John Alford Johnson
  b: May/1822 - Culpeper Co., VA
  d: 1907 - Payne Co., Okla. Terr. - bur: Ingalls Cem.

Father: Joseph Johnson
Mother: *****

Spouse: Elizabeth B. Thompson
 m: 1/Mar/1849 - Van Buren Co., IA - div: ~1876

Child-1: Henry - b: 1857/1858 - Gentry Co., MO - nra: 1870
          2: Joseph A. - b: Aug/1859 - Gentry Co., MO
                                d: Nov/1922 - bur: Ingalls Cem., Payne Co., OK
          3: James Myron - b: 5/Mar/1862 - Jackson Twp., Gentry Co., MO
                                     d: 4/Nov/1946 - Yale, Payne Co., OK - bur: Gray Horse Indian Village Cem., Osage Co.
                                    m: Edith Jane Goad - 4/May/1887 - Crawford Co., KS
                                    m: Mary E. Bailey Hayden - 7/Mar/1910 - Tulsa, Tulsa Co., OK
          4: Melissa Jane - b: 15/Jun/1864 - Jackson Twp., Gentry Co., MO
                                    d: 3/Sep/1940 - Platte Twp., Andrew Co., MO - bur: Lafayette Cem., Nodaway Co.
                                   m: William Franklin Coyle - 1881/1882
          5: Louella - b: 5/Sep/1867 - Jackson Twp., Gentry Co., MO
                            d: 25/May/1943 - Mercy Hosp., St. Joseph, Buchanan Co., MO - bur: Lafayette Cem., Nodaway Co.
                           m: Green Tenly Bell - 1884/1885

Biographical Details:

John Alford Johnson is thought to have been born in Culpeper County, Virginia, about 1822 or 1823.  (In the 1900 population schedule he apparently indicated that he had been born in May of 1822, but an average derived form ages he reported variously in previous federal census records, suggests that 1823 is more likely.)  He was the older brother of James M. Johnson and, therefore, consistent with the record of a suit of equity brought by James Johnson in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in October of 1843, it is probable that he was the son of Joseph Johnson; however, the name of his mother remains entirely unknown.  Apparently, John Alford emigrated from Virginia to Kentucky or Indiana with his parents and siblings sometime in the 1830's or 1840's.  Moreover, the two brothers, John and James, seem to have moved westward to Iowa together, presumably after the early death of their father.  According to oral family tradition, both John Alford and James M. Johnson worked on a steamboat on the Ohio River and if so it would seem likely that they traveled on the Mississippi River as well, perhaps, becoming acquainted with the Mormons at Nauvoo, Illinois, which is located on the east bank of the Mississippi just above the mouth of the Des Moines River.  What is certain, is that John Alford Johnson married Elizabeth Thompson in Van Buren County, Iowa, on March 1, 1849, and also that his younger brother, James M., married Elizabeth's sister, Sarah Ann, in Van Buren County a few days short of six weeks later.  They were daughters of Julius and Sarah Thompson, who apparently had been associated with the Mormons at Kirtland, Ohio, then in Caldwell County, Missouri, and later at Nauvoo.  Indeed, Van Buren County is located precisely on the route that the Mormons traversed when they left Nauvoo for "Deseret" (subsequently, the Utah Territory) beginning in the late winter and early spring of 1846 under the leadership of Brigham Young.1  As with other pioneers and as at other places along the "Mormon Trail", it seems likely that the Johnson brothers and the Thompson family may have settled in Van Buren County more or less permanently, perhaps, with the idea that they would travel westward, viz., to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, at a later date.  Accordingly, it appears that sometime between 1850 and 1854, the Thompson and Johnson families did, indeed, move to western Iowa with the intention of migrating to the Utah Territory, or even California.  Even so, it is possible, but by no means certain, that they settled for a short time in Gentry County, Missouri, which, as noted elsewhere, may have allowed them to apply subsequently as squatters for land patents under the authority of the Preemption Act of 1841.  Nevertheless, it is evident that by 1856 John Alford and Elizabeth Thompson Johnson were resident in territory presently in southern Utah, since a daughter, Sarah, was born in the Utah Territory in March of that year.  There is some question as to the exact location of her birth since in the population schedule of the 1860 US Census for Gentry County, her birthplace was indicated as the "Washington Territory".  In contrast, "Utah" appeared as the location of her birth in subsequent census population schedules of 1870, 1880, and 1900.  As a matter of history, the federal Washington Territory was organized in 1853 and at that time corresponded to the area occupied by the present state of Washington along with portions of the present states of Idaho and Montana, west of the Continental Divide and north of a line extending roughly due east from the mouth of the Columbia River, i.e., by extension of the southern border of present state of Washington eastward.  This implies that in 1856, the Washington Territory was separated from the Utah Territory by the eastern portion of the Oregon Territory.  It was not until 1859 when the boundaries of the state of Oregon were fixed for admission into the federal union that the southeastern portion of the old Oregon Country was attached to the Washington Territory, which then consequently became adjacent to the Utah Territory along its northern boundary, i.e., at forty-two degrees north latitude.  Therefore, it would seem certain that instead of the federal Washington Territory, Washington County organized on March 3, 1852, within the federal Utah Territory (and which may have been unofficially called "Washington Territory" until a county government was organized in 1856), was implied by the 1860 census.  Moreover, at this time Washington County was the southernmost political division of the Utah Territory and covered a strip of land extending some six hundred miles, viz., all the way from the eastern territorial border to the western border.  This is much more land area than that covered by its present day remnant, which now occupies only the far southwestern corner of the state of Utah.  It would seem evident that the Utah Territory did not provide the expected opportunity for the Johnson and Thompson families since the 1860 US Census for Gentry County indicates that all three households were then living near the village of Island City.  Presumably, they all had traveled west and then returned to Missouri together.  Within this context, both John A. and James M. Johnson were granted land patents in Gentry County on October 1, 1859.2  The legal description of the land patented by John A. Johnson was  "the Southwest quarter of the Northeast quarter, the Northwest quarter of the Southeast quarter, and the East half of the Southwest quarter of Section Twenty-four in Township Sixty-two of Range Thirty-three".  This location is substantially confirmed by a plat of Gentry County published in 1877.3  According to Nadine Johnson McCampbell in her Johnson Family History, John Alford Johnson operated a grist mill at Island City during the Civil War.  Concomitantly, there is some evidence that he also may have served with volunteer militia loyal to the Union.  General economic conditions became quite difficult in the 1870's, viz., the Panic of 1873 and subsequent financial depression, which did not end at least until 1878.  Within this historical and economic context, it appears that John A. and Elizabeth Johnson became bankrupt and lost much, if not all, of  their property to foreclosure in the fall of 1876.4  Moreover, in addition to these financial troubles there may have been other strains on their domestic relationship as well and; hence, it appears that they separated permanently at about this same time.  Indeed, according to family tradition, John Alford Johnson sold or abandoned his grist mill, left his wife in Gentry County, and moved to Oklahoma taking two of his sons with him.  This account is substantially supported by Gentry County population schedules of 1870 and 1880.  To be specific, in 1870, John A. and Elizabeth Johnson together with six children, viz., Sarah, Henry, Joseph, James, Melissa, and Luella, were resident as a single household in Jackson Township; however, in 1880 the corresponding household consisted of only Elizabeth Johnson and four children, viz., Sarah, James, Melissa, and Luella.  Furthermore, the marital status of Elizabeth Johnson was specifically indicated in the population schedule as "divorced".  Therefore, one can conclude that John Alford Johnson, along with his two older sons, Henry and Joseph, left the family between 1870 and 1880.

As a matter of history, the territory of the present state of Oklahoma had been reserved for Native Americans following the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  However, at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Texas forces moved north and the federal forces withdrew from the territory. Concomitantly, Confederate Commissioner, Albert Pike, negotiated formal treaties of alliance with all the major tribes and a delegate was sent to the Confederate Congress in Richmond.  Even so, minority factions opposed the Confederacy and Union soldiers together with "loyal Indians" invaded Indian Territory and defeated the Confederates at Honey Springs on July 17, 1863.  Contemporarneously, Congress passed a statute authorizing the President to suspend appropriations of any tribe if the tribe is "in a state of actual hostility to the government of the United States ... and, by proclamation, to declare all treaties with such tribe to be abrogated by such tribe."  Accordingly, after the Civil War in 1866. the federal government forced tribes that had allied with the Confederacy into new Reconstruction Treaties, which ceded most of the land in central and western Indian Territory to the government.  Some of this land was assigned to other tribes, but the central portion became so-called "Unassigned Lands".  Accordingly, in the 1870's "non-Indian" settlers began to occupy the Unassigned Lands believing them subject to the Homestead Act of 1862 and referring to them as "Oklahoma" and to themselves as "Boomers".  In contrast, the federal government considered such settlement illegal, but in 1884, in United States vs. Payne, the United States District Court in Topeka, Kansas, ruled that settling on lands ceded to the government by Native American tribes was not a crime.  Following initial resistance by the government, Congress soon enacted laws authorizing legal settlement.  In addition, Congress passed the Dawes Act, or General Allotment Act, in 1887 which required the government to negotiate with the tribes to divide tribal lands into individual parcels or "allotments".  Concomitantly, any lands remaining would be surveyed for settlement by non-Indians.  All of this culminated with the Land Rush of 1889 into an area opened to settlement that included all or parts of present Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Logan, Oklahoma, and Payne Counties.  The land run started at high noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated fifty thousand people lined up to claim their piece of the available two million acres.  Within this context, it appears that John A. Johnson and his sons moved into the Unassigned Lands, perhaps, as early as the late 1870's or sometime in the 1880's and, as such, they would have been Boomers.  This is consistent with the absence of John A., Henry, or Joseph Johnson in any population schedule of 1880 since non-Indian residents of the Indian Territory were not enumerated in 1880.  Subsequently, however, in the special schedule for veterans and widows of the US Census of 1890, John A. Johnson was identified as a Civil War veteran living near the village of Ingalls in County 6 of the Oklahoma Territory (later renamed Payne County) and although details of his putative military service appear to be quite inaccurate, it is evident that he was actually resident in this locality.5  Ten years later, the population schedule of the 1900 US Census for Payne County, Oklahoma Territory, included John A. Johnson, aged seventy-eight years, born in Virginia, and resident in Cimarron Township with his unmarried, adult son, Joseph A. Johnson, aged thirty-seven, born in Missouri with father and mother born in Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively.  Indeed. this is in exact accord with the Johnson family and is further supported by a land patent issued to John A. Johnson on October 22, 1902, for just under one hundred and fifty acres in Section One in Township Eighteen North of Range Four East, which corresponds to a location in Payne County in the extreme northeastern corner of Cimarron Township about five miles northeast of the present town of Ripley, Oklahoma, and about three miles southeast of the village of Ingalls.6  This patent was issued under the authority of the Homestead Act of 1862, which required that a patentee reside on the land for at least five years and make suitable improvements, e.g., construction of a residence, farm buildings, etc., after which the patentee could file for a deed of title.  Subsequently, John Johnson was not included in the population schedule of the 1910 US Census but Joseph was and, moreover, a marker placed in Ingalls Cemetry indicates that he died in 1907.  Concomitantly, a land patent was issued to Joseph A. Johnson in 1910 for a parcel adjacent to the original homestead of his father.7  As indicated by the original survey plat and confirmed by an atlas of Payne County oublished in 1907, both parcels were non-standard.8  Geographically, Section One is approximately bisected by the Cimarron River with the northern half included in Cimarron Township and the southern half in Union Township; hence, John and Joseph Johnson evidently lived on the north side of the river.  Concomitantly, with the exception of approximately thirty acres of bottom land, current topographic maps reveal that most of the portion of Section One north of the Cimarron River consists of steep and heavily eroded bluffs and it would appear that the original residence was located immediately below the bluffs.  Sadly, it would seem that the family of John A. and Elizabeth Thompson Johnson became permanently ruptured with the failure of their marriage.  Indeed, their older surviving son, Joseph, remained in Oklahoma until his death and was buried in the Ingalls Cemetery in 1922.  Likewise, younger son, James, although included with his mother and sisters in the population schedule of the 1880 US Census for Gentry County, evidently also settled on Indian lands, perhaps, in the late 1880's, although such an early date remains to be proven.9  In contrast, John and Elizabeth's daughters, Melissa and Louella, remained in Missouri with their mother.10  As a matter of oral tradition, there is little evidence that John A. Johnson communicated with the family he had left behind in Gentry County, particularly with his ex-wife.  Even so, it is probable that members of the family did know the whereabouts of their father.

Source Notes and Citations:

Additional Citations:

11. 1850 US Census Population Schedule for Van Buren County, Iowa, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 287B, (microfilm: roll M432_189; img. 87).

12. 1860 US Census Population Schedule for Gentry County, Missouri, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 687, (microfilm: roll M653_620; img. 42).

13. 1870 US Census Population Schedule for Gentry County, Missouri, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 623B, (microfilm: roll M593_776; img. 466).

14. 1890 US Census Special Schedule for County 6, Oklahoma Territory, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 1, (microfilm: roll M123_76; img. 13).

15. 1900 US Census Population Schedule for Payne County, Oklahoma Territory, National Archives, Washington DC:  pg. 43B, (microfilm: roll M623_1341; img. 548).

16. Chancery Records, Rappahannock Co., Washington, VA, Case #88, (Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA, (microfilm: roll - Chancery Records #42; img. 557)).

17. Marriage Records, Van Buren County, Keosauqua, IA.  ("Early Van Buren Co IA Marriages", Van Buren County IAGenWeb Archives,, 2002.)

18. Missouri Military Records Database, Missouri State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson City, MO, (record group: Off. of Adj. Gen., Rec. of serv. card, Civil War; box 44; reel s781).

19. Anonymous, 66th Illinois Infantry, Regimental and Unit Histories, Illinois Adjutant General's Report, electronic pub., Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL, 2006: pgs. 214-6.  ("Illinois Civil War Regiment and Unit Histories",, 2006.)

20. H. C. Stallings,"Ingalls Cemetery", unpublished. (Mollie Stehno (sub), Payne County OKGenWeb Archives, 1999.)

21. Ingalls Cemetery, Payne County, Oklahoma (, continuously updated).

22. Nadine McCampell, Johnson Family History, The Printery, Albany, MO, 1982: pgs. 12-4.


23. Marriage Licenses, Crawford County, Girard, KS, Bk. E, pg. 295.

24. Marriage Records, Tulsa County, Tulsa, OK:  Bk. 2, pg. 627.

25. Death Certificates, Missouri State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Jefferson City, MO, (Death Certificate No. 31275 - Bureau of Vital Statistics, State of Missouri, Jefferson City, MO & Death Certificate No. 17368 - Bureau of Vital Statistics, State of Missouri, Jefferson City, MO).

26. Gray Horse Indian Village Cemetery, Osage County, Oklahoma (, continuously updated).

27. Lafayette Cemetery, Nodaway County, Missouri (, continuously updated).

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