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Benton County, Iowa ~ Biography and Family Information


Source:  Portrait & Biographical Album of Sumner County, Kansas
  By Chapman Brothers. Chicago. 1885.
Pages 341-342.
The pioneer history of Sumner County and the men who were instrumental in its early growth and development forms a most interesting story which will not part with any of its importance as time rolls on. Among those who came to this region nearly a score of years ago and who battled with dangers and difficulties was Mr. Johnson, who is now looked upon as one of its most honored residents. He established himself on section 6, Oxford Township, on the 28th of May, 1871, taking up from the Government the quarter section which he now owns. He put his stakes in front of his present residence at a time when the now flourishing town of Oxford had just been laid out and contained one small store conducted by Mr. P. Binley. The latter purchased furs from the Indians and made a precarious living as best he could. There were no improvements, whatever, on the uplands and but one shanty between Oxford and Mr. Johnson's claim.

Soon after Mr. Johnson selected his location he was joined by two neighbors; in fact, fourteen claims were taken in one day by a delegation from Iowa. In those days there was a community of feeling among the pioneers which led them to take an interest in each other's welfare and very soon all were not only acquaintances but friends. Mr. Johnson proceeded with the improvements of his property, breaking the sod and putting in a full crop that same year. He filed his claim at Augusta and obtained his outfit for farming at Independence, and for building purposes made his lumber from cottonwood. At first he was obliged to haul water from Oxford. The neighbors joined together in obtaining water, one going at one time and another the next. The only ladies in the colony was Miss Cordie, the daughter of Mr. Johnson, and Mrs. Frank Evans. The ladies were sheltered in a tent while the men lived in their wagons, the camp being on the present farm of Mr. Carpenter.

The first shanty of the colony, a structure twelve feet square, was put up by Mr. Johnson and within it Mr. Johnson and family lived for two summers. In the winter Mr. Johnson and his daughter repaired to Independence.

On the 1st of January, 1872, Mr. Johnson removed his wife and family to this place and then proceeded with the improvement of his property until 1879. He then embarked in sheep-raising, transferring the scene of his operations to Meagher County, Mont. In that region he took another claim, remaining on it until proving up, then sold it and returned to Kansas and sojourned upon his his farm until 1884. Upon the latter Mr. Johnson had planted a good grove and set out quantities of hedge for fencing. After prosecuting general agriculture he became interested in stock-raising and in this, as with the other, was uniformly successful.

Liberal and public-spirited, he was ever a friend of education and progress, assisting in organizing the school district and officiating as Director.

Mr. Johnson, about 1884, put up a more modern dwelling at this place assisted by his son. The latter then went to No Man's Land, where he is now engaged in stock-raising. Mr. Johnson, although making no pretentions to being a politician, votes the straight Republican ticket and keeps himself posted on matters of general interest. He is a member in good standing of the Christian Church. Such has been his course in life, his honesty and fair dealing with his fellow-men, that he has gained the unqualified respect of all those with whom he has come in contact.

A native of Shelby County, Ky., Mr. Johnson was born September 23, 1827, and when a child of two years was taken by his parents to Orange County, Ind. Later they removed to Putnam County, that State, thence to Boone County, and finally to Benton County, Iowa, where young Johnson developed into manhood. He left the parental roof when about nineteen years old and commenced learning the carpenter's trade, then going to St. Paul, Minn., he sojourned there one year. Returning then to Iowa he prosecuted his trade in Benton County and finally purchased land five miles from Vinton, the county seat of Benton County, where he made his home for a period of twenty-five years. In the meantime he was married, March 5, 1850, to Miss M. J. Forsythe.

After the outbreak of the Civil War Mr. Johnson enlisted in October, 1862, in Company K., Sixth Iowa Cavalry, and leaving home November 3, following, was sent to the Northwest to fight the Indians. His duties led him all over Dakota Territory, and he returned home November 3, 1865, after a service of three years and nine hours. He had now a family of five children. He continued a resident of Benton County, Iowa, until 1870, although in the meantime he had sold his farm. That year they came to Kansas and purchased a town lot in Independence, where they lived until their removal to Oxford Township, this county.

Mrs. Johnson was born in Decatur County Ind., February 5, 1830, and is the daughter of J. S. and Jane (McCoy) Forsythe, the former a native of Kentucky and the latter of Indiana. Mr. Forsythe lived for a time in the vicinity of Lebanon, Boone County, Ind., where he was among the first settlers. He engaged in merchandising and for some years was Sheriff of Boone County. In 1844 he crossed the Mississippi into Linn County, Iowa, settling at Marion, but two years later changed his residence to Benton County. He was married in the latter county where the wife and mother died in 1849. In Iowa, as he had been in Indiana, Mr. Forsythe was prominent in local affairs, serving as County Judge and Township Supervisor and holding other public positions until quite aged. Finally, leaving the Hawkeye State in 1873 he came to Kansas and spent his last years in Avon Township, dying in 1876 at the age of seventy-nine years.

Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, of whom only three are living. John A. married Miss Lundy King, and is the father of five children; he has already been spoken of as a resident of No Man's Land. Eva is the wife of E. Platte, and they live on a farm near Greensburg, adjoining the county seat. Cordie remains at home; Ida married James Johnson, who died in 1884 and she died in 1888, both being the victims of consumption. Their son, Allen W., died when three years old.

Alexander Johnson, the father of our subject, was born in Ohio and married Miss Sarah Allen, of Kentucky. They made their home in Shelby County, that State, until coming West, as already stated, and reared a family of ten children to mature years. Mr. Johnson died in Iowa April 13, 1855, at the age of sixty-six years. The mother died about 1875-76, in Iowa. She was a member in good standing of the Christian Church. Mr. Johnson had served as a soldier in the War of 1812.

Transcriber's Note: Alexander Johnson died in Benton County and is buried in the Urbana Cemetery. His probate notice was published in the Vinton Eagle on 14 May 1856, by Lancelot Johnson, Adm.

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