Historical Marker #1125 in Johnson County commemorates the naming of the county after Richard Mentor Johnson, a lawyer, soldier, and U.S. Vice President.
Johnson was born on October 17, 1781, at Beargrass, a frontier settlement in present-day Louisville. That same year, the Johnson family moved to Bryan's Station in Fayette County. Johnson had almost no formal education until he was fifteen, when he enrolled at Transylvania University. He later studied law.
In 1802, Johnson began practicing law in Scott County. Two years later, he began representing that county in the Kentucky General Assembly. In 1807, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Johnson, who cast a vote in favor of the War of 1812 with Great Britain, was commissioned colonel in the U.S. Army. Johnson and his Mounted Riflemen from Kentucky were dispatched to the Canadian border in early 1813. On October 5, they fought in the Battle of Thames. Johnson, who was wounded in the action and reputedly killed the Native American chief Tecumseh, became a national hero. In 1814, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, remaining there for five years, when he returned to the Kentucky legislature.
Johnson's second foray into national politics came when he completed the term of Senator John J. Crittenden after Crittenden's resigned in 1819. Johnson remained in the U.S. Senate until 1837, when he was elected Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren.
Johnson was defeated four years later in his reelection bid. He returned to Scott County and, in 1841, again served in the state legislature. Although Johnson retired in 1843, he was again elected to the General Assembly in 1850. He served there until his death on November 19, 1850.
Located in eastern Kentucky, Johnson County is named in honor of Richard Mentor Johnson and his contributions to Kentucky and the United States. The county was formed in 1843 from parts of Floyd, Lawrence, and Morgan Counties.