From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Johnson, Perry

(born: 1855  -  died: 1928) In 2009, Rev. Charles H. Johnson was searching for information about his great-grandfather in Mt. Sterling, KY and Spencerville, OH when he was hired as minister of the Spencerville Friends Church (Quaker), the church his great-grandfather helped build in 1904. His great-grandfather Perry Johnson was a fugitive who had been enslaved in Montgomery County, KY.

Perry Johnson came to Spencerville by way of Cincinnati, OH. He had been enslaved by  Thomas Johnson, a Kentucky Legislator from Mt. Sterling who served with the Confederate Army during the U. S. Civil War. Johnson Avenue in Mt. Sterling is named for him. 

Just prior to the start of the Civil War, Perry Johnson left Montgomery County and headed north with a group of fugitives in the Underground Railroad. Perry's first stop was Cincinnati, where he stayed until about 1870, according to Rev. Charles H. Johnson.

When he was about the age of 15, Perry Johnson left Cincinnati and went to Marion, OH, where he was taken in by Thomas and Nancy Beckerdite. He remained with the Beckerdite family for 19 years and learned to read and write. The Beckerdite couple had came from North Carolina. According to Rev. Charles H. Johnson, the Beckerdites were white German Quakers. In the U.S. Censuses, Thomas Beckerdite is listed as Black in 1870 and Mulatto in 1880. His wife Nancy is listed as white in 1870 and as Mulatto in 1880. Their eight year old daughter Florence is listed as Mulatto in 1880.

Florence Beckerdite would become the wife of Perry Johnson in 1888; Perry was 33 years old and Florence was 15. In 1900, Perry, Florence, and their five children lived in Spencerville, OH, where Perry worked as a rig builder in an oil field [source: U.S. Federal Census]. The family was Quaker and participated in services  held in members' homes. In 1904, the Spencerville Holiness Mission Church was constructed; Perry Johnson was one of the builders.

Between 1906 and 1909, the church was renamed the Spencerville Friends Church (Quaker), according to Rev. Charles H. Johnson, who cited the history of Spencerville Friends Church from a loose-leaf book compiled by Wanda Lies in 1997. The 70-page book lists Perry and Florence Johnson as charter members of the church. At some point after the Civil War, Perry Johnson was able to reunite with his siblings, who had also move to Ohio around that time: William Pepsico, Carol Stewart, Wally Stewart, and Herald Stewart.

Perry and Florence Johnson would remain in Spencerville for the remainder of their lives. When Florence's father died, her mother lived with Florence, Perry, and their seven children [source: 1910 U.S. Federal Census]. Perry had an eggs and poultry business. He died in 1928; Florence Johnson died in 1959.

This entry was submitted by Miles Hoskins of the Montgomery County Historical Society and Rev. Charles H. Johnson, minister of the Spencerville Friends Church (Quaker).

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Montgomery County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Johnson, Perry,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 24, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/2804.

Last modified: 2023-07-03 17:22:15