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Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company

Page 461

JOHN JOHNSON, who has now traveled far on life's journey, is one of the honored and venerable citizens of Menard county and, moreover, he is especially entitled to mention in this volume because he is numbered among the native sons. Few indeed of her residents have longer resided within its borders and he has been witness of almost its entire development since the first permanent settlement was made by white people. He can relate many interesting incidents of the early days and, moreover, he has taken just pride in what has been accomplished as the work of improvement and civilization has been carried forward.

Mr. Johnson was born September 5, 1825, upon the old family homestead in this county, his parents being William and Cynthia (Williams) Johnson. They were both natives of Bath county, Kentucky, and arrived in Menard county in October, 1823, the father securing a government claim of one hundred and sixty acres on which he built him a log cabin sixteen feet square. He also entered eighty acres of timber land from the government and with characteristic energy began to clear and develop his farm, living in true pioneer style. He left about four hundred acres of land at the time of his death, having acquired a good competence through his well directed energy. Unto him and his wife were born seven children, but all are now deceased, with the exception of John of this review, and Jefferson, who was born October 3, 1828, and is now living on the old family homestead. The father died in September, 1843, and the mother, long surviving him, passed away May 7, 1887.

John Johnson was born in the little log cabin which was the pioneer home of the family. Later that building was replaced by a large house, which, however, was also constructed of logs. He was reared amid the wild scenes and environments of frontier life and assisted in the arduous task of developing new land and transforming the fields into productive tracts. His entire life has been devoted to general farming and stock raising and as the years advanced he kept pace with the progress that was made along agricultural lines. His scythe was replaced by the mowing machine and other modern farm implements were secured, so that his labor was greatly facilitated.

On the 1st of December, 1846, Mr. Johnson was united in marriage to Miss Harriet Jennison, who died on the 12th of October, 1855, leaving two children: Adelaide, who became the wife of William E. Hall and died soon after her marriage; and William E., who resides upon his father's farm. For his second wife John Johnson wedded Elizabeth Gaines, a daughter of Joseph and Eliza (Meteer) Gaines, both of whom are natives of Kentucky. This marriage occurred March 1, 1859, and was blessed with four children: Cora, who was born January 18, 1860, is now the wife of Frank Whitney, of this county; Iona, who was born September 12, 1862, is the wife of J. E. Culver, of Menard county; Joseph, born September 19, 1865, married Nellie Clark and is now living in Athens; Ella, born July 14, 1869, is the wife of Henry V. Council, a resident of Logan county, Illinois.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are now living with their daughter, Mrs. Whitney, and both are enjoying good health. He retains his strength to a remarkable degree and each day walks about four or five miles. They have seen many changes in Menard county and Mr. Johnson has a fund of interesting reminiscences concerning the early days. He saw the first railroad built in the county, strap rails being used, while the motive power was furnished by mules. The Wabash line now runs upon the old grade into Springfield. Mr. Johnson drove hogs to the market at St. Louis when sixteen years of age and was two weeks in making the trip, owing to the condition of the roads on which the snow was found in some place, while in other places the mud was very deep. His pay for the work was fifty cents per day and his labor began ere daybreak. He would breakfast while it was yet dark and his supper was taken after night had fallen. The houses at that time wee often twelve miles apart. There were fifteen hundred hogs in the drove and fifteen men and boys were employed to drive them. After this trip he took a drove of hogs to Beardstown over the prairie and through the timber. During the period of the Civil war, in connection with his brother Jefferson and Colonel Williams, he purchased mules, which he sold to the government. They continued in the business of buying and selling stock for more than fifteen years, dealing in cattle, hogs and mules. They had sixteen hundred acres of land on which they fed their stock and their sales brought to them a good financial return. Mr. Johnson still owns three hundred and forty-three acres of fine farming land and ten acres of timber land in the county. He also has three hundred and twenty acres in Linn county, Kansas, eighty miles south of Kansas City. His has been a prosperous career, owing to his close application and unfaltering labor and while his life has been quietly passed he has yet displayed many sterling traits of character which have won him the confidence of the business community and the respect of all with whom he has been associated. His political allegiance is given to the Republican party and for twenty years he has served as a school director, but otherwise has held no public office. He was made a Mason in Petersburg in 1859 and afterward became a charter member of Greenview lodge No. 653, A.F. & A.M., with which he is now affiliated. No history of Menard county would be complete without record of its venerable citizen, who for almost eighty years has resided within its borders. What to many people are matters of history are to him events of personal knowledge or experience and he has many vivid mental pictures of pioneer conditions in Menard county, as well as of its later day progress and prosperity.

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