The History of Taylor County: Chapter Two Hundred-Eighty-One

Bailey Brown Reburied

In the spring of 1903, Reno Post No. 7, Grand Army of the Republic of Grafton, obtained permission from the relatives of Thornsbury Bailey Brown, first soldier killed in the Civil War at Fetterman May 22,1861, whose body for 42 years reposed in the Fleming cemetery midway between Astor and Flemington to have the remain exhumed and interred in the National Cemetery, Grafton West Virginia.

The members of the local army post raised a sufficient amount if money among themselves to have the monument that marks the resting place of this patriotic son of Western Virginia, marked for all the generations to come to pay tribute to him who gave his all for the preservation of the Union of States one and undivided The monument in place on Saturday May 30,1903, a large throng gathered about the monument to witness the unveiling of this marker at which Hon. John W. Mason, prominent attorney and commander of Reno post, made the unveiling speech, relating the incidents that led to the slaying of the comrade of many of the veterans enrolled with him in the Grafton Guards on that May day in 1861. It would be more that passing interested to know how many people stood with bared head before this monument in the in the past 36 years and read the inscription Thornsbury Bailey Brown , first soldier killed in the Civil War May 22,1861, and how many more with the passing of endless years will stand in the same spot and wonder about this man who in a measure sacrificed his life for the liberty and freedom and many things they enjoy in the united nation of this and the ages to come.

Leonidas S. Johnson one of the best known historical characters and prominent attorney who figured largely in the political affairs of the county of Taylor at its organization at its information in its beginning on that historic April 18, 1844, died at his home on Pruntytown July 13,1903, age 85 years.

He was the grandson of Joseph Johnson, a soldier in the Revolutionary War, who saw great action with General Washington’s army on the battle of the fields of New Jersey where most of the engagements in the struggle for liberty took place, and where he succumbed at the close of hostilities that forever freed the American Colonies from British dominance. His widow with her family journeyed to the wilderness of Western Virginia and settled at Bridgeport in Harrison county in 1800.

Her son, Joseph Johnson Jr., a lad of 14 years, rented his services to the farmers of the neighborhood to support his widowed mother and emulating the example of Abraham Lincoln he studied far into the night to attain an education to fit himself for a better position in later life. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he organized a company of volunteers among the men in his neighborhood who chose him for their captain and leading his troop across the mountains to Norfolk, Virginia, where they saw service until the close of the war.

Returning to Bridgeport he resumed his studies and entered the law office of Judge John J. Jackson, perhaps the best jurist of Western Virginia at the time. He by close application mastered the profession and was admitted to the Harrison County bar. His worth and sound judgment was recognized by his fellow citizens who elected his their representatives to the Virginia legislature, serving his district in 1815-1816 and 1818 to 1822. He married Sarah Smith of Bridgeport and to this union Leonidas Smith Johnson was born May 5,1818. The father Joseph Johnson, was elected to congress on the Democratic ticket in 1823 and served as a representative of Western Virginia until 1827. He was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election to the 20th session of Congress, but was elected to fill the unexpired term of Hon. Phillip Dandridge and served until the close of that body in 1833. He declined to accept the nomination as a candidate for congress in the campaign of 1840 but was elected a delegate to the Democratic National convention at Baltimore in 1844 that nominated James K. Polk for president. He was elected to the 29th congress in 1845-1847 and again elected a member of the state house of delegates 1847-1848. Elected a delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1850-1851 and named Governor of Virginia in that convention in 1852 and elected for the second term as Governor by people in 1854-1856 the only man from Western Virginia ever elected to this high office west of the Alleghenies.

He was elected presidential elector on the Buchanan-Breckenridge ticket in the campaign of 1860 and after the defeat of the Democratic ticket in that campaign he retired to private life and  this man who figured largely in the political affairs in Western Virginia died at his home at Bridgeport February 27, 1877.His son, Leonidas S. Johnson, began his career in the subscription schools of Harrison County and to fit himself for chosen profession enrolled in the Allegheny Academy at Meadville, Pennsylvania law school and to complete his law studies entered the old Morgantown Academy now the University of West Virginia; graduating with honors in the class of 1844 and licensed to practice law by Judge Edwin B. Duncan in the courts of Harrison County.


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