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Six Times Removed - African American Author Finds Liberian Connection
Author Anita Wills ancestor, while writing a Family History Book, found a connection to Liberia. Her ancestor, Elijah Johnson was a member of the American Colonization Society, and one of those who emigrated to Liberia.
The first generation was Lydia Hilliard, a white woman, who had a child with a negro man (in 1706). The next generation was the daughter of Lydia Hilliard, Mary Monroe who married William Monroe Junior. On February 20, 1730, Mary Bowden was born to Mary Monroe and her white husband, William Monroe. However, the grand jury of Westmoreland County brought a charge of bastardy against, Mary Monroe for bastardy in May of 1730. When the case went to trial, it was thrown out, for lack of evidence. The courts stated that Mary had not broken a law since she believed she was married. The law did not allow mulattoes to marry white men, and that put her in a catch-22 situation. Although the case was thrown out, seven years later, the child, Mary Bowden was taken to court and indentured to George Washington's father, Augustine Washington Senior. The year was 1737, and Mary Bowden was seven years old. The Indenture she served under was thirty-
One of the ancestor Ms. Wills chronicles is Elijah Johnson, a historical figure, not familiar to most Americans. Elijah Johnson (born about 1785-died 1856), was born in Virginia, and moved to New Jersey with his family, as a child. He may be a descendant of Antonio Johnson, the first black settler in Jamestown (1619). Elijah Johnson was a soldier in the New York Militia during the War of 1812, and fought against the British. He is related to Ms. Wills, through Sarah Johnson-Martin, her direct ancestor, five times removed. Sarah also had a brother named Elijah Johnson, who was born about 1809. Both were in an orphanage in 1816, in Chester County Pennsylvania, and identified as the negro children of Elijah Johnson. Sarah and her brother were both indentured out from the orphanage, and remained in Pennsylvania. Their mother is not identified on the records, and she may have been deceased.
South Eastern Pennsylvania was one of the Headquarters of the American Colonization Society. The ACS was an organization set up for the purpose of sending free blacks to Africa, or another colony set up for them. Lincoln University, an African American College in Chester County Pennsylvania, was first named Ashmum University. The college was named in honor of Ashmum Jehudi a white Methodist Minister who supported resettling Free Blacks in Liberia. Elijah Johnson was also a Methodist Minister, and a friend of Ashmum Jehudi. There was not a lot of support for the, "Back to Africa", movement from black leaders of that era. The ship Susan, sailed out of New York to Liberia in 1820 with eighty -six passengers. After landing, most of the passengers, including Jehudi's wife died from Malaria, and other illnesses. They joined with other free blacks, in Sierra Leone, and set out for Liberia. Jehudi kept a journal of the events, and noted that Elijah Johnsons' skills as a Military man saved many lives. Elijah was acting President, and his son, Richard E.W. Johnson was the first native born President in Liberia.
Ms. Wills has been in contact with Elijah Johnson's, Liberian descendants, and they are planning to meet at this years family reunion in Huston Texas. They have found common names in the family lines that connect each to Elijah Johnson. Ms. Wills family had no idea that their family tree held such an esteemed historical figure. She has dedicated a chapter of her book, Pieces of the Quilt, to Elijah Johnson and his exploits prior to and during settling Liberia. Many of Elijah's Liberian descendants now live in the United States and continue to keep his legacy alive. The two families, American and Liberian, will be meeting in July of 2009, at the Johnson Family reunion in Huston Texas.
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About Author Anita Wills: Ms. Wills is a Author, Historian, and Genealogical Researcher. She has written a book, Notes And Documents of Free Persons of Color: Four Hundred Years of An African American Family's History. Her second book titled, Pieces of the Quilt the Mosaic of An African American Family, is scheduled for release April 2009.