Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Ann Jennings Johnson (1745-1794)
MSA SC 3520-2228
First Lady of Maryland, 1777-1779

Ann Jennings Johnson was born on May 8, 1745 to Rebecca Sauders Jennings and Thomas Jennings.1 Ann's mother was the daughter of Robert Sauders, while her father was the son of Reverend Henry Jennings of St. Mary's County.2 Rebecca and Thomas married on July 17, 1732, and in addition to Ann, the Jennings had two other daughters.3  The oldest child, Elizabeth, was born on December 9, 1735, and the middle girl, Rebecca was born on June 14, 1738.4   The Jennings family lived in Annapolis, Maryland where Judge Thomas Jennings worked as the Chief Clerk and Register of the Land Office.While Ann was growing up in Annapolis, a young man came to town to work for her father in the Land Office. This young man was Thomas Johnson, and he would later become a very important figure in Ann Jennings' life.6

Thomas Johnson was born on November 4, 1732 near St. Leonard's Creek in Calvert County, Maryland. He was the fifth of Dorcas Sedgewick Johnson and Thomas Johnson's eleven children. Due to the large size of the Johnson family, young Thomas was sent to Annapolis to increase the family's income and to supplement his own education through work experience.7  It is likely that Thomas met Ann Jennings while working in Annapolis for her father, thus the couple probably knew each other for a large portion of their lives.8

Johnson became interested in the law, and left the Land Office to study with noted attorney Stephen Bordley.9  Since Ann's family was of modest wealth and had no vast tracts of land to divide among the children, Ann and Thomas did not marry right away. Instead, they waited until Ann was twenty-one, and Thomas was firmly established in his vocation.10 Despite the delay, they were ultimately wed on February 16, 1766.11

During Thomas' public career, the Johnsons lived in Annapolis, although Thomas frequently left their residence to attend to political and military affairs surrounding the formation of the independent American nation.12  Fortunately, Ann still lived near her family, so she was not alone and isolated when Thomas was away. Most likely, Ann was especially glad to be close to the Jennings family during the birth of her eight children.13  Thomas and Ann were the parents of Thomas Jennings, Ann Jennings, Rebecca (who died in infancy), Elizabeth, Rebecca, James, Joshua, and Dorcas.14

After serving as an Anne Arundel County Delegate to the Provincial Assembly and as a Congressman in two Continental Congresses, Johnson was elected by the legislature as the first governor of Maryland in 1777.15  With her husband's new position, Ann Jennings Johnson became the first First Lady in Maryland's history. Thomas Johnson served three consecutive, one-year terms, from 1777 through 1779.16  After his tenure as governor, the Johnson family moved to an estate in Frederick, Maryland called "Richfield" where Thomas had built a new home.17  While at "Richfield," Johnson remained busy as a member of the general assembly, a member of the state senate, a member of the local bar association, a Commisioner of the District of Columbia, and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States between 1779 and 1793.18

Finally after his many years in the political arena, Johnson insisted on retiring from public service in 1793. Yet, he was unable to enjoy his private life for long, for his beloved Ann became ill and died on November 22, 1794 at the age of 49.19  Unable to fill the void in his life at "Richfield," a grief-stricken Thomas decided to live with his daughter, Anne Jennings Johnson Grahame, at the Frederick estate he had given her in 1788 as a wedding gift. Thomas died on October 26, 1819 at his daughter's home, "Rose Hill Manor," and was buried beside his cherished wife Ann in the family vault at All Saints' Episcopal Cemetery in Frederick.20  In 1913 their bodies were moved to Mt. Olivet Cemetery, also in Frederick, where a monument was erected in the Johnson family honor.21

Notes on sources

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