Sunday, July 7, 2013

"The largest man in the world"

Here's a brief sketch of my 3rd-great-grandfather, Alfred M. Johnson, who settled in El Monte CA in 1852:

Alfred and Huldah (Sanford) Johnson

            In 1852, a wagon train captained by one William Johnson arrived in El Monte. Johnson is a rather shadowy figure in El Monte’s history; while many of the early settlers are said to have arrived with this party, Johnson himself does not appear to have stayed in El Monte. It is my belief that this “Captain William Johnson” was William T. Barry Johnson, who settled in Plainsburg, Merced county, shortly after arriving in California. It is certain that W. T. B. Johnson did lead a wagon train to California in 1852, and that many members of that party—though not Johnson himself—were among the early settlers of  El Monte. Among them were his parents, Alfred M. and Huldah (Sanford) Johnson, who did locate in El Monte.

            Alfred Johnson was born in Rutherford co. NC, ca. 1800, the son of William and Margaret (Hawkins) Johnson. His father is said to have been an attorney, a delegate to the NC convention that ratified the U. S. Constitution, and later a colonel in the War of 1812. Alfred settled in the area of Howard/Boone co. MO around 1820; his marriage to Huldah Sanford is recorded in Howard co. 11 March 1821. Huldah was a Kentuckian, the daughter of John and Nancy D. (Roberts) Sanford. She was the aunt of W. T. B. Sanford, John Sanford, and Rebecca (Sanford) Banning (Mrs. Phineas Banning), all prominent in early Los Angeles county.

            The Johnsons farmed in Missouri for several years, and were among the founders of Perche Christian Church in Boone county. One early Boone county settler is quoted as saying that Alfred Johnsons was “the largest man in the world.”

            About 1844 Alfred and Huldah and their several children moved to Crawford co. AR, settling near his brother, William Hawkins Johnson, was in Franklin co. They continued to live there until 1852, when their oldest son William T. B. Johnson returned from California and urged them to return with him to the Golden State. They left Arkansas 17 April 1852, and traveled a Southern route, entering California at Ft. Yuma in October or November. Among those traveling with them were Alfred and Huldah’s daughters Armenia, Huldah, Margaret (and her husband John Marshall James), Lucy (and her husband J. C. C. Russell, as well as his parents) and son Francis M. Johnson (later assessor of San Bernardino co.). Another son, John, had recently married and stayed in Arkansas, though after the deaths of him and his wife, W. T. B. Johnson returned to Arkansas again and brought his three nephews to California.

            Alfred died of typhoid fever at El Monte 22 August 1855, and is buried in the Savannah Cemetery. Huldah and several of her children continued to live in El Monte for a few years, but by the early 1860’s most of them, including Huldah, had relocated to San Bernardino. Huldah died there 25 Nov. 1879, and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. Their descendants have spread throughout California and the West, and include former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Wright and long-time Lassen county sheriff Olin Johnson.

Richard O. Johnson
P. O. Box 235
Grass Valley CA 95945

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