Historical Details

Johnson Family

Courtesy of Our Heritage: Niobrarans and Neighbors, 02/28/2022

By Ihla Johnson


by Ihla Anderson

The first Johnson of our family to come to the state of Wyoming was Iver Johnson who settled in Cheyenne in 1876. The story of Iver is pretty well told in the article pub­lished in the Cheyenne paper at the time of his death. Here it is:

At the time Iver went to Cheyenne in 1876 Ellis Johnson, Iver's brother, was living in Columbus, Neb. where he ran a grain eleva­tor and lived in a pretty little house with cut out scrolls on the porch and on the edges of the roof -- this at a time when most of the population in the west were living in log houses, sod houses or dugouts. Ellis was a very fine carpenter, having learned his trade in Norway before coming to this country. He was also a cabinet maker and made the cabinets for some of Norway's fine ships. His oldest son, Anton, left Columbus and went up to Cheyenne where he worked for his uncle in the store; went with him up to Salt Creek and filed claims there along with Iver's claims. It was through Anton's claims that the family of Ellis Johnson were able to establish ownership in some of the Salt Creek Claims years later.

Ellis Johnson came to Lusk in 1880. This card of thanks and brief summary of his life is taken from the Lusk paper of 1910. It speaks here of the old town of Running Water. One time I asked my father, Lawrence Johnson, which was the right name for the old town, Running Water or Silver Cliff. He said, Silver Cliff was a mining camp, a tent town. My father's store was the first frame building there. Others followed; Kingman's Lumber, Schwartz's butcher shop, etc., but Running Water was the stage station and the post office. Silver Cliff was close to the mine's opening and Running Water was a little to the north of it. It was some time after my father came up to this country before the family was moved up here. My father didn't want the family here until after the railroad came in. He thought the country was too wild and dangerous for my mother and the children.

There were Indians and massacres around the country. The railroad meant some safety, so they waited and came with one of the first trains, but that wasn't
until 1886. I remember as a boy in Columbus, going to the post office
to get letters to my mother from my father; on the way home I would read
the address and the return address and the return address was always
"Running Water Station, Wyoming Territory". I don't remember of ever
seeing the return address as "Silver Cliff". The post office was
officially designated as Running Water so I suppose that would be the
true name of the town.

Lawrence Johnson was born in Columbus, Neb. in 1873 and came to Lusk
in 1886. Alfred, Mary, Lenore and Ella Johnson were born in Columbus,
but Emma, the youngest child, was born in Lusk.

Anton, the oldest son, came with his father, Ellis, up to Silver
Cliff (Running Water) country and both took up claims there. Anton died
not long after the new town of Lusk was established.

Lawrence married Edith Hancock, a daughter of the Congregational
minister in Lusk. He set up business in a candy, news­ paper and tobacco
shop. I asked him one time how he ever made a living at that in a town
as small as Lusk was then. He said, "Oh, it was kind of spotty but it
wasn't so bad.

When the trail herds from Texas came through the cowboys always
bought out about every­ thing I had; the emigrant wagons were still
going through then; they bought stuff and when the sheepherders and
cowboys came to town they usually bought a lot. They didn't get to town
often but they bought a lot of this stuff when they did, and they bought a lot to  take back out with
them. I had jack­ knives, writing tablets, envelopes and little things
like that, too, and of course the trains were going through then so I
had magazines, books as well as newspapers. The people of town also
bought from me, so it wasn't so bad." Later he and Alfred had a saloon
for about two years; they took up home­ steads out on Buck Creek, got a
band of sheep and got started in the sheep business. They also had quite
a few horses and then got into cattle. They ran their ranch as "Johnson
Bros.", and were in business together for about 15 years. Then Lawrence
sold his in­ interest to Alfred and in 1908 bought a ranch on Lance
Creek. He later went into banking and oil but kept his ranch. One son,
Harleigh, and two daughters, Ihla and Avaley were born to Lawrence and

On the Hancock side of our family Rev. J.J.J. Hancock was one of the early ministers of the Congregational Church in Lusk and his family became very much a part of the town. The
oldest son, James, homesteaded about two miles north of town. Elizabeth
married James E. Mayes, editor of the Lusk Herald, later owner of the Mayes
Mercantile, mayor of Lusk and state senator. Mary Jane married A.E.
McFarlane who had come to this country from the east to manage the Great
Western Mining and Milling Co. which was operating the Silver Cliff
mine. Their daughter, Edith, married Lawrence Johnson. Bert married
Millie Hall and worked on a number of ranches out from Lusk before going
to California. Harold (Brownie) had a barber shop in Lusk for many
years and later moved to Oregon.

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Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Johnson, Ellis (08/04/1845 - 02/14/1910) View Record
Obituary Johnson, Lawrence (09/27/1873 - 11/29/1957) View Record
Obituary Johnson, Iver (01/12/1850 - 01/04/1932) View Record