Cooper County, Missouri

Biographies
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Col. Thomas Alexander Johnston.
—When one thinks of the Kemper Military School of Boonville, it is only natural to think also of Col. T. A. Johnston, the commandant and head of this famous institution. The prestige, strength and popularity of this school throughout the Middle West is due to the executive and organizing ability of Colonel Johnston. Primarily founded in 1844 as a school of higher learning for young men, its popularity as a school for training young men both physically and mentally has been enhanced from year to year. The school has had its greatest growth since the year 1872, when Col. Johnston, a former student of the school, having graduated from the State University, became assistant principal, succeeding to the superintendent^ in 1881. In Col. Johnston are combined the attributes of a splendid teacher, a strict disciplinarian, an excellent business man and financier—a combination rarely found among scholarly men, or among those who have devoted their lives to . teaching. Col. Johnston was born an educator, became a business man, and developed a talent as an organizer which is unsurpassed by men of his class. One has but to look at the group of splendid buildings, costing many thousands of dollars, which have been erected on the Kemper Military School grounds during his regime as superintendent of the school, see with pleasure the line appearing young men who have had training and instruction in the halls of Kemper, to realize that this school is an institution of which any Cooper County citizen can rightly boast. Kemper Military School is distinctly a Boonville institution, its builder is a native son of Cooper County, and a descendent of one of the older Cooper County pioneers, who has spent practically all of his life in the county of his birth. Col. Thomas A. Johnston was born on a farm in Cooper County, 11 miles south of Boonville, Nov. 13, 1848. He is a son of John Benoni Johnston, and a grandson of Alexander Johnston, who settled in Cooper County in 1817, when this section of Missouri was largely an un-peopled wilderness. The family is of Southern origin, and its members were among prominent families of Tennessee and the Carolinas.
The Johnston family is also one of the oldest in America. The history of the family in America begins with Gavin Johnston, a native of North Ireland, who came to America prior to the Revolution and settled in Pennsylvania where he was killed by Indians while plowing in his fields. His family or descendents moved to North Carolina and settled in the vicinity of Waxhaw. Alexander Johnston, great-grandfather of Col. T. A. Johnston, was a soldier in the American Army of Independence, and fought at the Battle of "The Cowpens." After the close of the Revolution, Alexander removed to Tennessee, and settled in the vicinity of McMinnville, where he reared his family. His wife, prior to her marriage, was Margaret Barnett, a daughter of Robert Barnett, an officer in the American Army, who served in the Revolution. Alexander Johnston was father of four sons, Gavin, Robert B., James, and Alexander, who migrated to Cooper County, Mo., in 1817. He had one daughter, Mary.
Alexander Johnston, grandfather of Thomas A. Johnston, settled in the New' Salem neighborhood, just north of New Salem Church, and entered Government land. He developed a farm and there spent the remainder of his days. He was born July 16, 1787, and died Feb. 2, 1839. He married Rachel Thaxton, who died shortly after the birth of John Benoni Johnston, father of Col. T. A Johnston. After her death he married Mary Hammond, born March 7, 1795; died Sept. 22, 1863; married Dec. 6, 1813. To this marriage were born: Rachel Dillard, Nancy McFadden, Margaret Barnett, Finis Ewing, Sarah Jenkins, Robert Morrow, Harbert Hammonds, Martha Ann, Mary Jane.
John Benoni Johnston was born Aug. 30, 1812, and died Feb. 6, 1888. He entered land adjoining his father's home place, and spent his life as a farmer. He was twice married. His first wife was Elizabeth Ann Robinson, who was born May 21, 1818, and died Dec. 19, 1844. The date of this marriage was Dec. 17, 1835. There were five children born to this marriage: Mary Margaret, born Jan. 9, 1837, and died May 22, 1911. She became the wife of Shelton Parsons, Aug. 12, 1873, and at her death left a daughter, Maggie May. The other children were: Rachel Jane, Sarah Ann, Susan Ellen, and Elizabeth Robinson.
Rachel Jane Johnston was born Dec. 22, 1838, married Robert Willis March 26, 1868, and .is mother of a son, William Benoni Johnston, of Boonville. Sarah Ann Johnston was born June 29, 1840, and died Sept. 21, 1909. She married Manson B. Simmons Feb. 28, 1866, and bore him seven children, four of whom are living: William Henry, Ella, Bettie Johnston, and John Kelly Simmons. Susan Ellen Johnston was born Jan. 4, 1842, and died Jan. 26, 1917. ' Elizabeth Robinson Johnston, the fifth child, died in infancy. The second marriage of John Benoni Johnston was on June 1, 1846, with Miss Margaret Harris, who was born Jan. 21,,1821, and departed this life Aug. 4, 1912. The children born of this marriage are: Robert Barnett, Thomas Alexander, William Franklin, Elizabeth, George Washington, and James Ewing. Robert Barnett Johnston was born March 6, 1847, spent his life as an agriculturist in Cooper County, and died March 23, 1908. William Franklin Johnston was born Feb. 21, 1857, and resides in Warrensburg, Mo. Elizabeth was born April 2, 1853, and is the wife of William A. Hurt, a farmer near Boonville. George Washington Johnston was born Aug. 22, 1856, and died in New Mexico, Feb. 4, 1904. James Ewing Johnston was born Feb. 1, 1859. He is an electrical engineer in Denver, Colo.
The Johnstons were adherents of William the Conqueror, and the ancestors of the Johnstons in America received a grant of land on the southern border of Scotland for their fealty to the king, the seat of the family being known as Johnstown on the River Annan in Annandale, Scotland. They took a prominent part in the border warfare between the Scottish people and England, and were given the task of guarding the border until the pacification of the centuries old warfare which culminated in the union of Scotland and England under one crown. The direct ancestor of Col T. A. Johnston, then, with hundreds of others who sought freedom from persecution, moved to the north of Ireland.
The early education of Thomas Alexander Johnston was obtained in the district school and Kemper School. After completing his preparatory course at the Kemper School he entered the State University at Columbia, and was graduated from this institution in 1872 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts and later Master of Arts. He at once became a member of the faculty of the Kemper School, and upon the death of Mr. Kemper, he succeeded him as the principal, receiving a well earned promotion from assistant principal to the superintendence', March 9, 18S1.
From the day on which Col. Johnston took charge of the Kemper School there has been steady and consistent progress. Each year has seen an increase in the enrollment of the school, which now totals 510 pupils with a faculty of 28 members. New and more modern buildings have been erected to accommodate the increasing enrollment, and the military training which is given the students is recognized as official by the War Department of the Federal Government. The credit of this great growth is due to the enterprise, ambition, and able management of Col. Johnston, who like a good executive, has surrounded himself with capable assistants, who are also imbued with the desire to enhance and maintain the enviable reputation enjoyed by the Kemper Military School throughout the United States.
June 27, 1877, Thomas Alexander Johnston and Miss Carrie Frances Rea, of Saline County, Mo., were united in marriage. Mrs. Johnston was born near Slater, Mo., and is a daughter of Rev. Peter G. Rea, who was a prominent minister of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church for many years. The children born to this marriage are: Bertha, Rea Alexander, Harris Cecil, Alice Ewing. Major Rea Alexander Johnston is assistant superintendent and tactical military officer of the Missouri Training School at Boonville. He married Grace Mosher, of Oneida, Ill., and has one son, William Johnston. Bertha is the wife of Major A. M Hitch, principal of the Kemper Military School. Major and Mrs. Hitch have two children, Charles Johnston and Thomas Kemper Hitch. Harris Cecil Johnston is quartermaster of the Kemper Military School, and has charge of all supplies used. He married Georgia Wooldridge and has two children, Marjorie and Caroline. Alice Ewing is the wife of Major R. J. Foster, of the United States Army, stationed at Washington, D. C.
Colonel Johnston is a democrat; he is a director of the Commercial Bank of Boonville, and is an elder of the Presbyterian Church of his home city.
History Of Cooper County Missouri by W.F. Johnson 1919



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