Rebecca Taylor Johnson
~Daughter of Marshall Benton Taylor & Nancy A. Taylor~
Absalom & Rebecca (Taylor) Johnson
Rebecca Taylor was the second of four children born to Marshall Benton & Nancy A. (Booth) Taylor. She was born about the year 1858 and lived in Scott County, Virginia during her early childhood, later moving to Letcher County, Kentucky near the Cumberland River. This is where her father, Marshall Benton "Doc" Taylor, established a wool carding machine propelled by water power of the Cumberland River. Rebecca graduated from both grade school and high school in Letcher County, also working with her father's carding machine. When she was sixteen years old, she met Absalom Johnson, and at the age of twenty-one, they married September 26, 1878 in Letcher County, Kentucky.
Fifteen months after their marriage, a daughter Ida Elizabeth was born on February 5, 1880. On May 14, 1882, another daughter, Flora Ethel was born. Then on November 20, 1884, a s on Dove Edmond was born. In 1885, she moved with her family to her mother's home in Virginia to await possession of a 100 acres farm in Kentucky. She and her husband had traded their saw mill and first mill for the land. They moved to their farm in Kentucky in the year 1887. On Feb 26, 1887, a second son was born, Henry Sylvan. In the spring of 1890, they left their farm in Kentucky and , by covered wagon, steam boat and train, moved to Meller County, Missouri, near Eldon. Then, in the late summer they moved to a farm in Saline County, Missouri, near Marshall, where their last child, a daughter Nannie was born September 20, 1896. They lived in Saline county until 1905 when they moved to Camden County, where they farmed until 1921 when they moved to Kansas City. There is where she spent the balance of her life.
Absalom Johnson, born December 30, 1850-Husband of Rebecca Taylor
Absalom Johnson was born December 30, 1850. When he was a boy of about 18 months to 2 years old, he was kidnapped by Indians in an Indian raid in Kentucky. We think that is when his Dad died. Absalom lived with the Indians until a few years later, when he was recaptured by the whites and a family by the name of Johnson took him in and named him Absalom (a name from the Bible-found in the book of Samuel). Later, when he was about six years old, his mother was found. (Not sure of the circumstances). She was a widow and by then Absalom was attached to his foster parents, so thinking he had been through so much, she decided to leave him with the Johnson's. She lived close enough so she could see him grow up and he visited her occasionally. Her name was Elizabeth Lemaster.
Rebecca's father, Dr. Taylor, later gave his carding machine to the young couple and they turned it into an enterprising business; saw mill and grist mill as a means of livelihood. Rebecca was thirty-six when her father was indicted for the murder of the Ira Mullins family, tried, found guilty and hung in Wise County, Virginia. Rebecca, Absalom and their children had already left Kentucky by this time and moved west to Missouri. I know of no indication that any of Doc's children were present at the hanging, however, the family was very close and the absence of their father had to be very hard on them. Doc was seen by some to be eccentric and a little "quirky", however, to his family he was the provider, and protector and the death of Marshall Benton Taylor surely changed the course of all their lives, and certainly changed who they became.
As Rebecca's children got older, she longed to stay put, but Absalom was always looking for a better life for his family. She loved him so much, she followed him anywhere he wanted to go. But with each move, there were more challenges. They had very little and struggled daily. Absalom was a very gentle, patient, loving man. He took any job available to make money for his family and often couldn't sleep at night or eat for worrying about them. Rebecca was the foundation of the family. Rebecca was a very dedicated wife and mother. She worked very hard to help the family get by. She did wash for other people and one time walked so far to town to sell her eggs, that when she got back home with her $1.50 her feet were all bloody. They didn't eat the eggs, because she needed to sell them, and she complained that all they had to eat\ for weeks was new potatoes, and she was so sick of them.
After they moved to Argentine, Kansas (Kansas City, Kansas) in 1921, their lives got easier. Their daughter, Flora Griffith and her family moved first to Kansas City, Kansas, then Rebecca, Absalom and then Dove, Henry and some of Nannie's kids. Everyone in the family would live with Flora and Charles until they found a place to live and a job.
Rebecca made quilts and delicious home made bread. She never had a loaf of store bought bread in her home. She was a very tiny woman but very spirited. She was in charge most of the time, but was careful not to let Absalom know that. She loved to eat. Everyone used to say she ate so much it "made her poor to carry it". She liked to walk and had no car so she would walk every where with a market basket on her arm with her "stuff" in it. She had a spinning wheel and spun her own thread. Her house always smelled like liniment. She sold Watkins product and must have used the liniment a lot. There was no welfare or social security back then, so every one had to work if they wanted to eat, no matter what their age. Rebecca remained in fairly good health until she fell and broke her hip, which resulted in her being on crutches until she died several years later at the age of eight-five. Nadine, (her granddaughter) was in high school when Rebecca died.
As her father, Rebecca had a special relationship with God and definitely believed in Heaven. Maybe it was the result of being raised by Doc Taylor, or maybe it was just the hard life people back then had to endure... maybe it was a combination of both. Whatever the reason, knowing God comforted Rebecca. She married a godly man and taught her children to go to church and pass down their love of God to future generations. I remember when I was at my Grandma Flora's (Rebecca's daughter) on Sunday mornings, she would take me by the hand and we would walk down the street a couple blocks to Brownroad Methodist Church, in Kansas City, Kansas. I loved walking with her to church hand in hand, even though I was little, she made me feel like we were going somewhere really important....and we were doing it together.
The personal information was obtained from letters that were sent to relatives from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's. Also information that was told to me by Nadine (her granddaughter, my Mom). I have over one hundred old letters, dating back to 1876, saved by the women of my family, through the generations. After reading the personal information they included in the letters sent to each other, it's like a window into their soul. We are able to get an idea about their thoughts, personalities and hardships. They tell of droughts, bitter winters, hunger, births, deaths and marriages.
Absalom had his eyes on Rebecca from the time she was sixteen. They later married her when she was twenty-one and it seemed to be a perfect match. They were totally devoted to each other for sixty-five years.
Rebecca passed from her earthly life March 15, 1942, at 2 AM. After her death at the age of eight-five, Absalom was devastated. He kept saying he couldn't go on without her. He would say he saw her after she died and would wonder why no one else in the family could see her. He came to live with his daughter Flora Griffith, Charles and Nadine, however he was never happy. He would pass the time by digging dandelions from the yard, on his hands and knees at the age of ninety-five.
One day, a car stopped by and said to him, "I see you every day on your hands and knees digging weeds-may we ask you how old you are?" When he answered ninety-five , the man was amazed.
One day, about three years later in 1945, Absalom couldn't bear another day without Rebecca, so on February 27, 19456, he went upstairs to a second floor bedroom, moved furniture in front of the bedroom door, opened the window and jumped out... he landed on the driveway below. He didn't die instantly, but lived another two days laying on the couch in the living room of his daughter Flora. He never regained consciousness.
Nadine said when Flora heard the furniture moving upstairs and went up to see what he was doing... noticed the door was blocked with furniture, Nadine and Flora pushed with all their might and begged him to open the door, but he didn't. They heard the window open... he wanted to be with Rebecca.
Absalom was totally devoted to his wife and family. Nadine said that he was a very gentle man. In all her life, she never saw him angry or raise his voice. He never talked bad about anyone and he never smoked or drank. When Nadine was a little girl, she loved sitting on the front porch in the swing with him and talk while stroking his long, soft, white beard.
To be able to experience the love that Rebecca and Absalom had for each other is indeed a blessing. Their story paves the way for all of us to realize that we all have a say in what the generations that are yet to come with have to say about us. Our family can know without a doubt that we come from strong, determined, loving people, who would help their family and friends before themselves. We have ........."Written Proof".
Written June 2011
Great Granddaughter of Rebecca Taylor Johnson
The material on this page is copyrighted (C) 2011 by Judy Bock & Nancy Wright Bays
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