The Memoir of Postmaster General Cave Johnson


This post has to do with the ancestry of my great-grandmother, Margaret “Maggie” Lillian Johnson McKeown. In her ancestry, she has Johnson, Nettles, Green, McNeely, McKain, Lauderdale, Noel, Simmons, Singletary, Holman, Smithers, Bass, and Harrell. She married James Thomas McKeown, and they had ten children together. All of the children lived to adulthood.  Two cannot be seen in the photo. The youngest pictured is a grandson. My grandfather, Willie Green McKeown, is standing directly behind his father. The family lived mostly in Lee County, Texas, and in Cherokee County, Texas.

Maggie’s father was Cave Johnson (1824-1876), an early settler of Beaumont, Texas.  Maggie’s mother was Margaret Elizabeth Nettles, who has known Nansemond (Native American) ancestry through the Bass family.      

Cave came to Texas from Tennessee as a teenager, got land, and settled in Jefferson County. He was a prominent hotel keeper, boat captain (on the Laura), and public servant.

Below is a photo of their home/hotel and a tree that Cave Johnson planted.  It was later known in Beaumont as “The O’Brien Oak” because George O’Brien bought the property.  The photo of the house and tree was taken many years after his death.  It had to be cut down in the 1970s due to disease.  

Letter from the Texas Land Office

Reasons for Writing

There was another Cave Johnson (1826-1922) in Texas around the same time and the same age. He is NOT directly related through any known legitimate line. His death certificate says his father was “unknown” and his mother was a Miss Shote (possibly Choat). His descendants have tried to claim the same family connections, without evidence. Both of these Cave Johnsons served in the Confederacy in Texas, so it really does get confusing trying to sort them out.

It should be noted that there were many boys all over the country who were named Cave Johnson. That is because Maggie’s father, Cave Johnson, was the nephew of Postmaster General and former Congressman from Tennessee, Cave Johnson. He is the tall man pictured here in the James K. Polk Cabinet. I am including his memoir in this post in order to prove family relationships. It was published in the book Picturesque Clarksville (Tennessee), published in 1887 and available at

I am writing about this because of my recent interest in Lewis “Bear” Green‘s connection to my family. There is a lot of speculative nonsense out there about Lewis Green’s ancestors, and I won’t publish any of it here. Take note: I have found no evidence that he was part of the “Red Greens” of Culpeper County, Virginia.

The pedigree below explains the family relationships, and I am hopeful that Postmaster General Cave Johnson’s memoir will shed further light on many of the individuals listed. I got into the DAR based on his grandfather, Henry Johnson. His father was Brig. General Thomas Johnson, and his brother was my ancestor Henry Minor Johnson, M.D.

Excerpts from the Memoir

[William’s wife’s name (below) was probably Dianna Adams, not Morgan.]

[See below: Henry M. Johnson married Sallie Green, sister of Colonel Lewis Green . . .Note that this brother signed her marriage bond to Henry M. Johnson.]

. . . The rest of the memoir is mostly about Postmaster General Cave Johnson’s political career and can be found here.

Documents Related to Henry M. Johnson and Sarah “Sallie” Green

1830 Fayette County, Tennessee, Census. It is assumed Sarah Green Johnson had other family members living with her.


The document below explains what I knew back in 2016.  I NOW believe it is a certainty that Sally Green Johnson’s father was Zachariah Green (Abt. 1760-1840), and her grandfather was Lewis Green (1724-1784).

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