Information on the large "Hartfell" estate, once situated on the Black River in the vicinity of the Georgetown-Williamsburg border, whose owners were said to be heirs to the marquisette and earldoms of Annandale, have been supplied to The News and Courier by James D. Johnson, III, of Lexington, VA. The data, following, were contained in a copy of a letter sent by Mr. Johnson to Percy LaBruce of The Georgetown Times which has been publishing articles on old Georgetown families and plantations.
The peculiar history of the American Johnstones of Annandale begins properly with Captain the Hon. John Johnstone, second son of James, Earl of Annandale and Hartfell and Lady Henrietta Douglas and brother of William first Marquess of Annandale. Raised in the home of his uncle, the Duke of Hamilton, Johnís ardent support of the fated Stuart cause (which monarchs, besides being related to had ennobled his forebears) led his descendants into many strange adventures. John was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Gabriel Belchier in 1698 and went to France with the deposed James II, serving "with distinction" under Louis XIV. The Battle of Boyne found him still further out of grace with the existing government, but the influence of his brother, who had espoused the cause of William and Mary, saved his life. Shortly afterward he was enabled to return to the ancestral Scottish border estates of Annandale. Here, for a while, he and his sons resided at "Stapleton," an ancient fortress-tower overlooking a branch of the Annan.
Gabriel, eldest son of John, inaugurated "The Craftsman," a Jacobite political journal, in collaboration with his relative William Johnston, Earl of Bath, and Bolingbroke. By influence thus gained he was in 1724, at the instance of Lord Wilmington, sent to North Carolina as royal governor to succeed the unpopular Burrington. This fact was to be of great importance in the subsequent history of the Annandales.
Gilbert, Johnís second son, married to his Irish cousin Caroline Johnstone of Armagh, entertained his father sentiments, regarding the then rulers of Great Britain as usurpers. Prince Charles Edwardís rebellion of 1746 found Gilbert, "General Stapleton," commanding the vanguard of the Bonny Princeís army. On the failure of the Battle of Culloden, in which Stapleton was injured, he and his son Gilbert, Jr., were forced to flee for their lives Ė first to Ireland and then to North Carolina, where Governor Gabrielís greatest brother was to inveigle the colonists into paying quit-rents.
Governor Gabriel Johnstone had built at "Brompton," on the Cape Fear, an imposing mansion which he intended to occupy, as soon as it was complete. He failed to reckon, however, on falling in love with Penelope, the step-daughter of Governor Charles Eden and in her own right a large heiress. By the time Brompton was completed, he found himself permanently settled on his wifeís plantation at Edenton. Thus to Gilbertís joy at escaping the fate of being drawn-and-quartered along with the gallant Balmerino and others, and at once more seeing his brothers including the youngster Samuel, whose son and namesake was one day to be almost unanimously elected president of the Continental Convention, was added that of finding an estate complete to thoroughbred horses ready for his immediate occupancy: here he died in 1775, leaving a family that fairly filled the spacious halls of Brompton.
But the hatred of the "usurping Hanovers" had not died out with the less violent times. The following memorable year, Gilbert, second after cousin "Sam Johnston" had succeeded in exhorting the people of his state to be the first to declare independence of a Britain turned tyrant, organized at his own expense a squadron of partisan light horse, and commanded them "without pay or bounty" throughout the war. He served at first in North Carolina under Folsome and later in South Carolina with Francis Marion, the plans for whose famous corps had been made in his house. He carried the war to the enemy in the traditional way of his moss-trooping ancestors, who bore as their crest a "flying spur," won on horseback in saving the life of Bruce. With Gilbert were his sons, Gilbert III and Hugo, acting as troop commanders.
The war over and their objects achieved, the Gilberts began to pine for the green lowland country into which their campaign with the Swamp Fox had taken them. Sheltering Brompton was bade farewell.
The year 1790 found the infant America on its feet, Gilbert II and Gilbert III settled on "Hartfell," and Gilbert IV celebrating his ninth birthday.
A home rose at "Potato Bed Ferry," looking over the Black into Williamsburg, ;and became the hub of a twenty-odd thousand acre plantation.
Then came the news and cousin George, third and last Marquess of Annandale, Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, Viscount Annand, Baron de Joinville, Lord Johnstone of Lochwood, Lochmaben, Moffatdale and Evansdale, Heretable Constable of the Kingís Palace of Lochamben and Steward of Annandale, had died unmarried, and with his death the male line of William, elder brother of John of Stapleton, became extinct. Several writers to the Signet are known to have come to Carolina with the news.
Whether the Gilberts seriously considered returning to a Scotland under foreign rule we do not know. Contemporary records show, however, that shortly thereafter new grants were made out to Gilbert Johnston. . . of lands bordering on the Black . . . ."
Gilbert, fourth, was married to Hannah Ford, daughter of Isaac Ford, whose grandfather was Lord High Sheriff of London; and secondly, to Harriet, daughter of B. Allston Tillman. At Potato Bed Ferry House in 1806, his first son Joseph Benjamin, was born. John Thomas, by his second wife, was born twenty years later.
Joseph Benjamin, educated abroad, returned to his home when about thirty to practice surveying and planting, and to become a militia officer. His choice of a mate was Elizabeth Green, of one of the first settled families of Prince Frederick, and descended from the ancient Greenes of Boketon, in Northamptonshire. Her father was Captain Richard G. Green, son of the youthful Captain Richard Green who was at one time with Sergeant McDonald in harboring no love for the unfortunate Major Gainey, as the following incident relates.
"Major Gainey, with another Tory visited Greenís motherís house one night when Richard and James happened to be on furlough. They decamped at once with the boys in hot pursuit. This Major Gainey was the same man who carried the bayonet in his back into Georgetown. Being asked how it felt, he replied that it gave a great pain but it was not half so bad as when Mr. Greenís rifle ball knocked nearly all his teeth down his throat!"
Richard Green was a grandson of John Green, original owner of "Mansfield" plantation, near Georgetown, known as the home of the distinguished Parker and Man families.
Joseph Benjamin Johnstone changed the spelling of his name to "Johnson" a few years prior to the War Between the States, because of the frequent confusion with the family of Archibald Johnstone of nearby "Annandale" plantation.
Not spoiling the 100 per cent Confederate record of Georgetown, Joseph Benjamin himself, until his death in 1861 and his four sons all donned the gray immediately after the firing on Fort Sumter. The eldest son, Richard Green, was a member of the Hampton Legion. Gilbert joined Company E, Tenth regiment, South Carolina Volunteers; John was in Company L, Seventh regiment, South Carolina Volunteers; and Jasper, too young to be sent to the front, served as a prison guard at Camp Marion.
Richard Green Johnstoneís eldest son, by Carolina Barrineau of a Charleston Huguenot family, was Joseph Benjamin, second, born at Indiantown into an era of Reconstruction, to see the fortunes of his family already swept away. When still a boy, he took an ax in his hands, and began to build eventually to own his own "Indian Hut" and other plantations. His wife was Ida Allene Young, a daughter of James Hugh Heyward Young and Julia-Jeannete Scott McElveene Johnston.
Most of the Hartfell lands, in the meantime, came into the possession of Richard Kellehan who succeeded in making a fortune from them before they were divided up into innumerable small holdings, and the town of Andrews rose where once the scions of Annandale had planted cotton and indigo.
A number of personal belongings of the people herein mentioned are still in the possession of their descendants. Among these are a brace of silver crested pistols used by the first Gilbert Johnstones in the Scottish wars and in the American Revolution, engraved cuff-links and bookplates, and a great secretary-bookcase said to have been the property of the Thomas Lynches.
Article appeared on April 20, 1941 in
The News & Courier - ( which is now: The Post & Courier )
Charleston, South Carolina