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Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company

Page 193

JEFF JOHNSON is one of the best known citizens of Menard county, few having longer resided in this part of the state. He is, indeed, an honored and respected pioneer settler and he receives the veneration and esteem which should ever be accorded those of advanced years whose lives have been worthily passed. He resides in Athens precinct and the old homestead farm was also his birthplace. He was born October 3, 1828, his parents being William and Cynthia (Williams) Johnson, both of whom were natives of Bath county, Kentucky. The father was born January 8, 1801, and was reared in the county of his nativity. After arriving at years of maturity he married Miss Cynthia Williams and immediately afterward they started for Illinois, arriving in this state in the fall of 1823. They were among the first permanent settlers of Menard county. Mr. Johnson secured a claim, entering the land from the government, and built a cabin, which was at the head of Indian creek, his farm being included within the borders of our subject's property. He continued to reside here until his death which occurred about 1843. He was noted for his honor in all business transactions and in every relation of life, and he was a man of quiet and refined habits, unassuming in disposition and yet whose genuine worth caused him to enjoy the regard and confidence of all with whom he was associated. He never sought public office, in fact, always refused all offers made him for political preferment. He enjoyed more the even tenor of farm life and domestic quiet and happiness. He reared a family of seven children, of whom only two are now living: Jeff and John, residents of Menard county. Those deceased were: Mrs. Hannah Bracken; Melinda, wife of Edward L. Sweeney; Joseph; and Elijah, who was killed by the Indians in California in 1853.

Jeff Johnson, whose name introduces this record, pursued his education in an old log school house in Menard county, with a puncheon floor, slab benches and an immense fireplace and other primitive furnishings. Little was taught beyond reading, writing and arithmetic, but experience and observation have added greatly to his knowledge and he has kept in touch with the progress of the world through reading. After leaving school he began farming on the old home place and throughout the greater part of his life he has carried on agricultural pursuits and stock raising. He was a breeder and buyer of hogs and cattle and made a specialty of raising what was known as shorthorn Christmas cattle. As there were no shipping facilities in Menard county at that time he drove his cattle to St. Louis to market. At the time of the Civil war he traded extensively in mules and horses and making judicious purchases he was also able to make profitable sales. His business has been carried on successfully and what he has acquired has come to him as the direct result of his enterprise, careful labor and management and his keen business foresight. He now owns four hundred and fifty-five acres of land in this county and a section in Kansas.

On the 30th of December, 1858, Mr. Johnson was united in marriage to Miss Mary Riley, who was born in Piqua, Miami county, Ohio, September 21, 1836. Her parents were Nathan Pratt and Bethany (Jackson) Riley, the former a native of Middletown, Connecticut, and the latter of Findlay, Ohio. When she was eight years old the family came west and settled in Logan county, Illinois, but two years later removed to Beloit, Wisconsin, where they spent eight years. At the end of that time they returned to Ohio, where Mrs. Riley died. Subsequently the father again came to Illinois and died at the home of our subject in 1898, at the age of eighty-eight years. In his family were ten children, of whom four are still living. Mr. And Mrs. Johnson have one daughter, Anna, whose birth occurred on the old homestead in 1867 and who is now the wife of E. G. King, a prominent attorney of Lincoln, Illinois. They have three children. Mrs. Johnson is a member of the Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Johnson has been many times solicited to become a candidate for office but has steadily refused, preferring to devote his energies to his business affairs and his leisure time to the enjoyment of the pleasures of home. He has always given a stanch support to the Republican party, however, since its organization. He has contributed his full share to the material progress and upbuilding of the county and he takes a just pride in what has been accomplished. His memory forms a connecting link between the primitive past with its pioneer conditions and environments and the progressive present with its modern civilization and splendid improvements. He can relate from memory many incidents concerning the early days and of later development and is considered authority on all subjects relating to the pioneer history of Menard county, where for seventy-six years he has made his home, residing continuously upon one farm.

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