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Johnston, Lancelot

by Anna Withers Bair and Katharine K. Kendall, 1988

1748–19 Sept. 1832

Lancelot Johnston, physician, Revolutionary War surgeon, and planter, was born in Ardess, County Fermanagh, Ireland, of Scottish ancestry. He received his medical education at the Medical College of the University of Dublin and emigrated to America before 1769, settling in that part of Orange County that soon became Caswell County. In 1771 he served for two months in the militia, and on 10 May 1777 he was commissioned by the Continental Congress as surgeon of the Ninth Battalion, Continental Army, "raised for the defending of American liberty and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof." On 26 Nov. 1778, he was appointed regimental surgeon of the Continental troops to be raised in the Hillsborough and Salisbury districts to assist in South Carolina, and was advanced £150 for the purchase of medicine and supplies. After the Battle of Camden he was sent there to help care for the wounded. His arrival was welcomed by the overworked Dr. Hugh Williamson, of Edenton, who wrote to the speaker of the North Carolina House of Commons: "We were happily reinforced by Dr. Johnston, a Senior Surgeon of great skill and Humanity in the Continental Service."

After the war, Johnston continued to serve as a physician to the residents of Caswell County and environs; he also was a planter of the farms he owned in the area. He died at his home in St. David's District (now Locust Hill township) and was buried in the family cemetery nearby.

In 1774 Johnston married Zerurah Rice, the daughter of Thomas Rice of Caswell County. They were the parents of six children: William, Lancelot, Elizabeth (m. Dr. E. E. Jones), and Polly (m. a Mr. Slade), all of whom moved to Madison, Ga.; and Thomas (m. Jane Bethell) and Zilphar (m. James Yancey), both of whom remained in North Carolina. Portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Johnston, said to have been painted by Thomas Sully, were sold by the family in the 1930s, but photographs of the portraits are owned by several descendants including Mrs. F. F. Bahnson, Jr., of Winston-Salem and Mrs. Clifford Bair of Chapel Hill.


Walter Clark, ed., State Records of North Carolina, vol. 12 (1895).

Johnston Family Papers (Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill).

William S. Powell, When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County (1977).

William L. Saunders, ed., Colonial Records of North Carolina, vol. 10 (1890).

Additional Resources:

Dudley, Harold James. History of Synod of N. C., Presbyterian Church in the U. S. [Raleigh, N. C., n.p.]. 1963. 22. (accessed May 21, 2014).

Lucian Lamar Knight. A Standard History of Georgia and Georgians. The Lewis Publishing Company. 1917. 2484. (accessed May 21, 2014).

United States Department of the Interior. National Park Service. National Register of Historic Places - Registration Form: John Johnson House. By Kaye Grayheal and Michael Southern, Winston-Salem, N.C. January 3, 1997. (accessed May 21, 2014).

Minutes of the North Carolina Senate, August 8, 1778 - August 19, 1778. State Records of North Carolina vol. 12. Winston [N.C.]: M.I. and J.C. Stewart, Printers to the State. 1895. 798, 800, 806.

Origin - location: 


How do I obtain a copy of the North Carolina census for the years 1784 through 1787?

Dear Jack,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing this question.

There are a couple of ways to do this.  And, unfortunately, the census has not been digitized, so your options are currently a transcription in print or viewing microfilm in person at the State Archives of North Carolina.

--First, the North Carolina census for 1784-1787 was transcribed and published in print (book) format by Alvaretta Register.  This book is available through used book dealers and in libraries. 

Register, Alvaretta Kenan. 2001. State census of North Carolina, 1784-1787. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.

The web link I’ve included at the end of the citation is to the item record in WorldCat.  WorldCat is an online catalog that searches holdings of libraries all over the world.  You can put in your location to see if you can locate the book in a library near you – and your local library may also be able to obtain it through interlibrary loan.

If you are near Raleigh, you are also very welcome to visit us at 109 E. Jones Street to use the book in the library. 

--Second, the original microfilm for the census is in the collection of the State Archives in Raleigh.  You may also visit them to view the film in person. Here is the website for the State Archives:

I hope this helps!  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Thank you so much for the information. With your help, I have the book on order

thanks again, Jack

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