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Robert Zenas Johnston Family Collection

Identifier: DC022

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection concerns Robert Zenas Johnston (1834-1908) and includes school notebooks from Davidson College and Columbia Theological Seminary, student essays, correspondence, his sermons (1859-1907) and speeches, and a photocopy of his diary (1886-1908) as well as a small amount of financial and printed materials. There is also material on the estates of Rufus Johnston and Robert Caldwell, family correspondence, a copy of a scrapbook for James Davidson Johnston, (1915-1944), family photographs, copies of the Johnston Clan Bulletin (1939-1961), notes and minutes related to Mecklenburg Presbytery, and a sketch of the Memorial Window for Lincoln Presbyterian Church. Johnston's student notebooks contain entries on Astronomy, Davies Alegbra, Johnston's 1858 Valedicatory address, lists of favorite psalms and hymns, notes on church history, a list of topics discussed by the Senior Class of 1861, and lecture notes on Biblical history. The notebook for 1859-1860 also has a list of subscribers to the Mecklenburg Presbytery's Monthly Bulletin for 1894. The 1856-57 notebook includes detailed expense accounts for Johnston's student days at Davidson. The papers written for classes at Davidson College are on such topics as Cuba, Liberty and Christianity, Napolean, Cicero, North Carolina, and the influence of Education in America. One of the student essays is marked with notes from Professor and College President Drury Lacy. Within the correspondence file is a teaching agreement between Johnston and a local school in 1854, a call to Providence Church in 1861, and information on Johnston's chaplaincy with the 4th Regiment NCSG. The majority of the correspondence concerns the death of Johnston's son in 1886. The photocopy of Johnston's diary also contains a brief family genealogy. The sermons date from 1859 to 1907 and include notations on the dates and places they were given. They are arranged chronologically by the date the sermon was first given. The speeches include Johnston's essay on Drury Lacy prepared as part of Davidson College's Sesquicentennial Celebration, a memorial to Jefferson Davis, several talks on education and one on Prohibition. The Estate files contain copies of wills, inventories, and receipts. The Rufus Johnston estate includes a list and valuation of slaves. There is also a description of slavery and conditions during the Civil War in the letters of Mary Gibson. The notes and minutes for the Mecklenburg Presbytery date from 1882-1907 and include the testimony in the case of Rev. D. P. Robinson. The scrapbook on James Davidson Johnston includes copies of letters written during World War II, copies of his obituaries, correspondence relating to the awarding of medals, and clippings on the Barium Springs Orphan Home. The photographs are primarily of children in the Abernethy family.


  • Creation: 1854 - 1963

Biographical / Historical

Robert Zenas Johnston was born in Rowan County, NC. He was graduated from Davidson College in 1858. He continued his education at Columbia Seminary and was ordained by the Concord Presbytery in 1861. He served as the minister of Sharon and Providence Churches in Mecklenburg County (1861-1871) and at Lincolnton Presbyterian Church as well as neighboring churches (1872-1907). Among his descendants are Joseph Boudinot Johnston (Davidson College class of 1901), who married Annie Lee Davidson, daughter of William Lee Davidson (Davidson College class of 1842) and was superintendent of the Barium Springs Orphan Home. The two had seven children, including Robert Zenas Johnston (Davidson College class of 1932), Joseph Boudinot Johnston (Davidson College class of 1936) and James Davidson Johnston (Davidson College class of 1937), who died in action during World War II. In 1939, the first of the Johnston Clan newsletters was published and distributed to the descendants of Robert Zenas Johnston.


1.25 Linear Feet (3 boxes + oversize)



Immediate Source of Acquisition

Original materials donated by Sally Abernethy Eads, P.O. Box 161, Finecastle, VA 24090, 540/473-2943; and Margaret Abernethy Martin, 1739 Maryland Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28209, 704/334-7996. Location of original of the James Davidson Johnston scrapbook is unknown.

Processing Information

Processed on 5 December 1996|10/31/94

Robert Zenas Johnston Family Collection
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Manuscript Collections Repository