Oregon Pioneer Biographies-William Warren "Broady" JOHNSON

Oregon Pioneer Biographies


William Warren "Broady" JOHNSON

He was born the 20th of May 1847 on "The Oregon Trail" about two days' travel west of Fort Kearney along the Platt River. He and a partner built the first hotel in Burns, Oregon. He had been a blacksmith for the army and when old Fort Harney was closed down he bought some of the buildings and converted them into a hotel.

From the book "Harney County Oregon" by George Francis Brimlow:

"The Personal Diary of Mrs. W. W. "Broady" Johnson" (Caroline Harris Johnson):

I was born in Washington County, Iowa, in the year 1849. In the year 1864, I crossed the plains in a covered wagon, with my parents. We crossed with a train of ten wagons, some of which were drawn by ox teams. On the way we were attacked by a band of Indians and all the wagons formed a circle and acted as a fort. Painted warriors were hiding and firing from behind every tree --- but we finally succeeded in driving them away, even the women, helped to fight. We came to Oregon in 1868 and as I had an aunt living in Jefferson, her name was Curtis, I made my home with them. They ran the hotel there. In 1869 I was married to Mr. W.W. Johnson, of Jefferson. He was a blacksmith by trade. In 1873 we went up the Columbia River with a wagon and fifty head of cattle to Bridge Creek, which is now Mitchell. Mr. Johnson named the town in 1875. In 1875 we moved back to Jefferson and in 1876 went to the Malheur Indian Agency, among those Piute Indians who were hostile at the time. We were there when they went on the war path in 1878. Old chief Winnemucca and three other chiefs had their big talk in my kitchen, as they did not want the other Indians to hear them. Winnemucca tried to get them not to go on the war path, but he couldn't do anything with them. Five days after he went home, on Saturday, they came after their rations, as usual. Egan and all his warriors, rode in front of our house, got off their ponies and shook hands with me. They said they were going hunting and would be back to gather the vegetables. They went twenty miles from there where they met the Bannocks and had their war dance. The interpreter was sent to Harney for the soldiers. All the women and children packed and we went to John Day. Many of the men stayed. Some of them took their blankets and slept on the hill that night. Dr. Dodson, Mr. Egan, Reinhart, and Frank Johnson, my husband's brother. My husband had to take the team and wagon back to John Day and when he got there the men were gone and he thought they had been killed by the Indians. He left the team and wagon and rode back to John Day on a horse. When he started there were two Indians as spies across the Malheur River, and when they saw him they ran and jumped on their horses and went to tell the other Indians. The Indians came back and stole all the horses and cattle that were left. Mr. Johnson met the soldiers going in from Harney to the agency.

The Indians came to Happy valley and killed Rye Smith's father and brother. At the P. ranch they killed a Chinaman. From there they went to Silver Creek, destroying houses and burning fields. Then they went across the mountains to Silvies River, and still further until they reached the John Day River. A runner was dispatched to John Day with the news that the Indians were coming. So all of us packed our belongings and moved to the mining tunnels, where we hid for three days. While we were there, one of the scouts, whose wife was with us in the tunnel, was killed and cut all to pieces. They had been married only three months and we felt so sorry for his poor little wife. Captain Bernard told about one battle he was in. He said the bullets whizzed by his ears pretty close, from the Indians guns, but when they turned the Gattling Guns loose how they did run, and carried their dead off with them. The soldiers took possession of what they left. There was everything you could think of. I did not hear of Captain Bernard for six weeks after that. Just he and another went horseback to overtake the soldiers. I just supposed that the Indians had killed them but after the war he came back to Camp Harney.

The winter following was a hard one. There was more snow than I had ever seen. In the spring the water formed a lake from Harney to Burns. The next year the post was abandoned, and the Indians went to Yakima as prisoners. My husband made iron shackles and put two together and when the soldiers went, they took the Indians in those big government wagons. The Indians were in Yakima for four years. This was nothing but stock country then, and there was very few people in the whole country. There was lots of range and we did not have to feed the range stock at all.

My husband and John Robinson built the first hotel in Burns. It is where the new Burns Hotel now stands. Grandma Caldwell and Mrs. Stinger first ran it. We lived in Burns from that date until 1906, when Mr. Johnson died. In 1909 we moved to Albany and from there to Edmonds, Washington, where my boys, Eldon and Leon, and I, built a home. We lived there until 1916. We moved back to Burns in 1916. I could see a lot of changes, and from then on, I have seen the pioneer's dreams slowly come true.


Submitted by Gary Poole, Wallowa, Oregon, great great grandson of William Henry Howard, and great grandson of Amos Henry Howard. June 27, 1999.

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