Robert Johnson

Col. Robert Johnson (July 17, 1745 – October 15, 1815) is the man generally claimed to have been the man who established the town now known as Warsaw, and who originally named it Fredericksburg.  You can read about many of the events in his life in a short memoir by his brother, Cave Johnson, at this site.

Johnson is a prominent figure among early Kentuckians, and primarily lived at a place about 2 miles west of Georgetown, a place he called Great Crossing, because it’s where there was a large ford over the Elkhorn where buffalo crossed  ( map). Johnson was a state representative for 8 terms, a state senator, a delegate to the first two Kentucky Constitutional Conventions, and a fighter of Indians with George Rogers Clark.  He was most notably at the Battle of Bryant Station, where his wife, Jemima, braved Indians to retrieve water for the men in the fort.  

Like most very early settlers, he was a land speculator.  On December 19, 1795 he received a grant of 8,115 acres in Fayette County on the Ohio River (Fayette then covered what is now Gallatin and a lot of other counties).  Glencoe was in the tract, and Johnson had a mill on Eagle Creek, on property that would later be known as the Castleman farm. To this property Johnson bought an additional 400 acres from John Hawkins Craig, on December 27, 1796, which included Ohio River frontage.  

Johnson built a home on this new tract - a two story brick house with one story wings.  Long gone, it was on what is now High School Court in Warsaw. 

On September 11, 1799, the Gallatin County Court authorized a survey from Steele's Bottom, to intersect the road from Johnson's Glencoe mill, and go on to Franklin County.  You likely know it as Johnson Road. 

From the Draper Papers, we find this “Col. Robert Johnson was from Fredericksburg, Va. In his old days he took a fool notion to marry a young girl of about 17, a daughter of old Wm. Bledsoe, a baptist preacher. She was one of almost [?] 24 children that he (Bledsoe) had. After 1817, he had remarried, he bought a farm and laid off a town, at now Warsaw, which he called Fredericksburg after his (native place?) in Va.” [The 1817 date is wrong; Johnson married Jemima Bledsoe on March 9, 1815 (or maybe the 18th, official records disagree. Jemima later married a man named Moore, “a shrewd yankee who saw all her property off, in trade, down the river, and was never heard of any more.”]

While there were earlier settlers in what is now Warsaw (see the articles Nancy Gullion),  Johnson was the man who laid out the town and called it Great Landing, a name to “bookend” his “Great Crossing” in Georgetown.  He was living in Warsaw when he died although he is buried at the Great Crossing. 

His son is Col. Richard M. Johnson (October 17, 1780 – November 19, 1850), and an even more noted figure in US history. He was Vice-President of the U.S. under Martin Van Buren. One biographer notes that he “partook strongly of that high toned integrity and courage which marked the times in which he lived;” another notes he had affairs with at least four other Congressman’s wives and at least two of his own slaves.


This is a very short piece on Johnson, given the amount of material out there.  You can find much more detail in the writings of Dr. Carl Bogardus - try the vertical files in the Gallatin Co Free Public Library if you want to know more. The Drapers Papers information is at Draper MS 15CC49. Also see the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 30, from 1932.