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Descendants of William Cline Johnson of Tazewell County, VA

Updated May 10, 2006

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William Cline Johnson was born in Virginia abt. 1820 and died in Tazewell County, Virginia abt. 1886. He married Sophia Robinett in Tazewell County, VA in August, 1849. Sophia Robinett was the daughter of Samuel Robinett and Christina Lindamood Robinett of Wythe County, VA. The Robinetts trace their ancestry back to Allen Robinett and Margaret Symm of England. Sophia was orphaned at a young age and was raised, at least for a time, by her uncle, Andrew Lindamood.

William used the surnames Cline and Johnson interchangeably. For instance, he used "William Cline" in the 1850 Tazewell County Census; "William Johnson" in the 1860 Census; and "William Cline" in both the 1870 and 1880 Censuses. He was married as "William C. Johnson" and purchased land as "William Johnson, alias William Cline."

William and Sophia Cline Johnson had six children: Charles, Sarah, Boston, William Trigg, James and John Henry. Four of the children married into the Shelton family of James and Lettitia (Duggins) Shelton of Stokes County, NC. Five of the children's marriage certificates listed parents as "William and Sophia Johnson"; one listed his parents as Cline.

William Cline Johnson served in Company I of the 16th Virginia Cavalry, C.S.A. He is listed as "William Cline" and saw action at Gettysburg, where he was wounded.

William Cline Johnson died between 1880 and 1886 and was buried on the family property on Red Root Ridge in Tazewell County, VA. The Cline-Johnson Cemetery still exists and many of the children and descendants of William and Sophia Cline Johnson are buried there. The graves of William and Sophia are marked only by stones that are found beneath two trees at the crest of the cemetery.

Family legend has always held that William Cline Johnson was raised by another family - that he was either a Cline raised by Johnsons or vice-versa. While it is still unclear who his parents were, our theory is that he was illegitimate - that he was legally a Johnson through his mother and raised by Johnsons, but that his father was a Cline. In 1850, William is found living next to many of the Johnson descendants of Isaac and Sarah Johns(t)on (the "t" in Johnston was dropped by Isaac's children). One of Isaac and Sarah's daughters was Eleanor Nelly Johns(t)on Harper. Nelly Johnson married Asa Harper in the 1820's but Asa Harper either died or abandoned Nelly because she is thereafter listed independently in the tax rolls. The tax records of the 1840's lists a "William Johnson, son of Nelly." We know for a fact that our William was living in Tazewell County by at least the summer of 1849. Although he was married in August, 1849, the Court Order records indicate that he was fined for cohabitating with Sophia Robinett in the summer months prior to his marriage. In the 1850 Census, a 6 year old boy with the last name "Harper" is living with William and Sophia Cline Johnson. It is also quite possible that William and Sophia's only daughter, Sarah, was named after Nelly's mother, Sarah Johnson.

As for William's birth, the only Cline family in the near vicinity of the Isaac Johnston family was the David Cline family. David Cline appears in the Tazewell County Census of 1820 and is on the tax rolls from about 1816 until 1828 when he moves to Wythe County. David Cline married Barbara Hoppess. He may be a son of Nicholas Cline of Wythe County. They had at least one son baptised, an Israel Cline, in 1815. However, the 1820 Census lists other older males in the household. It is possible that a son of David Cline is the father of William Cline Johnson and either died or left the vicinity.

We assume that we have correctly identified the Johnson family involved in William's birth and/or raising because of the 1840's tax records and census records. However, the Cline family is much more elusive. The only other Cline family in the vicinity was the Peter Cline family of the Tug River region.

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