Albert B Osborne.

Makers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) online

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on his escutcheon, the friend of all men, the benefactor to the
poor, the unselfish patriot, the pure-minded, courteous gentleman,
full of years and honors he sinks to rest by all his country's
wishes blest."

"It is entirely fitting that his body should be placed in this
building, bis influence so largely made possible, and that people
who loved him so well should come from all sections of the county
to take affectionate farewell of our good father and founder,
whose name will linger as a household word around our firesides
as long as fidelity is honored or gratitude endures."

Thomas A. Dillon, son of James W. and Harriett Jones
Dillon, born August 8, 1861, was educated in private schools
under his father's eye, supplemented by a thorough business
training at the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie,
New York.

"The Columbia Record," Columbia, South Carolina, of May
6, 1913, gives the portraits of father and son, with the text below :
"Two men who have done more for Dillon County than can be
expressed verbally. J. W. Dillon, the father of Dillon County,
though eighty-seven years of age, is still active in business and
the most highly esteemed man in the county."

Thomas A. Dillon, son of Mr. J. W. Dillon, junior member
of the firm of J. W. Dillon & Son, the strongest mercantile firm
in eastern Carolina. A man of exceptional business ability, keen
insight and unerring judgment, has done much in shaping the
destiny of the new county.

Mr. T. A. Dillon has served as president of the People's
Bank, President of The Dillon Wholesale Grocery, President of
the Dillon Land and Improvement Company, director of the Bank
of Marion, the Dillon Oil Mill, the Dillon Cotton Mills. He has
been alderman of the town for several years and also its Mayor.

He is a worthy son of a noble sire and both are striking
exemplars, proving that the builders of our country are not con-
fined to the ranks of the professions, nor the holders of office,
and are far from being among blatant politicians or the wielders
of unscrupulous pens. To the men who stay at home, live and
work for the betterment of their fellowmen, and those less
fortunate than themselves, while building up their own fortunes,
be all the credit given that is their due, and it is a gratification
to enroll their names among those of the other "Makers of


As is the case with all the aucient families of Great Britain
and Ireland their envelopment in fable and myth is so great that
it is difficult to construct a lineage past the sixth or fifth
centuries, though sometimes it may be possible.

The Dillons descended from Fergus Cearrbheoil, son of
Connall Creanthann, the first Christian King of Meath, which is
in the greater division of Leinster.

Lochran Dilmhain, descendant of Fergus, was, according to
the Book of Armagh, "ancestor of Dillon (from the Irish 'Dill'
a flood) of Curreneoch (Country) or Dillon's Country," as it
was called until the time of Henry VIII. Lochran killed Colman
Mor for refusing him his share in the kingdom of Meath, called
Curreneoch, and fled into France. Robert le Dillon, lineally
descended from Lochran, came back into Ireland in company
with those invited from England, by Dermott McMurrough, to
help him recover the kingdoms of Leinster. Robert laid claim to
his territory of Curreneoch, and succeeded in obtaining his
rightful heritage. His posterity enjoyed its possession until the
time of the Cromwellian confiscation in Ireland in the seven-
teenth century.

This clan went over into England to drive out the Picts and
Scots in one of their invasions, returning in the twelfth and
thirteenth centuries, and were the ancestors of the Dillons, the
Dillon Viscounts of Dillons, and the Dillon, Earl of Roscommon.
Ras Coman, or the "Wood of Coman," so called from St. Coman,
who founded a monastery in this territory in the sixth century.

Lochran Dilmhain, variously written Dillane, Dillune, Dilion
or Dillon, was the ancestor of Robert le Dillon, who was known
as Robert the Englishman, because he came over with the Eng-
lish. He was of the same generation as Roderick O'Connor, the
last king of Ireland, born 1116 and died 1198. O'Connor be-
came king of Connaught in 1156 and of Ireland in 1166, and in
1175 he acknowledged the supremacy of Henry II, King of

Sir Henry Dillon, descendant of Robert le Dillon, in recog-
nition of his services received memorial grants in Longford and
Westmeath. In 1790 the Dillon possessor of these lands was
created Baron Clonbrock, and his descendants still hold the
Barony. The present incumbent is Sir Luke Gerard Dillon,
H. P. P. C. Clonbrock of Galway.

Richard Dillon, Esq., with six hundred select Irish troops,
took part in the Battle of Vernevil in France. His advent at a
critical moment turned the victory to the Duke of Bedford; for
which assistance he was made a Knight Banneret by the Duke;
his crest being a falcon volant, in place of a demi-lion, and on


his coat armour a fesse azure over the lion rampant, possibly an
allusion to his command of the Irish troops, as chief commanders
in former times wore belts or girdles of honor, which is repre-
sented by the fesse.

Sir Richard married Jeane, daughter and heiress of Riverton
County Meath, their third son, Gerald, being the ancestor of the
Earl of Roscommon.

In 1619 James Dillon, direct descendant of Sir Richard, was
raised to the peerage of Ireland, and in 1622 was created Earl
of Roscommon. The Earldom became dormant in 1816. The last
Earl had died. He had two younger brothers: Patrick and
Edmund, and the succession should have been in the heirs of
Patrick. From some legal technicalities the succession was
diverted to a distant branch of the family, but is now again

Joshua Dillon, the direct ancestor of the Dillons of Virginia,
North Carolina and the many families divergent, is said to have
been born near Liverpool, England, in 1720. His mother dying
when he was but seven years of age, his father took him to
London, where he bound him until he should reach maturity to
his Uncle Robert (or John). This uncle was a large ship owner,
operating ships between England and France, and the boy seems
to have been employed in this service for ten years, when becom-
ing tired of the life at sea, it is said that he secretly boarded a
Dutch vessel about the year 1737, and betook himself to America.
He remained among the Dutch Colonists until he reached his
majority and then proceeded south. Another Dillon, whose
personal name was Luke, and his wife, Susan Garrett, who were
from Ireland, landed in Nantucket, It seems probable that they
were in company, as they all seem to have gone to Virginia about
the same time, perhaps during or after the year 1741.

Besides one of Joshua's sons was named Luke, which was a
distinctively personal name among the Dillons. There is in the
family account a lapse of some thirty-four years in the life of
Joshua, during which he must have married his first wife, whose
name has not been found, but whose children are known as
James, Kaleb (or Charles) Henry, Leven (or Luke), William,
John, Martha Jane and Leah. As James and Charles are said
to have been with their father in the Revolutionary War, these at
least must have been born before the visit of Joshua to England.
It may be that he visited the old country more than once. Be
that as it may he was there in 1775. It may have been in a
former visit that he was most cordially and affectionately re-
ceived by the uncle who held the bond he had skipped, but did
not reproach him for his action, and at his death made him his


heir. Meantime his father had died. He had lingered long, re-
newing the old ties of friendship and of kin. Family affection
is very strong with the Quakers, and this family was of that per-
suasion. But the mutterings of trouble grew louder from the
country he had learned to love, calling him from beyond the
ocean, and, with his brother William and sister Leah, he sailed
for America. When war was declared he and his brother joined
the army and served throughout the long seven years' war,
towards the close of which William was reported missing. After
the war a Tory boasted that he had killed William, and in his
fury Joshua attacked and slew him, nor was he punished for the
act, but instead received a public ovation.

The second wife of Joshua was Priscilla Cole, a widow, with
a son, Mathis Cole, and a daughter, Priscilla Cole. There were
no children of this marriage. The third wife of Joshua was
Mary Blackwell, who also had sons by her first marriage. The
family records give as children of this union : Daniel, William
and Leah. There seems to be some error in this record, but per-
haps the first William and Leah had died.

Joshua died when nearly one hundred and four years old, at
the home of his son, Henry, in Marion District, South Carolina,
August 1, 1824, dropping dead while at dinner. He weighed
three hundred pounds. His widow, Mary, died in 1827.

Joshua was known in this county as Dilling, the misspelling
probably having been made by error in enrollment during the war,
or in some transcription of records, though the family were
always taught the correct orthography. Although the later-
Dillons were all affiliated with Methodism, the Quaker bent of
character is still discernible through all the generations.
Joshua, himself decidedly a Quaker, although it is not known
how he reconciled his conscience when taking up arms. It is
hard to understand his pose, when informed that his uncle of
Bondee memory had, dying in 1819, left him an immense fortune,
he would have none of it, declaring that he "did not earn it, and
was not entitled to it."

The estate was said to be a sum of one and a half million
pounds in the Bank of England, and holdings in Koscommon,
and around Liverpool and London. His posterity having lost, at
least, outward allegiance to Quakerism, may still endeavor to ob-
tain the fortune Joshua disdained, though the division would be
decidedly "long."

It was said that Leah, the sister of Joshua, was burned at the
stake by Indians, but this may not have been true, and her pos-
terity may perhaps be found in the South, in which direction she
may have wandered.


Kaleb (Charles) and James, sons of Joshua, were reported
killed in the war, but evidently this was an error, as James was
located in North Carolina and left two children.

Henry Dillon, son of Joshua by his first wife, after the war
settled in the Bush river parish in Marion District, which was
allied with the Charlestown District. He was a farmer and in
the ministry of the Friends Church, died in 1844, and was buried
at Beaver Dam Cemetery of the same district. He left two

Leven (Luke), son of Joshua, settled in Virginia, from there
he moved first to North Carolina, afterwards to Indiana, where
he married. After the death of his wife he bound his two sons to
John and Henry Mathis, respectively, at New Richmond, Indiana,
and moved to Alabama, where he married Charity Bristow.

Leah, daughter of first wife of Joshua, lived with her brother
Henry until she married Bennett Andrew, a Methodist Episcopal
Bishop, who died in Tennessee while moving from South Carolina
to Indiana. Her children were: Thomas, Joshua, Travis, Wil-
liam Kenedy, Polly, Margaret (or Peggy) and Sallie. Leah died
at Fredericksburg, Indiana. Martha Jane, daughter of Joshua,
settled in Florida, married and raised a family and died several
years since.

Daniel, son of Joshua, by his third wife, was born in North
Carolina in 1798; moved to South Carolina, was ordained
Methodist minister, married at Marion Court House, Esther
Sweeney, daughter of John Sweeney, a wealthy hatter, farmer and
slave owner, in 1818. He moved to Indiana shortly after his mar-
riage. Although an ordained Methodist minister he had strong
Quaker impressions. He would not receive assistance from any
source except from the work of his hands, asserting that the
Scripture must be free. Referring to the estate left his father
which he refused to take any steps to secure, he insisted: "I
didn't earn it, it isn't mine."

An estate was left Daniel by his father-in-law, of a hundred

*/ /

and twenty acres of land near the town of Hazlehurst, in
Mississippi, and another piece of ground just outside of Mobile,
Alabama. His children besought him, and importunate letters
from the son begged him, to take possession of the property. At
length he so far overcame his peculiarities as to hitch up his "one-
horse shay" and start out for Mississippi. He arrived, found that
the estate included a number of slaves. This was more than he
could brook, so he hitched up again and traveled back, even dis-
continuing all epistolary dealings with his southern kin. "I
didn't earn it, it isn't mine," was his ever-recurring refrain.

Agents from London, some years ago, came trying to locate


Joshua Dillon's heirs, bringing powers of attorney for the collec-
tion of the bequeathed estate of his uncle, but examination proved
the papers to be absolute assignments, which the heirs refused
to sign.

Mary E. Dillon, daughter of Daniel, married Elisha Camp-
bell; residing in Schuyler County, Illinois. Both died leaving
children: John, a lawyer at Bardstown, Illinois; Josie (Bil-
dermack), at Augusta, Illinois, and two other daughters, who
died leaving families.

Martha Jane, daughter of Daniel, married Murdock Bowen,
residing first in Missouri, then near Coyle, Oklahoma, in 1889.
Their children are Fremont A., Frank, Jefferson, all with
families. Miranda V. (Tate, W.), who resides with- daughter at
Beloit, Kansas.

Nancy A. Dillon, daughter of Daniel, married Elisha Camp-
bell in South Carolina ; lived in Indiana, Illinois. Missouri and in
Kansas, 1866, and in Oklahoma in 1890. They are both deceased,
leaving sons: Daniel E., farmer and stock raiser in Garfield
County, Oklahoma ; Joshua B., prominent newspaper man at
Waukomis, Oklahoma, and member of the State Legislature;
W. P., founder and for twenty years in charge of the Oklahoma
Historical Society at Oklahoma City; daughter Sarah (single),
resides with her brother Daniel.

Sarah, daughter of Daniel Dillon, married Bartlett Hynier
in Schuyler County, Illinois, who assisted John A. Logan in
organizing a Confederate company on the breaking out of the Civil
War, but subsequently Logan turned the other way, and Hymer
went south. A daughter, Louise, of this marriage (Brown-
Paden, W.) is at Hutchinson, Kansas, alternatively with two

' c

daughters and two sons, at Houston, Texas.

Aquilla Dillon, son of David, married Sarah Jane Campbell,
and resided many years in Schuyler County, later in Augusta,
Illinois. Died at Mount Sterling, Illinois ; merchant and farmer.
He left a daughter, Hester Brill, residing in Wichita, Kansas, and
son, Frank, in the banking business at Ringwood, Oklahoma, with
two daughters, Gertie and Anna, married, at Wichita.

John, son of Daniel, married Lucinda Woodhouse, died in
Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1871, leaving sons: J. J. B., at Cornish,
Oklahoma, with a family of several children ; Daniel H., at
Denver, Oklahoma, with several children; William R., at Dill
City, Oklahoma, and Harriet (Worl, W.), at Nevada, Grass
Valley, California.

Joshua Dillon, third son of Daniel Dillon, married Lucinda
Barr, a native of Ohio. He was born in Floyd County, Indiana,
and died at Elmdale, the same State, December 21, 1900. He was


a merchant and teacher. Children living all born in Montgomery
County, Indiana: Margaret A. (Utterback, W.), at Crawfordville,
who has one son ; Maryn Barr (Plunket), in New York; one son
and two daughters dead.

The Dillon family thus has spread to many quarters of the
United States, which is richer by a lineage so distinguished,
represented by such a galaxy of Makers of America.

The posterity of the brothers Patrick and Edmund were re-
ported to have emigrated to America.


EVERY man's life affords an interesting story, bnt peculiarly
are we attracted by the details of the career of those
who have achieved praiseworthy success despite many
vicissitudes. There have been many records of such men
in the history of America, and the subject of this sketch may
be classed with them. Not world-wide applause has he won,
for neither years nor opportunity have come to him, but in his
own community he is regarded as one of the bright lights of
Robeson County. He is a public-spirited man, contributing with
ability and good will his part in work for the general welfare of
his county.

Something of that elemental strain that makes men dare to
think great thoughts in humble places and gives them the courage
to dare beyond their circumscribed conditions, belongs to Thomas
Lester Johnson of Lumberton, North Carolina.

The boy who wants an education is not unfamiliar to us, the
boy who forges ahead and attains his desire, in the face of diffi-
culties, we respect, but the boy who does this and does not forget
the humble home behind him deserves our admiration.

Born near Leicester, Buncombe County, North Carolina,
November 13, 1884, Thomas Lester Johnson attended the county
public schools, the Haywood High School at Clyde, Mars Hill
College, and graduated finally with the LL.B. degree in May,
1908, from Wake Forest College, North Carolina.

Professor R. L. Moore, President of Mars Hill College and a
former teacher who knows all the circumstances of young
Johnson's life, has written the following story of this mountain
schoolboy's determination to acquire an education :

"A motherless boy heard A. E. Brown make a characteristic
educational address, in which he declared that there was a chance
for every boy and girl to have an education. The boy had gone
about as far as the indifferent public school could carry him, and
he pondered the message and the hunger for an education drove
him across the country to see what Brown could do for him. The


father was unable to help him, there was not the touch of a
mother's hand, there was little sympathy from the neighbors, and
little hope, but the boy w T as determined, and Brown set him on the
way to one of the mountain schools. Work, energy and pluck
pulled him through the winter months, and he was sufficiently
advanced to teach the public schools of his county. Then followed





years of struggle ; stern but light-hearted, he kept steadily to his
purpose. Agent in the summer, teacher in the fall, pupil in the
winter, a student all the time, he not only kept himself in school,
but helped his brothers and sisters away to school. It was a
magnificent fight, but the youth never wavered, never complained,
never bemoaned his fate. One summer he read law T , and recited
each week a perfect lesson of remarkable length at the end of a
twenty-mile trip. It is needless to say that he was not long in
mastering the law course at Wake Forest, Will Bailey being his
classmate, roommate and friend. But not an hour did he forget
the humble home and the younger members of the family."

The question which instantly suggests itself is, what kind of
people were this boy's forbears?

It is a well-known fact that among the mountains of Virginia,
Tennessee, Kentucky and the Carolinas are to be found de-
scendants of some of the best families of England. In a neglected
condition, cut off from associations with the progress of the
world, they have been handicapped in many ways, but the red
corpuscles of a conquering race are in their blood and time after
time they have shown, when the test has come, the strength of
their lineage.

Robeson County, of which Lumberton is the capital, is so
called in compliment to Colonel Robeson, who distinguished him-
self in the battle of Elizabethtown, in Bladen County, fought in
1781 between the Tories and the friends of liberty. Though a
resident of Robeson, Mr. Johnson was born in Buncombe Countv.


By the way, it was a member of Congress who originated the
present meaning of the word "buncombe," when he said in the
House of Representatives that he was "talking for Buncombe."
Mr. Johnson's father's people, however, were not of Bun-
combe. His father, William Sandy Johnson, was born on a farm
near Swansonville, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, October 6,
1861. When he was about twenty-one he moved to Alexander,
Buncombe County, where he married Mary E. Martin, who became
the mother of Thomas Lester. William Johnson's father was
Christopher Columbus Johnson, who was born at Halifax, Vir-
ginia, but went later to Pittsylvania County. He, too, was a
farmer. His father, Jackson Johnson, who was born and lived at
Halifax, was a large planter and slave owner, who fought in the
Revolutionary War. He lived to the advanced age of one hundred
and eio-ht vears. There is record of a James Johnson in the first

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census, as head of a family of eight, with eleven blacks, one dwell-
ing and three other buildings in Pittsylvania, who was probably
a family connection. A further probability is that this James
is the same James Johnson who was Captain of the Sixth Vir-
ginia in 1776, and the next year, Major.

On the maternal side William Irvin Martin was the grand-


father of Mr. Johnson, and Amanda (James) Martin was his
grandmother. William Ervin Martin lived near Alexander, Bun-
combe County, North Carolina, being the sou of William and
Martha Martin. The former was born in Iredell County and his
father, Jacob, lived either there or in Burke County, and served
in the Colonial Army throughout the Revolutionary War.

The grandmother of Thomas Lester Johnson, on the maternal
side, was the daughter of Silas .Tames, son of Thomas and Sarah
James. The latter, born in Burke County, was a Crowder, and
many of her relatives are now living in Burke, Iredale and
Gaston Counties. The wife of Silas James was Mary, daughter
of John Payne, an officer in the War of 1812.

The blood of tillers of the soil and of fighters against oppres-
sion is the heritage of this young American of to-day, whose brave
struggle for an education and an honored place among his fellows
has already been told so well by his former teacher. That he has
achieved this place and met with unusual success is largely due to
his untiring energy. Early in his career he earned a reputation
for promptness and devotion to the interest of his clients, and he
is a determined fighter in the arena of the court house. As a
public speaker he is much in demand, especially at commencement
exercises and Sunday-school gatherings. Even in his college days
this gift of oratory was evident, and twice he was one of the
debaters at the college exercises, and commencement orator, and
the valedictorian at his graduation.

The immediate connecting links between the families in
America and those in the old country are in most cases difficult to
trace, the incomplete records not giving the necessary details.
There were a great many Johnsons, Martins and James in the
United States at the time of the Revolution, but the recorded
traces of them prior to that time are so fragmentary that
certainty as to lines of descent is not, in most cases, possible. It
is known that the Martins are of English and Scotch origin ; the
James are Scotch-Irish and Welsh, and the Paynes Irish. The
Johnsons trace their descent from English forbears and some
branches of this family may also be found in Sweden. Mr. John-
son's grandmother on the paternal side is of German extraction.

As already suggested, the Johnson name may be of Swedish
origin, but it is found very early in Great Britain. There is the evi-
dence that the Manor of Nether Court, in Kent, existed during the
reign of Edward III, and that it, together with the manor known
as "Upper Court," came into the hands of Thomas Johnson in the
beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign. The said Thomas Johnson
died "seized of them both in the eighth year of that reign." In
Queen Anne's reign the properties were sold to Edward Brooke.

Some of the oldest families of the Johnsons are the Johnsons
of Ayscough-fee Hall. Willus Johnson de Spalding, according to


the rolls in the Tower had charge of the Poll-tax in the county of
Lincoln, in 1381. This family derived from the Norman house of
Fitz-John. Their hall was rebuilt in 1420. The Johnsons of
Temple Belwood go back to the time of Henry VIII.

One of the Johnsons of Wytham-on-the-Hill, in Lincoln,

Online LibraryAlbert B OsborneMakers of America; biographies of leading men of thought and action, the men who constitute the bone and sinew of American prosperity and life (Volume 3) → online text (page 39 of 48)