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JOHNSON, BRITTON

JOHNSON, BRITTON (ca. 1840–1871). Britton (Britt) Johnson was born about 1840, probably in Tennessee. He became a legend on the West Texas frontier after the summer of 1865, when he went out onto the Llano Estacado in pursuit of Indians who had kidnapped his wife and two children in the Elm Creek Raid of October 1864. Johnson was a slave of Moses Johnson, a landholder in the Peters colony. Since he ran freight and his own wagon team after the Civil War, he probably had at least a minimum of reading, writing, and math skills. Although he was legally a slave, he served Moses Johnson as a sort of foreman of the Johnson ranch, with unlimited freedom to perform his duties. He was also allowed to raise his own horses and cattle. After the Elm Creek Raid, Johnson returned to find his son Jim dead and his wife and children taken, along with other captives. He spent until the summer of 1865 looking for Mary Johnson and his two daughters at reservations in Oklahoma and at scattered forts throughout the Texas frontier. Sources differ as to the rescue of the captives, who included Johnson's family and Elizabeth FitzPatrick (see CLIFTON, ELIZABETH ANN). Some sources claim that in the spring of 1865 Johnson went to live with the Comanches and managed to arrange for a ransom. But most likely, his family was ransomed and rescued in June 1865 by Comanche chief Asa-Havey as part of ongoing peace talks. Mrs. FitzPatrick was rescued by United States troops in November 1865. After his adventures among the Comanches and Kiowas, Johnson moved his family to Parker County, where he served as a freighter and teamster hauling goods between Weatherford and Fort Griffin. On January 24, 1871, about twenty-five Kiowas attacked a wagontrain manned by Johnson and two black teamsters four miles east of Salt Creek in Young County. A group of nearby teamsters from a larger train of wagons reported that Johnson died last in a desperate defense behind the body of his horse. Teamsters who buried the mutilated bodies of Johnson and his men counted 173 rifle and pistol shells in the area where Johnson made his stand. He was buried with his men in a common grave beside the wagon road.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Robert G. Carter, On the Border with Mackenzie, or Winning West Texas from the Comanches (Washington: Eynon Printing, 1935). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). J. Evetts Haley, Fort Concho and the Texas Frontier (San Angelo Standard-Times, 1952). Kenneth F. Neighbours, "Elm Creek Raid in Young County, 1864," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 40 (1964). Rupert N. Richardson, The Frontier of Northwest Texas, 1846 to 1876 (Glendale, California: Clark, 1963). J. W. Wilbarger, Indian Depredations in Texas (Austin: Hutchings, 1889; rpt., Austin: State House, 1985).

Michael E. McClellan

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Michael E. McClellan, "JOHNSON, BRITTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjo07), accessed July 10, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.