Pappy Johnson of Texas and Tennessee

George Silas Johnson, Mae James Johnson, and G.S. Johnson, Jr.
George Silas Johnson, Mae James Johnson, and G.S. Johnson, Jr.

Nineteenth Century American

Pappy Johnson only lived a short time in Texas because according to family legend his father came home in the middle of the night and moved the family back to Tennessee due to an incident between his father and someone else that resulted in the death of the other man. The family in Tennessee had never heard this rumor but it was solid because I heard it from my grandmother, Pappy Johnson’s daughter.

As a family historian I spent many hours buried in birth certificates and databases as well as death certificates and databases. Sometimes these records are so dry that we fail to take the time to give depth to the lives of the people we are researching. Pappy’s mother was a young woman who left her entire family behind in Texas and most likely never saw any of them again. This couple had four children before she died in the late 1880s or early 1890s.

From Texas to Tennessee

George Silas Johnson was born in Longview, Texas in 1880. He was the second of four children born to Selena Smith Johnson and Isaac Johnson. Pappy Johnson’s father was born in Tennessee where his family had lived for generations. His mother, Selena Smith was born in Texas to parents who had moved to Texas from Alabama a few years after the Texas War of Independence in 1836. I must admit that the discovery that my only Texas ancestor did not get here in time to have lived in Texas before it became the Republic of Texas was a severe disappointment. I do not know a lot about the Smith family in Texas but Pappy’s aunt was named Nancy Texanna, and his uncle was named Jeff Davis Smith. I think it is safe to say that the family loved Texas and were proud members of the Confederacy!

Pappy Johnson grew up in Western Tennessee, close to the Boot heel of Missouri. He met and married the love of his life, Mary Presley, in Chester County, Tennessee in January 1900. Their marriage lasted eleven years and produced a son and two daughters. One of the daughters became my grandmother. Another lived to the ripe old age of 101. Mary died in child birth in 1911 or 1912. Her baby did not survive. At the age of thirty-one, Pappy Johnson, who by this time was a Baptist preacher and farmer, found himself a widower with three small children. He did what any man with three children to raise did at that period of history. He found himself a wife. Pappy Johnson married Ellen some time before 1917 because their daughter Velma was born that year.

Silas Johnson and Mary Presley Marriage Certificate

Marriage License
Marriage License | Source

Ellen Johnson

Ellen Johnson

Ellen Johnson was a year older than her husband and by all accounts was a hard woman. She was thirty-nine years old when she gave birth to her only child. Nothing is known about her earlier life, but it appears that she was an old maid because she had no other children and in those days married women of childbearing age had children. That might account for her harsh treatment of the older children when her daughter was born. My grandmother was a soft spoken woman not given to gossip but I never heard her say one good word about this woman. I can only imagine the difficult childhood my grandmother experienced living with this woman. The marriage of Pappy and Ellen Johnson lasted until her death some time before 1932.

Annie Mae James
Pappy Johnson married Annie Mae James around 1931. Their son George Silas Johnson Jr. was born that year because he was seventeen years old when Pappy died in 1949 at the age of sixty-nine. His wife, known as Miss Mae, had been married twice before their marriage and after his death she was married two more time to make her a widow five times. At the time of her death her name was Annie Mae Lovelady. It seems appropriate.

Pappy Johnson (George Silas Johnson)

Pappy Johnson started life in the nineteenth century in a world where the Industrial Revolution was still in progress. His was a world of steam boats and steam engines, horse drawn wagons and houses lit with candles and kerosene lamps. He lived in the country so it is not likely that he ever lived in a house with gas lights.


Pappy suffered from cancer during his final years and received a new treatment called radiation. Radiation treatments were in their infancy and safety protocols were not in place like they are today. Treatments were painful and left lasting side effects in the patient who had been treated. The official cause of death on December 1,1949 was bronchial pneumonia. Family members who were present said that he called for Mary, the wife of his youth, over and over during his final illness. I never met Pappy Johnson because he died before I was born. But he left a lasting impression on my life as his great-granddaughter. One of my aunt’s children seemed to have no family resemblance to everyone else in an Irish family. The day I found his picture I knew him. My cousins have the same fair hair and slight build. They are all well over six feet tall just like Pappy Johnson. His image lives on today in his descendants. I will add his image to this hub as soon as I can locate it on my other computer.

Source Documents

These source documents are a good example of the difficulties presented when using various sources. The stone was placed by living family so one would think that the date of birth (1881) would be correct. However the census records place his date of birth at 1880. Calculating the date of birth using the his age on the census records next to the birth year one would believe he was born in 1879. I have numerous documents that lead me to believe that the date of birth was really 1880. However, this serves as a good example of the difficulties researchers encounter when researching an individual for which no living person is able to verify the information.

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Comments 9 comments

Smireles profile image

Smireles 4 years ago from Texas Author

Hello Margie,

Your information is interesting, but I have never heard the family name Roberson mentioned. I do know that the parents of Pappy Johnson were I. Z. Johnson and Selena Smith. I have seen the census records for the Johnson family after they returned to Tennessee. I believe they lived in Greg County near longview but I am not certain since I do not have my records in front of me. However, the family tree for the Smith family is listed on Heritage Quest going back many generations. Selena died in Tennessee but I have never located her death information. The census record listed her as Salena. Also interesting is the middle name for Izaac (Zaer) Roberson. I am acquainted with the grandson of I Z Johnson who was married in later life to Alice Bishop of Dyersburg, Tennessee. Billy Johnson still lives there. Good luck.





Smireles profile image

Smireles 5 years ago from Texas Author

Hi Austin,

Thanks for commenting and reading my article. I am your Aunt Lorene's daughter. Blessings.

Luther A. McCool Jr. 5 years ago

Dick & Izora McCool were my grand parents. I live in Tipton In.I have 3 sisters & 2 brothers. My youngest brother lives in Georgia, the rest of us live in Tipton Co.

Luther121 6 years ago

By going by your this family history its very close to mine.. I am hoping that I might be able to find out a little information on this story. Silas and Mary Johnson did they have a son and daugter by the names of ( Luther W. Johnson) born 1/1/1901 and (Laura Holt) and did Izora have a sons by the name of (Luther McCool) (Glen McCool).

The reason why I am asking is Im doing a little research on my fathers side of the family. Im Luther L. Johnson, My father was Luther W. Johnson and his Father was Silas Johnson and his wife was Mary Presley. Any info you can give me on this would be very thankful..

Smireles profile image

Smireles 7 years ago from Texas Author

Not at all. I love family stories! Thanks!

Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

Yet another hobby we share an interest in Smireles. This was well done and leads to me think I could do a similar hub! Would you feel like I was steeling your great idea?

Smireles profile image

Smireles 7 years ago from Texas Author

Thank you RNMSN! If you want to bring your dad's side of the family to life try to organize your information then use your creative vision to imagine what life was like during their time period. Try to find out information about the places they lived and their occupation. I was fortunate because even when I was a child I spent my time asking questions about the family. I know family secrets that would curl the hair of some of my relatives! haha! Those I would never share, of course. But they make really good reading for me! Thanks for your comments!

RNMSN profile image

RNMSN 7 years ago from Tucson, Az

this is great smirless!! there is soooo much info in here for a story!!! I have a lot of stuff that one of my mnay first cousins did on my dads side of the family but it is really cut anddried, as you said, its easy to get lost in the data and forget the personal...on the other hand my mommas side :) ahhhh now theres writers heaven!!! all my GOOD stuff comes from there and as with my dads side, there is a tree, names etc but in addition wonderful bits and pieces such as the fact that my great grandmothers name was Morning Star, Cherokee, and she married a German Jew...two girls, one was my grandmother Barden :)

wonderful Hub!!

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