We start the Johnson family history with two brothers, James Fredarick Johnson and John Johnson. We believe they arrived from Stockholm Sweden to the United States around the early 1840's. And entered through the Port of New York, or the port of Bern NC. The only record that we have of this is a letter from Iredell W. Johnson to his daughter Loren written in 1904 . It states that his father's brother John Johnson lived in Brooklyn a long time ago, between the years 1850 - 1870.
The next location that we find the family is in Carteret Co., near the outer banks region of North Carolina, in the town of Smyrna. According to marriage, census, family bible records and letters, JAMES FREDARICK JOHNSON was born June 25, 1815 in Stockholm, Sweden, and died 1897 in Punta Gorda, FL..
Marriage records of Carteret Co., state that he married MARY JANE BELL, May 02, 1848 in Carteret Co., NC., daughter of ZABED BELL and ELIZABETH LEWIS. Mary Jane Bell was born 1820, died and was buried in 1858 at Marshallberg, NC. Johnson, James m. Mary Jane Bell 02 May 1848 Will V. Harris, bondsman. And per the 1850 Census, living with his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Bell, in the Straits District (where Smyrna is):
1850 Census 322. Elizabeth Bell 57 F W George R. 31 M W Farmer James Johnson 31 M W Mariner Mary J. Johnson 30 F W
In 1858 Mary Jane Bell Johnson died, the cause in not known and it is also not known if any children were born. However in 1860 James F. Johnson married ELIZABETH C. WILLIS, April 24, 1860 in Morehead City, NC, daughter of ASA WILLIS and ELIZABETH ROYAL. She was born 1828 in Smyrna Carteret Co. N.C, and died 1897 and was buried at Indian Springs Cemetery in Punta Gorda, FL.
James Johnson and Elizabeth Willis had three children. First was Iredell W. Johnson born on February 17, 1861, Straits, Carteret Co., NC; and died March 6, 1933, Punta Gorda, FL. The second child was Joanna Lee Johnson, born Apr 22, 1863, and died one year later on Oct 21, 1864. The third child was William H. Johnson born 1865, Morehead City, NC; d. 1953, Punta Gorda, FL. The family moved, according to the 1860 census, to Beaufort NC.. And moved again in 1870 to Smyrna township.
1870 Census, Smyrna Township: 1880 Census, Smyrna Township: 158. James Johnson 55 M W Seaman Sweden 116. James Johnson 65 M W Elizabeth 41 F W Elizabeth 51 F W Wife Iredell Johnson 9 M W Iredell 19 M W Son Willie 5 M W Billy H. 15 M W Son Lydia Smith 20 F W GrandDaughter?
Iredell W. Johnson was born February 17, 1861 in Straits, Carteret Co., NC, and died 1933 in Punta Gorda, FL.. He married Shillie Mae Farmer December 08, 1886 in Missionary Baptist Church, Wilson NC, daughter of DEW FARMER. She was born September 02, 1865 in Wilson, NC, and died June 29, 1902 in Punta Gorda, Fl.
The first child was Kingsmore Johnson born February 4, 1888 in Wilson, NC. When Shillie Mae was a young child her parent were killed, and she was raised by close family friend, R. S. Kingsmore and his wife. This is where the name Kingsmore comes in. Shillie Mae also had a brother named Thomas who was ambushed and killed in Wilson, NC.
I.W. Johnson moved to Punta Gorda, Florida in 1888. Shellie Mae arrived in Punta Gorda, Florida in the fall of 1889. They had four more children, Mary Blocksom, born Sep 13, 1890, and Died Nov 08, 1892,at the age of 2. Dellzell Johnson was born April 25, 1895. She married Capt. Thomas J. Sammon Abt. 1912 in Boca Grande, Fl. at the family home "Quarantine House Port Boca Grande". And Ammie Loren Johnson, born September 22, 1892, Punta Gorda, FL.; married Walter Wainwright, Abt. 1912, Boca Grande, Fl. also at the family home "Quarantine House Port Boca Grande" later that same summer. The last child born to I. W. Johnson and Shellie Mae was Filmore Johnson born, Dec 30, 1901, and died three months later on Mar 29, 1902.
1900 Census, Punta Gorda, Fl. 54/54 JOHNSON, I. W. 39 - Boarder, W, M. Pilot JOHNSON, Shellie M 34 - Wife, W, F, JOHNSON, Kingsmore 12 - Son, W, M, JOHNSON, Loren 7 - Dau, W, F, JOHNSON, Dellzell 5 - Dau, W, F,
Captain I. W. Johnson took a homestead of 160 acres in the heart of Boca Grande, Florida on the Island of Gasprilla in 1890 and moved his family on it. Except for the Pilot Station at the south end of the island, he was the only inhabitant of Gasparilla Island at that time. He killed many deer on what is now the town of Boca Grande. It was quiet and lonesome on Gasparilla Island and he moved his family back to Punta Gorda and gave up the homestead, which would be worth perhaps 25 million dollars today.
I.W. Johnson moved his family back to Boca Grande, in 1902. After the death of his infant son Fillmore and his wife Shellie Mae, I.W. Johnson married Lydia Lile of Grayson County, Kentucky on July 2, 1903. Together, they had three children. Clement Wood, born 1905, Asa Frederick, born 1907, and William Carrie, born Oct. 19, 1912. They later moved into the old "Quarantine Station" that had been decommissioned by the State of Florida. Which he then purchased in 1926. On a special note, there has been a Johnson family member in resident on the island at the "Quarantine Station" to this present day. The "Quarantine Station" has been renovated and is now on the "National Register of Historic Places". For more history of the Quarantine Station please see Chapter 2 "Oldest House".
1910 Census, Boca Grande 11. Johnson Iredell W. head M W 49 Pilot Coast Lydia L. Wife M W 34 Loren A. Dau S W 17 Dellzell Dau S W 15 Clement W. Son S W 5 Frederick Son S W 3
About 1886 William H. Johnson and his cousin Lorenzo T. Blocksom left Carteret Co., NC., moved to Punta Gorda, Fl Where L.T. Blocksom and Mr. Lewis started the Blocksom and Lewis Fish Company. W.H. Johnson was the manager of the Blocksom and Lewis fish Co., in Cedar Key and regularly travel to Punta Gorda, through Charlotte Harbor.
Iredell Johnson moved this family to Punta Gorda, in August 1889. This is according to the letter he sent to his daughter Loren in 1904. The exact reason for them moving is not known. But I believe that due to prosperity of the shipping business ( Cattle, Fish, and Phosphate) in Punta Gorda, Cedar Key, and Key West, W.H. Johnson asked his brother to join him. It was said that everyone in Punta Gorda was either a "Cowboy or a North Carolinian".
As a further note an article written by Eileen B. Willis on the descendants of Elijah David and Emma Rae Willis: Elijah David Willis (son of John G and Susan (Piner) Willis) married February 27, 1883 to Emma Rae Willis, a distant cousin. When they moved to Punta Gorda Fla., they were accompanied by Emma's sisters, Boadicia and Mary. Brodicia Willis was L. T. Blocksom's wife. There was also a letter of transfer from the Baptist church.
In 1888 Captain Iredell W. Johnson, late of the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service off the Virginia and Carolina coasts, came upon the scene with a job as Master of the Steamer Alice Howard, then on the run from Punta Gorda to Naples with freight and passengers. He at once saw the need for pilots at Port Boca Grande and contacted his younger brother, Captain William H. Johnson. Captain Willie H. Johnson had come to Florida from North Carolina in 1884, moving on to Punta Gorda in 1886 to run a vessel for Blocksom and Lewis who were cousins of the Johnson Brothers and also from North Carolina.
Captain I W. told Captain W. H. that if he would leave his job with Blocksom and Lewis, that he would keep him on the Alice Howard and they would pool their resources, if he would give the piloting business a trial and see if their services wouldn't be in demand. In less than six months it was obvious that a good business in piloting could be built up, so Captain Iredell quit the Alice Howard and joined the younger brother and the Charlotte Harbor Pilot Association was born in 1889.
Captain Kingsmore Johnson represents the third generation of sea pilots in his family. Like his father, he has spent a greater part of his life piloting phosphate boats down the Peace River. His memories go back to the days of the sternwheeler "Phoenix," which towed the phosphate from Liverpool to Punta Gorda. There the tugboat "Mary Blue" and the "Albert F. Dewey" took over and carried the load to Boca Grande, where the ships anchored in the harbor. It took thirty six laborers to shovel the required 400 tons of phosphate per day. Now seven men load 1,000 tons per hour electrically.
Kingsmore Johnson was born in Wilson, North Carolina, February 4, l888, son of Iredell William and Shellie Mae (Farmer) Johnson. His mother was born in Wilson, North Carolina, September 2, 1865, and died June 2, 1902. His father, born in Moorehead City, North Carolina, February 17, l86l, died March 6, 1933. A seafaring man, he was in the Revenue Cutter Service, now known as the Coast Guard, and later was in the fish business. He came to Boca Grande to live about 1895, and was one of five pilots who steered the phosphate ships in and out of Boca Grande. His brother, William Henry Johnson, was the first member of the family to come to Florida. He landed at Cedar Keys and went to work for L. T. Blockson, in the wholesale fish business. He also was a ships pilot, the first of five in the family.
The future sea captain finished high school at Punta Gorda and went to sea as a sailor on various ships, his last trip being on the SS. Ruth in 1911. In May 1912 he was appointed a ships pilot, and has been occupied as such ever since then.
During the first World War he served in the Navy on the U.S.S. Philip and the U.S.S. Patterson, and was in command of six vessels. On one occasion, when he was Captain of the flagship SC 234, escorting the USS. South Carolina up the Atlantic Coast, she was attacked by a submarine just north of Northeast End Lightship. As the South Carolina fired her big guns, the SC 234. went in under her fire and dropped depth charges. For this action Captain Johnson received a letter of commendation from the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels. In the second World War Captain Johnson was a Lieutenant Commander in the Coast Guard, doing pilot duty through the mine fields of Smith's Shoal.
In Arcadia, Florida, on September 7, 1913, he married Caroline Estelina Sellers ,who was born at Pine Level, now in DeSoto County, August 16, l89O. She is a daughter of pioneers. Her father, John Burdette Sellers, was born in England in 185O. Her mother was Mary Mizell of a family of early settlers in Pine Level, where she was born December 27, l865.
Among the early dealers were A.K. Demere, Games and Monk Bill Lewis, MM Sullivan and sons, Blocksom and Lewis, and other names familiar to the old timers and suggested to us by our intimate recollection of the late John C. Lewis.
In 1897, the railroad dock at the foot of King Street was built. Old Long Dock was abandoned. Blocksom and Lewis, and DeSoto Fish Co. moved to the new location. Other dealers passed into the history of Punta Gorda. During these early years in this new location, Blocksom and Lewis ceased to exist as a firm. L. T Blocksom became associated with WH. Adams to form the Florida Fish and Produce Co. J. C. Lewis later went into business with Glav, Steve and Herbert Chadwick to form the firm of Chadwick Brothers. Within four or five years after the association of J.C. Lewis with Chadwick Brothers, Mr. Lewis withdrew to form the firm of J. C. Lewis & Co. This firm continued until the death of Mr. Lewis in 1926.
Upon the death of L.T. Blocksom in 1905, T.C Crosland became actively associated with the Florida Fish and Produce Co. Mr. Crosland later acquired the interest of Mr. Blocksom 's heirs. He organized the West Coast Fish Co. in 1912 -- succeeding the Florida Fish and Produce Co. in Punta Gorda. Mr. Adams continues to operate the Florida Fish and Produce Co. in Jacksonville.
Punta Gorda was headquarters for the first board of harbor commissioners comprised of S.P. Hinckly, L.T Blocksom, J.G. Lewis, T.S. Knight, Sr., and James L. Sandlin. The First pilot for this harbor appointed from Punta Gorda was W.H. Johnson. Iredell W. Johnson, his brother became a pilot in Boca Grande in 1893. He moved his family from Punt Gorda to Boca Grande in 1902, becoming one of the first families on Gasparilla Island.
It was in 1886 that Capt. William H. Johnson sailed up Charlotte Harbor in a 15-ton schooner. He tied up at the Long Dock just completed a mile west of Punta Gorda, then called Trabue. Johnson was manager of Blocksom and Lewis Fish Co. at Cedar Key. At that time, a yellow fever epidemic was raging in southern Florida. Local "shotgun" quarantine committees patrolled roads and harbor passes to turn away travelers suspected of coming from contaminated areas. Johnson's fishermen were frequent targets.
"Johnson would accompany his fishermen to Charlotte Harbor to make sure they weren't stopped. In polite but firm language, he would argue against being denied port entry when neither he nor his men had been exposed to the disease.
"When logical argument failed, he would point to his men --- all of whom had the earmarks of rough seafarers. He would urge, 'Well, look my men over and note how many there are. We've got to be going. You see no reason to prevent us from doing so do you?' This always got them by. No, was the answer it brought each time.
Capt. W. H. Johnson was a member of the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners. Prior to 1923 he was for many years a pilot on the Boca Grande bar. Since then, his business was the selling of real estate in Punta Gorda.
Mention should be made of the gradual evolution from the sailing vessel, through the combination auxiliary vessel of power and sail, to the modem vessel of power only. At one time, there was in actual operation never more than 40 sailing vessels. These vessels, should be remembered. The earliest ones, Bill Lewis, Capt. JR. Jack; Mirage, Heusted brothers, Nellie, Capt. John Olsen; and Elite, Capt. Clennie Coston. Others were the Trenshant, Emily Lewis, Electric, Uist, E.C. Knight, E.W. Smith, Ruth, Vigilant, Defender, Viola, and Leader. Prominent in those days, and prior to the advent of the gasoline motor were three steam vessels -- two belonging to Blocksom and Lewis, and one belonging to Punta Gorda Fish Co. Places served in the early days have changed little since that time. Savannah, Charleston and other southern points continue to be the principal markets for Florida fish. However, fish are shipped to San Antonio, Chicago, St. Louis and other mid-western cities, and to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Norfolk.
In reading entries in the old log-book of that time, we discovered stories. One that we remembered was of Capt. Peter Nelson and the boatman being capsized in the small pilot boat off the sea buoy. I.W. Johnson took the Viola, a larger sloop, and found them the next day at Captiva Pass still clinging to the swamped 18 foot dinghy.
Footnotes: Letter Written by Iredell W. Johnson to his daughter Loren 1904 Marriage records Carteret Co., NC 1850, 1870, 1880 Census Carteret Co., NC Charlotte Harbor: "Our Fasinating Past" by Lindsey William and U.S. Cleveland Boca Grande "The Early Years" by Capt. Carey Johnson Kingsmore Johnson, "Pioneer Florida" by Southern Publishing, 1959 Boca Grande Journal, by Clememt Johnson, 1959 1900, 1910 Census, Desoto Co., Fl.