TEXT

Will of Robert Johnston

This text is a transcribed version of the will of Robert Johnston, from 1776. It shows how enslaved persons were treated as property.
Author
Robert Johnston
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching Hard History Text Library and aligns with Key Concept 4.

The following is a true copy of the will of Robert Johnston, as furnished me by the judge of Probate Court of Rowan County, North Carolina: 

In the name of God Amen, I Robert Johnston of the County of Rowan and province of North Carolina, finding myself very weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God: Calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last will and testament; that is to say, principally and first of all I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God that gave it, my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in decent Christian burial at the discretion of my Executors, nothing doubting but at the general resurrection, I shall receive the same again by the mighty power of God, and as touching such worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me within this life, I give, devise and dispose of the same in the following manner and form. 

Firstly, I give and bequeath unto my Dearly Beloved wife Elizabeth one-third part of all my personal estate, together with one negro wench named Bett, likewise her bed and furniture. 

I secondly give and bequeath unto my son William ten shillings to be paid by my Executors. 

Thirdly, I give and bequeath unto my son John ten shillings to be paid by my Executors. 

Fourthly, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Anna the sum of ten shillings to be paid by my Executors. 

Fifthly, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Margaret ten shillings to be paid by my Executors. 

Sixthly, I give unto my daughter Jean ten shillings to be paid by my Executors. 

Seventhly, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Mary one negro wench Dott. 

Eightly, I give and bequeath my daughter Cathrine fifty pounds to be paid by my Executors. 

Ninthly, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Elizabeth one negro wench named Pheby. 

Lastly, I give and bequeath unto my son Robert one negro fellow named Joa; and constitute him heir of my whole estate, entire, of all lands, monies, notes, bonds, goods, and chattles. I likewise make, ordain and constitute my wife Elizabeth and my son Robert to be my sole Executors, and I do hereby utterly disallow, revoke and disannul all and every of this former Testaments, wills, legacies, bequeaths and Executors, ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and Testament, in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the seventeenth day of December in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy six. 

Signed, sealed and pronounced as my last will and testament in presents of; 

John Luckie  

Jurat 

John Jonston 

Robert Luckie 

 

Robert Johnston 

Source
This text is in the public domain. Retrieved from http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll1/id/11196/rec/5.
Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    Whom did Robert Johnston bequeath to his wife?
    Answer
    He bequeathed Bett.
  2. Question
    Which of Johnston’s children received only money from their father’s estate?
    Answer
    William, John, Anna, Margaret, Jean and Cathrine received only money.
  3. Question
    Which of Johnston’s children received an enslaved person from their father’s estate?
    Answer
    Mary and Elizabeth received only an enslaved person. The son, Robert, received both money and an enslaved person from his father’s estate, among other things.
  4. Question
    What other major historical event(s) occurred the same year the will was ratified?
    Answer
    Answers will vary.
  5. Question
    Consider how leaving behind assets through a will can be a positive or negative legacy for beneficiaries.
    Answer
    Answers will vary.
Reveal Answers
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