George Johnson. Of the men who have lent dignity of character, excellence of labor and largeness of co-operation to affairs in Republic County for a considerable period, few were more widely known or generally respected than the late George Johnson. It was the privilege of this agriculturist to live close to the heart of nature, to partake generously of her rewards and to respond with enthusiasm and clear judgment to her offers of opportunity for advancement. Mr. Johnson came of sturdy and honorable lineage and one which furthered the universal gospel of industry. But in public and private affairs he proved himself eminently capable, energetic and trustworthy, and during the long period of his association with Republic County, won a permanent place as a practical and determined promoter of the county’s best agricultural interests.
Mr. Johnson was born in Dayton, Cattaraugus County, New York, in 1833, and there his early years were passed, his education coming from the district schools of his native county and Herkimer College, from which he was duly and honorably graduated. At the outset of his career, he adopted the teacher’s vocation for his life work, but after laboring as an educator for several terms abandoned this profession for some more stirring and lucrative enterprise. In the year 1856 he started on the long journey from his home in the Empire state to the far-famed gold fields of California. He traveled by way of the Panama Canal and on reaching the West after many trials and hardships took up mining. The success which rewarded his efforts was just enough to keep him in that country for ten years. In 1866 he returned to his native place, but after a year the call of the West again proved too strong to resist, and once more he left New York to face the setting sun.
In 1869 Mr. Johnson arrived in Republic County, Kansas, and took up a homestead in Whiterock Township, a property which is still a part of the family estate. During the greater part of the remainder of his life he continued to make his home on this property, although as the years passed and his finances permitted he added to his holdings from time to time until he had accumulated some 1,400 acres of land. With the help of his faithful wife he became one of the substantial men of his community. His first years were slow. His capital was not great and there were many things to discourage him, including the grasshopper plague of 1874. But as time went on his energy, industry and good management made themselves more and more manifest, until his broad acres, covered with waving fields of grain, became evidence of his labor and agricultural skill.
Mr. Johnson had the faculty of making friends and the ability of maintaining all his friendships. In his home community he was held in the highest respect, and during the fourteen years in which he served as a justice of the peace he did much to preserve quiet in his township. He was a great lover of literature, and he and his wife accumulated a valuable library, the books in which covered a comprehensive field. While Mr. Johnson was not a professed member of any denomination, his people were of the Methodist faith and he was reared in that belief. His death occurred February 15, 1916, when his community lost a man who had done much for its welfare and general advancement along all lines. Mr. Johnson was taken back to his native state for burial.
In 1881, in Republic County, Kansas, Mr. Johnson was married to Mrs. Elizabeth A. Walsh, daughter of Lawrance and Mary Walsh. They did not have any children, but Mrs. Johnson had a daughter, who is now the wife of W. S. Lower, of Concordia. The Walsh family is of Irish origin and Mrs. Johnson’s father, who was a man of gigantic stature, fought as a member of the Scots Greys at Waterloo under General Wellington. He was incapacitated for further military service by being kicked by a horse, and in 1847 he left the old country and immigrated to the United States, although Mr. Walsh later returned to his native land. Mrs. Johnson was born in New York City in 1853 and is the only member of her father’s family in Kansas. Mrs. Johnson is a lady of extensive knowledge, a close student, a lover of literature, and a writer of something more than local reputation. She is a life member and director of the Kansas State Historical Society. About twenty years ago the Pawnee Republic. Historical Society began an investigation to determine the site of the old Indian village where during Pike’s expedition the American flag was first floated to the breeze in Kansas. This location was discovered by Mrs. Johnson. Mr. Johnson had her purchase the land and give to Kansas the Pawnee Republic in Republic County, Kansas. The state expended $3,000 in erecting an appropriate monument, and very elaborate ceremonies marked the dedication. A complete account of this historic event in Kansas will be found in Chapter V of the general history of Kansas on other pages.