John JOHNSON, a.k.a. Knud Sorensen Bie

Submitted by Descendant:  Pamela Newton MOORE

Knud Sorensen Bie was born 12 May 1815 in Grimstad, Norway.  At an early age he knew that he would follow in his father, grandfather, and brother’s footsteps, one day becoming a captain of the large sea vessels that visited Grimstad.  He worked his trade and while in his teens became one of the youngest master sea captains in Norway.

After achieving his master’s certification and while still in his teens, Knud decided to come to America.  He is listed as a passenger on the ship the Franklin, which arrived in the United States on 1 Oct 1831.  Knud settled in Pilot Town, Florida.  This little island village was located at the mouth of the St. Johns River and is now called Ft. George Island.  It was called Pilot Town because the local bar pilots built their homes on this island.  Here in this little village Knud found a place where he could use his skills as a ship captain.

In these early days the St. Johns River was marred with violent currents and treacherous sand bars.  Many ships were lost when they tried to navigate the river on their way to Jacksonville.  Only skilled captains could maneuver these vessels to port.  The ships masters would hire local captains, called bar pilots, who knew the river and the location of these sand bars.  It is said that Knud changed his name to John Johnson because of his love for the St. Johns River.  Johnson, as if he was the son of the river.

John Johnson was instrumental in forming the St Johns River Bar Pilot’s Association.  He built his home here and voted in Florida’s first statewide election on 26 May 1845.  He prospered as a bar pilot and businessman.  He was married three times, his first two wives died during childbirth.  He fathered at least nine children.  He died in 1884 in Pilot Town, Florida.  Many of his great and great-great grandchildren still live in the area.

John Johnson, a.k.a. Knud Sorensen Bie, was first established as a Florida Pioneer in 2011