This website was established to document names of all known deceased, and living descendants, of those who were enslaved on the Green Hill Plantation in Orange County, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Green Hill was the name given to the plantation that was started circa 1756 by Charles Wilson Johnston, I (1725-1787). Charles Wilson Johnston, I was a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian immigrant who settled in Orange County. Records show that he was granted land on the New Hope Creek, and he was probably the head of the plantation from 1756 until 1787, when his son George Johnston, II (1762-1830) succeeded him. After the death of George Johnston II in 1830, his son Charles Wilson Johnston, II (1797-1855) succeeded him as head of the Green Hill plantation.
The plantation was located in the area of Mt. Sinai Road, Turkey Farm Road, and Whitfield Road, in the Chapel Hill Township of Orange County, in North Carolina. The size of the plantation grew to as much as 1800 acres. After emancipation and the end of slavery, many of the former slaves purchased or rented land in Orange County, that was in close proximity to Green Hill. This included the Eno and Mt. Sinai communities, as well as the Hillsborough, Cedar Grove, and Chapel Hill Townships. Many descendants of the former Green Hill slaves, moved on from farming in rural Orange County, and settled in the Hickstown and West End communities in Durham County. Johnson slave descendants continued to use the the slave cemetery for many years after emancipation. The last know burials there were in 1959.
In 1970, Arlena J. Riggsbee, with the assistance of William Scott and Sandy Lewis Johnson, authored the first known written history of the descendants of the Johnston slaves from the Green Hill plantation. This history was based on names that were transcribed from a bible that belonged to Fannie Johnson Moore, daughter of David and Phoebe Johnson, who were slaves on the Green Hill Plantation. The names in the "Fannie Moore" bible appear to have been recorded from a bible that belonged to the Johnston slave owners. Ms. Riggsbee noted that William Scott and Sandy Lewis Johnson helped to identify descendants of the slaves, whose names were recorded in the bible.
~1970~ Johnson Family History By Arlena J. Riggsbee
A committee met April 19, 1970 to discuss plans for a Johnson Family Reunion. At this meeting, it was decided that a history of our forefathers be written. I was asked to write the history.
Before attempting to collect any information, it was necessary to determine the people about whom I should seek important facts. Thus, the number of persons to be used in writing the history had to be limited to those person who were the parents or grandparents of to days generation of forty year olds, or older.
There were two separate Johnson families, some of whom married into the other Johnson family. For example: Ernest Johnson's grandmother, a Johnson, married his grandfather, also a Johnson. My grandparents did the same.
The following persons were used in the study: Martin Johnson, Julia Johnson Mitchell, Buck Johnson, Luke Johnson, and Virgil Johnson (representing on of the Johnson families); Mack Johnson, John Johnson and Johnse Johnson (representing the other).
The history of these people, however, is similar to that of all black people in America. Much of the history of black Americans has never been written. Nevertheless, we know that the black mans ancestors were brought to this country as slaves, beginning in 1619, and that their slave status ended in 1865, two hundred and forty-six years later. We also know that life for the black man was as difficult after slavery ended as during his years of bondage. He was not prepared for freedom. He had been taught to work, but nothing more. He was not taught, however, to think or too act for himself, nor was he allowed to accumulate anything of value.
Yet, the record of our forefathers speaks well for them. It seems that they were able to accomplish what could be considered the impossible. Eighty-eight per cent owned their homes which they left to their descendants. A majority of our ancestors were farmers; however, there were skilled workers among them- painters and carpenters.
The following information was received too late to be included in the 1970 history. It was decided that the history be rewritten in 1971 and that additional information be included.
We are indebted to Mr. William Scott and to Mr. Lewis Johnson for their help in making this history more meaningful. Mr. Scott borrowed a Bible containing the names and ages of the members of the two Johnson families at the time the record was made. As far as is known it is the only written record of these families. Mr. Johnson gave invaluable assistance in that he was able to identify the recorded names. He was able to say to which family a particular name belonged.
Since the record contains first names and ages only, we may assume that the surname of these people was the same as that of the person who recorded the names. His name is signed Johnston which means that the slaves changed their name from Johnston to Johnson when slavery ended.
The list of names has been typed exactly as written in the Bible except for the year of birth. I thought that it would be interesting to know the year in which each person was born. Thus, the year of birth has been added for each individual.
NAMES COPIED FROM FANNIE MOORE'S BIBLE
NAME AGE IN 1852 YEAR BORN
David 71 1781
Saul 24 1828
Irving 57 1795
Jim 16 1836
Rachel 61 1791
Henry 15 1837
Abner 50 1802
Hannah 40 1812
Charity 50 1802
Buck 23 1829
Primus 49 1803
Ernestine 22 1830
Mack 37 1815
George 20 1832
Mary 18 1834
Liney 1 1851
Mariah 15 1837
Harriet 12 1840
Anthony 10 1842
Alexander 9 1843
Julia 1 1851
Horace 7 1845
Dinah 2 1850
Samuel 6 1846
Pat 36 1816
Caroline 1 1851
Dennis 19 1833
Ferebee 31 1821
Rachel 14 1838
Hellen 9 1843
Fanny 11 1841
Annie 8 1844
Rachel 4 1848
Jimmy 27 1825
Tabitha 34 1818
Billy 2 1850
Mahala 15 1837
Sarah 26 1826
Nelson 12 1840
Phoebe 18 1834
Ben 28 1824
Simon 24 1828
Virgil 15 1837
Matthew 23 1829
David 19 1833
Martin 12 1840
"COPIED FROM A RECORD WRITTEN BY: CHAS W. JOHNSTON, SR. IN THE YEAR 1852." These names and ages are found in a Bible owned by Fannie Moore, "given to her by Squire C. W. Johnston, Chapel Hill."
There are some Johnson names not found among those recorded in the Fannie Moore Bible. Perhaps, the record was made before they were born. Missing in the Bible are Luke Johnson, Johnse Johnson and John Johnson.
A survey was made in 1970 to determine the number of living Johnson descendants. The survey included children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
A summary of the survey is as follows:
Madison Johnson --- Children living none
(Mack) Grandchildren 19
Martin Johnson --- Children living 1
Julia Johnson --- Children living 1
Mitchell Grandchildren 3
Virgil Johnson --- Children living none
John Johnson --- Children living none
Johnse Johnson --- Children living 3 (incomplete)
Buck Johnson --- Children living none
Luke Johnson --- Children living 2 (incomplete)
The early written history listed a numerical count of 162 surviving children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of several Green Hill slaves. The descendants that were counted at that time, were those who were living as of 1970. This documentation did not include names, marriages, births, or deaths that occurred within the descendant family lines, but did provide valuable information, that may have otherwise taken years to research. Arlena J. Riggsbee, William Scott, and Sandy Lewis Johnson, are now deceased, but the importance of their knowledge and research, to the documentation of the history of the Johnston slave descendants, cannot be overstated. In the years since the Riggsbee/Scott/Johnston document was drafted, Fannie Moore's bible has been misplaced, or discarded.
After emancipation and the Civil War ended, many of the Greenhill Slave descendants remained in rural Orange County, and settled in the Chapel Hill and Hillsborough townships. Few had the necessary skills needed, to build a life outside of farming. Many of the descendants who moved to Durham county, settled in the Old Hickstown and Brookstown neighborhoods, which were exclusively African-American. These neighborhoods provided a sense of family and community, that offered hope for a better life.
Although slavery had ended, life in the South was still very inhospitable, and religion and worship service were a few enjoyable aspects of life. As ex-slaves began to establish churches, Johnson slave descendants were some of the early members of many of the area churches; to include Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist Church, Hickory Grove Missionary Baptist Church, Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church, First Baptist Church (Chapel Hill), Second Baptist Church (Chapel Hill), New Bethel Baptist Church (Durham), Morehead Baptist Church (Durham), West Durham Baptist Church, Lattisville Grove Baptist Church, and others. Johnson slave descendants can likely found in the membership of these and other area churches.
Much of the information on this site has been extracted from Slave Cohabitation Bonds, Marriage Licenses, Birth and Death certificates, Deed and Probate Records, Draft Registration cards, Veterans records, obituaries, and grave location sources. If you are a descendant, please add your information to your respective family tree. If your ancestors are not recorded here, please click on the email icon, and send a detailed message. Your email will be answered within 48 hours.
Research on Greenhill slave descendants is ongoing. Names of descendants and new information will continue to be added to this site, as it is verified.
If you would like to connect with other Johnson descendants, and would like to join our FACEBOOK group, the link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/JohnsonFamilyNC