Johnson, D.J. Papers 1914-1942







MSS 2009





July 2009


Background Note

            D.J. (Dave) Johnson was an African American Cocoa resident from at least 1913 through 1942 and was an early African American property and business owner in the area.  Remarkably, his father Peter Johnson also owned property in Cocoa and was likely one of the earliest African Americans to do so.  According to, the 1920 Federal Census estimates the year of DJ’s birth as 1881, and granddaughter Betty Wilson-Wright reports that he worked for a local lumber company for many years [April 29, 2009, conversation with author].  In his forties, according to Polk’s Cocoa and Brevard County Directory: 1926-1927 Buyer’s Guide and a Complete Classified Business Directory, D.J. and wife Nettie owned a grocery store at 227 Magnolia Street (presently Stone Street), next door to their residence at 225 Magnolia Street.  Other Johnsons (presumably children or other relatives) listed as residents at the same address include: son David J. Jr., daughter Betty, Tempe, and David L. [sic] [R.L. Polk & Co., Publishers 1926, 86].   Betty Wilson-Wright reports that an adoptive daughter/cousin named Davie Lee was part of the household [April 29, 2009, conversation with author].  Property tax records in this collection document that D.J. Johnson had purchased other real property in Cocoa at least as early as 1913.  However, he purchased the Magnolia Street property from his daughter Bertha Johnson in 1920 and, according to Steve Rajtar’s Guide to the Cocoa-Rockledge Historical Trail, opened the business there in approximately 1924. 

 Scope and Content

           This collection comprises primarily a selection of financial and legal records of D.J. Johnson.  The papers document Johnson’s marriage to Nettie Robeson (also known as Nettie Brown) at the St. Paul Baptist Church (1917) and real property ownership of D.J. Johnson, Nettie (Brown/Robeson) Johnson, heirs of Betty Brown (presumably the mother or other relative of Nettie Brown Johnson), the estate of Peter Johnson (D.J.’s father), and Bertha Johnson (D.J.’s daughter).

              In a conversation with the author on April 29, 2009, Johnson’s granddaughter Betty Wilson-Wright confirmed that he was buried at the Colored Cemetery of Cocoa (currently known as the Cocoa Hilltop Cemetery) from whence he received correspondence on at least one occasion in 1925.  However, the records in this collection do not include substantive information about dates or places of birth or death nor professional or social history.  Just one envelope in the collection suggests that, at least in 1928, Johnson may have been a member of the Florida Colored Merchants, Inc. (Sanford).  Furthermore, the limited selection of copies of supplemental documents which were obtained from the Brevard County Clerk of Courts and included here (warranty deeds and general parcel information) do not document sale or inheritance of most properties Johnson owned.  Some additional information about D.J. Johnson and his family may be located in The Florida Historical Society’s local newspapers collection, especially The Cocoa Tribune and The Script.


               These manuscripts were donated to the Florida Historical Society by local military and nautical antiques collector Donald Ball and accepted as authentic by archivist Debra Wynne in 2008.      


            Documents are grouped by series in alphabetically arranged folders (with the exception of the donor letter and supplemental documents) and arranged chronologically within each folder.


            There are no access restrictions.  Documents are stored in melinex sleeves, and metal fasteners have been removed where such removal posed no risk of damage.  Documents have also been scanned and will be available via the Florida Historical Society webpage.  

Subject Headings

            African American History - 20th century

            Cocoa (Fla.) - Early history - 20th century - Real property ownership

            Cocoa (Fla.) - Early history - 20th century - Stone Street Historic District

            Johnson, D.J. (David J.) - Archives   

            Johnson, Nettie Brown (aka Robeson)

            Johnson, Bertha

            Shepard and Wahl, Attorneys and Counselors at Law - Cocoa, FL

Folder 1

            Donor letter from Donald Ball to the Florida Historical Society (2008) indicating that the documents in this collection were purchased at an area flea market.

Folder 2

            Cancelled checks – four items drawn on the Bank of Cocoa (1922-1923) and The Brevard County State Bank (1924) payable to Brevard County Tax Collector Harry Wilson (1922), Trafford and Field Realty, Inc. (1922 and 1923), and The Brevard County State Bank (1924). 

Folder 3 

            Correspondence – a letter from Brevard County Tax Collector Harry Wilson regarding Nettie Brown Johnson’s purchase of Betty Brown Heirs’ tax certificate (1922) and three letters regarding assignments of mortgage and fire insurance coverage (1928) between Johnson, a Mr. McAllister at Shepard and Wahl Attorneys and Counselors at Law, Treasurer H.G. McAllister at the Cocoa Bond and Mortgage Co., and Circuit Court Clerk N.T. Froscher.

Folder 4 

            Marriage license for the February 8, 1917 wedding of D.J. Johnson and Nettie Robeson performed by Pastor J.N. Stokes at the St. Paul Baptist Church.

Folder 5

            Miscellanea – including:

envelopes addressed to Johnson from the Colored Cemetery of Cocoa (1925), Florida Colored Merchants, Inc. (1928), the Circuit Court in Titusville (1937), and Florida Power and Light Co. (1939); and

receipts for sewer connections (1926), an information search conducted by Circuit Court Clerk N.T. Froscher (1931), and Georgia Hinton’s (Relation Unknown) Pledge for Regular Investment in Defense Savings Bonds to the Colored World War Veterans (1942).

Folder 6

            Mortgage, title, deed, and insurance documents – including:

an abstract of title (compiled by the Brevard Abstract and Title Insurance Company) and  a warranty deed for the Fannings Subdivision property (1925);

a mortgage deed and a mortgage note from the Cocoa Bond and Mortgage Company for the Lapham’s Addition property (1928);

an opinion on title for the Lapham’s Addition property issued by Shepard and Wahl Attorneys and Counselors at Law (1928);

an assignment of mortgage from the Cocoa Bond and Mortgage Company for the Lapham’s Addition property (1928);

a Satisfaction of Mortgage issued by the Title Certificate Corporation for the Lapham’s Addition property (1928); and

a one thousand-dollar policy issued by the Virginia Fire and Maine Insurance Company for the dwelling and furniture at the Magnolia Street residence (1939 – 1942).  

Folder 7

            Poll tax receipt – for 1927 capitation or poll tax of one dollar assessed by Brevard County Election District 21 and paid on May 27, 1928.

Folder 8

            Property tax notices/bills and receipts for real property at: 

South 1/2 Lot 10, Section 33, Township 24, Range 36 East of Railroad Right of Way of West Hardee’s Plot in Indian River City on Oleander Street in the original  City of Cocoa (sold by Percy Lee and Martha Kershaw and Gibbs and Cornie Stephens in 1913);

Southeast ¼ of Lot 17, Section 33, Township 24, Range 36 of Hardee’s Plat of Indian River City (later owned by Nettie Brown Johnson) in the original City of Cocoa, although one bill for taxes (for 1921) to heirs of Betty Brown and were apparently paid  at the same time Johnson paid those for the Lapham’s Addition property in 1925;

five acres ­­­­­­­at West ½ of Lot 6, South half of the Southwest quarter of Section 30 and North half of Northwest quarter of Section 31, Township 24, Range 36 of  Fannings Subdivision (purchased from William E. and Alice Stockwell in 1925);

Lot 2, Block D, Section 33, Township 24, Range 36 in Lapham’s Addition to Cocoa in  River City, including 225 Stone Street which was sold by Henry Capehart to D. J.‘s daughter Bertha Johnson in 1916 and for which she paid had 1917 taxes prior to sale to D.J. Johnson, under the guardianship of Frank Johnson, in 1920; and

160 acres at the Southeast ¼ Lot D, Block E4, Section 6, Township 1South, Range 11East in Cocoa  which were co-owned by D.J. Johnson and Estate of his father Peter Johnson. 

Folder 9

            Tax return – for personal property valued at $330.00 filed on July 1, 1923.

Folder 10

            Supplemental documents from the Brevard County Clerk of Courts and Property Appraiser – includes copies of warranty deeds and general parcel information for properties as referenced above (in Folder 8: Property tax notices/bills and receipts) in addition to:

Lots 1-13, Block 5 and Lots 1-5, Block 6 of College Park Subdivision of Sections 32 and 33, Township 24, South of Range 36 purchased by D.J. and Nettie Johnson with Henry W. and Lucile Knight from A.O. and Viva Lapham in 1923;

Block E and Lots 5-8 of Block F of Gus C. Edwards Re-Subdivision of Hendry Addition of Cocoa, sold by D.J. and Nettie Johnson and Henry W. and Lucile Knight to R.E. Parnell in 1925;

Lots 10 and 11 of Barlow’s subdivision of the South part of the North half of the Northwest quarter of Section 32, Township 24, South of Range 36, purchased by Dave Johnson from William and Alice Stockwell in 1930; and

Lot 7, Block 5 in the College Park Addition to Cocoa purchased by D.J. Johnson from E. Wright Taylor in 1930.



1920 United States Federal Census Search Result for David Johnson. Ancestry Library Edition. 
[accessed July 13, 2009].

Rajtar, Steve. Cocoa-Rockledge Historical Trail. Steve Rajtar's GeoCities Home Page. 
[accessed July 15, 2009].

L. Polk & Co., Publishers. 1926. Polk’s Cocoa and Brevard County directory: 1926-1927 Buyer’s guide and a complete classified business
         directory. Jacksonville, FL: R.L. Polk & Co., Publishers.