Charles A. Johnson
Johnson was contracted by Rufus Ayers to build his home in Big Stone Gap.
The beautiful Victorian stone mansion, that houses the Southwest
Virginia Museum, is a legacy to the craftsmanship of Charles
Johnson and others who assisted him.
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 swede"
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.
In 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
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
Charlie Johnson died in 1937.
He is buried in Glencoe Cemetary, lovingly surrounded by the monuments
to his craftsmanship.
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