a short biography
*May 15, 1863
+October 5, 1931 Pewee Valley, Kentucky
Daughter of Albion and Mary Erskine Fellows
Married to William L. Johnston, 1888-1892
with Hattie Cochran, "The Little Colonel"
and The Little Colonel's Holidays.
Annie Fellows Johnston received tremendous
fame and popularity around the turn of the 20th century as an author of
books for children. She is best known for her thirteen book series beginning
with The Little Colonel, although she wrote over
forty books in all as well as contributed occasional stories to periodicals
such as the Youth's Companion.
The illustration shows Annie Fellows
Johnston around 1928 with the then grown-up Hattie Cochran, the
real-life Little Colonel. (from the The
Sunday Herald Post, Louisville,
Kentucky, December 23, 1928) Most of the characters in Mrs.
Johnstons' semi-biographical works were based on actual people, places and
experiences. For the Little Colonel Series, Johnston fictionalized
Pewee Valley, Kentucky, just outside Louisville, as Lloydsborough Valley.
Her Early Life:
Portrait of a young
Annie Fellows Johnston
By Kate Matthews
Born Annie Julia Fellows,
Annie grew up with her mother, brother Erwin
and two sisters, Lura & Albion, on a farm in
McCutchanville, Indiana, near Evansville.
Albion, a Methodist minister, died when she was only two, but
left his influences through his theological books. Annie began writing
already as a girl, producing poems and stories imitating those she read in
Godsey's Lady's Book, Youth's Companion and St. Nicholas.
She was also known to have read every book in her Sunday school library.
She attended district school, and even taught a year when she was 17.
Her mother was a firm believer in education for women.
Annie attended the University of Iowa for
one year (1881-82), then returned to Evansville to teach for three years,
and later to work as a private secretary. She traveled for several
months through New England and Europe, staying with cousins along the way.
The influence of these trips would be seen later in many of her her works.
When she returned, she married William L. Johnston (a cousin and a widower
with three young children.) He encouraged her to write, and she began
contributing stories to periodicals. William died in 1892, leaving
Annie a widow with his children to support (she never had any of her own).
It was at that time that Annie began her career as a writer.
Johnston's first book,
was published in 1893, followed by Joel: A Boy of Galilee in 1895.
In 1895, Annie visited Pewee Valley, Kentucky,
where her stepchildren were staying with relatives. She so fell in
love with the area, with its atmosphere of leisure and aristocracy left over
from the days of slavery, that she would eventually return to make it her
permanent home. It was then that she also met the little
Hattie Cochran, a feisty and stubborn
little girl whose spirit and demeanor resembled that of an old-time
Annie returned to Evansville and wrote
Colonel in1895, and it quickly became a success. Twelve more
volumes of the Little Colonel series would appear over the next thirty
years, the first ones being The Giant
Scissors (1898) Two
Little Knights of Kentucky (1899),
The Little Colonel's House Party (1900),
The Little Colonel's Holiday (1901),
The Little Colonel's Hero (1902) and
The Little Colonel at Boarding School
Johnston moved to Pewee Valley in 1898. In
1899, her step-daughter Rena, died, and her
step-son John's health deteriorated so that in
1901 she took him West where the climate was more favorable; first in
Arizona, then California and for eight years in
Texas, until his death in 1910. During this time, Johnston wrote
The Little Colonel in Arizona (1904),
The Desert of Waiting (1905),
The Little Colonel's Chum: Mary Ware
(1908), and Mary Ware in Texas (1910),
all set in the Southwest. During this time she also wrote
The Little Colonel's Christmas Vacation
(1905), The Little Colonel: Maid of Honor
Legend of the Bleeding Heart (1907) and the
Little Colonel's Knight Comes Riding
In 1910, Annie Fellows Johnston returned to
Pewee Valley and lived there until her death in 1931. Her best known
books of this period were Mary Ware's
Promised Land (1912), Miss Santa Clause of the Pullman
Georgina of the Rainbows (1916), It was the Road to Jericho
(1919), The Land of the Little Colonel: Reminiscence and Autobiography
(1929). In 1935, Twentieth Century Fox released "The Little Colonel,"
a film directed by David Butler, with Shirley Temple playing the part of the
Little Colonel, a role well suited to her. Lionel Barrymore
played the part of the Old Colonel.
As you browse through this site, you will find more
biographical information on nearly every page, whether it be the people and
places she knew and wrote about, or her own thoughts as reflected in her
letters and writings.