Samuel Johnston


Born in Scotland in 1733, Samuel Johnston would ssoon venture to North Carolina to stay. Johnston was the nephew of the Royal Governor, Gabriel Johnston. Samuel Johnston would first live on a plantation in Onslow County. Young Johnston was quite smart, attending Yale but not staying long enough to graduate. After his time at Yale ended he moved to Edenton in 1753 where he studied law under Thomas Barker. By 1756, he was a licensed attorney. In the year 1759 he was elected to the North Carolina Assembly were he kept a post until 1775 without interruption. In 1770 he married Francis Cathcart. The two of them had nine children. Only four of the nine would survive until adulthood. Soon after his election he would buy Hayes Plantation, located in Edenton, where he lived for several decades. He and his wife would look over several plantations. What time Johnston was not looking over a plantation he was looking into law and politics.

Just before the revolution Johnston supported the crown outright. In 1770 the people of the colonies were rioting against the government. Johnston viewed this as against the law and ordered all of them to stop. He ordered that all of them turn themselves in. If they did not they were subject to be shot on sight. These laws were known in the colonies as the “Johnston Act”. By 1773, Johnston had become Governor of North Carolina by default as all heads of state had left due to tense ties between the colonies and Great Britain. He thus was the first non- royal governor of North Carolina. During the time of the Revolution, he would serve on several committees being head of a couple. After the Revolution he would serve on the Senate for North Carolina. As a leader of the Patriot cause, Johnston served from 1774 to 1776 as a member of North Carolina’s Provincial Council. He was even nominated to be the head of the Continental Congress. He declined. Serving in numerous positions, Johnston was effortlessly reelected term after term. In 1785 he was asked to serve as judge to determine the boundary line between New York and Massachusetts.

Later in life Johnston relocated his family to Martin County. Here he would become a Superior Court Judge. By 1813 he was seventy years old and refused any other offices. In 1816 Johnston died and was buried at Hayes Plantation. Johnston was a true Statesmen serving in offices under the King, Colonial Governments, and under the United States of America. He was the first U.S Senator from North Carolina.


Blair, Anne W. (1988). NCPedia: Samuel Johnston. Retrieved from: Link

North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. (2013). North Carolina highway historical marker program. Retrieved from: Link