Oliver P. Johnson is representative of a family that has been identified with the agricultural interests of this State from the early years of its settlement, and he is himself a pioneer of Northern Illinois, and one of the early settlers of Lee County, where be is now living practically retired from active business in the pretty village of West Brooklyn, though he still retains his large and finely improved farm in Br'ooklyn Township, deriving a good income from its rental.

He comes of good old Revolutionary stock. He was born in the town of Boston, Erie County, N. Y., October 21, 1812. His father, who also bore the name of Oliver, was a native of Pennsylvania, where his father, a native of Massachusetts, and of English blood, had settled in Colonial times as a pioneer. He entered the Continental army during the Revolution, and gave up his life for the cause of freedom. His wife was thus left a widow with four small children to care for in a wild country inhabited by hostile Indians. She was warned by some friendly savages that the red-skins contem­plated an uprising, when the whites would be swept away, and two days before the terrible mas­sacre at Wyoming, she left that fated country and was safely on her way to her old home in Massa­chusetts when it occurred. She located near Spring­field, and there reared her children. In her last years she went from there to Erie County, and died there at a venerable age.

The father of our subject was but four years old when he was left fatherless, and he returned with his mother to Massachusetts, where he was reared by a man of the name of Williams, who lived near Springfield. He was married in that State to Eliza­beth Sackett, who was born near Springfield, and was a daughter of Plain and Mary Sackett. In 1796 he removed to New York with an ox-team, and settled near the Hudson River. Five years later he went from there to Erie County, and lo­cated near Boston Township on a tract of land that he purchased of the Holland Purchase Company. He built a log house in the primeval forests, and made it his home until 1821, and he then again started forth to seek fortune's favors on the fron­tier, making his way across the wild intervening country by the way of the Olean, Alleghany and Ohio Rivers to Illinois, landing at Shawneetown, having set out on the journey in March. He located first in White County but a year later re­moved to what is now Sangamon County, where he bought a tract of land six miles from Spring­field, and was one of the first settlers in that sec­tion. The present capital of the State was then but a mere hamlet of six houses, A gristmill, operated by horse-power, was the only mill for many miles around, and St. Louis was the princi­pal market and depot for supplies. Deer, elk, an­telopes and bears were very plentiful in that sparsely settled wilderness. The people were prin­cipally home-livers, subsisting on what they could raise on their farms, and on game, while the women carded, spun and wove all the cloth used by their families.

Mr. Johnson was actively engaged in improving his land in that region until 1827, when he sold it, and removed to what is.now Logan County, where he entered nine hundred and sixty acres of Gov­ernment land fifteen miles northwest of LincoIn, and three miles from the present site of Atlanta. He built upon it and developed a large farm. He had the misfortune to lose his wife while residing there, and shortly before her death he bought a home in Putnam County, where he lived retired until the end. To him and his wife were born nine children, of whom our subject is the sole survivor.

Oliver P. Johnson was eight years old when the family sought a new home in the primeval wilds of this State, and he grew up under pioneer ,in­fluence. He remained with his parents until. he was twenty-one, and in the meantime thoroughly ­acquainted with farming in all its branches as carried on in those days, before the introduction of modern machinery. When he attained his ma­jority he went to Galena to work in the lead mines and was employed there nearly three years. In 1836 he took up his residence in La Salle County, and was one of the first settlers in the vicinity of Earlville, his being the first family to locate at the upper end of the grove. The land was all owned by the Government, and had not been surveyed. He made a claim to a tract that pleased him, built a log cabin in the grove, and one year later sold his claim. and went to what is now De Kalb County, locating at Johnson's Grove, two miles east of Shabbona. At that time Shabbona, and his tribe of Indians, who were very friendly to the whites, inhabited the grove, and the Chief was a frequent visitor at Mr. Jobnson's house. At that time his nearest neighbors were at Somanauk, seven miles distant, and deer, prairie wolves and other wild animals had not yet fled before the advancing steps of civilization.

After a years residence in De Kalb County, Mr. Johnson came to this county and selected a loca­tion in what is now Brooklyn Townsbip, and he has ever since lived here. At the time of his set­tlement in this township, all the land in Northern Illinois was owned by the Government, the few settlers holding their homes as claims. He devel­oped a large farm, erected a fine set of frame buildings, and his improvements have added greatly to the attractiveness of that section of the township in which his homestead is situated. He rented his farm after occupying it a number of years, and removing to the village of West Brook­lyn, has continued to live here in retirement from active business, though still having a general super­vision of his affairs. He is a man of business acumen, of practical energy and decision of char­acter, and these traits have made him a valuable helper in the great work that has been wrought in the reclamation of Lee County from its former wild condition.

Mr. Johnson has been fortunate in his domestic relations, as by his marriage, July 13, 1834, to Miss Elizabeth Hoss, he secured a wife who, during the fifty-six years that, they have lived together, has been to him all that that word implies, always ready to help him with wise counsel and cheerful assistance. Five of their six children are living, namely - Joseph, Elizabeth, Charles, Oliver P and James.

Mrs. Johnson was born in Virginia, March 19, 1813 and is a daughter of Joseph and Jane 9Norman) Ross. her father was a native of Pennsylvania, and was a son of James Ross. he went to Virginia when a young man, and was there married to a young lady who was a Virginian by birth. From there he went ot Ohio in 1818, thence to Indiana in 1828, whence he came to IL in 1833, and was one of the early settlers of LaSalle County. He located first on the banks of Indian Creek, near where the village of Earlville now stands, but three years later he removed to DeKalb County and became a pioneer of Ross' Grove. Some years later he went to Texas, and spent his last years in that State. Mrs. Johnson's mother died in Virginia in 1815.

Portraits and Biographical Pg 575


Lee Co Bios

Illinois - "Our Way"