Plate 31
(This plate is still under construction.)


Bennie and Amelia (Miller) Johnson
(Donald's parents)

Top left: Bennie Johnson left home at 17 with 35 cents in his pocket to work on a farm. He worked for wages in a logging camp and a bicycle shop in Wisconsin, on a Missouri River steamboat, on farms in Minnesota and North Dakota, and tried to homestead in North Dakota before he settled in Ashby. He owned and operated a livery barn and he drove cars for hire. In 1917, he bought a farm outside Ashby: 114 acres, mostly oak woods, for $35 an acre [$4,000]. He dismantled the livery barn in 1922 and rebuilt it on the farm.

Top right: Amelia Miller was graduated from Normal School in Fergus Falls in 1904 and taught "country school" (eight grades in one room). She shared teaching duties in Dalton with her sister, Nellie, until her marriage. Souvenir cards with the teacher's picture on them and uplifting messages inside were distributed to pupils at the end of the school year. This one is dated 1908.

Bottom left: Wedding Photo, September 5, 1911. Amelia Loretta Miller (February 16, 1884 - June 14, 1958) and Bennie Johnson (January 18, 1881 - April 30, 1948) were married in a private ceremony at the county courthouse in Elbow Lake, Minnesota.

Bottom right: Bennie Johnson in official photo wearing cap with a brass Chauffeur's badge -- it says "Liveryman," I think -- which he acquired in 1913 with the license to drive a new 1913 Model T Ford for hire. (It was the first of several Model T's.)

Excerpt from Donald B. Johnson manuscript:

"I never heard much about the years between when Pa homesteaded in North Dakota and when he and Odin Boe bought the livery barn in Ashby, in about 1909, before he was married. The partnership only lasted a year, as Odin's wife spent all of his half of the income and in a year he owed Pa enough that Pa took over Odin's interest and ran it alone after that." [3.5-2]

"The livery business was quite a thing before cars came in, which started about the year I was born (1913). They rented out buggies and horses and also stabled horses for farmers who came to town to spend the day. It was a fascinating place to me as soon as I was old enough to be down there." [3.5-4]

"As cars started to come in, the livery business started to wane and Pa bought a new 1913 Ford the year I was born and used that as a sort of charter bus service. He was also the 'dray man' who hauled all the local freight and express from the depot to the stores. (The first bakery bread was shipped by rail from Fergus in big wooden boxes, unwrapped, and the empties were hauled back to the depot and returned to the bakery.) .... Pa was [also] the substitute mail carrier during World War I and carried steady for a 1-1/2 year stretch." [3.25-1]

"I've never heard of a big wedding at any time in my ancestry. When Pa and Ma got married, they drove to Elbow Lake with a team and buggy. Another lady rode along and while she was transacting her business, they went to the Courthouse and got married. She rode home with them again and they didn't even mention it to her. They were 27 and 30 years old, and Ma always maintained that everyone should wait until that age and had some sense before they got married." [2.313-4]