Cumberland Times-News

Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum

March 13, 2008

The desire still there to become a novelist


Almost two centuries later the governor's son became the center of another series of intriguing questions. He moved to Western Maryland to take charge of the huge tract of land that he and his brothers inherited.

He sold timber; he built - and for a while operated - an inn known as the Brumley tavern; he expanded what had been a log cabin into a house with four stone chimneys.

But he remained a bachelor until he was almost 70, when he entered into what biographers have called "a marriage of convenience'' with Miss Harriet Anne Beall, of Frostburg.

For whom was that marriage convenient? Was he already ailing, needing a 24-hour presence in the house? Was she a wayward young lady, just 21 years old, whose family wanted her safely distanced from the temptations of the town? Or was that union a cover-up for financial manipulations between the Johnson and Beall families?

Here again a novelist would have a free hand. Perhaps the elderly man and the young girl had had an earlier relationship. Certainly the fact that on Joshua Johnson's death, two or three years after their wedding, the inherited half of his estate - the rest to be divided among his brothers and sisters and their heirs - suggests that Joshua felt a considerable obligation to his widow.

On the other hand, the marriage may have been part of some sort of financial deal between the Johnson and Beall families. In those days, few women had control of their own money, either earned or inherited, although her name and signature might appear on documents, she may only have been a convenience to her male relatives.

The house in which Harriet Beall Johnson lived with her husband on the Johnson property is gone; the one we see deteriorating was built in 1882.

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Betty Van NewKirk - From the Museum
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    June 19, 2008

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    June 12, 2008

  • In tennis, individuals face each other as equals I'm not a sports person, but I like to watch tennis. During the three big summer tournaments - Paris, London and New York, played on three different surfaces - my TV is on, and I check the newspaper for details that I have missed.

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