|Stacy Miller Penman|
1811 Scott Street
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Johnston as a family name first appeared in Scotland in the 12th Century. In Ancient documents and rolls it is recorded in several variations.
In America many Johnston's have dispensed with the "t", and the name appears as Johnson in early land grant and patent records of the colony of Virginia.
Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale and King of Scotland, in the 12th century granted lands in Annandale, referred to as John's Town or Johnston, to John, designated John de Johnstoun. MacVeigh, a Scottish authority, has written:"... from the position taken by this John of Johnston and descendants, it is evident that he was a man of gentle birth and he probably came to Dumfriesshire with the Bruce's." It is judged that the Johnston were a branch of the celebrated Comyn family, and came originally from Loraine in Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066. This judgement is based on the seal used by Sir John of Johnston and his son, Sir Gilbert of Johnstoun, in 1296 when they signed the Ragman Roll, an act of submission to Edward I. Sir Gilbert of Johnstoun is sometimes credited with the establishment of the Clan Johnston.
Early records associate John and his son Gilbert of Johnston with the Bruce's, Lords of Annandale. One such record is a pledge of an early Sir Gilbert of Johnston for his overlord, Sir Robert of Bruce, in an agreement with his mother and her second husband, the Earl of Dunbar, dated November 1, 1218. A still eariler record of a John of Johnston is from the year 1165.
In ancient times the Chief of the Clan Johnston held the office of Steward of Annandale, and often was Warden of the western marches. In suppressing predatory border incursions, the Johnston's distinguished themselves by their valor, and assumed the device of the winged spur and the motto, "AYE READY". A later Sir John Johnston was a leader in the famous Battle of Chevy Chase, fought in 1338 in which the English were defeated, and another Adam Johnston, commanded the right wing of the Scottish Army at the Battle of Lochmafenstone, fought in 1448 in which 6,000 Englishmen were routed. When not in conflict with the English, the Johnston's waged constant warfare with the Douglass' and Maxwell's, throughly defeating the latter at the celebrated Battle of Dryfe. They not only patrolled the western marches, but were darling border raiders. Sir Walter Scott in The Fair Maid of Perth said: Within the bounds of Annandale The gentle Johnstones ride; They have been there a thousand years, And a thousand more they'll bide.
Several titles have been conferred on the Chief of the Clan Johnston. Sir James Johnston was created Lord Johnstone and Earl of Hartfell. His son James, by whom he was succeeded, was created Earl of Hartfelland Annandale, and his son William was made Marquess of Annandale.
After the annexation of Scotland in 1603 upon the ascension to the throne of England of James IV of Scotland, the need to guard the border ceased, and as that had been the principal occupation of the Johnston's many were idled. Many of them emigrated to Virginia in the decades following the establishment of the Colony in 1607.