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Timothy Johnson family

Early De Smet wagon shop owner and Kingsbury County homesteader, whose children were classmates of Carrie, Grace, and Laura Ingalls.

T.H. Johnson, of Fayette, departed for Dakota yesterday, where he will spend some time visiting friends. – Darlington Republican, 1881

Timothy Hoyt Johnson was born in Bradfort, Vermont, in 1815. Raised in New Hampshire, he learned the wheelwright and wagon-maker’s trades. A deeply religious man, Mr. Johnson was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal church for over sixty years. He was married three times: by his first wife, Mary Jane Stevens (she died in 1849, shortly after the family moved to Fayette, Wisconsin), he had a daughter, Sarah. The photo is of the Methodist Episcopal church in Fayette, Wisconsin, which the Johnsons attended. The Johnson home was across the road, and is no longer standing. The Johnsons also had a farm on the outskirts of Fayette.

Timothy Johnson and his second wife, Susan Williamson, had five children: Almon, Otis Joseph, Arthur Ellsworth, Lee, and Minnie Jane. In the spring of 1880, Johnson and sons Almon and Otis filed on homesteads several miles north of De Smet in Kingsbury County, Dakota Territory, but they returned to Wisconsin for the worst of the Hard Winter. Timothy also filed a tree claim and purchased two lots in De Smet, Lots 2 and 3, Block 2, on the west side of Joliet Avenue. He built a wagon shop and blacksmith shop, with a house for his family to the south. Although not mentioned in Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote in Little Town on the Prairie that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were at the dime sociable that she and Mary Power attended.

In the fall of 1882, Johnson relinquished his homestead and filed on another homestead a mile south of Charles Ingalls. When Arthur turned twenty-one, his father relinquished the tree claim and Arthur filed on it himself. Final proof was made on the second homestead in June 1888. It’s possible that this claim would have been turned over to son Lee, but plans changed after Susan Johnson died in May 1887 at age 59; she is buried in the De Smet cemetery.

Timothy Johnson returned to Wisconsin the next year, marrying Mary Post in Darlington in early 1889. They came back to De Smet to live, and although Minnie lived with her brother Otis while teaching school near Spirit Lake briefly, quite soon, Arthur and Lee and Minnie headed west to Oregon via Washington State, Arthur cancelling his homestead in September 1889. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson lived in the house on Joliet and were quite active in church work, with Mary Johnson becoming president of the W.C.T.U. The couple also traveled quite a bit, including a visit to the World’s Fair. Timothy Johnson died in De Smet in September 1897 and was buried in the De Smet cemetery (his grave is unmarked). Following her husband’s death, Mary Johnson sold the house and wagon shop and moved to Minnesota to live with her sister. Almon Johnson moved back to Wisconsin, and Otis to Kentucky. It doesn’t appear if any of the Johnson children ever returned to De Smet to visit.


Johnson family (I spent a week in Fayette and Darlington researching the Johnson family in the summer of 2005. There is a wonderful library and historical society in Darlington and wonderful people there to help you!)
     Timothy (LTP 16-17)
     Susan (LTP 17)
     Arthur (TLW 9, 11, 14; LTP 13, 16, 20-21, 24; THGY 11, 16, 22; PG), see Arthur Johnson
     Minnie (TLW 9-10, 12, 14; LTP 11, 13-17, 20-21, 23-24; THGY 11, 22; PG), see Minnie Johnson
     De Smet Cemetery tour file for TIMOTHY JOHNSON family