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Zechariah Johnston papers

Identifier: WLU-Coll-0006

Scope and Contents

The Zechariah Johnston papers includes personal, business, political correspondence to and from Zechariah Johnston. Correspondents include family members and notable Virginians of his era. The collection also includes correspondence received by Thomas and James Johnston. In addition to correspondence, the collection includes resolutions, bills, petitions, and notices of or concerning the Virginia Assembly during Johnston’s tenure as a delegate from Augusta County (1778-1792) and Rockbridge County (1797-1798). This includes Johnston’s copy of an unsigned manuscript draft titled “Memorial and Remonstrance” by James Madison concerning religious freedom and his arguments for separation of church and state. There are also deeds and property descriptions, tax rolls, business and account records, including documents pertaining to enslaved persons owned by Johnston; business and accounting records (1796-1845) of Thomas Johnston, a son of Zechariah Johnston, two letters from William Graham, first rector of Liberty Hall Academy, to Zechariah Johnston, and the will and estate inventory of Ann Johnston. Other highlights include student notes or lectures from Liberty Hall Academy, a poem to reverends William Graham and Samuel Houston, and a petition from Augusta County residents to the Virginia Assembly regarding fishing rights in the South River. There are ephmeral items as well.


  • Creation: 1747-1893

Conditions Governing Use

The materials from Washington and Lee University Special Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user assumes full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used should be fully credited with the source. Permission for publication of this material, in part or in full, must be secured with the Head of Special Collections.

Biographical / Historical

"Zachariah Johnston was born in 1742 in Augusta County, Virginia, to William Johnston and Ann Johnston. He attended Liberty Hall Academy and later was a trustee of Washington College. Johnston was a prosperous farmer by the time the American Revolution began. In 1776, he was appointed a captain in the county militia. Johnston's company actively patrolled against Indian uprisings, and, in 1781, participated in the Virginia campaign which led to Lord Cornwallis' surrender. Representing Augusta County in the House of Delegates from 1778 to 1791, Johnston was chair of the House committee on religion and helped pass the "act for establishing religious freedom" in 1786. After he moved to Rockbridge County, Virginia, in 1792, he represented that county in the House of Delegates in 1792 and 1797-1798. An opponent of paper money, and a proponent of court reform and payment of British debts, Johnston supported the federal Constitution in 1788. As Augusta County's representative to the ratifying convention, he was influential in having his section of the state unanimously vote for ratification. In the 1790s, Johnston was interested in connecting Virginia's western rivers to the Potomac River. Johnston owned three plantations in Rockbridge County, one in Augusta County, and lands in Kentucky. He married Ann Robertson (d. 1818), and they had eleven children. He died 7 January 1800 in Rockbridge County." - Library of Virginia


2.5 Linear Feet (2 document cases, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Two letters were a gift from John A. Graham.

Separated Materials

Zechariah Johnston's personal copy of a manuscript draft of James Madison's "Memorial and Remonstrance" has been separated and housed separate from the collection but a printed scan is provided within the collection. Please see a member of staff for assistance.

Zechariah Johnston papers
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Washington and Lee University, University Library Special Collections and Archives Repository

204 W. Washington St.
Lexington VA 24450 USA