Kansas History and Heritage Project--Pottawatomie County Biographies

Pottawatomie County Biographies
" Portrait and Biographical Album of Jackson, Jefferson and Pottawatomie Counties, Kansas"
1890, Chapman Bros., Chicago

JOHN A. JOHNSON. The largest land owner of Blue Valley Township, Pottawatomie County, the first Swede settler in Kansas, as well as the most prominent representative of that nationality in the entire community, is the gentleman whose personal history is outlined in these columns, and who, although now past life's prime, is yet vigorous and active, full of energy and enterprise, always working for the upbuilding of his county and State, while at the same time he has not neglected to accumulate sufficient of this world's goods to insure his old age against the cares of poverty.

So successful has Mr. Johnson been in his undertakings that he is now the owner and operator of 1,800 acres of valuable land, while his home, beautifully located on section 13, is a substantial stone dwelling, and is remarkable as being the second ever built in the township, having been erected as early as 1864. Two barns, built respectively in 1864 and 1873, afford ample shelter for stock and farming machinery, while four tenant houses add to the completeness of the estate. The farm is surrounded and divided into lots by good fencing, while farm scales, granaries, and other requisites of a modern farm are to be found conveniently located.

Sweden was the birthplace of the father of our subject, John Johnson, and in his native land he followed agriculture on a small farm of his own, where he died in 1858, leaving a widow and nine children. The mother of our subject was Maria Axelson, also born in Sweden. The year after the death of her husband she came to the United States, whither some of her children had preceded her. After locating in Kansas, she took up a claim of forty acres in Blue Valley Township, but never lived to enjoy the fruits of her labors in a new country; her death occurred in 1860, at the age of fifty-five years. In memory of her the town of Mariadahl was named, she being the mother of the first Swedish settler in the county. Her children left their native country and made homes for themselves in the Sunflower State. Nels P., John A., D. A., G. C. and A. V., the five sons, are located in Blue Valley Township. Christine, Mrs. Christenson, of Riley County; Lottie, Mrs. Ekblad, of Blue Valley Township; Clara, Mrs. Omon, of Fancy Creek Township, Riley County; and Emma, deceased, formerly Mrs. Ekblad, complete the family record.

Linkoping, Sweden, was the place where our subject first saw the light, the date of his birth being July 30, 1831. He remained on his father's farm until he was seventeen years of age, enjoying very limited school advantages, as it was prior to the time of free schools. Between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one he worked on a farm, and then, having determined to come to the United States, he left Gottenberg in the spring of 1852. setting sail in the vessel "Virginia," which, after a long, monotonous and uneventful voyage of forty-five days, anchored in New York Harbor. Thence our subject came to Illinois, and located in Galesburg, where he was employed as a farm hand until 1855. At that time his employer, Mr. Shannon, resolved to locale in Kansas, and Mr. Johnson accompanied him, riding most of the distance horseback, and driving cattle before him. They crossed the "Father of Waters" at Burlington, and the Missouri at Kickapoo Ferry. Coming west to the Blue River, they settled in a desirable location, and during the first summer of his residence there Mr. Johnson was in the employ of Mr. Shannon, in Northwestern Pottawatomie County. In the spring of 1856 he located on his present land, having at first 160 acres. Mr. Shannon and our subject were the first settlers in Blue Valley Township, and as the former is deceased, Mr. Johnson is the oldest living settler. It was, at the period of their settlement, a wild prairie, not a house to be seen as far as the eye could scan, only wild animals, such as deer, buffalo and smaller game.

Soon after locating in Pottawatomie County, Mr. Johnson was joined by his brother N. P., who took a claim three-fourths of a mile north, on which they built a log house, and resided in it for three years. In 1859 they purchased their land at the Government land sale, and at Government prices. During his early residence here Mr. Johnson witnessed some exciting events, especially during the border ruffian days, and during Quantrel's raid on Lawrence, in 1864. In that year he joined the State militia, and for a time was on the plains in pursuit of the Indians, but had no active engagements. In 1873 he homesteaded a piece of land adjoining his farm that he could get possession of in no other way. It comprised sixty-three acres, and was a fine addition to his property. As before mentioned his landed possessions include 1,800 acres, which he has purchased from time to time, paying therefor from $1.25 to $20 per acre, the most of it, however, costing from $8 to $10 an acre, and 700 acres lie on the Big Blue Bottom, famous for the fertility of its soil.

Stock-raising also engages a considerable portion of Mr. Johnson's time and attention, and of it he has made a signal success, having some 300 head of stock. He is more particularly interested in raising and selling graded Norman horses, and is a member and stockholder of the Blue Valley Stock Breeders Association. The Bank of Randolph owes its origin to Mr. Johnson, who started it privately, and is now its President and principal stockholder. A fine bank building has also been erected, and he owns lots and a residence in the same town. He is a stockholder in the First National Bank at Westmoreland.

After a happy wedded life of nearly thirty years Mr. Johnson was bereft of his wife, who had ever been a faithful companion, and devoted to the interests of her husband and her home. She also was a native of Linkoping, Sweden, where she was born April 28, 1842. Her maiden name was Emma C. Klang, her parents being Jonas P. and Louisa (Olson) Klang, also natives of Sweden. She was united in marriage with our subject in Blue Valley Township, Pottawatomie County, Nov. 13, 1859, and passed to her last rest, July 5, 1888, when forty-six years old.

Mr. Johnson was the first Justice of the Peace in Blue Valley Township, and held the office for six years; he has held various other offices of trust and responsibility. In 1876-77 he was the County Commissioner of Pottawatomie County. In the fall of 1884 he was elected as Representative to the State Legislature, serving the two sessions of 1885-86, taking an active part in the discussions, and serving on the Committee of Railroads, the Committee of Assessments and Taxations, and others. He has served in county and State conventions, also on petit and grand juries.

Mr. Johnson was one of the organizers of the Lutheran Church, of Mariadahl, and is a charter member of the same, contributing generously to the maintenance of the church, which, from a small beginning with a few members, has grown to a flourishing congregation. He is also active in political affairs, and supports with his vote the Republican party. In every way he ranks high among the citizens of Pottawatomie County, who respect him for the many worthy traits of character which he has always displayed, and at the same time admire his unusual business capabilities and successful financial management.

In connection with this biographical sketch appears a lithographic portrait of Mr. Johnson.

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