James H. Johnson, a representative of one of the pioneer families of Northern Illinois, has passed the greater part of his life in this section of the State, and has for many years been connected with the farming interests of Reynolds Township, of which lie is a highly respected resident. May 13, 1832, is the date of his birth in the town of Centreville, Allegany County, N. Y. Galeb Johnson, his father, was born in Vermont; and was a son of Hezekiah Johnson, who is supposed to have been a native of the same State, and was of English descent. He removed to New York and settled among the pioneers of Centreville Township, buying a tract of timber from the Holland Purchase Company, which he developed into a farm in the course of his many years residence at that point. In 1856 he sold his property in that township, and coming to Illinois, the remainder of his life was spent at Knox Grove, in this county. The maiden mime of his wife was Hannah Emerson. her last years were passed on the old farm in Centreville, N. Y.

Caleb Johnson was but a boy when his parents left the place of his birth among the hills of Vermont, and foundod a new home in New York. He grew to maturity in Allegany County, and took unto himself a wife in the person of Maria, daughter of James and Catherine Johnson, and a native of Dutchess County, N. Y. Her parents were likewise born in the Empire State, and were of German descent. They came from New York to Illinois and passed their old age in De Kalb County. Mr. Johnson was a natural mechanic, and could turn his hand to anything, but he never learned any trade. In 1836 he removed to Michigan with his family. An uncle of our subject lived at Coldwater, and there the family first halted after their weary journey through the intervening wilderness. Our subject relates that the first morning after their arrival his father went out before breakfast and shot a deer, thus furnishing venison for that meal. At that time Michigan was a territory, and was scarcely more than a howling wilderness in the interior, where deer, bears and many other kinds of wild animals made their home. Mr. Johnson settled in Kalamazoo, and lived there and in Berrien County six years. In 1842 he again took up the march and came to Illinois, coming to Chicago by Lake Michigan, from that city made his way to DeKalb County with a team. He located in the eastern part of that county, but two or three years later he removed to Knox Grove, and became a pioneer farmer of Lee County. He purchased a farm, which he operated until his untimely death in 1848 deprived his township of his helpful labor in its development. His wife, who survived him some years, died in Reynolds Township.

The subject of this biography was but four years old when his parents removed to the Territory of Michigan, and had attained the age of ten years when they came to Illinois to reside. He was a blight, intelligent boy, and was interested in the pioneer life around him, of which he retains vivid recollections. When the family settled in this part of the State it was still in its natural condition for the most part, with but few improvements in the scattered settlements, and deer and other kinds of game roamed over the country where are now thriving towns and smiling farms. There were no railways whatsoever, and Chicago was the nearest city to which the pioneers could carry their produce and obtain their supplies. When Mr. Johnson was about twelve years old he began to assist in the operation of a threshing machine, and he was thus engaged for twenty-two seasons, each season then occupying the greater part of the year.

In 1864 our subject's health failed, and he was reduced in weight to one hundred and forty pounds. He wisely sought to recuperate by traveling, and started for California. He went by rail to Grinnell, Iowa, which was then the western terminus of the railway, and from there he crossed the plains and mountains with teams to Boise City, Idaho, where he sold his interest in the teams. He took a stage from there for Umatilla, Ore., where he embarked on a steamer for Portland, whence he went on another steamer to Vancouver's Island, thence to San Francisco. He made a stay of four days in the metropolis of California, and at the end of that time took passage on a steamer, and proceeded to New York by the way of the Isthmus of Panama, and from that city came home by rail after an absence of eight months. He had traveled many thousand miles, had visited many interesting places, seen much magnificent scenery, and besides gleaning much real enjoyment and a deal of useful information, as he had kept his eyes wide open when there was anything worth seeing, and was a sharp observer, he had regained his health and rejoiced in the weight of two hundred and four pounds.

After his return from his wanderings, Mr. Johnson settled quietly down to farming, buying a farm on section 35, Reynolds Township, which he occupied a few years, and then sold it and purchased the farm upon which lie now lives, which consists of one hundred and sixty acres of land of exceedly fertility, pleasantly located on section 34, of the same township.

The marriage of our subject with Miss Emily J. Taylor, was celebrated September 24, 1862, and to them have been born six children, whose names are Hattie, Martha, Edna, Etrulia, and George Wesley, deceased. Their oldest son died when he was fifteen years old.

Mrs. Johnson was born near Port Berwell, Province of Ontario Canada. Her father, James Thomas Taylor, was a native of Northhamptionshire, England, a son of James Taylor, who was also of English birth. The latter came to America with his family, and settling in Canada, was one of the first to locate in the vicinity of Port Berwell. The maiden name of Mrs. Johnson's paternal grandmother was Betsy Hart, who was likewise a native of England, and spent her last days at Iiowton, Canada. Mrs. Johnson's father was but twelve years old when he crossed the water with his parents to their Canadian home, he had a natural talent for mechanics, and followed the carpenter's trade a portion of his time. He was very well educated had a good knowledge of medicine. In 1858 he came to Illinois, and settled at Mellugin's Grove, Viola Township, where he resided five years. At the end of that time he removed to Reynolds township, and spent a like number of years there. He then went to Michigan, but subsequently returned to Illinois, and later went to Nebraska. He homesteaded a farm in Saunders County, that State, where he still resides. His wife bore the maiden name of Martha Hargraves.

Mr. Johnson cast his first vote for General Fremont, and the Republican party has had no stancher advocate from the day of its organization down to the present time than he. He keeps an intelligent run of the country, and is well posted in general matters.

Portraits and Biographical Pg 400-402


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"