Abda Johnson 1826 - 1881

The Cartersville American
Cartersville, Georgia
June 3, 1884, page 1
Transcribed by:  

Biographical Sketches.
No. 7.
Abda Johnson
Born 1826 – Died 1881.

The above is the brief obituary of all sons of Adam. The rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, have the same history. They are born, and then they die. Of the great majority it would not be wise to make any truthful record of the events which transpire between these eventful periods of their lives, for the failures would discourage the young and the aspiring. But when a man has succeeded by industry, study and research, in making “Footprints on the sands of time,” a memorial of his life will do good, and encourage the industrious who are striving to enroll their names on the scroll of fame, and to be of some use in their day and generation.

Abda Johnson was born October 8, 1826, in Elbert county, Ga. He was the second son of the late Col. Lindsay Johnson, who was for many years a prominent citizen of this county. He owned almost a baronial estate in the Pine Log district, and reared a large family in affluence. He was generous to his family and neighbors, and liberal in all things but his political opinions. These he held almost to the verge of tyranny. He was so decided in his opinion that the old Whig party was the only organization fit to govern the country, that he insisted that all voters of his district should think and vote like he did. At his home, he entertained his guests with open-handed, southern hospitality, but the day of an important election generally found him occupying the position of a feudal lord. Reared under such an influence, Abda Johnson was a Whig by inheritance, and when that old respectable party died, he lost his interest in politics. He was only a democrat, because he could not be a republican.

With the certainty of an ample patrimony in store for him, young Abda deserved a great deal of credit in the course he pursued, while at school in old Cassville, in laying the solid foundation of knowledge, which enabled him to enter the junior class of the Georgia University in 1844, and graduate from that institution in 1846, with the second honor. There is no royal road to learning, and even genius, unsupported by application, fails to stand the scrutiny of the marks of unimaginative professors. A youth when he takes the first or second honor of his class, in the Georgia University, shows that by a course of self-abnegation and study, he has done his whole duty to his parents, his professors, and himself.

Shortly after graduation, he studied law with the late Col. Murphey, and was admitted to the bar in Gwinnett county in the spring of 1848. Locating in Cassville, he began the practice of law, and by his ability and diligence, prepared the way for the high position as a lawyer, which he held at the time of his death.

In March 1852, he married Miss Fannie Trippe, daughter of the late Judge Turner H. Trippe, who so ably presided for several years over the Cherokee circuit.

In 1853, he professed faith in Christ, and joined the Methodist church, of which he remained a member to the end of his life.

In 1855-6, he represented this county in the Georgia legislature, but having no taste for politics, he declined a re-election.

In 1860-61, the state was agitated from the seaboard to the mountains on the question of secession. Old Cass, now Bartow, county was the arena of a fierce political contest. The two parties were terribly in earnest. I remember being present at a large union meeting at Cassville, over which Col. Abda Johnson was called to preside. Owing to the interruptions of secessionists, the excitement ran high. I was impressed then with the judgment and cool deliberation which enabled him to keep that tumultuous meeting in working order to the close. The Johnsons and many other influential families opposed secession with so much determination that delegates were sent to the convention from this county instructed to vote against the ordinance of secession. But the majority ruled, Georgia seceded, and war was the consequence.

Col. Johnson was a true hearted southerner and dearly loved his native state. He determined to share her fate for weal or woe. He raised a company of infantry, and was elected colonel of the Fortieth Georgia regiment. His command went first to the mountains of East Tennessee, then through the Kentucky campaign, then to Vicksburg, where it remained through the siege. After being exchanged, it was ordered to join Gen. Johnson in his operations between Chattanooga and Atlanta. Then to Nashville with Gen. Hood, then to North Carolina, where, in 1865, it was surrendered at the close of the war. A fellow soldier’s testimony is, that at Chickasaw bayou, Baker’s creek, in the siege of Vicksburg, at Missionary Ridge, Resaca, New Hope church, in the battles around Atlanta, at Nashville, at Bentonville, besides other smaller engagements and skirmishes, Col. Johnson showed himself the cool, brave soldier in the shock of battle.

The battle flag of the regiment, pierced and torn by minie balls and canon shot, told of the brave hands that upheld it, and the brave hearts that followed it. Col. Johnson never faltered in his devotion to that flag, watched and followed it, and stood beneath its stars and bars where the work of death was quickest and hottest. When his regiment entered the battle of Baker’s Creek, just before the siege of Vicksburg, it had seven hundred and fifty guns. When it surrendered in North Carolina, the ten companies had been consolidated into one, numbering about seventy-five men. This sad, eloquent fact tells better than words, the character of its service. It tells of struggles, suffering, sacrifices, of long weary marches, sleepless pickets, scant rations, tattered garments, shoeless feet, pallets of mud, deeds of unmatched valor, the unwritten history of heroes and martyrs!

The fortunes of war spared him to his family and county. He came home war-worn to a ruined home, but he did not murmur. No harsh words escaped his lips. He had done his whole duty in a contest not of his own seeking, and he accepted the result like a good soldier and citizen.

Cassville having been burnt by the order of that sportive, girl kissing Gen. Sherman, he removed his residence and office to Cartersville, and renewed the practice of his profession in earnest. Then it was that the habits of industry and study he had acquired in his youth proved a fortune to him. The enemy could destroy his home, deprive him of his property, and rob him of nearly all his inheritance, but they could not take away from him the capital he had invested in brains. His brother lawyers have done his memory full justice in their elegant and chastely written memorials shortly after his death. In honoring him they honored themselves.

He rose rapidly in his profession and soon became the leader of the Cartersville bar, which means, he could have led at any bar of the state. He was held in high esteem by the learned judges of the Supreme bench. Judge Erskine, of the United States court, said in my presence, that he regarded Col. Johnson as the most sensible lawyer who ever practiced in his court. “He knows how to talk, when to talk, and exactly the time to stop talking.” I regarded it as quite a compliment, coming from that fine old gentleman and distinguished jurist.

In 1877, the county called for his services in the constitutional convention. Bartow had often sent fools to represent her in the legislature, and will no doubt do so again, but when a constitution had to be framed under which they had to live, they wanted to be represented by a man of sense, and they sent Col. Johnson. In that body of great men he took position amongst the foremost as a worker and thinker. But he did not love office. Being a devoted husband and loving and cherishing father, he found his chief happiness in the domestic circle. I don’t think he was ever absent from his loved ones for any length of time, without bringing back with him some testimonial, no matter how small, to show they had not been forgotten.

He was for nearly twenty-eight years a member of the Methodist church, and never failed to respond generously to any call made upon him. It has been thought by many, that being a successful lawyer is antagonistic to being an eminent Christian. Cannot the same be said of any, professionally or otherwise? For it is a triumph of divine grace when any poor sinner is saved. “Judge not that ye be not judged.”

Col. Johnson had some traits of character that any who possessed them would like to think of on their dying bed. He had his temper under complete control, and to be enabled to do that he never indulged in alcoholic stimulants. No profane words escaped his lips. He spent all his leisure time with his family, and when away from them he never went to any resort but where, if his wife and daughters had chanced to meet him, he could have greeted them with a smile of welcome.

He was as true as steel in his friendships. His relatives, friends, and hundreds of his fellow citizens, can testify from experience to that beautiful charity of his that could never turn away from a case of distress. It is said of him that he gave away as much as half of his income. The Bible says, that “whoso giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord.” Col. Johnson has therefore accumulated a trust fund which in the great hereafter many a stingy Christian would like to have the privilege of drawing upon.

Up to the time of his last sickness he was apparently in perfect health. His erect carriage, manly proportions, and fine complexion, gave promise that he could have lived for another quarter of a century with ease and comfort to himself. But it was not to be so. The destroyer came and he was cut down in the meridian of his intellect ere the evening shadows had begun to lengthen, and Georgia was called on to mourn for another of her distinguished sons.


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