William J. Johnston, cashier of the First National Bank of Eureka, is the only democrat who was ever elected to the office of sheriff in Greenwood County. That political distinction may have been inherited. At any rate, he is not the only member of his family whose qualifications and personal popularily have proved so strong as to overturn normal majorities. His father back in New York State in Washington County enjoyed a similar honor many years ago, and in all the years of the political annals of Washington County it had had only one democratic sheriff.
Mr. Johnston, who had been a resident of Greenwood County for over thirty years, was born in Washington County, New York, January 21, 1863. He is of Irish ancestry. There were five brothers of the name who came from Ireland to New York in colonial days. Two of these brothers subsequently removed to Pennsylvania.
David Johnston, father of the Eureka banker, was born in Washington County, New York, in 1830, had his home in that state all his life, but died while visiting in Greenwood County, Kansas, in 1896. His residence at the time was Salem, New York. He grew up and married in his native county, and then entered the commission merchandising business. He was one of the largest handlers and shippers of potatoes in Northern New York State, shipping this crop entirely in carload lots. Besides the office of sheriff which he held in his native county he was the recipient of various town offices, and always took an active part in public affairs. He was very active in his support of the Presbyterian Church and served his church as elder. David Johnston married Martha Nelson, who was born in Washington County, New York, in 1830 and died in 1870. They became the parents of seven children: S. D. Johnston came to Kansas in 1881, was for many years in the livery business and died at Madison, Kansas, at the age of sixty-five. S. Grace, who lives in Syracuse, New York, is the widow of X. W. Collins, who was a shoe merchant and died in 1916. John W. is a farmer on the old homestead in Washington County, New York. Martha J., who resided at Shawnee, Oklahoma, is the widow of Frank Barnett, who was a merchant and died at Washington Court House, Ohio. The fifth in the family is William Johnston, and his twin brother, Willard, had gained great prominence as a banker in the State of Oklahoma. He is president of the State National Bank at Shawnee, where he had his home, and is also president of five other banks. The youngest of the family, Cora, died in infancy.
William Johnston was educated in the rural schools of Washington County, New York. He also attended the Washington Academy, from which he graduated in 1879. After two years’ experience as clerk in a general store at Shushan in his native county, he came to Kansas in 1881, first locating at Waverly in Coffey County. There he was a farmer and stock raiser, but in 1884 removed to Greenwood County and engaged in merchandising at Piedmont. As a merchant he remained at Piedmont and built up a large trade and gained a personal acquaintance with the majority of the people in the county until 1898. That year was the time of his great triumph in local politics. The people of the county apparently preferred his qualifications for the office of sheriff without respect to his democratic affiliations, and they not only elected him in that year but re-elected him in 1900. Altogether he filled the office with credit and satisfaction for a period of five years. In the meantime he removed to Eureka, and in 1903, on the expiration of his term of office, he entered the First National Bank as assistant cashier. In 1906 he was promoted to cashier and holds that position today, in addition to various other financial interests.
The First National Bank of Eureka was established in 1884, and from the beginning had been under a national charter. The present officers are: R. J. Edwards, of Emporia, president; Cyrus Brookover, vice president; William Johnston, cashier; and C. C. Nye, assistant cashier. The bank, whose home is at the corner of Maine and Second streets, is a very substantial institution, with a capital of $70,000, surplus of $20,000, and undivided profits of $15,000.
Mr. Johnston is also president of the Eureka Mortgage Company, is president of the Weleetka Guarantee Bank of Weleetka, Oklahoma, and a director in the First National Bank of Mounds, Oklahoma. He is also interested in farming lands, having one farm northeast and another northwest of Eureka. His comfortable residence is on the corner of First and Myrtle streets in Eureka.
Mr. Johnston had also served on the city council of Eureka and was a member of the school board while living at Piedmont. He is a member and deacon of the Christian Church, is affiliated with Fidelity Lodge No. 106, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of which he is treasurer, with Eureka Chapter No. 45, Royal Arch Masons, with Beetle Camp No. 858, Modern Woodmen of America, with the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows at Eureka, and belongs to the Kansas State and the American Bankers associations.
In 1886 in Barber County, Kansas, Mr. Johnston married Miss Anna Blake, daughter of William P. and Margaret (McGinnis) Blake. Her father is a retired farmer living at Eureka, her mother being deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston are the parents of five children: D. W. Johnston, who is cashier of the Weleetka Guarantee Bank at Weleetka, Oklahoma; Alma, wife of Frank Crumm, cashier of the First National Bank of Mounds, Oklahoma; Ada R., who is musical director of the public schools of Duluth, Minnesota; Cossette, a member of the junior class in the Eureka High School; and David, a student in the grammer school.