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Courthouse Records: Lycurgus Johnson to Lydia Taylor

The marriage of  Lycurgus Johnson, age 24, and Lydia Taylor, age 19, on June 13, 1842 is recorded in county records at the Chicot County Courthouse.  The marriage was officiated by Lycurgus’ uncle, Benjamin Johnson, who was the Federal Judge for the District of Arkansas.

Lydia Taylor was the daughter of Col. Benjamin Taylor.  Col. Taylor was among the Kentucky kinsmen who began buying Arkansas land in the 1830s.  He had four daughters, Ann Taylor Johnson Worthington (widow of Lycurgus’ uncle James Johnson before marrying Isaac Worthington), Mary Jane Taylor Cable, Lydia Taylor Johnson, and Theodosia Taylor Sessions.  Col. Taylor died in 1850 when he and his horse were swept away and drowned during a rainstorm.  He is buried in Lexington Cemetery.

Lycurgus and Lydia had twelve children during their marriage:

1. Joel Johnson, born May 16, 1843, died Dec. 30, 1847
2. Benjamin Taylor Johnson, born March 25, 1845, died Jan. 8, 1848
3. John Henry Johnson, born Oct. 23, 1846, died Dec. 20, 1847

4. Mary J. Johnson, born October 21, 1848
5. Linnie Johnson, born September 12, 1850
6. Theodore Johnson, born May 6, 1852
7. Annie Johnson, born April 25, 1854
8. Cave J. Johnson, born February 13, 1856
9. Walter L. Johnson, born January 8, 1858
10. Julia J. Johnson, born July 12, 1860, died November 1, 1869
11. Victor M. Johnson, born February 17, 1863
12. Cable Johnson, born March 15, 1865, died August 5, 1867


Except for one, all the children, were born in Chicot County, Arkansas at the Florence Plantation or Lakeport Plantation.  Linnie Johnson was born in Lexington, Kentucky in September, where the family spent their summers. The couple’s first three children died within three weeks of each other at the Florence Plantation in Arkansas.  Mostly likely the cause of their early deaths was a cholera, yellow fever or influenza epidemic.  Those three children are buried at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.  The two children who died at Lakeport Plantation after the Civil War, Cable (d. 1867) and Julia (d. 1869) are buried at Lakeport.  Lydia and Lycurgus are both buried in the Frankfort Cemetery near Lycurgus’ father, Joel.  It is unclear where Lycurgus’ mother, Verlinda Claggett Offutt (1795-1868), is buried.  There is no marker for her at Frankfort Cemetery and she’s not listed on Joel’s obelisk marker.



Lakeport Technical Reports

Technical Report #1:  Parge Coating 
Technical Report #2:  Chimneys 
Technical Report #3:  Foundation & Footers
Technical Report #4:  Windows
Technical Report #5:  Shingled Roof
Technical Report #6:  Guttering & Sheet Metal Work
Technical Report #7:  Cornice, Siding & Paint
Technical Report #8:  Lakeport Porches
Technical Report #9:  Braced Frame Construction
Technical Report #10:  Smokehouse & Mechanicals

Dendrochronology Report:  David W. Stahle and Matthew D. Therrell, Tree-Ring Dating of the Lakeport Plantation House and Shed, Chicot County, Arkansas, May 2003

Archeological Investigations at Lakeport Plantation: Randall Guending, May 2003

Technical Reports are also planned for the brick walkway, plaster work, shutters, restoration of the exterior doors, mantels, and rose window.



May is Preservation Month — Lakeport Technical Reports Made Available

The National Trust for Historic Preservation declares each May National Preservation Month.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating America’s Treasures.”  City and county officials throughout Arkansas have recognized the month and made their own preservation declarations.

Yesterday, the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas announced “The Most Endangered Places in Arkansas” aka “Seven to Save.”  There is a video of the announcement on Facebook or you can read about the seven on Rex Nelson’s Southern Fried Blog .  The announcement has no power to save these sites, but it does raise awareness of historic places and generates public, technical, and financial support.

Lakeport was never on the Preservation Alliance’s most endangered list–although, the H. L. Mitchell/Clay East Building, now ASU’s Southern Tenant Farmers Museum, was on the list in 2000.  Lakeport was in need of expert restoration work.  Much of the technical work for the restoration was documented and complied into technical reports.  Sonya Walker (formally of the Lakeport project) has authored eight technical reports on parge coating; chimneys; foundation and footers; windows; shingled roof; guttering and sheet metal work; cornice, siding, and paint; and smokehouse and mechanicals.  Reports on dendrochronology and historic archeology have also been authored.

For Preservation Month these reports are being posted online.  Today, there are links for the first three reports and I’ll continue posting more each day.

Lakeport Plantation Technical Reports:

Technical Report #1:  Parge Coating 
Technical Report #2:  Chimneys 
Technical Report #3:  Foundation & Footers
Technical Report #4:  Windows
Technical Report #5:  Shingled Roof
Technical Report #6:  Guttering & Sheet Metal Work
Technical Report #7:  Cornice, Siding & Paint
Technical Report #8:  Lakeport Porches
Technical Report #9:  Braced Frame Construction
Technical Report #10:  Smokehouse & Mechanicals

Dendrochronology Report:  David W. Stahle and Matthew D. Therrell, Tree-Ring Dating of the Lakeport Plantation House and Shed, Chicot County, Arkansas, May 2003

Archeological Investigations at Lakeport Plantation: Randall Guending, May 2003

Technical Reports are also planned for the brick walkway, plaster work, shutters, restoration of the exterior doors, mantels, and rose window.



Lakeport’s Piano Returns

Lakeport’s original piano, a ca. 1869 J.A. Gray square grand and centerpiece of entertaining during the post-war era, returned to the house on the evening of June 14th. The piano was donated back to Lakeport by the Epstein-Angel family after spending roughly the last 60 years in storage at the Epstein Cotton Gin in Lake Village. Bradshaw Piano Services of Conway, Arkansas restored the piano.


The piano first shows up on the Johnson’s county taxes in 1870. Before that date, there likely was no piano in the house. As the Johnson’s moved into the house in 1860, they were still decorating, until the war interrupted their plans. We know much of the interior paintwork was not complete by the start of the War; it is also likely that the Johnsons were not able to completely furnish the home until after the war.

Shortly after the war, Amanda Worthington (1845-1896) in an August 25, 1865 diary entry, did describe music during her visit to Lakeport, but no piano. At “Aunt Lydia’s” house, she says, we “spent a very pleasant evening, danced several sets, talked and had music from several sources–we had a nice supper too.” At the nearby home of Lycurgus’s father and mother, Amanda does mention their piano: “we would run out of conversation in the daytime and after every body had played on the piano we would be at a loss what to do…Linnie & Fanny Davis both played splendidly on the piano and we made them play a great deal. ” (Worthington 2008 : 92)

Tom DeBlack has noted, the Johnsons began to get their financial feet back around 1870 making Lycurgus again “leading planter” in Chicot County. As the piano was added to the taxable property, so was a gold watch and a pleasure carriage (DeBlack 2002: 32).

Annie Taylor Worthington (1875-1963), daughter of Mary Jane Johnson and Isaac M. Worthington,
Annie Taylor Worthington, ca. 1880
Jr., began learning the piano during the time she lived at Lakeport–1876-1888. Her granddaughter, Annie Paden, remembers her playing piano beautifully, playing for her own pleasure” and at “weddings and special occasions throughout her adult life.”

The 1500 lb piano was likely left in the house in 1917, when Victor Johnson and his family moved to Greenville, Mississippi. There it stayed until the fall of 1950, when Alvin Ford and his family moved into the home. It was then moved to the Epstein Gin and put in storage.

When Lakeport received the piano, it had been sitting on its side for 60 years; rodents had chewed on some of the wood; the legs were detached with some damage; the piano’s lid was completely split; strings were broken, and the piano’s rosewood finish was unrecognizable.

Bradshaw Piano Services of Conway was selected to do a museum quality restoration of the piano. Barry and Phyllis Bradshaw have over 75 years of combined work in the piano restoration and quality control. Bradshaw Piano disassembled the piano, replaced missing rosewood veneer, cleaned and re-plated hardware, repaired damaged legs, restrung the piano, replaced blue steel tuning pins…(the list goes on)..,and restored the rosewood finish (matching the faux rosewood doors in the home).

We are excited to have the piano back at Lakeport. It is beautifully restored and again a centerpiece in the home. We hope you come out to see it.


P.S. Our next event will be Barry Bradshaw talking about restoring the piano. Time and Date still to be determined.



Lakeport Adds Plantation Bell to its Collection

On Monday, December 14, 2009, Dr. Hal Rucks Sessions III and his wife Marilyn presented the 1856 Luna Plantation Bell to the Lakeport Plantation Museum. The bell will be on permanent display on the grounds of the antebellum Lakeport home.

The 1200 lb Luna Plantation Bell is ornately decorated with lyres, cherubs and roses. It was cast at the Buckeye Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio by George W. Coffin. It has not been back in Chicot County since the around 1880, when it left Luna Plantation for the Glen Aubin Plantation in Coahoma County, Mississippi.

Daniel and Richard Sessions, brothers, came to Chicot County in the 1840s from Natchez, Mississippi. The brothers owned Luna Plantation, north of Lake Chicot, from about 1844 until 1878. The Johnsons of Lakeport knew Luna and the Sessions very well. Lydia Johnson’s sister, Theodosia Taylor Sessions, was married to Daniel Sessions. In addition, the only known surviving letter from Lycurgus to Lydia was written to her while she was visiting the Sessions at Luna and he was on a steamer headed for Lexington, Kentucky.




Archeology Week at Lakeport

During the week of February 16 to 20, archeologists from the Arkansas Archeological Survey and the Lakeport Restoration Team members flocked to Lakeport to try to answer burning historical questions about the antebellum layout of the plantation. Skip Stewart-Abernathy, a survey archeologist stationed at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute atop Mt. Petit Jean, led the project. Dr. Stewart-Abernathy, who first visited Lakeport in 1984, specializes in historic archeology.

Lycurgus Johnson constructed Lakeport ca. 1859, just at the end of the antebellum period. Lycurgus built his house just north of Joel Johnson’s house—his father. Joel Johnson arrived at that location in 1831 with 23 slaves. By 1860, Lycurgus, after consolidating his father’s holdings with his own. had over 4,000 acres of land and 155 slaves.

An antebellum cotton plantation like the Johnson’s is typically centralized with enslaved labor (i.e. slaves) occupying the “quarters” and the master occupying the “Big House.” The master employed an overseer who supervised gangs of labor who worked to grow and then pick cotton. A post-Civil War plantation looks a lot different. Land ownership usually didn’t change (as was the case with Lakeport), but labor arrangements to grow cotton did change dramatically. Now free, the labor that once grew and picked cotton in gang labor transitioned into family units of tenant farmers and sharecroppers. These families, in a contract with the owner, farmed and lived on smaller sections of land.

On this archeological “dig,” no digging was necessary. All the land around the house is still in cultivation and had been recently plowed, giving high visibility. Crews walked the furrows looking for significant artifacts—bits of dishes, marbles, bottles, agricultural parts, etc.—all of which can be dated. Artifacts collected during the “dig” have been labeled, numbered and cataloged and will remain in the permanent collection at Lakeport Plantation. Most artifacts around the plantation dated to after the Civil War and usually represented the former tenant farmer homes that dotted the land after the Civil War until mechanization; however almost all of the antebellum artifacts, were found south of the Lakeport home around where Joel Johnson began building his plantation out of the wilderness in 1831. This leads us to believe that Lycugus kept the location of his father’s “quarters.”

This week of archeology is part of the on-going research at Lakeport Plantation and helps fulfill the mission of interpreting the people and cultures that shaped plantation life in the Mississippi River Delta during the Antebellum, Civil War, and Reconstruction periods.  We’re open Monday thru Friday with tours at 10am and 2pm.  Visit our website for directions.

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