For more than 80 years, members of
the family of John Joakens Johnson have lived in Matagorda county.
Mr. Johnson was a wealthy slave owner of Mississippi about the
middle of the nineteenth century. He was an educated man, having
attended institutions of learning in Charleston, S. C. In the 1850s
he lived a few years in Louisiana where his fine slaves attracted
much attention and he was offered a handsome price for them.
Refusing a payment in gold, he moved his family and his slaves to
Texas in 1859, settling for a short time in Ellis county.
In the early 1860’s he brought some
of his slaves from Ellis county to Matagorda county, hiring 13 to
Samuel Hardeman and taking others to the beach where they were put
to work making salt. This he hauled by ox wagon to Ellis county
where it was traded for flour.
These trips introduced Mrs. Johnson,
the former Emily Susan Gayle. Accompanying her husband into
Matagorda county, she saw its possibilities and became the owner of
Cook’s or Cedar Island in the upper part of the Maria Cummings
League. This is now a part of the oil field controlled by the
Skelley interests. The story of the sale of this tract of 1144 acres
to the young Mrs. Johnson involves the payment for it of $5,000 in
confederate money. A very few months after the sale was consummated,
the war between the states was over and the money she paid for the
land was not worth the paper it was printed on. Mrs. Johnson, it may
be surmised, was glad that she could stoop and touch soil that was
hers instead of fingering worthless confederate bills, stowed away
in some obscure box as tragic keepsakes.
John Joakens Johnson and Emily Susan
Johnson raised six sons. The oldest, Augustus, was a member of that
ill-fated expedition of Matagorda county men and boys who enlisted
in Captain Rugeley’s company in the War Between the States and
embarked one winter day to cross Matagorda Bay to the peninsula to
protect the coastline from the anticipated approach of federal
troops. They met a different enemy, a cold, bitter norther which
capsized their boat and resulted in the death of many in the icy
waters of the bay. Augustus was one of those who died.
John Joakens Johnson died in November, 1882, and his wife in November 1894.
Home On Prairie Birthplace Two
Generations of Family
With the exception of 15 years, when
he moved to San Antonio and engaged in the real estate and
mercantile business, Simon P. Johnson has lived at or near Cook’s
Island in Matagorda county. Today, retired at the age of 80 years,
he lives at Van Vleck.
In 1883, Simon P. Johnson married
Miss Isabella Constance O’Connell of San Antonio, daughter of
Phillip O’Connell and lineal descendant of that Irish patriot and
emancipator, Daniel O’Connell. Mrs. Johnson was a niece of Michael
O’Connell who, at the time of his death, was one of the wealthiest
men in South Texas. Four children were born to this union, all of
whom live in Matagorda county today; Marston and Phillip of Van
Vleck, Mrs. Ethel Cornelius of Markham and Mrs. Minnie Bell Ham of
Mr. and Mrs. Johnson saw Texas grow
from an almost trackless wilderness into a vast empire with
developments along agricultural and industrial lines that would have
staggered the most vivid imagination of their earlier days.
Mrs. Johnson was of the Catholic
faith and the children received their education in Catholic schools
in San Antonio. She died in 1927.
Marston Johnson, founder and owner
of Marston Johnson Industries now operating at Van Vleck, was one of
the reasons why his father, Simon P., moved to San Antonio in 1899.
Better education for his children motivated the elder Johnson’s
absence from Matagorda county for the next 15 years. Marston Johnson
went to Saint Mary’s Academy and graduated from West Texas Military
Academy in 1911. He enlisted in the U. S. Army soon after and was
sent to the Philippine Islands where he was an officer in the
Philippine Constabulary. He spent about one year there and in Japan
and China. He bought out of the Army and came back to the United
States, serving later with U. S. forces in World War I, being a
second lieutenant when honorably discharged following the Armistice
He was married on April 16, 1919, to
Miss Edna Louise Harwell of San Antonio, daughter of Louis L. and
Annie Irene Harwell. A native of Houston, Mrs. Johnson spent most of
her early days in Pine Bluff, Ark. Her family is prominent in that
state, most of the men being doctors, lawyers, merchants and
plantation owners, all active in politics. She has one sister, Mrs.
Irma Wyatt of San Francisco, Calif.
Marston Johnson Industries
Leading Business Van Vleck
Orderly and immaculate to the last
blade of grass are the acres on Bay prairie, five miles east of Bay
City in the little town of Van Vleck where Marston Johnson lives and
where he has built during the past 15 years the various details of
his modern abattoir.
The visitor, approaching sees first
the main building which houses the abattoir proper. Across its white
front is the trade sign, Marston Johnson Wholesale Meats – Cold
Storage Van Vleck, Tex.
At the right of the drive which
leads past the pump house and hide shed to the main building is the
home of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and his business office. It is an
attractive one-story, rambling little house, set in the midst of a
closely cropped lawn which is dotted with a flower bed or two and
young trees, a fir, a fig, some others.
The visitor to the abattoir is shown
through the rendering room, the elaborate system of unloading
alleys, the pens where cattle are kept pending slaughter, the
slaughtering room itself.
In the last named, after the day’s
work is done, cleanliness reigns. The only reminders that a large
supply of meat has been made ready therein that day are a few halves
of beeves hanging from the ceiling and, in the refrigeration room,
cuts that make the meat-hungry public gape with envy.
The water supply for the plant is
well which Mr. Johnson had dug and from which issues an abundance of
water as pure as the Bay City supply, according to state laboratory
tests. The pump is run electrically and electricity for the home and
business is obtained from the Rural Electrification Administration.
Due to government restrictions that
have arisen from the stringencies of war, Marston Johnson’s
customers bring their stock to him for slaughter. Arrived on the
grounds, the stock is cared for and the business of the abattoir
done by a small personnel, headed by Edward, Allen and Herbert
O’Connell. Four of his employees have been taken by the armed
forces, included being Clarence Albert Hoppe.
In the office, Mr. Johnson has a
most capable bookkeeper in the person of Mrs. Mildred O’Connell of
Van Vleck. Mrs. O’Connell states that her only claim to achievement
is her three men in the armed forces: her husband, Pvt. Bouldin
O’Connell, with three years service in the U. S. Army to his credit;
her son, Burton O’Connell, S 2/c; and her son-in-law, 1st
Lt. Harry Stafford of the 7th Army.
Ross Wyche, has been with the
Marston Johnson Industries for years. Eugene Franklin and Freddie
Lee Moore remain on duty while among those who have gone to war are
Jim Franklin and Earl Spiller.
Marston Johnson has a keen gray eye
and a brilliant smile. His one and only hobby is his business which
he has chosen for a life work, which he considers vital to his time
and which he would not change for any other. Neither would he change
his place of residence to any other part of the world than Matagorda
county where his eye can almost daily see vast acres that have
belonged to the Johnson family for more than 80 years.
Marston Johnson Abattoir One of
County’s Basic Businesses
Plans to make Bay City a trading
center, a manufacturing center, a wholesale center as well as an
agriculture production center, after the war are promised on
industries already doing business here. Such a one is Marston
Johnson, Wholesale Meats, his abattoir being located about five
miles east of Bay City at Van Vleck. This business, only a few years
old, has grown to such proportions since its modest beginning that
it kills and handles in satisfactory manner the livestock required
to supply Bay City and surrounding territory.
In addition to Matagorda county, customers for the Johnson abattoir are found in Wharton and Brazoria counties. The plant kills around 600 head of stock monthly. Mr. Johnson indicates that this local wholesale meat plant keeps around $750 daily circulating in this section of Matagorda county in contrast to a like amount going out of the county if cattle and hogs had to be shipped to Houston, slaughtered there and returned here for retail sale.
In this connection, prices on meats, locally reflect a savings to customers from his savings in extra freight hauls to and from Houston, as it is the customer who finally pays shipping expense on any product.
Copyright 2012 -
Present by Bay City Newspapers, Inc.
Feb. 26, 2012
Feb. 26, 2012