Illinois offers excellent opportunities to its agriculturists. In no other state in the Union is found richer soil or a climate more favorable to the production of crops. There is never an absolute crop failure in Illinois and generally the harvest is large and bounteous. Therefore the farmer who carefully conducts his interests may win success and gain a competence for the evening of life. This Mr. Johnson has done and although he is hardly yet past the prime of life, is now enabled to live retired, putting aside the farming and stock-raising interests which claimed his attention in former years.
He was born in McLean county, Illinois, July 26, 1841, his parents being James R. and Mary (Satterfield) Johnson, natives of Kentucky and White county, Illinois, respectively. The father came to this state when eighteen years of age, arriving in McLean county in 1832. The Indians at that time were the principal inhabitants of this part of the state, for the white settlers were very few and the red men resented their encroachment upon the hunting grounds which they claimed as their inheritance. When the Black Hawk war was inaugurated Mr. Johnson defended the interests of the early settlers and also participated in other expeditions against the Indians. He likewise served during the year 1847 in the war with Mexico, going to the front under General Zachary Taylor. When peace was restored he returned to McLean county and engaged in farming near the town of LeRoy, living a life of well directed industry and thrift until called to his final rest in 1866. His wife long survived him and passed away in 1902 on the day made memorable by the great Galveston flood. They were the parents of seven children: Elizabeth, the wife of James R. McCan, of Jackson county, Kansas; Ellen, the widow of Thomas Reed; James M., of this review; George W., who resides in McLean county; Perrin, of LeRoy, Illinois; Lawson, who makes his home in Jackson county, Kansas; and Mary, the wife of A. Barnett, of LeRoy, Illinois.
James M. Johnson acquired his education through the medium of the public schools of McLean county but his opportunities in that direction were somewhat limited and it has been through his own efforts that he has become a well informed man, reading, observation and experience largely broadening his knowledge. At the age of nineteen years he joined Company B of the Thirty-ninth Illinois Infantry and served with the Army of the James and the Army of the Potomac in defense of the Union cause. He participated in many of the battles fought by the Army of the James and while with the Army of the Potomac he was wounded in front of Petersburg, Virginia, being struck by a ball in the left hip. His injuries confined him to the hospital for three months, after which he rejoined his command and remained with the regiment until the close of the war, being mustered out of the service at Norfolk, Virginia, December 12, 1865. At one time he was captured and confined in Libby prison for three months. He had always been found loyal to duty, whether on the picket line or the firing line, and he took part in the long, hard marches and the sieges, together with the sanguinary conflicts which led up to the final victory that crowned the Federal arms.
When honorably discharged Mr. Johnson returned direct to Springfield, Illinois, and thence to his home. immediately afterward he rented a farm and began its cultivation, carrying on general agricultural pursuits in McLean county for twenty years. In 1887 he removed to Ford county and rented a part of the Sibley estate, while for eighteen years he was manager of one of its extensive plantations, cultivating two hundred and forty acres which is still under his control. He retired from the active work of the farm, however, in 1905, in which year he purchased a home in the village of Sibley, where he is now living.

Mr. Johnson was married March 22, 1866, to Miss Jane E. Kimber, a daughter of Richard and Sarah E. Kimber. They became the parents of four children, of whom two died unmarried. The others are Cora, the wife of Walter Hammond, of McLean county, Illinois; and Charles, of this county. The wife and mother died January 27, 1878, and on the 5th of January, 1881, Mr. Johnson was married to Mrs. Lizzie Williams, the widow of George Williams and a daughter of Robert and Mary (Garner) Robertson, who were natives of Indiana and early settlers of Illinois. They came to this state when there were comparatively few settlers within its borders and took up their abode in Cass county, the journey being made in wagons drawn by oxen. Mr. Robertson's father died on the way and as there was no burying ground in the district his grave was made by the wayside. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Robert Robertson were born seven children, of whom one died in early life. The others were: Ellen, the deceased wife of M. Darling; James, who has also passed away; Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson; Jennie, the widow of E. Cole; Kate, the wife of W. Pettit; and Charles, of California. Mr. Robertson was twice married, his second union being with Mrs. L. Morgan nee Miller, and they had the following children: Lincoln, Wiley, Alva, Bert, Perry, Ernest and Frank. The death of the father occurred in 1895. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Johnson have been born three children but Clarence, the eldest, is deceased. Mamie is a teacher of this county, and Myrtle is at home. Mrs. Johnson belongs to the Methodist Episcopal church and Mr. Johnson belongs to the Odd Fellows lodge at Sibley. They are both people of the highest respectability, whose good qualities of heart and mind have won for them the confidence and friendly regard of all who know them. In his business career Mr. Johnson has displayed excellent ability and unfaltering diligence and as the years have passed his labor has been the measure of a gratifying success.

Extracted 17 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Ford County, Illinois, From Its Earliest Settlement to 1908, author E. A. Gardner, Volume 2, pages 688-692

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