Martha Jane Johnson. Born December 12, 1856. Died January 8, 1934.
Martha Jane Johnson is the center of the mystery which surrounds her three children born before her 1883 marriage to Wright Fowler.
Who was Martha Jane Johnson?
She was the daughter of William Johnson and Mary Carothers.(or Weathers). She was the wife of Wright Fowler. She was the mother of Fernando, Elijah Lionel, and Lilly. She was the mother of Magnolia, Corrie Melissa, Charles Manuel, and William Wright Fowler.
Every family tree that I find for Martha Jane Johnson has her mother as Mary (or May) Heathers. I feel that this is a misinterpretation of her mother’s name as written on the death certificate of Martha Jane Johnson. For many reason which I will go into below, I believe the name of her mother to be MARY CAROTHERS.
Please note that an excellent researcher has weighed in with the opinion that surname of Mary could have also been Weathers. There were Weathers in Union County SC and I am going to look at this in-depth in the very near future.
The name of her father is clearly William Johnson. The name of the informant is also clear: E.L. Fowler (her son Elijah Lionel Fowler)
The name of her mother is not as easy to read. Some think the first name is May; some think Mary. All think the surname is Heathers.
What follows are the reasons I believe the surname to be Carothers.
William Johnson is found in the 1850 household of McClure. All five men in the home — including William Johnson — were merchants or clerks. The names of the families surrounding the McClure household (my great great grandparents Thomas Foster and wife Mahala were adjacent) indicate that the location was at Grindal Shoals near the Pacolet River in Union County.
Grindal Shoals was a thriving community in the 1850s before floods destroyed almost everything. When one sees the land now, abandoned and ravaged by time, it is hard to envision that there were stores, mills, attorney offices, and other businesses abound.
There were two Johnson families living very near to the McClure household in which William Johnson lived — a father, David Johnson and his son, David Johnson, and their families.
I do not think that William Johnson was descended from this David Johnson family. It would take DNA testing to be sure, and I will admit that it is possible that all of these Johnsons were related, but, for many reasons, it does not seem to be a good family fit for William Johnson..
I do believe that William Johnson was descended from William Hermann Johnson (1760-1835) and his wife Lois. William Hermann Johnson was born in Lunenburg, Virginia and settled in Union County, South Carolina. The Jhnsn offspringmarried into the Fowler family and other families in .
William Hermann Johnson had owned land on the north side of the Pacolet River near Grindal Shoals. Although I do not have the documentation on hand, I believe that John Carothers was involved in the estate settlement of William Hermann Johnson.
John Carothers was married to Rachel Burrows. Their daughter Elizabeth Carothers married Dr. Wade Fowler (1828-1886). Wade Fowler was the son of James Fowler (1793-1858), son of Godfrey Fowler (1773-1850), son of Henry Ellis Fowler (1746-1808).
Dr. Wade Fowler and his wife Elizabeth Carothers (b. 1828) lived 12 households away from the McClure household containing William Johnson in 1850. It is likely that William Johnson knew the John Carothers family. It is more than possible that he married Mary Carothers.
When John Carothers died, his estate was settled by Israel Fowler. Martha Jane Johnson (daughter of William Johnson and Mary Carothers) married Wright Fowler — a descendant from the Israel Fowler line.
To summarize the above:
- William Johnson was likely descended from William Hermann Johnson
- William Hermann Johnson’s estate was settle by John Carothers
- John Carother’s estate was settled by Israel Fowler
- William Johnson lived near Dr. Wade Fowler and Elizabeth Carothers in 1850
- William Johnson likely married Mary Carothers after 1850
- William Johnson had a daughter named Martha Jane Johnson in 1856
- Martha Jane Johnson married Wright Fowler, a descendant of Israel Fowler
I have not written about the Israel Fowler line very much, although I have researched it throughly. It is not my Fowler line, and I have so very much to write regarding my own Henry Ellis Fowler relatives. But now, it is necessary to jump into the Israel Fowler family.
The Israel Fowler line has been traced back to a John Fowler (b. 1720) who lived in Isle of Wight, Virginia. There are many excellent researchers working on this line but it hits a brick wall with John Fowler and there it ends.
Israel Fowler and his descendants were in Union County, SC the same time as the Henry Ellis Fowler descendants — 1700s until present day. Thanks to extensive yDNA testing, we know that they are two totally different Fowler lines.
These Fowlers from both lines lived next to each other, witnessed legal documents for each other, and married each other. Consequently, there are more than a few people walking around today who descend from both the Israel Fowler line and the Henry Ellis Fowler line.
Israel Fowler II had a son named William G. Fowler, who in turn had a son named William E. Fowler.
Information on William E. Fowler:
Born circa 1827. Recorded in 1850 York SC census with parents William G. Fowler and Nancy; siblings Israel, Hillard, Leonard, Daniel, Everline, and Elizabeth.
William E. Fowler married Susan Wright, (b. 1833), the daughter of Joseph Wright. Susan had a sister named Lucinda Wright b. 1821 who married Henry Fowler, son of Stephen Fowler and his first wife Sarah. Stephen was the son of Ephraim Fowler.
Susan Wright also had a brother named John W. Wright (1824-1905). John Wright was the father of Minnie Wright (1873-1951) who married Landy J. Bevis, son of Caroline Bevis and an unknown father.
Caroline Bevis was the daughter of William Bevis and his second wife Zillah Hames — the daughter of John Hames and Sarah Fowler who was the daughter of Ephraim Fowler.
William E. Fowler and Susan Wright had two sons — William Wright Fowler born in 1856, and Adolphus Fowler born in 1858.
William Wright Fowler was known as Wright Fowler in most documents, and I shall refer to him as Wright Fowler. A rare exception is below in the 1860 Union County SC Census. Son William Wright Fowler was listed as William, and son Adolphus was listed as Dolphus.
Sarah Wright, and Thomas and Nancy Jefferson also lived in the household.
Susan Wright Fowler was a widow in 1870, and she lived in the household with her sons, fourteen year old Wright and 12 year old Adolphus. (The Lucinda Fowler in the home is a story for another day. She and her daughter Clementine deserve their own forthcoming article)
In 1880, Martha Jane Johnson lived in the White Plains Section of Spartanburg County. As the crow flies, White Plains is not too terribly far from Grindal Shoals.
Martha Jane Johnson had three children in her household:
- Fernando Johnson aged 11
- Elijah Lionel Johnson aged 7
- Lilly Johnson aged 3
Adolphus Fowler also lived in the household. His brother Wright Fowler would soon marry Martha Jane Johnson.
Where was Wright Fowler in 1880? I do not know. There was a William Fowler who lived alone in Jonesville SC in 1880, but there is not enough evidence to say if this was William Wright Fowler or one of the other many William Fowlers.
Before I jump into the marriage of Wright Fowler and Martha Jane Johnson and the children resulting from the marriage, I need to interject a fact:
The two sons of Martha Jane Johnson, Fernando and Elijah Lionel, were not fathered by William Wright Fowler. Genetic testing of multiple descendants of the two boys has proven beyond all doubt that the two sons had the same father, and that father was most likely a Brown.
This is no doubt why they were recorded as Johnson children in the 1880 census. The took the surname of their unmarried mother.
When I began my research, I was told that family stories handed down through the generations suggested that the first three children born to Martha Jane Johnson were not the children of William Wright Fowler.
I did not want to believe these stories — not for any moral reasons, but just the fact that my research would be more tidy and done if all of the children born to Martha Jane Johnson had the same father.
I do not know whom the father of daughter Lilly Johnson was as I have not DNA tested any of her descendants.
Fernando Johnson was born on February 16, 1870. Not much is known about the first ten years of his life. He would have a stepfather when his mother married Wright Fowler in 1883. Afterwards, Fernando Johnson would forever be known as Fernando Fowler.
Fernando Fowler married Missouri Zue Sizemore (b.1872) and a son was born in 1888, Charlie Lee Fowler.
Zue Sizemore Fowler, daughter of William Sizemore and Mary Thompson must have died young, as her sister Laura Sizemore Shavers took her nephew Charlie into her home.
Charlie Lee Fowler married Bonnie Vehorn (1888–1976) and they had daughter Hazel Christine Fowler (1924–2012).
Hazel Fowler married Jack Walker. They were the parents of Jack Donald Walker (1944-2009) and two daughters.
Fernando Fowler married Lola Fowler in the late 1890s. Lola Fowler (1882-1966) was the daughter of Marion Fowler (1847–1900) and Frances Horn (1845–1928).
Marion Fowler was the son of Stephen Fowler, son of Ephraim Fowler, son of Henry Ellis Fowler. Marion Fowler served time in a prison in New York state for his KKK activities in the 1870s.
Fernando and Lola Fowler became parents together in 1898 when son Jesse Peter Fowler was born.
Jesse Peter “Pete” Fowler was born in Spartanburg, SC on October 30, 1898. As did many young men who worked in the cotton mills down south, Pete Fowler played baseball in the textile leagues. He played for the Converse, Clifton, and Chester mill teams before making the upward move to the Major League. He began his pro career as a left-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1924.
Pete Fowler married Estelle Johnson (1901–1955). Their son Walter Lee “Pete” Fowler was born in 1919.
Jesse Peter Fowler died on September 23, 1973 in Columbia, SC. HIs son Walter Lee Fowler died in 1988.
Fernando and Lola Fowler had ten children together. Jesse Peter “Pete” Fowler was the oldest, and John Arthur “Art” Fowler was the youngest.
John Arthur Fowler was born July 3, 1922.
These brothers hold the record for the largest age difference for brothers in Major League baseball — Pete was almost 24 years older.
John Arthur Fowler was born on July 3, 1922 in Converse, South Carolina. I do not know much about baseball, so I will list only the most basic sports information. Art Fowler was a right-hander pitcher for the New York Giants, the Cincinnati Reds, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels, and worked as a pitching coach with New York Yankee’s manager Billy Martin.
Art Fowler married Virginia Ruth Burch (1923–2012). They had two sons. Art Fowler died on January 29, 2007.
There were other men from this family who played baseball, if not on the same scale as brothers Pete and Art Fowler.
I will revise this article to include more detail about the lives of these descendants of Martha Jane Johnson. This research is a work in progress and new discoveries are being made weekly.
Martha Jane Johnson (1855-1934) m. William Wright Fowler (b. 1856)
- Fernando Johnson/Fowler (1870-) m. Missouri Zue Sizemore
- Charlie Lee Fowler
- Walter Lee Fowler
- Hazel Christine Fowler
- Jack Donald Walker
- Hazel Christine Fowler
- Walter Lee Fowler
- Jesse Peter “Pete” Fowler m. Estelle Johnson (1901-1955)
- Walter Lee “Pete” Fowler (1919-)
- Lillie Mae Fowler (1904-) m. James Walter Brown (1898-1986)
- Beulah Mae Brown (1920–1996)
- Dorothy Elizabeth Brown (1927–1992)
- Charles Walter Brown (1935–2002)
- Clarence Fowler (1909 – 1963) m. Daisy Belle Cannon (1906–1983)
- Helen Marie Fowler (1927–2006)
- Lola Belle Fowler (1930–1931)
- Ted Fowler (1930–2000)
- Clyde Julian Fowler (1932–2002)
- Bobby Dean Fowler (1940–1994)
- Franklin Fowler (1910–1966) m. Ida May Johnson (b. 1911)
- Margaret Louise Fowler (1928–1991)
- William Fowler ( b. 1934)
- Ruby Fowler (1913–1984) m. Manciel Collins Adair (1894–1966)
- Manciel Collins Adair Jr (1930–2013)
- Bennie L Adair (1933–2010)
- Jack Fowler (b. 1915)
- George Fowler (1916–1997)
- Nellie Fowler (1918–2001)
- Ruth Fowler (1920–2015)
- John Arthur Fowler (1922–2007)
- Charlie Lee Fowler
- Elijah Lionel Johnson/Fowler (1872–1957) m. Carrie Chapman (1878–1945)
- Pearl Fowler Russell (1896–1971)
- Gertrude Fowler Burgess (1899–1949)
- Vivian Glenell Fowler (1904–1985)
- James William Fowler Sr. (1906–1984)
- John Henry Fowler (1906–1982)
- Paul Fowler (1909–)
- Charles Dupree/Dewey Fowler (1909–1935)
- Mary Louise Fowler (1913–1977)
- George Washington Fowler (1917–1958)
- Lilly Johnson/Fowler (1879–1956) m. Charles Bridges; m. Belton O’Neil Prince (1875–1956)
- Charles Joseph Carl Bridges (1900-1962)
- Carl P Prince (1909–2006)
- Mildred L. Prince Littell (1911–1992)
- Grover Tillman Prince (1913–1987)
- Mary Prince (1916–1993)
- Roy Prince (1920–2004)
- Magnolia Maggie Fowler (1884–1974) m. Elias Govan McDade (1883–1967)
- Ila R McDade (1905–)
- Sarles R McDade (1907–1976)
- Margaret A McDade (1912–)
- Luke McDade (1913–)
- Ewell G. McDade (1915–1989)
- Beulah McDade (1917–)
- Olin Van McDade (1925–)
- Otis Ray McDade (1925–1968)
- Roy Dale McDade (1930–2010)
- Corrie Melissa Fowler (1887–1972) m. Franklin Elbert Moore (1886–1912); m. James Pinkney Gosnell (1874-1938)
- Maggie Lee Moore (1906–1995)
- Charles Manuel Fowler (1887–1973) m. Rosa Clarentine Nabors (1902–1972)
- William Wright Fowler (1889–1930) m. Veta Alice Burnett (1894–1984)
- Opal Fowler (1910–1911)
- Leslie Fowler (1912–1913)
- Clifford E Fowler (1914–1956)
- Paul Sterling Fowler (1915–1978)
- James Albert Fowler (1917–1968)
- Edna Jannette Fowler (1919–2003)
- Leonard Fowler (1920–1920)
- Fred Fowler (1921–1922)
- Floyd Fowler (1923–1924)
- Bonnie Louise Fowler (1925–)
- Ralph Fowler (1926–1926)
- Bobby Lee Fowler (1929–1965)