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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



Historical records indicate the early identification of the Johnson family with the American colonies and the long association of the name with New England. With the spirit of expansion characteristic of the nineteenth century the generations then resident in the east became scattered throughout the entire country, and one worthy mem- ber of the family exchanged the stern and rigorous climate of Maine for the balmy breezes of the southland. In him were the necessary requisites of the pioneer, physical fortitude in hardships, rugged health, tireless energy and an ability to adapt himself to any outward circumstance. As a boy he had been familiar with scenes along the Kennebec river near the city of Augusta, Me., and he was born at Hallowell, February 22, 1817, son of Samuel Johnson, who was a native of Scotland and served under Gen. Andrew Jackson throughout the Seminole war. He married Miss Moody, also a native of Scotland, and they became the parents of Joseph W. Johnson. With the enthusiasm of youth he had left the scenes of early years and had sought the then undeveloped state of Arkansas, where he had settled in Hempstead county, near Washington. There he met and married Miss Pauline K. Fontaine, a native of that state, born January 21, 1824. The young couple settled on a farm and took up agriculture in the primitive manner in which it then was conducted. Into their humble farm home came children to bless with their presence and brighten with their hopes. Death, too, came into the home and took an infant son, Michael J. Two children comprised the family when in 1852 the journey across the plains was begun. One of these, born November 8, 1848, near Washington, Ark., became one of the most successful educators of Sacramento, and forms the subject of this article. The other, Hon. Mat F. Johnson, at one time held the office of superior judge of Sacramento county.

The journey across the plains required six months and was filled with hardships. Not only was there a scarcity of feed for the ox- teams, but the travelers themselves were on short rations. To add to the difficulties, Indians in the neighborhood of the expedition threatened the lives of the emigrants. With a feeling of deep gratitude the family at last found themselves safely under shelter in Los Angeles. They selected a location at El Monte, twelve miles from Los Angeles, where they remained from the fall of 1852 until the fall of 1856, meanwhile engaging in farming and stock raising. The father was a man of deep religious spirit and splendid education for his day. For years he did not limit his attention to agriculture, but preached the Gospel as opportunity afforded, and taught school in many localities. After leaving El Monte he made a brief sojourn at Watson- ville, Santa Cruz county, and in 1858 settled in Sonoma county, whence the following year he removed to a farm at Cacheville, Yolo county. The flood of 1862 caused him heavy losses in stock. During 1861 he taught school in Colusa county. The same occupation engaged much of liis attention throughout his remaining years. During the latter part of 1869 he began to teach in Sonoma county. Next he taught in Lake county. Returning in 1871 to Sonoma, county, he taught at Fulton until shortly before his death, which occurred April 16, 1879. His wife passed away November 7, 1874. Besides their son who died in Arkansas, they lost two other sons, John Llewellyn having died at Franklin, Sacramento county, at the age of two years. Charles lived to maturity, and at the time of his demise, November 27, 1899, he was manager of a mercantile business at Portland, Ore., where his wife and three children still make their home. The sons still living are honored and successful. Julian, who was born at El Monte, is principal of the Sutter grammar school in Sacramento; George, born at Watsonville, Santa Cruz county, has charge of the bonded warehouse at St. Helena, Napa county, and Edward, born in Sonoma county, is connected with a telephone company in Oregon, having his headquarters at Portland.

Upon the completion of the studies taught in Sonoma college, a Presbyterian institution of learning, Joseph W. Johnson entered upon educational work, to which he since has devoted his life and in which he has met with signal recognition. For a time he taught in Point Pleasant school district, for two years he was connected with the schools of Modoc county, and for four years he had charge of the schools of Cloverdale, Sonoma county, after which he was engaged to teach in Sacramento. Since June of 1879 he has been principal of the Harkness school. His long retention in the position furnishes ample testimony as to the efficient character of his services and his devotion to educational work in this city. He possesses the rare quality of imparting knowledge clearly, easily and effectively, so that those who study under him are mentally enriched by his ability as an instructor. Among other teachers, as well as among the patrons of the school, his standing is the highest and his reputation the most enduring. Aside from his duties in school he has found leisure for association with a number of organizations of note, among these being the Sequoia Camp of Woodmen of the World, Columbus Chapter of the Eastern Star, Sacramento Lodge No. 40, F. & A. M., Capital Lodge No. 87, I. 0. 0. F., and he is past noble grand member of Occidental Encampment No. 42, I. 0. 0. F., having been chief patriarch, and is a member of Confidence Lodge No. 78, K. of P. and is past chancellor commander.

The marriage of Professor Johnson took place June 13, 1872, and united him with Miss Belle Campbell, who was born in Pettis county, Mo., and who died December 7, 1909. There were two daughters in the family, of whom Miss Belle, a member of the Saturday club and a popular society woman, now presides over her father's home. The other daughter, Edna Pauline, married H. Taubner Goethe, a farmer and stock-raiser living in Napa county, where he owns four hundred acres of choice land. The family of Mr. and Mrs. Goethe consists of two children, Edna Elefa and Taubner Johnson. 

History of Sacramento County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011