Daughter of Susan and Timothy Johnson, and Laura Ingalls’ classmate in De Smet.
Report for the month ending March 7, 1884, De Smet town school, perfect attendance and not tardy: Minnie Johnson, Lee Johnson, Merle Trousdale. –signed V. S. L. Owen.
Minnie Jane Johnson was born October 3, 1869, in Lafayette County, Wisconsin, to Timothy Johnson and his second wife, Susan. She had an older half-sister, Sarah, and older brothers Almon, Otis, Arthur, and Lee. Minnie lived with her family on a farm about two miles east of Fayetteville or in town on Main Street, where her father was a carpenter and wheelwright. Minnie attended the Fayetteville school not far from her home. The schoolhouse is shown in the postcard view at left; it is still standing and in use as a private residence.
In the summer of 1880, Minnie’s father traveled to Kingsbury County, Dakota Territory, and filed on a homestead; he also purchased two lots in De Smet, where the family lived during the Hard Winter. Although Laura Ingalls Wilder writes that Minnie was one of her close friends in town, it’s probable that Minnie’s name was used because of it sounded similar to a classmate nearer Laura’s own age, Gennie Masters. Minnie was the same age as Carrie Ingalls, and was in school years after Laura left to teach the Wilkin school. Minnie was a dedicated student, repeatedly recorded as having perfect attendance and never being tardy to school, as was her brother Lee.
Minnie should have been a member of the first graduating class in De Smet, but after her mother died in 1887, she and her father spent an extended period of time back in Wisconsin, and her father remarried there. When they returned to De Smet, Minnie taught a term of school near Spirit Lake, most likely boarding with her brother Otis, who lived near the schoolhouse. The next year, Minnie moved to Portland, Oregon, to keep house for her brother Arthur, who had taken a job there.
On December 18, 1894, Minnie married Henry Albert Howard, the ceremony being performed at Arthur’s home. Henry was born in September 1864 in Nebraska to Rachel and Robert Howard. Henry had previously been married and had a son, Walter. The Howards lived in Portland, where Henry was a bank janitor. The couple had three sons: Dale (born 1896), John (born 1898), and Harold (born 1902). Harold was a waiter at “Buttermilk Corner” in Portland for 25 years, run by Dale.
Minnie died of heart trouble at age fifty, on October 6, 1919. She is buried in Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in Portland. After her death, Henry married again; he died in May 1939.
Timothy (LTP 16-17), see Timothy Johnson
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)