father’s day

In December 1811 Jacob Johnson of Raleigh, North Carolina jumped into Hunter’s Mill Pond to rescue three men whose boat had capsized. He successfully saved all three, but in January 1812 Jacob Johnson died, possibly as a result of jumping in the pond. [1]
On June 4, 1867 Jacob’s son, President Andrew Johnson, attended the dedication of a monument at Jacob’s grave. From The New-York Times June 5, 1867:


Dedication of the Raleigh Monument – Interesting Ceremonies.

… RALEIGH, N.C., Tuesday, June 4 – P.M.

569px-Jacobjohnson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jacobjohnson.JPG)

tribute to an honest and courageous man

The ceremonies at the City Cemetery, in connection with the dedication of the monument erected to the father of President JOHNSON, commenced at noon today.

The monument is a single shaft of red limestone, ten feet high with an ornamented cap. It bears the following inscription:

“In memory of JACOB JOHNSON; an honest man, beloved and respected by all who knew him. Born –. Died January, 1812, from disease caused by an over-effort in saving the life of his friend.”

The President and party, accompanied by Gov. WORTH, Gen. SICKLES, and others, having reached the cemeteries in carriages, were conducted to a platform near the monument.

…Hon. D.L. SWAIN, LL.D., President of the State University, delivered an address … [in which he alluded to one of the men Jacob saved]

The following obituary notice, written by Col. HENDERSON, the editor of the Raleigh Star, is copied from that paper Jan. 12, 1812:

“Died, in this city, on Saturday last, JACOB JOHNSON, who had for many years occupied a humble but useful station. He was city constable, sexton, and porter to the State Bank. In his last illness he was visited by the principal inhabitants of the city, by all of whom he was esteemed for his honesty, sobriety, industry, and humane and friendly disposition.

“Among those by whom he was known and esteemed none more deeply lamented him, except, perhaps, his own relatives, than the publisher of this paper, for he owes his life, on a particular occasion, to the boldness and humanity of JACOB JOHNSON.” …

The ceremonies were closed with a benediction, when two young colored girls came forward and tenderly lay bunches of the choicest flowers on the grave of JACOB JOHNSON. …

President Johnson, Secretary of State Seward, and others arrived in Raleigh the day before. The president was so “overcome with emotion” by the large crowd of well-wishers who greeted him that he quoted Sir Walter Scott:[2]

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!

Andrew Johnson had just turned three years old when his father died back in 1812.

Michael Helms’ 2006 photo of Jacob Johnson’s grave is licensed by Creative Commons. President Johnson was quoting from The Lay of the Last Minstrel
  1. [1] Trefousse, Hans L. Andrew Johnson: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. Print. pages 19-20.
  2. [2] ibid.
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