Littlejohn, John




First Name


Last Name




Name in Index

Littlesoles or Littlejohn (?) John

Person Biography

Although folio 106 mentions a taxman named “Wm Littlejohn,” he is likely John Littlejohn, the “Mr Littlejohn” who appears on the following folio in that capacity and the “John Littlejohn” on folio 100. Littlejohn was a Methodist reverend who was also variously a farmer, a land agent, an assistant shopkeeper, a county sheriff, and, perhaps most significantly for Mary Mason and her household in 1815 and 1816, a collector of federal revenue. A Leesburg resident from 1778 to 1818, Littlejohn was by 1814 a tax collector for the twenty-second district of Virginia, a role that he occupied until he moved to Kentucky in 1818. In 1789, the First Federal Congress gave the president the power to nominate federal customs officers, including revenue collectors. Although some contemporaries observers expressed concerns about the character of the men who would put their names forward for appointment, their fears of greedy and corrupt tax collectors soon proved largely unfounded. Littlejohn himself was apparently so trusted a member of the Loudoun community that he was called upon to help protect the federal archives after they were moved from Washington to Leesburg during the War of 1812. 

As a local tax collector, Littlejohn was part of a relatively small group of officers who periodically collected federal revenue from neighbors based on the value of their houses, lands, and enslaved workers. Although the federal government had withdrawn from direct and excise taxation during the Jefferson administration, it revived those methods of revenue collection in 1813, 1815, and 1816 to help finance the War of 1812. Account book entries from those years show that Mary Mason paid such taxes to Littlejohn. Littlejohn remained a tax collector after 1816, but no other direct federal taxes were levied in his lifetime, so it is unlikely he interacted with his neighbors in that capacity again.

Although Littlejohn was a fixture of the Leesburg community for forty years, much of his life was defined by migration and movement. Born near England’s Scottish border in 1756, as a boy he entered an apprenticeship in London, nearly three hundred miles away. In 1767, he emigrated without his family to Virginia’s Chesapeake region, where he traveled from town to town, apprenticing in various trades. By 1776, he was an itinerant Methodist preacher; for two years, he proselytized throughout Maryland and Virginia and as far south as North Carolina. In December 1778, he married Monica Talbott, and the two settled in Leesburg. For the next four decades, Littlejohn served as a local preacher, ministering at marriages, funerals, sickbeds, prayer gatherings, class meetings, and regular church services. In the fall of 1818, he moved with his family, including children John and Edmund, born 1793 and 1799, to Louisville, Kentucky; he lived in various parts of the state until his death in 1836, although he periodically returned to Loudoun.

During these visits, the first of which was in 1819, he called on old friends, preached at his old church, performed more marriages, conveyed news from Kentucky, and went into Washington City for business.

By Adam Nubbe