Copyright 2011
All Rights Reserved.

Henry Johnson
Governor of Louisiana

Preceded by Henry S. Thibodaux
Governor by Election
Served from December 13, 1824
Served to December 15, 1828
Left Office by Term ended
Succeeded by Pierre A. Derbigny
Born September 14, 1783
Died August 4, 1864
Woodley Plantation
near Valverda, Louisiana

Last Will & Testament
Age 81
Party Democratic-Republican, Whig
Profession Lawyer / Politician
Spouse Elizabeth Rousby Key
Last Will & Testament
Born March 1796
Died March 17, 1860
Baton Rouge, La.
Married About March 13, 1829
Georgetown, D.C.
Children 1 daughter, maybe 1 son
Plantation1 Chatham
Plantation2 Acadia
Plantation3 Rienzi
Plantation4 Woodley
Religion Episcopalian
Burial Woodley Plantation

1824 - 1828

Henry Johnson, the 5th governor of Louisiana, died on September 4, 1864.   Born in Tennessee on September 14, 1783, he became an early advisor and friend of W. C. C. Claiborne when Claiborne was governor of the Territory of New Orleans.  Claiborne, knowing that he was seriously ill, appointed his friend Henry Johnson as executor of his will.  All of the historic papers and journals of W. C. C. Claiborne remained with Henry Johnson until the son W. C. C. Claiborne II became of age.

Henry later became a friend of W. C. C. Claiborne II and the godfather of his son George W. Claiborne, who was killed at the Battle of Mansfield, La. in the Civil War.  Henry left a considerable sum of money to this godson in his will.  Henry's will was revised after the war was over, so he may not have known of this death.

Henry also willed money to his friend Bishop Polk, who was also killed in the Civil War.

By 1814, Johnson was in Donaldsonville, La. practicing law after becoming a member of the Virginia Bar.  He was a very early resident of Donaldsonville which had a population of only 317 in an 1817 census.

A daughter, Emily Louisa Johnson, was born May 4, 1838 and died December 6, 1839.  She is buried in a tomb in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery in Thibodaux.  Also buried in this tomb is the governor's sister-in-law, named Louisa Emily Key, who died March 6, 1830, the governor's brother-in-law, Phillip Barton Key, and nephew, William Thompson Key.   Pictures of their tomb are on the next page.

A boy named Henry Johnson was attending school at Georgetown, Maryland in 1838, when ex-Gov. Henry Johnson bought 148 slaves from the Jesuits for himself, ex-Governor Henry Thibodaux, Jesse Batey and possibly others.  The attached article, The Jesuits' Slaves, states that this student is the son of Louisiana Governor Henry Johnson. 

Governor Johnson was at that time a U. S. Representative in Congress.  His wife, Elizabeth Key Johnson, was from a prominent family that lived in D. C.  They would likely have lived in that area.

Ms. Lynn Conway, Georgetown University Archivist, states that the entrance book lists the student Henry Johnson as the son of Henry Johnson of Washington City.  If this is the son of Governor Henry Johnson of Louisiana, it is the only record found of a son.

Henry Johnson was an extremely active member of the Louisiana Episcopal Church across Ascension, Iberville, Orleans and Point Coupee civil parishes:

1 - He represented St. Mary's Episcopal Church, located in Bayou Goula, in the Councils of the Diocese, probably in its early years when Rev. Henry T. Lee was rector from May 28, 1851 until 1853.  This church was about 10 miles upriver from his Chatham Plantation.

2 - He was a founding member of  Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Donaldsonville, even donating the land and buildings for the first church and school on August 29, 1852. 

3 - He was a founding member of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity in Rosedale, representing it in the State Episcopal Convention on May 6, 1859, when the church was accepted into the Episcopal union.  He and Elizabeth are recorded as participants in the Christmas services of 1858.

4 - He was a founding member of the Calvary Episcopal Church in New Orleans in 1860.

5 - He resigned the Episcopal Church of the Nativity about 1861 to join the newly formed Calvary Episcopal Church in Livonia, which was closer to his home.  The Rev. Henry T. Lee was rector of that church.  Henry T. Lee, clergyman, was in the home of Gov. Henry Johnson in the 1860 census.

6 - He signed a resolution proposing that the Diocese of Louisiana enter into union with other dioceses to form the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America which was then passed by the Convention of the Diocese of Louisiana in 1861 in St. Francisville.

7 - In his Last Will & Testament he donated money and land for the construction of a new Episcopal Church adjacent to the upper boundary of his plantation. He also left a gift to the Children's Home of the Episcopal Church of New Orleans.

Henry Johnson's wife, Elizabeth Rousby Key, of Maryland, is the granddaughter of George Plater III, the sixth Maryland governor from 1791-1792 who died in office.  George Plater III was a founder and then a member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church for 28 years.  Elizabeth's father, Philip Barton Key, represented Maryland in Congress from 1807 to 1813.  Elizabeth Rousby Key is also the first cousin of Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner".

Elizabeth's brother, also named Philip Barton Key, also moved from Maryland to Louisiana.  He had a large family on Acadia Plantation, the location of present day Nicholls University in Thibodaux.  This Philip Barton Key died in 1854, causing his wife and children to move to Rosedale, La, closer to Henry and Elizabeth who owned Woodley Plantation near Livonia.  Of ten Key children, one was named Henry Johnson Key, one was named Elizabeth Rousby Key. and another was named Francis Scott Key.

Elizabeth Rousby Key Johnson is reported to be have been buried in the garden of their plantation.  Their grave site has not been located but is reported in this 1915 newspaper article to be about 800 feet from the plantation home.  The plantation home no longer exists.  A burial was witnessed on Woodley Plantation in the 1950s by a member of the Talbot household that owned and lived in the plantation house.  This burial location has been visited and is about 800 - 900 feet from where the back of Woodley Plantation would have been, 

Today there are not any headstones or other sign of a burial in this area.  The plantation is now a soy bean farm with few trees and certainly not a garden.  This area can be seen in pictures of Woodley Historic Plantation Cemetery.

In 1935 a great great nephew gave a statement that the governor had been temporarily buried at "woodly (sic) plantation" and reintered in Donaldsonville.  There is no evidence of this in the cemeteries of Donaldsonville.  If this happened, it would have had to occur between 1915, when his grave site was visited (see Search for Money - 1915) and 1935, the date of this reinterment report. 

By 1915, Henry Johnson had been buried for 51 years.  A reason for reinterment and a caring person at this point is hard to imagine.  Additionally, a grave site, less than 100 years old in Donaldsonville, should be easily found, but has not been located.

The Last Will & Testament of Henry Johnson states very plainly that he wished to have a "substantial Tomb of Stone" on property to be donated for a new Episcopal Church adjacent to the upper boundary of his plantation.  This important requirement in his will was not satisfied.  His initial tomb may have been of minimal construction in anticipation that it would be replaced by the "substantial Tomb of Stone".

There was a lot of litigation between a Stockett relative from Woodville and the executor of Henry's will, his nephew Joseph Johnson, over property disposal.  The succession occurred immediately after the civil war.  Some recipients in the Johnson will received only 38 cents on the dollar.  Others received even less.  It may be that there was not money left to build the "substantial Tomb of Stone".



La. Secretary of State
National Governors Association - Biography
U.S. Congress Biography


George Plater III - 6th Governor of Maryland
Grove Plantation Cemetery
Johnson-Stockett Presbyterian Church of Mississippi

Obit 1 -  Louisa Key, Sister of Elizabeth
- March 29, 1830
Obit 2 -  Louisa Key, Sister of Elizabeth
- April 3, 1830
Obit - Ann Plater Key, Mother of Elizabeth
- December 24, 1834
Obit - Nephew of Francis Scott Key - January 8, 1859
Obit - Mrs. Philip Barton Key, i.e. Marie Sewall - December 11, 1897
Obit - Sarah J. Johnson, Mississippi Niece - July 9, 1901
Obit - William T. Key - January 12, 1909


Donaldsonville Toasts - July 4, 1825
Miscellaneous Acts as Governor
- March 1, 1826
Thomas Jefferson Honorarium - March 16, 1827
Marriage of Henry Johnson & Elizabeth Key - March 13, 1829
Jesuit Slave Purchase - 1838
Slave Purchase from Maryland Jesuits - 64 individuals - Nov. 10, 1838
Slave Purchase from Maryland Jesuits - 84 individuals - Nov. 29, 1838
Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana 1838 - 1888
Thibodaux Yellow Fever Deaths - 1853
Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Rosedale, Connection
- 1859
Obit -  Elizabeth Key Johnson - March 28, 1862
Obit - Henry Johnson - September 19, 1864
- November 1, 1864
Treasure Under the Stairs - September 13, 1915
Search for Money - 1915
Anna Marie Schmidt Thesis - Selected Pages
Joe Johnson Reinterment Statement - 1935


Last Will & Testament of Elizabeth Rousby Key Johnson - October 1, 1856
Last Will & Testament of Henry Johnson - March 26, 1864


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