"Josephus Shuff Johnson/Orpha Violindy Varner" Johnson family story
Josephus Johnson is on the 1880 Iowa City, Iowa census as a young, single man. He is listed with his brother, Jahu, and his mother, Vernelius. Also in the household is a housekeeper, Orpha Crippen and her two children, John M. and Mary M. Some census transcriptions show Orpha in an adjoining household, but if one looks at the actual census record, it is clear they are all in the same home.
I first recorded this census in my own notes about 25 years ago. It contained the only Josephus I could find in Iowa City, but it did not make sense. He was supposed to have been married at that time with two small children. His wife was a Varner, not a Crippen If he was indeed related to Governor Hiram W. Johnson of California as family tradition indicated, he would have been born in New England or New York. His ancestry would not head to Tennessee as this record indicated!
Sometimes it takes an awful long time for simple things to sink in! After 25 years of following false leads, I looked at the census record again. Thank goodness, the light finally dawned! Orpha Crippen, the housekeeper, was Orpha Violindy Varner and Josephus's future wife; they were not even married yet!
We knew that Orpha had been married before. We also knew that she had worked as a housekeeper for the Johnson family before marrying Josephus. However, the family did not know the name of her first husband, nor did they believe there had been any living children from the first marriage. For this reason, we assumed that Orpha and Josephus had married before the birth of "their" first child, Mary. This confused the search.
The 1880 census record indicated that her first husband was a Crippen and that her first two children - Mary and John - long accepted as full brothers and sisters by the rest of the siblings were probably also Crippens and adopted by Josephus at his union with Orpha.
What a bombshell! Why? Because my husband and those of two cousins, Cynthia Allington and Pauline Ellis, who were also involved in this research, were descendants of this John who may never have been a Johnson at all, but a Crippen!
Was my husband, Terry D. Johnson in reality Terry D. Crippen? This family had yielded surprises before. Some years ago, Cynthia first contacted me. She was a descendant of John Milton Johnson through an illegitimate line - one unknown to the Johnson family until her contact. This relationship came through a Crippen cousin and John Milton Johnson. I do think that this knowledge helped me look at the Crippen name on the census record of Josephus Johnson with new understanding.
Crippens were "family." Therefore, Orpha Crippen was "family."
A-h-h--h Orpha Crippen was Orpha Varner - The future Orpha Johnson.
Viola! Revelation! Double relationships! New knowledge!
When I was looking through Greene county Pennsylvania records for the surname, Varner, Crippen, and Wildman, I stumbled across Josephus once again in 1850. He is there with his father, John or Jahu; his mother, Permelia (who we think was a Wildman. She was also called Vernelius in 1880.); his brothers, Jair and Jahu and a married brother, John, with John's wife.
Additional information! Additional leads to follow!
I then almost immediately found a quaker Johnson family with records going back to New Jersey who had descendants living in Greene County, Pennsylvania. Their founding father was Robert Johnson, who came to American with William Penn.
I also almost immediately found another researcher on the genforum, Eddene Hightower Thompson, who was interested in Jair Johnson. She sent me information from the 1860 and 1870 census records of Greene County. She also sent me a family register of the Jair Johnson family.
Now I want to connect John or Jehu Johnson, father of Josephus, to the Quaker, Robert Johnson. I am certain that he is a descendant of this man. I need the connecting link. If you have any information, please contact me. Thank you.
Pamela C. Johnson