A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York;1931
EMMONS JOHNSON. It was nearly seventy years ago that Emmons Johnson, a
young man of sterling character and exceptional talent, came to Iowa and
established his residence in the little frontier village that was the nucleus of the
present City of Waterloo, the vital metropolis and county seat of Blackhawk
County, and it was in this city that his death occurred after he had attained
to the patriarchal age of ninety-two years, his mental and physical powers
having been remarkably vital and commanding up to the close of his long and
Mr. Johnson did much to advance the civic and industrial development and
progress of Iowa and long had special prominence and influence in connection
with banking enterprise in this state, his splendid character and powers having
well equipped him for leadership. He was one of the most venerable and
highly honored pioneer citizens of Iowa at the time of his death.
Emmons Johnson was born in Ellicottville, Cattaeraugus County, New York,
January 23, 1835, and his death occurred April 5, 1927. He was a son of Dr.
Elisha, who was born November 8, 1793, and Herma (Jewett) Johnson. His paternal grandfather, Noel Johnson, was born October 12, 1765, in Rhode Island, and was one of the earliest settlers in Cattaraugus County, New York, where he passed the remainder of his life. His wife was Mary Weaver, who was born June 17, 1770. Dr. Elisha Johnson was reared and educated in the old Empire State and became one of the influential physicians of his day and generation in Cattaraugus County, where he was long and successfully engaged in the practice of his profession and where he passed the closing years of his life in the village of Otto. His wife, Herma Jewett, was a daughter of Salmon and Ellen (Cole) Jewett and a granddaughter of Caleb and Hannah (Curtis) Jewett. Caleb Jewett was born January 16, 1741, and died, in Litchfield, Connecticut, February 8, 1820, he having served as a patriot soldier in the War of the Revolution, in Colonel Burot's regiment of the Continental Army. His son Salmon was born October 27, 1770, and was venerable in age at the time of his death.
The earlier education of Emmons Johnson was obtained in the village schools
of Otto, New York, and thereafter he continued his studies in academies at
Springville and Fredonia, that state, besides which he was a student for a time
in Brown University, having in the meanwhile taught in rural schools and by
this means provided for the advancement of his own education, his final course
of study having been historic old Amherst College.
Mr. Johnson was twenty-five years of age when, in 1860, he made his way to
Iowa, with Waterloo as his destination. He proceeded to the terminus of the
railroad and thence came by stage to Waterloo, which was then a mere frontier
village of a few hundred population, the greater part of the site of the
present modern city having at that time still been government land, and such land
having been for sale at the rate of $1.25 an acre. For a time Mr. Johnson
was employed on a pioneer farm near Waterloo, and he next engaged in the
grain business, he having in this line later transferred his headquarters to
Independence, Buchanan County, and having erected the first grain elevator at
that place. Upon his return to Waterloo he became one of the principals in the
Leavitt & Johnson Bank a private institution, and later established the
Johnson & Leavitt Bank at Waverly, Bremer County. It was in the year 1866 or
1867 that Mr. Johnson thus removed to Waverly and established the first bank in
Bremer County and built the first substantial brick residence in Waverly. He
there remained until 1871 and in the meantime served as a member of the
State Senate. In 1871 he sold his interest in the bank at Waverly and resumed
his association with banking enterprise in Waterloo, as a member of the firm of
Leavitt, Johnson & Lusch. A few years later Mr. Lusch sold his interest to
his interest to his associates, and the latter continued their bank as a
private institution until 1898, when it was reorganized and chartered as the
Leavitt & Johnson National Bank. In October, 1891, was organized the Leavitt &
Johnson Trust Company, and in 1900 Mr. Johnson purchased Mr. Leavitt's
interest in this institution, of which he continued chairman of the board of
directors until he was nearly ninety years of age, he having been also the organizer of the Waterloo Savings Bank.
The name of Mr. Johnson ever stood for all that was careful conservative and
reliable in banking operations, and his policies and his personal integrity
commanded to him uniform popular confidence and esteem. He was a man of
thought and action, and he made his life count worthily in its every relation.
His political allegiance was given to the Republican party ad he was signally
liberal and public-spirited as a citizen. His religious faith was that of the
Congregational Church, of which both he and his wife were charter members
and he was also a member of the Chicago Board of Trade in 1876-1877, living in
Mrs. Johnson, whose maiden name was Lucy Leland, was born at Morrisville,
Madison County, New York, a daughter of Uriah and Maria (Chamberlain) Leland
and a granddaughter of Joshua Leland, who was born at Sherburn, Massachusetts, his great-grandfather, Henry Leland, having been among the first settlers in that locality and records show that, as owner of the site, of eighty acres, Henry Leland laid out the town of Sherburn in 1654, much of the land that he owned in that district being still held by his descendants. Joshua Leland became one of the pioneer settlers in Madison County, New York, and his son Uriah was the first white child born in that county. The Leland family has been one of prominence in America, as one generation has followed another, and there has been published a comprehensive genealogical history of the family.
Mrs. Lucy (Leland) Johnson long preceded her husband to the life eternal, her
death having occurred February 22, 1892, when she was fifty-eight years of age.
The children of Mr. and Mrs. Emmons Johnson were five in number: Elbert
Leland, Lewis E., Marian Louise, Walter Emmons and Alice Lucy. The daughter
Marion Louise, to whom the publishers are indebted for the data for this memoir
of her honored father, is the widow of James D. Easton, to whom a tribute is
given in the following sketch, and she still resides in Waterloo. The
younger daughter, Alice Lucy, is the wife of David H. McKee, of Waterloo.
In March, 1895, Emmons Johnson married the widow of James Kellogg, of
Rochester, New York, who was Ella Harriet Clark, a native of New York State. She lived in Waterloo for thirty-two years, dying December 26, 1928. No children were born to this union of marriage.
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