Happy Birthday Charlotte Johnson



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Charlotte Johnson (1820-1904)

Charlotte Johnson was born on 14 Sep 1820 in Genesee, New York, as the first child of Timothy Johnson and Lucretia Brownell. She had eight younger siblings, namely: Henry, Elizabeth, Jane Melissa, Mary, Seymour, Alzina N., Charles, and John Brownell.

By the time she was about eight years old, her family had moved to the “wild lands” of Montville, Medina County, Ohio. Then, because her father perhaps had an adventurous spirit, Charlotte’s teenage years were interrupted by a move from the relative civility of Ohio to the wilderness of Wisconsin. Timothy Johnson initially left his family behind and headed west from Ohio looking for a new place to settle. He couldn’t find any place that he liked, so he kept moving westward. Finally, in early 1836, he ended up in Wisconsin.

Acknowledged as the first white settler in the area, Timothy built a cabin and founded the town of Johnson’s Rapids, which would later be called Watertown, Wisconsin. Yes, Charlotte’s dad was the founder of Watertown Wisconsin!

Late in the year, after he had built his crude cabin, Timothy sent word for his wife and seven children to join him. So, Charlotte, her mother Lucretia, and siblings ranging in age from 14 to two, set off from Medina, Ohio, to meet Timothy (her last two siblings weren’t born yet). They set out on September 20, a week after Charlotte’s 17th birthday, and traveling mainly in boats through the Great Lakes, they went from Ohio to Michigan and then on to Milwaukee. It took them three weeks to get as far as Milwaukee which was then just a small village with just two hotels. They stayed in Milwaukee five days waiting for Timothy to show up and accompany them on the rest of their journey. He couldn’t be away from his claim for too long or he would risk having someone else come along and jump it. I’ll give more details of the trip from Milwaukee to Watertown when it is Charlotte’s mother’s birthday, but in summary, I have to say that women then must have been a lot more patient than they are now. The family did not reach the cabin until 10 December, nearly three months after they left their home in Ohio. It takes about an hour to get from Milwaukee to Watertown today. It took the Johnson family about ten weeks. And by the time they arrived, they had had to abandon most of their possessions and it was already winter.

When she was still 17, Charlotte Johnson married Philander Baldwin in 1838 in Watertown, Jefferson, Wisconsin. He was eleven years older than her. Charlotte, her mother, and sisters were the only females in the area, so Charlotte and her sisters were quickly married off. Charlotte’s husband, Philander, had been one of the men who helped the family make their trek from Milwaukee to Watertown, and before that, one of the men to help Charlotte’s dad build the first road in the area. He was no doubt, in good graces with Timothy Johnson since he was allowed to marry the oldest daughter.

Philander Baldwin and Charlotte Johnson had the following children:

  1. Mary L. Baldwin was born on 31 Jan 1841 in Wisconsin. She married George W. Johnson on 20 Mar 1861 in Sun Prairie, Dane, Wisconsin. She died in 1937 in Orange, Florida.
  2. Lorena M. Baldwin was born in 1844 in Wisconsin. She married Selah Bronson Langworthy on 30 Jul 1864 in Dane, Wisconsin. She died in 1918 in Orange, Florida.
  3. Martha A Baldwin was born in 1848 in Wisconsin. She died in 1864 in Wisconsin.
  4. Helen Lucina Baldwin was born in Sep 1852 in Wisconsin. She married James W Huleress Fawcett on 02 Feb 1869 in Poweshiek, Iowa. She died in 1932 in Adair, Iowa.
  5. Harvey E. Baldwin was born about 1864 in Wisconsin.

Charlotte and Philander Baldwin moved their family around the country. They started their married life in Wisconsin, but lived in Galen, Wayne, New York at the time of the 1850 Federal Census. By the 1860 census, they were back in Wisconsin, living in the town of Medina in Dane County. In 1871, when Charlotte’s dad passed away, they were living somewhere in Iowa. The family was next found in the Kansas State Census of 1875, living in Rose Creek, Republic, Kansas.

Charlotte became a widow at age 55 when her husband, Philander Baldwin, died of typhoid pneumonia on 21 May 1876. Her three living daughters were already married and on their own, but her son, was only about 12 years old, so still under her care.

Charlotte Johnson Baldwin then moved back to Iowa and  married William Henson Thomas sometime after 17 Apr 1877. Charlotte and William lived at Harrison, Adair County, Iowa. He died on 19 May 1889 at Arbor Hill, Adair County, Iowa. William had been married prior to Charlotte and had children from his first marriage. There was a lengthy probate process to settle William’s estate which was heavy with debt and heirs. William’s children and Charlotte were involved in settling the estate.

Will of William Thomas.
Will of William Thomas.
Partial list of heirs of William Thomas.
Partial list of heirs of William Thomas.

It seems interesting that some of the animals, listed in the inventory of assets of the estate, had names.

William Thomas estate, inventory part 1
William Thomas estate, inventory part 1
William Thomas estate, inventory part 2
William Thomas estate, inventory part 2

By 1900, Charlotte was living at Eureka, Sac, Iowa, with her oldest daughter Mary and her husband, George Johnson.

Charlotte Johnson Baldwin Thomas died on 29 Feb 1904 in Sac, Iowa. She was 83 years old. She was buried in 1904 in Schaller Cemetery, Schaller, Sac, Iowa.

Where is she in the tree?


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