Charles A. Johnson
was born Charles Gustus Johnson in 1865 in Sweden.
He was educated at the University of Stolkholm and
was fluent in languages. He immigrated from Stolkhom
to America and came to Pennsylvania, where he was
later naturalized. Charles A. Johnson was called
Charlie, or sometimes referred to as Charlie "the
Charlie came to Southwest Virginia with the railroad
to build stone trestles for the train tracks. There
he became a stone mason and contractor of some note.
In Big Stone Gap, he built the
Ayers Home from sandstone and limestone cut from nearby Stone
Mountain. While building the Ayers Mansion, Charlie met and fell
in love with Rufus Ayers' housekeeper, Zella Missouri Payne.
Zella was originally from Happy Valley, Tennessee, and according
to family oral history, was related to Davy Crockett. Charlie
and Zella lived in the Cadet section of Big Stone Gap. They had
four children: Charles R. Johnson, Hattie Elizabeth Johnson,
Mary Johnson, and Grace Johnson.
addition to the Museum, Charlie Johnson built several
other stone structures in the area. He built many of the
stone walls in Wise County, including the wall and
fountain at Glencoe Cemetary. He also built the stone
structures at the Wise County Poor Farm. Today, these
are the original stone buildings of the University of
Virginia's College at Wise.
Charlie Johnson is
fondly remembered for building the three stone buildings
of the Big Stone Gap public school. Unfortunately, these
magnificent buildings were torn down. The head stone and
architect's stone were donated to the Museum and can be
viewed on our Walk of the
Charlie Johnson died
in 1937. He is buried in Glencoe Cemetary, lovingly
surrounded by the monuments to his craftsmanship.