Arrived in Brainerd in 1892.
•See Louisa Wright Congdon.
•See Lyman P. White.
JOHNSON, Parsons King
First settler in Mankato, born at Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, May 8th, 1816. His parents Charles and Eunice (King) Johnson, were prominent people of Brandon, where his father held a number of local offices. His mother was a descendant of Jonathan Carver, the English traveler, who claimed to have purchased of the Sioux Indians, on May 1st, 1767, a tract of land, extending from the Falls of St. Anthony to Lake Pepin, and thence one hundred miles to the East. An uncle of P. K., named Wm. King, visited the present site of St. Paul in 1816 to look up his Carver inheritance. Brandon was also the native place of Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, and he and young Johnson were students together for a time at the village academy, under the tutorship of the noted instructor, Chipman. Soon after the death of his mother in 1831, young Johnson was apprenticed to the tailor's trade at Pittsford, Vermont. In the Autumn of 1834, the articles of apprenticeship were canceled by mutual consent, and Johnson entered a tailoring establishment at Rutland, Vermont. Remaining here only six months, he removed to Thetford, Vermont, where he opened a tailor shop of his own, and had a number of assistants in his employ. Forming the acquaintance of the principal of the town academy, he was induced by him to take up a course of study under his private instruction. He also became much interested in the village Lyceum. Hearing much of the advantages to young men to be found in the newly organized territory of Wisconsin, Johnson, with a number of his companions, in the Spring of 1837, emigrated to that then distant wilderness. Their destination was Racine, which after a long and adventurous journey, by land and lake, they finally reached. Racine then comprised only a few rude shanties, and did not impress our Green Mountain boys very favorably. Milwaukee, also proved disappointing and they tried Chicago. Chicago then was a very tough town—full of gamblers and lawless people generally.
A big fight occurred in the bar room of their hotel on the first night of our friends arrival. To staid Kew England youths, such a scene was shocking, and they concluded not to stay there another night, and started for home. At the boat landing Johnson met an acquaintance from Thetford, who had just landed, and who induced him to accompany him to Elgin, Illinois. Elgin again proved disappointing, but Johnson proceeded to Rockford, where he was better suited. Here he formed a partnership with Wm. H. Tinker (now of St. Paul), in the tailoring business, which continued for four years. In the Spring of 1841, finding the hard times were crippling his business at Rockford, he removed to Prairie du Chien, where he soon worked up a lucrative trade with the prosperous Indian traders of that point and the army officers at Fort Atkinson. Here he formed the acquaintance of Hon. Henry M. Rice, then sutler and Indian trader at the latter place, and they became fast friends. Here, also, he obtained his first taste of politics, and was appointed by Gov. Doty, Deputy Sheriff and Notary Public. In the Winter of 1846-7, he made a business visit to St. Paul, and removed there the following Spring. He took an active part in the organization of Minnesota Territory, and was a member of the first legislature.
In 1850, he married Miss Laura Bivins, of St. Paul. In February, 1853, in company with Henry Jackson and- others, he founded the present city of Mankato, of which he was the first actual settler. From 1853 to 1856 he served as the first Register of Deeds, and first Postmaster in Blue Earth County. During 1856 and 1857, he represented this County in the State Legislature. For over fourteen years he was village and city Justice of Mankato, discharging the duties of the office with much ability and the strictest impartiality.
In the Spring of 1865, he removed to Kasota, intending to engage in business with Mr. Babcock. Their plans, however, failed to mature, and Mr. Johnson returned to Mankato in the Spring of 1869.
In 1894, he moved to Brainerd, Minnesota, where his devoted wife died on May 9th, 1895, and where November 16, 1902, he lost his son. Frank B. Johnson. Three children still survive: Charles D., who is engaged in the drug business at Brainerd, and William H. Johnson and Mrs. Julia K. McFadden. Mr. Johnson is possessed of a social, genial disposition and has much native wit. In politics he has ever been a consistent Democrat of the Jacksonian school. He has lived to see the city he founded fifty years ago grow to be the most important commercial center in Southern Minnesota. (Mankato, Its First Fifty Years, Free Press Printing Company, Mankato, Minnesota, 1903)
HON. P. K. JOHNSON
Old Resident and Pioneer States-
man Died This Morning at
Home of Daughter
NEARLY 96 YEARS OF AGE
Was Pioneer Settler and Mem-
ber of First Territorial
Hon. Parson [sic] K. Johnson, father of Mrs. Julia K. McFadden, Charles and Will Johnson, died this morning at the home of Mrs. McFadden, of old age. Mr. Johnson has been failing for several months and has been confined to the bed for several weeks.
Mr. Johnson was one of the best known pioneers of the state and territory of Minnesota, having represented the city of St. Paul in the council of the first territorial legislature of Minnesota, which convened in the city of St. Paul on the 3rd day of Sept., 1849, and adjourned November 1st, of that year. So far as is known he was the last survivor of that body.
Mr. Johnson was also one of the founders of the city of Mankato, which was settled in 1851 and 1852. He was afterwards in the legislature from that district and was a prominent citizens of that city for many years. For several years past he had made his home with Mrs. McFadden and with Charles Johnson.
Last winter he went to St. Paul and was received by the state legislature as a guest of honor. Since then his health has rapidly failed and he gradually shrunk away, weighing about 75 pounds at the time of his death. For several weeks past he has been confined to his bed most of the time.
The following sketch of Mr. Johnson appeared in the St. Paul Dispatch of February 12, 1902, having been sent to that paper as a special from Brainerd:
"The history of Minnesota could scarcely be written without a glance at the scrolls whereon are emblazened the names of those who laid the foundation stones of this splendid commonwealth. Parsons K. Johnson, a resident of Brainerd, is the sole surviving member of the first territorial legislature of the North Star state.
"The story of Mr. Johnson's life is a varied and interesting one, running hand in hand with the birth, growth and development of the state through fifty-five long years and today, with whitening hair, halting steps, and failing sight, but with mind and memory keen and active, he watches the progress of the events with as great solicitude as ever he did when Minnesota existed in little more than name.
"Mr. Johnson was born in Vermont, May 8, 1816, raised in the same atmosphere, playing the same boyish games, attending the same school, courting the same young girls as the great Stephen A. Douglas. They were schoolmates, playmates and boyhood friends and many are the excellent stories Mr. Johnson is able to tell today of the 'Little giant.'
"While yet a young man, he, like many another, came west to grow up with the country, settling first in Illinois. It was there he had an opportunity to vote for his boyhood's friend, Douglas, for president in the memorable campaign that made the immortal Lincoln president. After ten years of Illinois, he moved to Minnesota, arriving in St. Paul in 1847. As was stated he was a member of the first territorial legislature, which convened in the little log structure at the corner of Bench and Minnesota streets, Sept. 3, 1849, and continued in session until November 1 the same year. There were but eighteen members of that body: Joseph W. Fhurber [sic], speaker; James Wells, Henry Jackson, John J. Dewey, Morton S. Wilkinson, Sylvanus Trask, Mahlum [sic] [Mahlon] Black, Benjamin W. Brunson, Henry F. Setzer, William R. Marshall, William Dugas, Jeremiah Russell, Allen Morrison, Lorenzo Babcock, Thomas A. Holmes, Alexis Bailey, Gideon H. Pond and Parsons K. Johnson—all dead now save this one white-haired man. He was married in 1850 to Miss Laura Bivins, by whom he had four children. Mrs. Johnson died in Brainerd in 1895.
"Mr. Johnson was the first postmaster in Mankato, having moved to that place from St. Paul in 1852, and was appointed to that office by President Pierce. He was the first register of deeds of Blue Earth county, elected in 1856, and later on was elected to the seventh territorial legislature from the Tenth district, which embraced Blue Earth, Steele, LeSueur, Faribault, Brown Nicollett, Sibley, Pierce and Renville counties. The house of representatives at this session had thirty-eight members. He held [the] office of justice of [the] peace at Mankato for fourteen years. He was a witness to the hanging of the thirty-eight Sioux Indians at Mankato, Dec. 26, 1862.
"The venerable gentleman saw the first train of cars move out of St. Paul for St. Anthony. He stood on the levee in St. Paul when the first printing press was brought to Minnesota for James Goodhue.
"Mr. Johnson is a member of the first territorial pioneer's association and takes great pleasure in meeting his friends of the early days of the state at the annual meeting held in St. Paul. It is his intention to take part in celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the City of Mankato, which will take place in that town next June.
The funeral will take place Monday morning from the residence of Mrs. Julia McFadden, the services being conducted by Rev. J. R. Alten. Interment will be in Evergreen cemetery. (Brainerd Dispatch, 23 November 1907, p. 3, c. 3) [Contributed by John Van Essen]
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