Charles Burwell Mrs. Allen formerly Ruth Newman & a great many others Mother Briggs in feb last.

[page 2]

Our family is the same as when Sally left us, all in tolerable health, the three oldest boys are almost men in stature, altho Charles is a Small man, the boys are all at home except Charles I do not know whether you have been informed of his being in Pery & Swezey's store or not. he went there a year ago last Sept. for two years. Clinton has taken a start to grow some lately but is rather small yet & not very rugged, the same may be said of the girls. Edward is a very healthy boy goes to school every day can read a spell in Baker and Amarilla's health is tolerable but not first rate. She keeps house in the room in which Father lived. there has been a great vacancy in it since his death. there are a great many things occur daily to remind me of him, and we are all fast following those that have gone before us to the grave & divinity. Thomas is about as usual able sit up considerable & ride occasionally & is a good deal of company for us all. Our Neighborhood remain without much change, we expect Solomon Graves to be our nearest one west of us as he is now married to a lady from near Buffalo and preparing to keep house soon. All of Sally's connections are well as far as I know except Mrs Phelps who has been sick with throat disease but is better now I believe. Our business is principally dairying we milk 24 cows this season & shall probably make 6 or 7000 lbs. of Cheese. Last year we did not make near that amount & only got $5 per hundred this year it will probably do better we expect $6 or more. We have had two heavy frosts the forepart of this month it cut corn to the ground in most instances. it soon started again but looks miserable. english grain

[page 3]

looks very well grass is very backward & not very promising for a good crop of hay. When you left Russia I thot in about three years I might be able to visit you but when three years passed away I found I was not ready. for some time past I have looked forward to one year from this fall of a time when I may possibly accomplish it but what may transpire between this & that time or what hindrances may occur we cannot tell. I hope you will be able to come and see us before that time. & when you make up your mind to come let us know beforehand by letter that we may expect you. It is very difficult for Rhoda & myself to leave home at one time with our large family. We have help but have to not only see to business but engage in it closely ourselves. This is a busy world that whatever our circumstances or condition time carries us swiftly along to an unchanging world, and momentous consequences hang upon us. Brother & Sister let us in the midst of our cares consider the end for which we should live, to honor & glorify God & enjoy him forever. let us seek first the Kingdom of God & all these necessary things for the body shall be added to us. We shall be interested to hear any particulars with regard to yourselves & family or business.

Rhoda & the family send their love

Martin W. Johnson
Sarah B. Johnson
From your affectionate brother
Nathan Johnson

Individuals mentioned, in order of appearance in letter:

- Thomas Johnson (1792-1852) - son of Isaiah Johnson, and brother of letter writer Deacon Nathan Johnson
- "Father" who passed away - Isaiah Johnson (1756-1841), a soldier of the Revolution
- Mrs. Almon Backer - no information at this time
- Rhoda Bradley Johnson (1800-1847) - wife of Nathan Johnson
- Roxena J. Johnson Seymour (1832-1878)
- S. Hubbard - no information at this time
- David C. Corp (1799-3/11/1842)
- Widow Taylor - no information at this time
- William Worden - no information at this time
- Gardner Hinkly (sp) (1766-4/10/1842)
- Benjamin Merriman - no information at this time
- Mrs. Nathaniel Waters - no information at this time
- Mrs. Nathan Millington (1781-6/11/1842) - nee Amity Smith
- Ann Wood - no information at this time
- Mrs. Booth - no information at this time
- Charles Burwell (1803-4/14/1842) - on Poland Cemetery list
- Mrs. Allen (1814-5/30/1842) - nee Ruth Newman, dau. of Ebenezer Newman, wife of Clark Allen
- Mother Briggs - no information at this time
- Sally - unknown; wife of Martin W. Johnson?

"the three oldest boys"
- Charles J. Johnson (1822-1852)
- William Bradley Johnson (1823-1901)
- Thomas Johnson (1825-1902)

- Clinton Johnson (1828-1847)
- Edward Paysen Johnson (1838-1864)
- Amarilla Johnson (1794-1844) - unmarried sister of Deacon Nathan Johnson
- Solomon Graves (1819-1897)
- Mrs. Phelps - no information at this time

Also mentioned, Pery & Swezey's store - no information at this time

The following information appears elsewhere on our site - "Russia Union Church, 110th Anniversary, 1820-1930", and is reposted here for your convenience.


David Johnson had at least four children. They were Cyrus, who married Betsey Whittlesey, a sister of Mrs. Isaiah Johnson. He settled in Sharon, Ohio. His sons were Samuel and Sheldon J., of Akron, Ohio. David Johnson and Isaiah Johnson, Sarah Johnson, who married first, ____ Cogswell, second, ____ Swift. She died in Cornwall, Conn., November 9, 1847, aged 84.

Isaiah Johnson, the son of David, was born March 27, 1756, in Southbury, Conn. Married March 3, 1791, Sarah Whittlesey, the daughter of Martin and Sarah (Deming) Johnson. Born March 1762, died 1836. Isaiah Johnson was a soldier in the American Revolution. His enlistments were: January, 1776, in Capt. Noble Benedict's company and Col. Waterbury's regiment, served three months, August, 1776, under Capt. David Hinman and Col. Benjamin Hinman and served two months. October, 1776, volunteered and served two months. April, 1777, volunteered at Danbury and served half a month. October, 1777, volunteered and served two months; January, 1778, volunteered and served 1 1/2 months; 1779, went as a volunteer to Horseneck under Colonel Canfield for two months and acted as sergeant for one month, bringing disaffected parties before public authority. Isaiah Johnson served 17 months and was in skirmishes or engagements on retreat from Danbury, Conn., at Ridgefield when General Wooster was wounded, at Chestnut Hill, at Saugatuck Bridge. He was also at the storming of Fort Montgomery. He applied for a pension August 14, 1833, and it was granted. Daniel Durkee of Preble, Cortland County, New York, and David Munn of Newport, New York, knew Isaiah Johnson while he was in service. When he moved to Russia he was recorded as of Fairfield. He was one of the staunch Presbyterians of Russia and a very energetic member of the Russia Union Church Corporation. He was known as Deacon Isaiah Johnson. He died July 1841. Isaiah and Sarah (Whittlesey) Johnson had children:

  1. Thomas, born September 22, 1792, died August 6, 1852. Married March 2, 1822, Roxena Parker, who died November 26, 1826. He lived in Russia.
  2. Amarilla, born December 20, 1794, died August 11, 1844. Never married.
  3. Nathan, born December 28, 1796, married first, March 14, 1821, Rhoda Bradley, born 1800, died April 30, 1847; second, September 18, 1850, Julia Corey (1800-1874). Nathan Johnson was a farmer in Russia. The last seven years of his life were spent in Holland Patent, NY. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Russia and North Gage. He was known as Deacon Nathan Johnson. He died September 6, 1877, at Pembroke, NH, while on a visit. The children of Nathan and Rhoda (Bradley) Johnson were:

    1. Charles J., born January 4, 1822, died July 22, 1852, in California.
    2. William Bradley, born June 27, 1823; married September 4, 1849, Caroline E. Carpenter; died September, 1901, Arcade, NY, a son, Alvin.
    3. Thomas, born May 2, 1825, died May 26, 1902, in Utica, New York; never married.
    4. Sarah, born December 14, 1826, died November 14, 1833.
    5. Clinton, born November 24, 1828, died January 24, 1847.
    6. Nathan, Jr., born March 18, 1830, died May 27, 1830.
    7. Roxena J., born July 22, 1832, died August 4, 1878, in St. Augustine, Florida; married December 20, 1853, Bradford S. Seymour, who died October 13, 1864; four children.
    8. Mary Pamelia, born June 20, 1834; married May 4, 1854, John Lloyd, Jr., of Utica, NY, who was born August 3, 1828, and died July 28, 1907. They had two children, T. Frederick and Mary Johnson Lloyd.
    9. Edward Payson, born June 7, 1838; killed May 10, 1864, at the battle of Spottsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, in the Civil War. He spent the college year, 1860-1, in Hamilton College.
    10. Infant.
    11. Infant.
    12. Herman Isaiah, born March 30, 1843, died October 14, 1909; married, first, Emma Hubbard; second, Alice Childs. He was a wholesale grocer in Utica, NY. He served in the Civil War. His son is Wallace B. Johnson of Clinton, NY.
    13. Sarah Amarilla, born April 24, 1845; married Rev. Cyrus M. Perry of Bolton, Conn.

  4. Charles, born March, 1799, died 1802.
  5. Martin W., born September 15, 1801, moved to the state of Ohio. His children were Orin C. and Henry D.

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Created: 5/12/00
Updated: 10/22/00
Copyright © 2000 Martha S. Magill
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