Capt. John C. Johnson

Photo and story courtesy of Sylvia Johnson, his gg-grandaughter

My Great Grandfather, Capt. John C. Johnson was born in & lived his childhood in Lisle, Broome Co., NY. He is the youngest of 8 children of Capt. Cyrus Johnson, ESQ & Abigail Wheeler. J.C. received his primary education in the public schools in Broome Co., and his preparatory schooling at the Homer Academy, then one of the most famous educational institutions in Central New York (as did at least one of his sibling, Catherine). He entered the Univ. of Michigan in 1857 and graduated from the Literary Dept. of that Univ. in 1861. In college he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity & of the senior society known as “the Owls”. He also was the class-day orator. He enlisted in the Federal Army in 1862 and was Commissioned Capt. of Co. K 149th Penn. Volunteers known as the Bucktails. Volunteers for the Civil War, the Bucktails, sailed on rafts from Driftwood to Harrisburg to be sworn into the Union army. There is a Monument in the Driftwood Square dedicated on April 28, 1908 in honor of theses brave men.

He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Gettysburg and had been in several prisons during his incarceration. He was finally exchanged & honorably discharged in 1865. He was asked to give a presentation, which is a 14 page speech, describing his experience. I have his copy, written March, 1865 for a presentation delivered in Lisle, N.Y. It is well worth a read, describing in great detail what prison life was like and where are the “missing” soldiers??? He also gave a speech at the Dedication of the 149th Monument , September 11, 1889, Gettysburg, PA. And he is listed on that monument as Captain (See on my ‘Homepage’). He returned to the Univ. of Michigan and graduated from the Law Dept. in 1866 with the degree of L.L. B. That same year he was admitted to the PA Bar and located in Emporium, Cameron Co., PA. He studied law under Franklin W. Knox in 1866, Coudersport, PA. F. W. Knox is the husband of my great grandfather’s sister Catherine. He meet his future wife in Coudersport as well. The law firm of Johnson & McNarney was formed in Emporium in 1888. J.C. was solicitor for the PA Railroad for 30 years. During his law practice he was connected with nearly all the litigation in Cameron Co. on one side or the other, and was more than usually successful.

He married Frances Amanda French of Coudersport, PA on Sept. 17, 1867. She is the daughter of well known physician Dr. Amos French and his wife Sabria French of Coudersport, Potter Co., PA. The wedding took place at the magnificent home of her parents in Coudersport, PA. J.C. & Frances (Fannie) are parents of 3 sons–including my grandfather, Fred Arn Johnson. He was Director of Schools: J.C. Johnson, 1874 – 80 & 84; In 1888, J.C. was elected a member of the House of Representatives of PA & served in the sessions of 1889 and 1891; he was chairman of the Judiciary General Committee, then the most important committee in the House, & was also chairman of the Republican Steering Committee, which practically directed & controlled the legislation. He was the sponsor for the General Revenue Act of 1891 & much of the important legislation that was enacted while he was in the house. He is a 33 Degree Mason and a member of GAR. He is a member of Emporium Lodge, No. 384, F. & A. M.; Emporium Chapter, No. 227, R. A. M., and Lieut. D. W. Taggart Post, No. 241, G.A.R.

After retirement, he spent the summers in Florida. It was while returning from Fla. to the Johnson Homestead when he was striken with heart failure, and died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 87.

His wife, “Fannie” died in 1886 (age 44) and son George died in 1890 at age 22. J.C. raised and educated his other 2 sons, Thomas Cyrus, a businessman and prominent realtor in Seattle and my grandfather, Fred Arn Johnson, ESQ & Dist. Attny of Cameron Co., PA. J.C. never remarried. I’ve been told that my GREAT grandfather was an accurate and diligent student of the law, that he had a keen analytical mind, and the power of forcible and exact expression. He was known to be strong in his opinions, yet sympathetic and tolerant. He was respected by all for his upright and honorable character, and beloved for his gentleness and courtesy of manner. Besides being told all of the above, I have possession of many of his items, including letters and other documents written by him. Among precious items I possess, I have his Civil War Sash and his war medals, which I cherish.


The status of the Cameron county, men in the war, was truly rated by Representative J.C. Johnson, in his reply to Kreps, of Franklin county, during the debate on the bill authorizing suits against the commonwealth in 1889. Addressing the speaker, Mr. Johnson said: “I cannot let my youthful friend from Franklin attack my county without replying to him. He makes no reply to my argument whatever, but says my county was a young county when the border raids occurred. That is true, but young as she was, she sent volunteers to help defend the gentleman’s border county. I had myself the honor and the pleasure to come from the northern boundary of the State to this southern boundary with the men of that part, and aid in protecting the widows and their infants and their homes; and the men of that county he so weakly attacks stood with me on the field of Gettysburg, and went thence to rebel prisons because of that defense, while the gentleman himself was an infant, or, to use his own words, ‘a puny, weakly baby,’ about the door- sill of his father’s store.”

I am so proud and lucky to be the GREAT grand daughter of this man—it’s in the genes they say. Please click to see all the photos and details, click on individual photos.

J. C. JOHNSON, attorney at law, Emporium, and one of the leading members of the bar of his district, was born at Lisle, Broome Co., N.Y., September 20, 1838. He entered the College of Literature, Science and Art of the University of Michigan, in 1857, and graduated therefrom in 1861. On September 29, 1862, he was commissioned captain of Company K, 149th P.V.I., serving with this company as a part of the first corps of the army of the Potomac; was captured at Gettysburg, and held as a prisoner by the Confederacy until March, 1865. On returning to the North he resumed his studies, and graduated from the law school of his alma mater in 1863. In July of that year he was admitted to the bar, and, locating at Emporium, soon won that place in public estimation to which his legal training and military experiences entitled him.

QUOTE from: Chapter 13 – Part 1

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