About Gabriel Johnston
Gabriel Johnston (1699 – August 1752) was the colonial governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752, the longest-serving governor in state history.
Governor of North CarolinaIn 1734 Johnston was appointed Governor of North Carolina. He arrived to a warm welcome in early November. Johnston would marry Penelope Eden, the stepdaughter of former North Carolina Governor Charles Eden. When Penelope Johnston died, Governor Johnston married again in 1751 a widow, Frances Button.
During his tenure as governor, Johnston presided over a colony short of cash, hampered by bitter partisanship in its assembly, threatened by Spanish privateers who plundered the coast, and in disagreement over land rights and taxes. He came under pressure for allegedly not corresponding with British authorities in London, but he cleared his name. Johnston encouraged thousands of immigrants to settle in North Carolina (the first of which were Highland Scots), oversaw the first printing of the laws of the colony, and pushed legislation strengthening the Anglican Church. He was a firm defender of union with Britain, in the face of a growing sentiment for independence. Johnston studied medicine but is supposed to have not practiced.
Many of the Scots who settled in North Carolina at Johnston's encouragement came to the colony as refugees following the defeat of the Jacobite Rising of 1745, crushed by the British Army at the Battle of Culloden. When news of the victory of the British Army at Culloden came to North Carolina, Johnston refused to order a celebration. Instead, reading the dispatch containing the news and seeing the names of rebels killed in the battle, he sighed deeply and said, "I see here the names of many of the friends of my childhood and of my youth." This incident is recounted in the biography of Johnston written by Stephen E. Massengill for the North Carolina Department of Archives and History. Besides offering toleration and a refuge to these Scottish political dissidents, Johnston is also remembered for trying to protect the rights of Native Americans to hold their ancestral lands in North Carolina.
Governor Johnston died in August 1752 in Chowan County, North Carolina. Johnston married Penelope Eden, the daughter of Governor Charles Eden. His grandson was Congressman William Johnston Dawson.
Johnston County, North Carolina is named after him.