Mary Stover

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Mary Stover (Johnson)

Also Known As: "stover", "brown"
Birthdate: (50)
Birthplace: Greeneville, Greene, Tennessee, USA
Death: April 19, 1883 (46-54)
Bluff City, Sullivan, Tennessee, USA
Place of Burial: Greeneville, Greene County, Tennessee, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the USA and Eliza Johnson, First Lady
Wife of William Ramsey Brown and Col. Daniel Stover, USA
Mother of Lilly Mae Maloney; Eliza Johnson Stover; Sarah Drake Bachman and Andrew Johnson Stover
Sister of Martha Patterson; Charles Johnson, MD, USA; Brig. Gen. Robert Johnson (USA) and Andrew "Frank" Johnson, Jr.

Managed by: Joseph William Thomas
Last Updated:

About Mary Stover

Mary Johnson Stover Brown


8 May 1832

Greeneville, Tennessee


Odd Fellows Female Institute, Rogersville, Tennessee (approximately, 1850-1851). While the exact course of study taught to Mary Johnson in undocumented, it is know that a prominent southern portrait painter Samuel Shaver was teaching at the Institute while she was a student there. It is known that she, like her sister, had pursued her studies with the intention of becoming a school teacher, though she never did so. Located in what was the second-oldest town in the state, it is a distance of some 32 miles from Greeneville, where her family lived; too far to commute daily, she boarded in the town there.


27 April 1852, Greeneville, Tennessee, to Colonel Daniel Stover, Jr. plantation owner, (born 14 November 1826, Carter County, Tennessee, killed 18 December 1864, Nashville, Tennessee). How Mary Johnson and Daniel Stover met is unclear, but it would have taken place at the time she was completing her formal education.

Mary Stover married secondly, 20 April 1869, to William Ramsey Brown, merchant, (dates and place of birth and death unknown), divorced, 1876


Three children, two daughters, one son: Lily Stover (11- May 1855 – 5 November 1892); Sarah Drake Stover (27 June 1857 – 22 March 1886); Andrew Johnson Stover (6 March 1860 – 25 January 1923)

Early Years

Mary Johnson’s father-in-law (William Stover) and Abraham Lincoln were both great-nephews of Isaac Lincoln, who owned extensive farm property and African-American slaves in Carter County, Tennessee. Abraham Lincoln’s father, Thomas Lincoln worked on the property as a farmhand and also courted Nancy Hanks. Tradition holds that prior to departing for Kentucky they lived briefly as common-law spouses in a stone cabin there. The property passed into the Stover line to Mary Johnson’s husband and then, upon his death, to her solely. Former President Andrew Johnson died here.

In 1861, Stover was among the first Union supporters in his region who volunteered for a brigade known as the “The Bridge Burners,” which identified and destroyed the bridges which were primarily used to transfer Confederate supplies. On 8 November 1861, he led the burning of the Holston River. For this he was hunted down, targeted for capture by Confederate troops. This forced Stover and his men to seek refuge in the caves of the nearby mountains during the subsequent winter months and he contracted tuberculosis. Most of the other men were among the working poor with families unable to provide their own sustenance. Mary Stover directed that her farm’s livestock be slaughtered to keep the families fed. Not wanting to tip off the Confederates searching for the militia in the mountains, however, often inhibited her from smuggling the food baskets she and her mother prepared for them. Many often starved or froze to death in the mountains, a fact which weighed heavily on her.

After her husband managed to obtain permission to pass through enemy lines, Mary Stover escorted her mother to Kentucky, while Daniel helped raise a regiment of Tennessee volunteers who had fled across the state line. Upon her husband’s death, she returned to their farm and found the buildings destroyed and the food reserves depleted. Widowed, she and her three children lived with her parents in Nashville. After their father became President, Martha Patterson proceeded to join him in Washington while Mary Stover remained behind in Tennessee with her brothers, mother, three children, one niece and one nephew.

White House Years

A month after arriving in Washington with her family entourage, Mary Stover returned home for twenty days, on 3 October 1865, to receive her late husband’s remains from a temporary holding place and arrange for his burial. When she returned to the White House, Mary Stover served two designated roles in the Andrew Johnson Administration. Her primary one was to manage the five small children who lived in the White House and integrate them the President’s day as well as the public life of the mansion.

Through his grandchildren, Andrew Johnson drew comfort and anticipated the distraction from his contentious work as President. While Mary Stover insured that he was not interrupted when he worked, she had the children gathered and ready to spend time with him in the evenings, after their dinner. During the day, she arranged with local school and music tutors to instruct them, with the orders for reasonable quiet since the executive offices shared the same floor as the family rooms. After their training, they were brought to spend time with Eliza Johnson, and then allowed to play outdoors or escorted to dance lessons at a studio nearby. Returned for dinner, they were then joined by the President. Mary Stover spent much of her time with the children as they proceeded with their schedules; having been trained as a school teacher, it was a task she enjoyed. The greatest personal compliment she received was being called a “judicious mother.' During the summers of 1865, 1866, 1867 and 1868, Mary Stover took her children and niece and nephew and returned to the more pastoral setting of their Tennessee home. Before leaving Washington, Mary Stover fulfilled a promise to the children of taking them on a first trip to New York City for several days.

Mary Stover instigated and arranged one of the most unique social events held at the White House. Held just weeks before the Johnson family left Washington to return home, it was ostensibly to honor the President on his birthday of 29 December 1868. Taking place at the height of the social season schedule and engaging three generations of the First Family, it generated goodwill towards the departing Administration after its years of acrimony. The official hosts were listed as “The children of the President's family,” and the event was a dinner and dance for three hundred other young children, not only the offspring of political officials and prominent Washingtonians, but those of the white working class. Any adults in attendance were there as a guest of their children, and Mary Stover was “considerably embarrassed by requests from grown people to be included among the invited.”

Held in the East Room, the central focus was a temporary stage, covered in pink cloth and festooned with holiday-season evergreen garlands. From here, the Marine Band played a series of dance music movements. In the four corners were flower-stands with small bouquets for each child. At seven in the evening, with the adults standing along the walls, a Washington dance teacher led two lines of boys and girls in; forming into couples they fell into line and began a formal promenade which mimicked those performed by adults. Eliza Johnson remained seated during the event, while the President, Martha Patterson and Mary Stover mixed among the children. After six dance performances, they proceeded to the State Dining Room for an intermission of fruits and desserts.

Her second role was one she least enjoyed; to serve as either a support hostess at those public events over which her sister Martha Patterson dominated or to substitute for her as the primary hostess. The statuesque, auburn-haired president’s daughter defied popular styles by wearing high-necked, long-sleeved and dark-colored gowns, and no jewelry.

Reserved but not a shy person, her interactions with the politically and socially prominent guests were decidedly aloof. With such guests, she resisted responding to personal questions and even well-intentioned inquiries about the First Lady, often failed to learn their names, and displayed “coldness,” towards flatterers and those offering social invitations and unsolicited advice. In reaction, many found her “distant and haughty.” Eager to usher them through the receiving line and shown out as soon as was politely possible, she became animated only as the Marine Band began playing their final selection of the evening. Afterwards, she gathered a few Tennessee friends in her upstairs room, reviewing details of her ordeal with laughter. When, at the last Johnson reception, Mary Stover became suddenly expressive in her farewell to the social leaders, many questioned her sincerity.

An otherwise unaffected person, Mary Stover’s interactions with guests of the working classes suggest that she viewed her hostess role within the political context of her father’s political philosophy and the strife of his Administration. She displayed overt warmth and fully engaged with those local seamstresses and store clerks she met at public receptions. They, in turn, felt comfortable in her presence. She was especially sensitive to visitors from rural areas, insecure and uncertain of proper behavior in the presidential mansion. Like her mother and sister, Mary Stover also strove to ascertain the well-being of the White House’s African-American and white servants and their families, and provide for any health care they might need.

After the White House

A month before the Johnson Administration ended, Mary Stover preceded her parents to Tennessee in order to ensure that new wallpapering and carpeting had been placed in their home, which had been ransacked and damaged during the Civil War.

Her second marriage, to the merchant William Brown took place just seven weeks after her father’s presidency ended. A widower, Brown had four children by his first marriage and with Stover’s three children they created a lively presence which distracted the infirm former First Lady. In the early months of their marriage, the Browns lived across the street from her parents.

At what point and for what specific reasons difficulties in her second marriage arose are not known. However, Mary Johnson Stover Brown did not divorce William Brown until after both of her parents had died. She continued to reside in northeastern Tennessee, a part of the family life of her adult children.

Death and Burial:

19 April 1883

Bluff City, Tennessee

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Mary Stover's Timeline

May 8, 1832
Greeneville, Greene, Tennessee, USA
Age 22
Age 22
Age 24
Age 27
April 19, 1883
Age 50
Bluff City, Sullivan, Tennessee, USA
Greeneville, Greene County, Tennessee, United States