Adam Rankin Johnson was born February 8th 1834 in Henderson, Kentucky the son of Thomas J and Juliet (Rankin) Johnson. He attended local schools before going to work at the age of 12 in a local drugstore. He moved to the Hamilton Valley, in Burnet County, Texas in 1854, where he became a surveyor. Johnson also supplied and drove stagecoach for the Butterfield Overland Mail stations, and was a noted Indian fighter.
When the Civil War started, Johnson returned to his native state of Kentucky, and joined Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry as a scout. He escaped being captured at Fort Donelson, and received a promotion to Colonel for his and his regiment’s actions well behind Union lines in Kentucky. In a raid against Newburg, Indiana, Johnson with twelve men captured the city by using two joints of stovepipe he mounted to an old wagon convincing the Union presence it was a cannon. This was how he picked up the nickname “Stovepipe”. In 1863 Johnson took command of a brigade in Confederate Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan’s cavalry. When Morgan’s raid came to an end at the Battle of Buffington Island, Johnson led 350 troopers across the Ohio River to safety. He was appointed Brigadier General September 6th 1864. An accidental shot by one of own men on August 21st 1864 at the Battle of Grubb’s Crossroads blinded Johnson. He was captured by Union soldiers and spent most of the rest of the war in Fort Warren as a prisoner of war.
After the war ended and Johnson was paroled, he returned to Texas. Even though he was blind, Johnson founded the town of Marble Falls, Texas; known as “The Blind Man’s Town”, founded the Texas Mining Improvement Company and worked to try to harness the Colorado River for water power. He died October 20th 1922 in Burnet, Texas and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin, Texas. His body was laid in state in the Senate Chamber of the Texas State Capitol.