Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p., [155] leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.

Joseph Elliott Johnson

Joseph Elliott Johnson JOSEPH ELLIOTT JOHNSON. Eminently worthy of representation in a work of this character is Joseph Elliott Johnson of Kendall, Hamilton County, who has had a varied experience in life, more especially since coming in pioneer days to Western Kansas, where his great success in catching and taming the wild horses of the plains won for him the name by which he was long familiarly known, that of "Wildhorse Johnson." A native of Illinois, he was born April 13, 1848, in Pike County, coming from patriotic stock, his Grandfather Johnson, who spent his last years in Pike County, Illinois, having served as captain of a company of brave soldiers in the Mexican war.

Stephen Johnson, Joseph E. Johnson's father, was born in Miami County, Ohio, from there going in early manhood to Pike County, Illinois, where he was employed in tilling the soil for many years. Hoping to better his fortunes, he started westward with his family, going down the Illinois River by boat to Saint Louis, and from there proceeding onward to Brown County, Kansas, settling there in 1869. Subsequently migrating to the Pacific Coast with his family, he lived for a time in Washington Territory, but not pleased with the conditions in that country he returned to Kansas and spent his last days in Hamilton County, passing away in Kendall. He married in Pike County, Illinois, Abigail Cobbey, whose father was an Ohio man, and they became the parents of seven children, as follows: William, a civil engineer, died in Nebraska City, Nebraska; George, who served as a soldier in the Union Army, died in Brown County, Kansas; Mary, widow of Col. D. J. Dill, of Minneapolis, Minnesota; John died in Brown County, Kansas; Joseph E., with whom this sketch is chiefly concerned; Oliver died in Colorado, near Montrose; Hubert M., of Oregon; Mrs. Annie Morris, of Ogden, Utah; and Charles, of British Columbia.

Coming with the family to Kansas from Pike County, Illinois, Joseph E. Johnson arrived in Atchison on his twenty-first birthday. He accompanied his parents to Brown County, and soon after settling there entered the University of Nebraska City, having been prepared for college in the high school at Pittsfield, Illinois. He subsequently taught school a short time in Brown County, and after going to the coast with the family had charge of a school in Whitman County, Washington. Returning to Kansas, Mr. Johnson in 1876 located in Cimarron, then a mere station on the Santa Fe Railway and trail, and A. D. Wettick was the merchant and only business man of the place.

Mr. Johnson there established a horse ranch, stocking it with horses that he drove from Oregon. While ranching he became interested in wild horse catching, an exciting business. His tame horses on the ranch and the wild horses used to get mixed, and in trying to secure his own he captured and often drove in young wild horses. These he domesticated and either shipped or drove to market, usually to Eastern Texas, though he has sold in Emporia, Kansas. During the twelve years that he was thus engaged he captured and sold approximately 500 wild horses, small animals weighing from 800 to 1,000 pounds each. He took up the industry when it was in its infancy, and in his work covered the country from Garden City to a point twenty miles west of the Colorado line, down into the Panhandle of Texas and north to the Union Pacific Railroad. He ran a regular camping outfit, with a cook, and had a dozen saddle horses, his forages often taking him on a ten-day trip.

Mr. Johnson met with some thrilling adventures while in Cimarron, occasionally encountering hostile Indians who had escaped the reservation in Indian Territory, where they had been placed by the government. One day, after he had shot an antelope and was after it on a fleet horse, he saw approaching a small band of savages. His appetite for antelope suddenly left him, and he turned around to flee as fast as possible from the foe. While galloping madly on he heard the whiz of the bullets as they sped by him, and found the Indians not more than 200 yards behind him when his horse finally gathered his wind and bore him swiftly to a place of safety. As there were no reinforcements anywhere near, the fleetness of his steed was all that saved him from a horrible death. Many narrow escapes and troubles with bad plainsmen came to him, but he passed safely through them all, never having a personal encounter in his life.

When Mr. Johnson left Cimarron he located at Kendall, Hamilton County, and entered the employ of F. B. Dicus & Company, lumber dealers, continuing in the cattle business also. This industry he carried on for many years, but gave it up in favor of sheep raising, which he has found more profitable. Although Mr. Johnson entered land south of Mayline, he was deterred from proving up on his claim by trouble with hostile Indians. He finally purchased land in section 24, township 25, range 30, erected a comfortable house, and having broken up the land is using it as a feed proposition for fattening his 2,000 head of sheep.

Mr. Johnson married in Prescott, Wisconsin, Emma McMurphy, who was born on a Wisconsin farm, a daughter of George and Antoinette (Rice), McMurphy, and granddaughter of James Reuben Rice, a native of Massachusetts. Paul Johnson, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, owns and manages a sheep ranch in Hamilton County. He is a young man of energy and much enterprise, and of high mental attainments, having been educated at Baker University. He married Daisy Weatherly, and they have three children, Robert, Vera and Lois. A lifelong democrat in politics, Mr. Johnson has always taken an active interest in local affairs, and for many years served as a member of the Kendall school board and as justice of the peace. Both Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he is a trustee. He was for a number of years superintendent of the Sunday school, and is a teacher of the Bible class in the Syracuse Sabbath School, at which town he took up his residence in November, 1917.