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Katherine Courtenay Johnston: Home


Katherine Courtenay Johnston Collection

Information about the Collection
Katherine Courtenay Johnston was born in 1877 in Botetourt County, Virginia to Charles Johnston (1844-1910) and Nannie (Thornton) Johnston (1852-1911). In the late 19th century, Katherine Courtenay Johnston moved to Los Angeles, California where she attended school and was later employed as a teacher. In the early 20th century she received her law degree and subsequently moved to New York where she worked as an attorney in Manhattan until her death in 1952. Katherine Courtenay Johnston is buried in the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Through her father’s family, Katherine Courtenay Johnston was descended from Peter Johnston, who emigrated to Virginia from Scotland in 1727. In 1765 he moved to Prince Edward County and purchased a large tract of land which he originally named Cherry Hill and later renamed Longwood. Peter Johnston and his wife Martha (Rogers) had four sons: Peter Johnston, Jr., Andrew, Charles, and Edward. Two of those sons, Peter Johnston, Jr. (1763-1831) and Charles Johnston (1769-1833) are represented in this collection.

Peter Johnston, Jr. left home at 17 to fight in the Revolutionary War. He served with Light Horse Harry Lee’s regiment throughout the war, eventually attaining the rank of Lieutenant. After the war, he returned to Prince Edward County where he studied law, was elected to the House of Delegates, and was later appointed judge. He inherited the Longwood land and Johnston home after his father’s death. In 1811, Peter Johnston, Jr. sold the Longwood estate, consisting then of 1181 acres to Abraham Venable. In 1928, the State Teachers College purchased the Longwood house and a portion of the property. It is from this that Longwood College took its name in 1949.

Charles Johnston was the third son of Peter and Martha. In 1790, Charles was kidnapped by members of the Shawnee tribe while traveling down the Ohio River. In 1827, he wrote and published his memoirs, “A Narrative of the Incidents Attending Capture, Detention, and Ransom of Charles Johnston of Botetourt County.” In 1808 he built his home “Sandusky” in Lynchburg, VA. Charles was the father, through his 2nd marriage, of Frederick B. Johnston, Katherine Courtenay Johnston’s paternal grandfather.

Through her mother’s family, Katherine Courtenay Johnston was descended from the Thornton and Moseley families, both of which are represented in this collection. Her maternal grandfather, Richard Clough Thornton was a prominent attorney and planter in Cumberland County, Virginia. Her great uncle, John T. Thornton was a Colonel with the Confederate Cavalry who was killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg. During his final retreat, General Robert E. Lee stopped at the Farmville, Virginia home of Col. Thornton’s widow, Martha Thornton, to pay his respects. William Mynn Thornton, the son of John T. and Martha Thornton, was a well-respected longtime professor at the University of Virginia.

On both sides of her family, Katherine Courtenay Johnston was related to some of the most influential and important Virginia families. As such, this collection of materials related to her family provides tremendous insight into Virginia history before, during, and after the Civil War.


This collection was originally assembled by Katherine Courtenay Johnston. Upon her death in 1952, the collection was inherited by her cousin Nancy Burwell Johnston. In 1953, Nancy Burwell Johnston donated the first of the materials contained in this collection to (then) Longwood College President Dabney Lancaster. Other Johnston family members added items to this collection in 1954 and again in 1955.

Scope and Content
The materials in this collection date from 1829 through 1946 and consist of correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, and ephemera.

This collection consists of 3 linear feet contained in (2) archival binders and (3) flat boxes.

There are no restrictions to access or use for research purposes.

• While the majority of the correspondence in this collection pertains to people related to the Johnston, Thornton, or Moseley families, there are (2) pieces of correspondence that cannot be positively attributed to those families:

#3-a: “Stonewall” Jackson to William Cook Lewis, December 29, 1863.
#9-a: Harriot Brown to Maggie ___________, January 17, 1863.

• Short biographies of those known subjects mentioned in the correspondence are provided at the end of the full finding aid for this collection.

• The photographs in Binder #16 retain the same order in which they appeared in the original Johnston family photo album.

Contents of the Collection

   Box 1 of 4: Correspondence

   Captain Henry Brewerton

1-a: Robert E. Lee to Captain Henry Brewerton, April 26, 1845. (transcript)(original)

Regarding estimate for new cadet barracks at West Point.


1-b: Edward Everett to Captain Henry Brewerton, June 27, 1851. (transcript)(original)

Regard Cadet Longworth Powers delayed date of arrival at West Point.


1-c: Henry Clay to Captain Henry Brewerton, May 28, 1852. (transcript)(original)

Regarding a request for leave of absence for Clay's grandson Henry Clay, Jr.

   John Campbell & Robert E. Lee

2-a: John L. Campbell and Robert E. Lee, November 9-10, 1868. (transcript)(original)

Letter of reference for William Mynn Thornton.

   Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

3-a: “Stonewall” Jackson to William Cook Lewis, December 29, 1863. (transcript)(original)

Regarding the hire of Jim.

   Fitzhugh Lee

4-a: Fitzhugh Lee to Ben _______, December 7, 1885. (transcript)

Regarding Ben ________’s recommendation for ________ Johnston to be hired as Lee’s clerk.

   Joseph Eggleston Johnston

5-a: Joseph E. Johnston to Frederick Johnston, July 22, 1873. (transcript)(original)

Regarding a planned visit to Frederick Johnston and his family.

   Col. John T. Thornton

6-a: John T. Thornton to “Dick,” July 10, 1861. (transcript)

Regarding life at Camp Ashland.


6-b: John T. Thornton to “sister,” September 16, 1861. (transcript)(original)

Regarding march through Virginia to cavalry camp in York County.


6-c: John T. Thornton to “sister,” March 28, 1862. (transcript)(original)

Requesting horse to be sent to stables at Farmville, VA and possibility of enemy attack.

   Charles Johnston, Sr.

7-a: Charles Johnston to _____________, May 20, 1829. (transcript)

Regarding a debt.

   Charles Johnston, Jr.

8-a: Charles Johnston to “father,” June 23, 1861. (transcript)(original)

Regarding artillery training and the chances for a battle at Craney Island.


8-b: Charles Johnston to Patty ______, February 26, 1865. (transcript)(original)

Regarding family, the cancellation of furlough, and the evacuation of Richmond.

   Harriot L. Brown

9-a: Harriot L. Brown to Maggie ________, January 17, 1863. (transcript)

Regarding the unreliability of mail during the war. Written on stationery captured from Union General Milroy.

   A. Thornton

10-a: A. Thornton to J.J. Thornton, May 14, 1855. (transcript)

Regarding father’s (William M. Thornton) care at hospital and acceptance of loan from brother.


10-b: A. Thornton to J.J. Thornton, May 15, 1855. (transcript)

Regarding bonded stores and the price of cotton.

   Richard C. Thornton

11-a: Paul Carrington to Richard C. Thornton, September 20, 1853. (transcript)

Regarding the death of his mother (Richard C. Thornton’s sister) Sarah Carrington.


11-b: James H. Fitzgerald to Richard C. Thornton, May 4-5, 1855. (transcript)

Regarding inability to visit.


11-c: William Mynn Thornton to Richard C. Thornton, May 29, 1855. (transcript)

Regarding care received at New York hospital and hopes for crops at home.


11-d: William Mynn Thornton to Richard C. Thornton, June 7, 1855. (transcript)

Regarding hopes for returning home and plans for harvest.


11-e: James D. Thornton to Richard C. Thornton, February 18, 1860. (transcript)

Regarding health and death of child from scarlet fever.


11-f: W.P. Moseley to Richard C. Thornton, May 2, 1860. (transcript)

Regarding crops, planting, and politics.


11-g: Silas Bigelow to Richard C. Thornton, November 26, 1860. (transcript)

Regarding insurance policy on furniture.


11-h: Paul Carrington to Richard C. Thornton, December 3, 1860. (transcript)

Regarding the birth of his son, Richard Thornton Carrington.


11-i: Robert L. Dabney to Richard C. Thornton, February 28, 1861. (transcript)

Regarding the need for funding for missionary efforts.


11-j: William Thornton Carrington to Richard C. Thornton, undated. (transcript)

Regarding congratulations on marriage and cotton crops.


11-k: Mary Thornton to Richard C. Thornton, November 12, ____. (transcript)

Regarding best wishes and congratulations on brother’s marriage.


11-l: _______ Thornton to Richard C. Thornton, undated. (transcript)

Regarding illness and death of his daughter Kate.


11-m: Cumberland County Court, September 23, 1861. (transcript)

Resolution regarding Richard C. Thornton’s death.

   Maria Moseley Thornton

12-a: S.P. Allison to Maria Moseley, January 5, 1845. (transcript)

Regarding family.


12-b: Sarah Carrington and (son) William Thornton Carrington to Maria Moseley Thornton, May 20, 1852. (transcript)

Regarding marriage of daughter and quality of crops in Alabama.


12-c: Bettie Venable to Maria Moseley Thornton, March 26, 1860. (transcript)

Regarding death of Maria’s daughter Kate.


12-d: Mary Thornton to Maria Thornton, May 25, 1861. (transcript)(original)

Regarding the war and family news.


12-e: W.P. Moseley to Maria, June 30, 1862. (transcript)(original)

Regarding the war, Maria’s brothers, and Col. John T. Thornton.


12-f: L. Jones to Maria Thornton, September 24, 1862. (transcript)(original)

Regarding the death of Col. John T. Thornton.


12-g: John C. Page to Maria Thornton, January 31, 1888. (transcript)

Regarding rent for her land and the sale of tobacco.


12-h: John C. Page to Maria Thornton, May 1, 1888. (transcript)

Regarding rent for her land and the sale of tobacco.


12-i: John C. Page to Maria Thornton, April 1, 1889. (transcript)

Regarding rent for her land, the price of tobacco, the sale of tobacco, and economic distress in Virginia.


12-j: John C. Page to Maria Thornton, May 12, 1890. (transcript)

Apologies for inability to forward rent money collected.


12-k: John C. Page to Maria Thornton, April 11, 1893. (transcript)

Regarding rent for her land and changes happening in Virginia.

   Nannie Thornton Johnston

13-a: J.T. Parrish to Nannie Thornton Johnston, January 16, 1877.

Regarding history of Thornton family.


13-b: E.W. Wilson to Nannie Thornton Johnston, February 27, 1879.

Regarding history of the Wilson family.

   Katherine Courtenay Johnston

14-a: M. Louise Johnston to Katherine Courtenay Johnston, June 28, 1932.

Regarding family history.


14-b: Charles Johnston to Katherine Courtenay Johnston, March 26, 1946.

Regarding life in post-war Japan.

   Box 2 of 4: Genealogy & Memorabilia

Partial letter, unknown writer or recipient, unknown date.

Copied letter, Judge Buckner Thruston to R.Y. Hubard, April 8, 1840.

“Longwood” by Sallie Bruce Dickinson.

“The Story of Longwood” by Jane Waring Ruffin.

Mary Johnston, obituary, May 1936.

Christmas card, Mary Johnston to unknown, unknown date. Front of card is photo of “Three Hills,” Mary Johnston’s home in Warm Springs, VA.

Christmas card, Charles, Charlotte, & Ricky Johnston to Nancy ______, unknown date.

Charles Johnston, ephemera.

Charles Johnston, Appomattox Court House Parole Certificate, April 10, 1865.

Katherine Courtenay Johnston, ephemera.

Family histories & genealogical information.

Re: Wilson Family Genealogy

Re: Anderson Family Genealogy

Richmond Times Dispatch, Feb. 26, 1905 – clipping re: Flying Artillery, Salem, VA

Confederate Bond Certificates, signed by Ro. Tyler.

   Box 3 of 4: Robert E. Lee, ephemera

Clipping from funeral wreath from the casket of Robert E. Lee.

Note accompanying clipping, addressed to Katherine Courtenay Johnston, Oct. 19, 1870.

   Box 4 of 4: Cased Photographs

(2) cased photographs, subjects unknown. (image 1)(image 2)


Located in Photograph Binder #16:

016.001 – John Wm. Johnston (image)

016.002 – Bettie Alexander (image)

016.003 – Mary Johnston (image)

016.004 – Cousin _____

016.005 - ______ Logan

016.006 – Robert Logan

016.007 – Martha Diggs Burwell Logan

016.008 – Robert Logan

016.009 – Natural Bridge

016.010 – Nora _____ Braxton Macon

016.011-016.012 – unknown

016.013 – General Beverly H. Robertson (image)

016.014 – Mattie Brown

016.015 – Fanny Royal

016.016 – Nathaniel Burwell Johnston (image)

016.017 – Nathaniel Burwell Johnston & Robert Logan (image)

016.018 – Elizabeth Prentiss Johnston

016.019 – Mattie Brown

016.020 – Nathaniel Burwell Johnston

016.021-016.022 – Mary Carter Burwell

016.023 – Philip Ludwell Burwell

016.024-016.025 – Katherine Courtenay Johnston (image 1)(image 2)

016.026 – Nannie Trent Johnston

016.027 – Charles Johnston

016.028 – Elizabeth Randolph Preston Allan

016.029-016.031 – Charles Johnston

016.032 – Frederick Johnston

016.033 – Anne Carter Burwell Johnston

016.034 – Elizabeth Prentiss Johnston Cavitt

016.035 – Frederick Johnston

016.036-016.042 – unknown

016.043 – Hallie ________

016.044-016.054 – unknown

016.055 – Gertrude ________

016.056 – John Cunningham

016.057 – Mulberry Hill

016.058 – Fred J. Johnston

016.059 – unknown

016.060 – Edward Dillon

016.061 – Bishop James Steptoe Johnston

016.062 – John Cunningham (image)

016.063-016.064 – John C. Robertson

016.065 – B.H. Robertson

016.066 – Churchill, Henry, & Julius Robertson

016.067-016.068 – John Robertson

016.069 – Fred J. Johnston

016.070-016.071 – unknown

016.072 – F.R. Johnston

016.073 – Peter Johnston

016.074 – Katy Power

016.075 – Ema Brown

016.076-016.084 – unknown

016.085 – Hugh Carter Henry

016.086-016.088 – unknown

016.089 – Georgina S. Henry

016.090 – 016.095 – unknown

016.096 – Lewis Logan & Mattie Welsh Logan

016.097 – Rev. Lewis B. Johnston

016.098 – unknown

016.099 – Trigg Mc______

016.100-016.106 – unknown

016.107 – Julia McKay Buchanan

016.108 – Mary Dillon Johnston

016.109 – Frederick Johnston

016.110 – Coulter Logan

016.111-016.112 – unknown

016.113 – Julia Johnston

016.114 – Charles Johnston

016.115 – Anne, Reynolds, and Peanuts

016.116-016.121 – unknown

016.122 – Samuel G. Willard

016.123 – Cynthia B. Willard

016.124 – unknown

016.125 – Cynthia B. Willard

016.126 – Samuel Porter Willard & Abbie Gregory Willard

016.127-016.138 – unknown

016.139 – Mary R. Willard

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Archives and Records Specialist

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Jamie Krogh
Library 104
Subjects: Archives