This is a look at the Johnson / Heffley Family history. I hope that this web page can become a collection of information and a resource for family and friends. I plan to update, and/or, correct this page as new information is discovered. Thanks for your help.

Web site manager: Eugene (Gene) D. Johnson, son of Ellsworth and Rowena Heffly Johnson. Grandson of Adam LeRoy (Roy) and Wilhelmien (Minnie) Blum Heffley, g.grandson of George and Elizabeth Gillespie Heffley, g.g.grandson of George Henry and Lucy Gordon Heffley, g.g.g.grandson of William and Mary Cain Gordon, g.g.g.g.grandson of George and ? Forbes Gordon.
This page was last updated June 12, 2004

The following article on the life of George Gordon was compiled by Alice R. Gordon, June 2004. Information for this discussion was obtained in part from the following:

"Everyday Life in Colonial America",
"The Gordon Family",
"Early Families of Southern Maryland".

for more information on the Gordon Family please go to the following pages:

Sheriff George Gordon of Frederick County (Miss. Forbes)

Gordon Family

John Gordon Manuscript

George Gordon,The Journey

George Gordon, often referred to as the first Gordon of our line to arrive in the colonies, left Scotland sometime around 1711. He supposedly left Scotland in haste due to political and/or religious reasons. It is not known if he traveled alone or with family.

George Gordon faced a long and dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. The ship he boarded, though the name is unknown, was small as compared to todayís vessels. The ship was probably less that two hundred tons and if lucky, sailed at eight miles per hour. The sea voyage could take from forty-seven to one hundred and thirty-eight days. The duration of the voyage caused shortages in drinking water and food. The food was composed of bread of ship-biscuit. salt meat, peas and cheese, all of which would keep well for many months, and it was the space required to house these staples that became the problem. Adults received the same amount of food as the sailors , saying they were to have their allowance of bread, butter, and cheese weekly, and the rest of the provisions were to be distributed daily: seven pounds of bread every week, each mess of eight to have two pieces of pork (each piece to be two pounds) with peas five days in the week, and on the other two days four pounds of beef with peas each day, or four pounds beef with a pudding, with peas for the two days, and in case the kettle could not be boiled, each passenger was to have one pound of cheese every day. The ordinary price to Maryland was six pounds.

Opportunity was available to every immigrant landing in the colonies and George Gordon was no exception. He arrived penniless at the Baltimore port with nothing more than the clothes on his back. George Gordon worked hard to improve his circumstances and recognized the tremendous potential on the eastern shore. The penniless immigrant soon became a successful businessman owning property, slaves, and a mercantile business. He expanded his horizons later in life becoming an attorney and county sheriff.

Life in the Colonies

Maryland at that time was the land of opportunity. It was settled for economic gain, and tobacco was the only cash crop of the region. Chesapeake Bay was one of the largest and most fertile marine estuaries. The coastline was deep and navigable and had a temperate climate. The area was characterized by sandy soils, long rivers reaching 159 miles inland, and peninsulas with easy access to deep water.

The average plantation in the Chesapeake Region consisted of a single family on 50 to 250 acres. If lucky they owned one or two slaves, who cost up to five yearsí gross income. The house was usually frame with riven siding and dirt floors. Servants were usually indentures or slaves.

Tobacco consumed much of the land and large plantations took the place of towns, providing the essential trades of coopers, blacksmiths, and shoemakers, as well as jobbing the smaller plantersí shipments together and selling imported goods. Towns existed only for governmental purposes, or in locations where they were necessary for trade.

Maryland Government

Before George Gordon arrived in Maryland, the colony was held by the crown. After 1715 the colony was restored to a Baltimore who was a Protestant. Assemblies were held throughout the period, with elections set for every three years.


During the colonial period, Maryland made a great effort to create towns. By the time George Gordon arrived on the eastern shore, Annapolis was the capital city. Baltimore was organized as a town of sixty-one acre lots in 1730. By about 1750, Baltimore contained only about twenty-five houses. Opportunity was there for those that were willing to seek it. George Gordon was one of those opportunists.

Population and Area

By 1715 the approximate population was 50,270 colonists, 9,530 slaves, and an unknown number of indentures. George Gordon was of the Catholic faith. During this time period there was much anti-Catholicism imposed even though it was widely tolerated in the state.

Period of Settlement

It is not known if George Gordon already had family in the colonies when he arrived. However, arriving penniless, he had to have faced innumerable difficulties. The country was wild and untamed and George was probably not prepared for what lay ahead. However, he worked hard and saved his money and soon became successful. He entered the mercantile business and expanded to other locations, specializing in imported goods. He built a fine home, married, and had a family.

It is not known how George Gordon got into the mercantile business. However, it is likely that he worked as a clerk or apprentice in this type of employment until the time he could go out on his own. As his business grew, George attained influence in the growing community. Richer merchants gained a status second only to the richest landowners. And George became a wealthy merchant. Merchants, such as George, became the sources of information about the rest of the world for a clientele who could not travel. Their ships brought together news as fast as any other means and would tie together a network from the colonies back to England.


George Gordonís first wife was Unknown Forbes. They were married in St. Maryís County, MD in 1724. George and his wife became the parents of three children, 2 girls and a son. A daughter, name unknown, is not mentioned in his will so may have died at a young age. A daughter, Mary, and a son John, completed the family circle.

Marriage, in the early eighteenth century, served one of three purposes: to produce legitimate heirs, obtain money or property, or to obtain a title. As such marriage was a business contract having nothing to do with love. At this time, marriages for love were uncommon for the upper classes. It is not known if this marriage was a business arrangement or for love. Men were generally in their majority before marriage. Marriage customs varied with religions and regions. The ceremony was usually performed in the home of either the bride or groom. The celebrants wore the finest clothes they already owned.

Because both females and males had distinct roles without duplication of effort, loss of one partner required speedy remarriage to keep the system working smoothly. Surviving spouses would often remarry shortly after their loss, regardless of gender. The first Mrs. Gordon died about 1739 or after. George remarried to Christian Black Williams in 1750 or after. The second Mrs. Gordon was a widow with a daughter named Hannah.


Educational opportunities on the eastern shore were limited. Boys often learned to read, figure, and perform necessary basic functions. George Gordon and his son would have needed to know enough math to keep books and not be cheated. Some skills taught depended on the trade, however, but bookkeeping and reading and measuring were fairly common to all.

Girls were generally taught at home. Basic letters and numbers were taught early. Advanced reading skills were acquired by reading aloud at night, often from the Bible, literature, letters, or later from newspapers. Many girls, such as George Gordonís daughter and stepdaughter, began to compile a receipt (recipe) book, which included not just food recipes, but formula for medicine and for many household processes including stain removal and dyeing. Upper-class girls might become fluent in Greek or Latin as well as English.

Food and Drink

The Americas contributed a long list of foods to the world: potatoes and tomatoes (which were not accepted until after the colonial period), turkey, maize, avocado, pears beans, pumpkins, pineapples, lima beans, chocolate, peanuts, vanilla, green and red peppers, cranberries, artichokes, and sweet potatoes. Oysters and venison were brought into common use as were the clambake and barbecue.

In England, venison was only available to the upper-class and oysters were a lower-class food. Later, the colonists would eat oysters with gusto when they were not feeding them to their hogs. It was difficult for the early colonists to break social barriers even when they were starving.

Other foods common throughout the period and probably served by the Gordonís were game birds such as: turkey, passenger pigeon, goose, quail, woodcock, and duck. Game animals included deer, bear (a good source of fat), raccoon, rabbit, muskrat, opossum, beaver (the tail was fried or broiled), turtle and squirrel. Fish were common in the deep, clear waters of the bay. Staple vegetables for the colonists included: turnips, beets, lettuce, cabbage, lentils, cauliflower and asparagus. Pigs, chickens, beef cattle, sheep and goats were all imported. Black-eyed peas came from Africa. Rice was introduced about 1720. Carrots were imported, then escaped to their wild form, Queen Anneís lace.

Traditionally the colonies viewed first mutton and then beef as their principal meat. Pork eventually became the colonialís staple. Pigs were allowed to run wild. They survived well on the acorns available from the forest. Cattle needed more maintenance, although they were also turned loose.

Most cooking during the colonial period was done in one pot. This meant that the Gordonís ate a lot of stews, or pot roasts with vegetables. Puddings, bread or plum, could be steamed in a fabric bag in or over the pot. Meat was either boiled or broiled. Frying was uncommon. The main dish was roasted or boiled meat, with many varieties of puddings. Pies and pastries were also common. Bread was more common to the lower classes who could not afford meat. Vegetables were boiled, cooking much of the nutrition out, and served salted, peppered and steaming in butter. Beer remained the principal drink, however, many drank tea or coffee, sometimes chocolate. Few colonists drank water because it could contain bacteria that might prove fatal.

Cooking Techniques

The Gordonís did most of their cooking in a large fireplace, with a fire kept blazing for boiling and a source of coals for broiling. As the familyís economic status rose, servants or slaves prepared the meals. Later, trivets became common and cooking became more controlled. A crane allowed the cook to remove the pot from the fire before lifting it, a great improvement in safety.

Kettles were rounded pots of cast iron with three short legs. They weighed up to forty pounds when full. They were used for boiling, rendering, simmering, thickening and curing. Frying was done on spiders (three legged fry pans) often with long handles, or griddles, usually suspended like a pot. The Gordonís baking was done in ovens which were located outdoors. Later, ovens were incorporated into the fireplace. Baking was done once a week.

Pottery was used in the kitchen and dairy. The glazed surface of pottery allowed for easier cleaning, especially with dairy products. Pottery became more common and was used for plates, cups, mugs, jars, bowls, and pots.

Wood was used for dough troughs, churns, dashers, butter paddles and molds, buckets, barrels, bowls, mugs, spoons, dough boxes, dry sinks, rolling pins, cheese forms, paddles, scoops and biscuit molds. These items were called treenware or treen. Other items used were pewter, glass, iron, brass, and silver.

The Gordon Home

As George Gordon became more successful, he more than likely built a fine home. A regional variation found in Maryland would have been high ceilings and chimneys placed on outside walls that allowed for cross-ventilation. Kitchens were removed from the home because of their heat. Most homes along the eastern shore were constructed of wood siding. However, more affluent families may have had brick homes. Brick walls were at least twice as expensive to erect as frame ones. The bricks were usually made on site., usually from clay derived from the basement hole. Brick walls started out thick and lost one brickís thickness at each floor.

Roof designs varied greatly during the period. The pitch of the roof varied with the interior design and the region of the country. Most eastern seaboard homes had shingles of red oak, cedar, or cypress.

Most of the interior of the Gordon home would have been nothing more than painted or whitewashed plaster over lath. In the wealthier homes, the plaster was called ďseeledĒ and might be carved into ornate shapes typical of the period. Wealthy homes might also have hair rails. Most expensive yet was wainscoting applied on the interior walls. Some full wainscoting was used, but the more common was half wainscoting, which rose only to the height of the chair rails. At the junction of the wall and ceiling, decorative moldings known as cornice or crown moldings were sometimes used.

Fireplaces were one of the dominant features in the room, both physically and socially. The mantel moldings varied greatly through the period as styles changed. Mirrors, candlesticks, and often paintings were placed on the mantel for decorative purposes.

Most interior surfaces were whitewashed or painted, including almost all pine woodwork. Whitewash was a thin, white surface treatment made of lime in water and was inexpensive. Paint made with milk was widely used, however, oil paints were not commonly used for architectural work. Colored painted surfaces were the only real source of color in most peopleís homes.

Wallpaper was commonly used, applied in one-foot-square sheets, or leather. Paper was often a single color, or it could be block printed or flocked to have texture and pattern. Leather wallpaper was very rare.

Common homes usually had dirt floors. The more affluent like the Gordonís had pine floors. Wide boards were cheaper to make, so large homes had the public spaces downstairs (front) with narrow boards, as a form of show, while the private spaces upstairs and sometimes in the rear downstairs were made with cheaper wide boards. Floorboards were quarter sawn, making them stable and tough. The better floors were of tongue and groove or lapped. Floors were commonly patched around fireplaces to repair fire damage. Very few floors were marble.

Sometime after 1710, larger sash windows began to replace casements and were incorporated into newer designs. Windows were shuttered at night and during bad weather. On frame homes the shutters were placed on the outside of the structure. On brick structures they were built into the interior wainscoting framing. Cloth was expensive. So window treatments were a great measure of wealth.

Candles were expensive, and a typical family might have only one hundred for a year. More than one candle burning at a time was considered extravagant. Most people lived by the sun, rising at dawn and going to bed at dusk. Candle wax was derived from two main sources. Beeswax was considered the best and for Catholic services (such as the Gordonís attended) was the only allowable material. The cheapest candle was made from a thin coating found on the pinhead-sized bayberry, and it took a quart of berries to yield enough wax for an inch of candle, that burned about one hour. The importance of the fireplace as a source of light cannot be overstated.

In the Gordon home, fireplaces were the most common source of heat. Fireplaces heat by radiant heat, so fires were kept burning and as much heat as possible was reflected into the room. At night fires were banked and could be fanned again in the morning. Since the Gordonís were known to have servants and slaves, their job would be to have this done before the master got up, so that the room would be warm.

For safety, no fires were kept burning in rooms that were not in use, except possibly the kitchen. Winter social patterns revolved around those rooms that were heated. Servants slept where they were assigned to work, so workshops, kitchens and offices might be monitored and kept warm. Most homes had one fire bucket for every two fireplaces. These buckets were leather, lined with pitch and kept full of water to douse any sparks that might escape. In kitchens where grease was present, an unlined bucket might hold sand. Woolen carpets or bearskin rugs were used as smoke detectors. The smell of burning hair would awaken the occupants in time to deal with the fire.

Gardens were grouped by type. Formal gardens were for entertaining as the Gordonís might have done. Kitchen gardens grew vegetables and culinary herbs and medicinal herbs. Formal gardens required a considerable amount of labor to maintain.

Colonial Clothing

During the colonial period on he eastern shores of Maryland, clothing was extremely expensive due to the high cost of cloth. Most people could afford only one or two complete outfits. Aprons protected clothing from the rigors of work. Worn-out clothes were cut up for patches. The colonial period had a number of stylistic periods. Clothing of the upper class changed the most. Working menís and womenís clothing changed very little.

An aristocratic lady, such as Mrs. Gordon, showed her wealth in her clothes. In the eighteenth century the gown was often short, open in the front below the waist, and ending at about the knees. There were many types of gowns and varied as styles changed. Hair was generally worn up, off the face. Letting oneís hair down was considered risque. Neck-length side curls were allowed. Ladies rarely wore wigs in colonial America, even though they were popular in Europe.

Gentlemenís clothing, such as George Gordon wore, also corresponded to changes in styles. Menís coats had a straight cut down the tails, and extended fully around to the front of the body. Waistcoats were long vests, shortening in length as the period progressed. It was often worn with several buttons undone to allow the stock (neck tie) to be gathered inside through the gap, or to allow a ruffle to protrude from within. Garters held up the hose and were fastened in place with buckles. The finest wigs that gentlemen wore were made of human hair, then, in descending order, yak, goat and horse mane. Heads were shaved when boys started dressing like men and once a fortnight (two weeks) after that. Styles in menís facial hair changed much in the colonial period. During the 1700ís facial all but disappeared among civilized men.

Shoes were essential to people who walked as much as the colonials did. Most shoes of the colonial period were straight-lasted, or symmetrical, made to fit either foot. They actually matched the bone structure and could be switched to equalize wear. Most shoes were fully welted, containing an outer sole, innersole and shank made of thick, heavy sole leather, which provided real support for the foot. Lighter, more flexible dancing (turned) shoes were made inside out and pulled through themselves so the stitching was hidden inside. The finest dancing shoes were made of strong, supple and expensive dog skin and could be worn out by one nightís dancing. Buckles came into style about 1700.

Cosmetics were commonly worn during the eighteenth century. Flour, white lead, orrisroot and cornstarch were common bases to produce the esthetic of a pure white face. Over these a true red rouge was used to highlight cheekbones. Lip color and rouge were made from crushed cochineal beetles. Cochineal was an expensive imported commodity and Mrs. Gordon probably possessed some of it. Country women substituted berry stains. Lampblack (carbon) was used to highlight eyebrows and lashes, which were groomed with fine combs. As a white skin tone was desirable, upper-class women like Mrs. Gordon sometimes wore masks, gloves and veils when outdoors to protect themselves from the sun and keep their skin white.

A variety of accessories were worn or carried in the colonial period. Jewelry was minimal except at formal events, where small pendants, earrings and an occasional brooch were worn. Rings were the most common. Fans were carried by both ladies and gentlemen.

Clothing was not hung up as it is done today. Instead, it was folded and laid flat in chests, on shelves in clothes presses, but a case piece with drawers or shelves behind the top doors, or in drawers. For travel it was either packed flat or rolled. Trunks and portmanteaus were the most common luggage.


During the colonial period the decorative arts show a combination of influences. Most lower classes lived simply. The number of furniture was limited in a lower class home. Chairs were rare and bed and bedsteads so expensive as to be virtually nonexistent. People slept on mats and were rolled up during the day. Chests used to store personal belongings were very simple. The wealthy, such as the George Gordon family, might use larger, bound chests with locks and might have cabinets. Cupboards or dressers were shelves sued to store cups and cooking utensils. Glass was almost nonexistent. The Gordonís might have had furniture in the following styles: Queen Anne, Chippendale and Sheraton. The furniture of the day was not known by the names listed previously.