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Albert G. Johnson

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Albert G. Johnson

Posted: 25 Jan 2003 8:37AM GMT
Classification: Biography
Surnames: Johnson
From Biographical Memoirs of Huntington County, 1901, pages 301-304

It is seldom that a man makes a conspicuous success in more than one occupation or profession. The rule, however, appears to be reversed in the case of the subject of this sketch, who has achieved far more than local distinction in the three-fold capacity of contractor, attorney at law and minister of the gospel.

Albert G. Johnson is a native of Indiana, born in the county of Tippecanoe on the 10th day of April, 1856. His father, Robert Johnson, a shoemaker by trade, was born in Pennsylvania, but in early life moved to Tippecanoe county, Indiana, where he followed his chosen calling until the breaking out of the Civil war, when he enlisted in the Twelfth Indiana Volunteers for three years' service. While serving as gunner at the battle of Nashville, Tennessee, his hearing was greatly impaired, and later, by reason of an injury received while firing a minute gun on the occasion of President Lincoln's death, he was incapacitated from physical labor of any kind for a number of months. In the autumn of 1872 he became of resident of Huntington county, and here his death occurred at the age of fifty-three. He was reared in the Methodist church and was a man of strong religious convictions, a characteristic inherited in a marked degree by his son, the subject of this article.

Paternally the Johnsons are of Irish ancestry, the subject's great-grandfather, John Johnson, a native of the Emerald Isle, coming to America in the early part of the last century, and serving with distinction in the war of 1812. The grandfather, also John by name, was born and reared in Pennsylvania, and in an early day came to Indiana, settling in the county of Tippecanoe. The subject's mother, a native of Pennsylvania, bore her husband eleven children, and is still living at the age of seventy-seven, making her home in the city of Huntington. Of these eleven children, six are living, namely: Henry, Elizabeth, Robert, Albert G., Francis, and Elmer, the others dying when quite young.

Albert G. Johnson spent the first fifteen years of his life in Tippecanoe county, and then accompanied his parents to the county of Huntington, where he has since continued to reside. He is largely self educated, his school experiences being limited to a few months' attendance at winter sessions until his fifteenth year, with one term in the city of Elkhart. He made most of his opportunities, however, and when but thirteen years of age was sufficiently advanced in his studies to become his teacher's assistant, a part he filled to the satisfaction of his superior and also to the pupils whom he taught.

Shortly after coming to this county, young Johnson found employment in a stone quarry, where he worked for some time and later was hired by a farmer to cut cord-wood. While thus engaged he devoted his evenings to systematic reading and study, and so diligently did he apply himself that he soon outstripped the majority of young men who were pursuing their studies in schools and colleges. He early became a proficient workman with tools and turned his skill in this direction to good account as a carpenter, which trade he followed for two years in Huntington and throughout the adjacent county. For one year he worked in a restaurant conducted by a Mr. Collins, and at the age of nineteen engaged in business for himself by opening a meat market in Huntington, which he ran with a fair degree of success until reaching the age of twenty-one.

Meantime Mr. Johnson devoted all of his leisure moments to the study of religious subjects pertaining to the United Brethren church, with which he had previously become identified, and his progress being found satisfactory he was granted a preacher's license in his seventeenth year, and shortly thereafter entered upon the active duties of his sacred calling at the town of New Bristol, in the county of Elkhart. He served as pastor of the church at that place about three years, and while there was ordained, August 27, 1885, to the regular work of the ministry. At the expiration of the above period he returned to Huntington and took up the study of law in the office of Hon. C. W. Watkins, under those instructions he continued two years, meanwhile devoting some of his time to preaching and holding meetings at various places needing his services. At the end of two years he was elected presiding elder of the Huntington district, which at that time comprised an area of territory one hundred and fifty miles long and eighty miles wide, containing many churches, all of which he visited at stated intervals for the purpose of keeping alive the interest of the work under his charge.

Mr. Johnson filled the position for a period of eight years, during which time he organized a number of new congregations, revived several weak societies, erected a number of houses of worship, some of which were constructed under his personal supervision as an architect and builder, attended to the work of the eldership, which he never permitted to lag, and took a number of contracts for buildings of various kinds, thus adding considerably to his income. Some idea of the magnitude of his operations in the line of contracting may be had when it is learned that he erected over one hundred dwellings, twenty-seven single business buildings, five large business blocks in Huntington and elsewhere, among which may be mentioned the Day block, the Island block, a two-story brick structure, the Midway block of twelve rooms, of which he is owner, the Steeman block, of two stories, and many others, besides personally superintending the erection of the Howard hotel at the county seat, and various kinds of structures, such as churches, halls, school buildings in Huntington county and throughout counties adjacent thereto. At one time he owned what is now the United Brethren Publishing Company building, a three-story brick structure in Huntington, which he erected; in 1896 he laid out the College Park addition to Huntington, and organized a company and took the contract to put up a United Brethren college building to cost the sum of $24,000. In this laudable undertaking he was generously assisted by a donation from the county of thirty acres of land, which were given in order to secure the location of the College at Huntington. Through his successful management the enterprise was pushed rapidly to completion, and the entire property, building and campus, representing a capital of over $45,000, stands as a monument to his untiring energy and devotion of purpose.

Additional to the above, Mr. Johnson purchased the land and platted what is known as the Hines addition to the city, which undertaking, like others to which he has addressed himself, proved financially successful. In all he has built and sold for himself at different times about twenty-six business blocks, and while serving as presiding elder he put up fifteen temples of worship, besides attending to the many calls which constantly came to him from all parts of his extensive district.

At the expiration of his first term as presiding elder Mr. Johnson turned his attention chiefly to his large business interests as a contractor and builder, but usually filled pulpits on Sundays, donating his time and service freely to the cause he had so much at heart. In 1898, without in the least seeking or desiring the honor, he was again chosen elder with the usual result of greatly strengthening the churches under his charge and extending the lines of work into considerable additional territory. Since 1899 he has devoted his attention principally to his large and lucrative law practice in the courts of Huntington county, although he still preaches wherever his services are requested, but refuses absolutely to receive any remuneration for his evangelistic labors. He still takes building contracts, which he pushes to completion with the aid of skilled workmen, of whom he keeps quite a number constantly employed.

In politics Mr. Johnson believes the principles of Prohibition to be for the best interest of the country, and with his accustomed energy and enthusiasm he supports and upholds that party. In the broadest sense of the term he is a progressive man, and to him is the flourishing city of Huntington largely indebted for much of the prosperity it has enjoyed in recent years. He came to this county a poor boy, and, unaided and alone, with an energy akin almost to genius, he has overcome every obstacle which adverse fortune threw in his way, and step by step has mounted the ladder of success until he now occupies a proud position in the professional, business and religious world, such as few, if any, attain. In our western vocabulary is found the word hustle, which admirably applies to Mr. Johnson in the various lines of endeavor in which he has engaged.

What his hands find to do he does with all the might of his strong, energetic nature, and carefully considering the end from the beginning his judgment is rarely at fault and he seldom, if ever, makes mistakes. He is decidedly a man of the people, having their interests at heart and hesitating at no sacrifice to promote their material, moral or religious condition. Few men of this county have done as much as he to advance the standard of citizenship, and none have done more. Popular with all classes, and with the unbounded confidence of all who know him, it is proper in closing this brief sketch to classify him as one of the notable men of his generation in the county of Huntington.

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