Charles “Boggy” Johnson

Charles “Boggy” Johnson [1] was the father of Montford T. Johnson. Although not a First American, Boggy Johnson took part in the Removal with his Chickasaw wife, Rebekah Courtney. Absent for most of Montford Johnson's life, Boggy Johnson made the decision to contact his son by letter in the summer of 1877. Their reconciliation would prove to be beneficial in many ways for both men.

Early Life

Boggy Johnson was an English-born Shakespearean actor who came to the United States at age 19. He joined a stock performing company in Philadelphia for a tour in the south. In Mississippi, Boggy Johnson met and married a Chickasaw girl, Rebekah Courtney, whose father was Scottish, and mother was full-blood Chickasaw [2, p. 9].

Boggy and Rebekah Johnson Remove to Indian Territory

After tribal officials signed the treaty between the Choctaw and Chickasaw in 1837 at Doaksville, Boggy and Rebekah Johnson sold their property in the Chickasaw homelands and removed to Indian Territory. Charles “Boggy” Johnson received his nickname while on the [Removal trail]. After crossing the [Mississippi River], the Chickasaws found themselves mired in the marshes and swamps of Arkansas. Boggy Johnson, using a technique learned while growing up in England, organized the men into groups to cut down saplings and lay them along the route, thereby allowing the livestock and wagons to pass through the quagmires. By assisting them with getting through this boggy country, Chickasaws gave Charles Johnson the name "Boggy." [2, p. 11].

Once in Indian Territory, Boggy and Rebekah Johnson built a home near present day Connerville, Oklahoma.

Adelaide and Montford Johnson Born, Rebekah Johnson Dies

Adelaide Johnson, Rebekah and Boggy Johnson’s first child, was born on Christmas Day 1841. A son, whom they named Montford Johnson, was born in November 1843. Rebekah Johnson succumbed to ergotism soon after. She was buried in the way of her ancestors near the family home [2, p. 15].

Boggy Johnson returns to the East Alone

Boggy Johnson became dissatisfied with life in Indian Territory and decided to take the children and return to the East. Rebekah Johnson’s mother, Sallie Tarntubby or Tontubby, vehemently objected. Boggy Johnson left his young children with their mother’s family and returned to the East.

Boggy Johnson Reunites with Adelaide and Montford

Adelaide Johnson said her father never made any provision for care and support of his children. He never communicated with or saw his children until he wrote a letter to Montford Johnson in 1877, 33 years later. Montford and Adelaide Johnson agreed to meet their father right away in Denison, Texas. Montford Johnson was understandingly cool, but Adelaide Johnson, known as a peacemaker, was delighted to see her father. The three spent two days catching up on their lives’ events [2, p. 113].

Photo courtesy of the family of Montford Johnson

Boggy Johnson’s History After Indian Territory

Boggy Johnson settled in Philadelphia for a time when he left the Chickasaw Nation. He became a naturalized American citizen and met and married a woman of German descent. They had a daughter whom they named Belle, Montford and Adelaide Johnson’s half-sister.

He claimed to also have several influential friends in Washington, D. C., who turned out to be helpful when Montford Johnson, his father and his oldest son, E. B. Johnson, traveled to San Marcos (Fort Marion), Florida. They were seeking the release of Montford Johnson’s Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Caddo and Kiowa friends, whom the federal government had incarcerated there in 1875 as “examples” following the 1874-75 Red River War [2, p. 115].

Boggy History After Reuniting with Montford

Boggy Johnson insisted that his grandson, E.B. Johnson, attend school in New York City, which Montford Johnson eventually agreed to, even making one trip to visit Boggy Johnson and his wife Belle in New York City, in 1881. Boggy Johnson saw that E. B. Johnson enrolled in the School of Civil Engineering in the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. In 1882, E. B. Johnson contracted typhoid fever. Boggy Johnson and his wife saw to his hospitalization and recovery until Montford Johnson called E.B. Johnson home shortly before Montford Johnson’s death [2, p. 120].

Boggy Johnson Dies

Charles “Boggy” Johnson died in 1897 in New York City, from complications after breaking his hip. He was believed to be 78-years old at the time of his death [2, p. 264].

[1] Charles Boggy Johnson is portrayed by Dermot Mulroney in the Chickasaw Nation Productions film “Montford: The Chickasaw Rancher.” C. N. M. Relations, "The Chickasaw Rancher," Chickasaw Nation Montford, The Rancher, [Online]. Available: [Accessed 25 10 2021].

[2] N. R. Johnson, The Chickasaw Rancher, Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2001.