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John F. Johnson papers

Identifier: MSS-1806

Scope and Contents note

This collection contains the papers of John F. Johnson, a farmer in Mississippi who also worked as an agent of the Daniel Pratt Gin Company. The materials include outgoing correspondence by Johnson. Incoming correspondence, including original and copies, mostly pertains to business matters and is arranged alphabetically. There is a substantial amount of incoming correspondence from the Daniel Pratt Co., including a few signed by Daniel Pratt. Receipts, invoices, and contracts document Johnson’s personal and business dealings from 1856-1882, with the bulk from the 1870s. Circulars and advertisements represent Johnson’s livelihood and interest as a farmer and livestock owner. Materials relating to agricultural organizations such as the Grange, Farmers’ Alliance, and Agricultural Relief include meeting minutes, chapter manuals, and other materials Johnson would have used and gathered as an active member of these organizations. Miscellaneous items include a Confederate pass that allowed him to travel from Mississippi to Alabama to visit relatives during the Civil War.

The collection contains original materials as well as photocopies and transcriptions.


  • 1856-1888

Biographical/Historical note

John Forsyth Johnson was born near Columbus, Georgia, on February 8, 1827, the second child of John D. and Jane English Johnson. His family moved to Pickens County, Alabama, when he was a child. He grew up on a farm and received most of his education in Pickens County. Rather than attend college, Johnson chose to work with a commission merchant in Mobile, Alabama, circa 1947. Later he worked with his uncle as a traveling salesman for the Daniel Pratt Company. This work first required Johnson to travel through Mississippi, but as time progressed he also traveled to Texas and Arkansas selling the Pratt cotton gins. While in Arkansas he also worked for a time as a school teacher.

Johnson returned to Alabama and in February 1853 married Ophelia McGowen. They lived in Alabama until the fall of 1854 when they moved to a farm in Mississippi along the Big Black River near Greensboro in what was then Choctaw County. Ophelia died January 26, 1855, at the age of 21, possibly from complications of diabetes.

After her death Johnson visited relatives in Alabama, where he met Nancy Beard. They married in Alabama in either 1855 or early 1856. Johnson continued farming until the Civil War began in 1861. He joined the local Choctaw County unit as a second lieutenant in 1862. In 1863 he took advantage of the law that allowed a soldier to pay for a substitute to serve in the military. When this law was repealed in 1864 he joined the Mississippi Light Artillery, Company D, stationed in Mobile, Alabama. His journal contains interesting stories about his experiences there, including seeing a torpedo boat.

After the war, he returned to farming in Mississippi. In the early 1870s he supplemented this income by again working for the Daniel Pratt Company as an agent selling cotton gins. He continued this work for some time during the 1870s. In addition to these activities in the 1870s, he grew heavily involved in agricultural organizations such as the Grange and the Farmers’ Alliance.

During the 1880s he continued farming, but his continued involvement in community activities and politics landed him such positions as Webster County, Mississippi, tax assessor and postmaster for Lamb, Mississippi. In addition, Johnson maintained his lifelong interest in religious activities.

His wife Nancy died in 1899. They had five children: son, stillborn, 1856; Martha Jane, 1857-1859; Mary Adelaide, 1859-1937; daughter, died in infancy, 1862; and Sallie Ada, 1865-?.

John F. Johnson died December 17, 1912, in Mississippi. In 1983 his descendants found a journal or memoirs he had written beginning in 1901. In it he discusses his childhood and early adult memories. For the time period prior to 1857 he writes in a narrative style constructed from memories. After that date he uses the style of a traditional journal because he had from that time been keeping a diary. Sources: John F. Johnson papers, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, University of Alabama; John F. Johnson, edited by John W. Brannon, The John F. Johnson journal of 1902 : with a partial history of Webster and Choctaw counties, Mississippi, Pickens County, Alabama and Camden, Arkansas. Eupora, Mississippi: Elizabeth Morrow Cummings and John W. Brannon, 1984.


0.4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Contains correspondence, financial materials, and material relating to the Grange, Farmers’ Alliance, Agricultural Relief, and other agricultural organizations of this Choctaw County, Mississippi, farmer who was an agent for the Daniel Pratt Company.


Donated by John Brannon, 2006

Processed by

Donnelly Lancaster Walton, 2006
Guide to the John F. Johnson Papers
Donnelly Lancaster Walton
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266