Charles H. Johnson

CHARLES H. JOHNSON, of Colony, during his long and active career has been a farmer, insurance man and auctioneer, editor and publisher and also an inventor of no ordinary ability and success.

He was born at Forest Home, Iowa, July 2, 1856, a son of James C. and Sarah Ann (Swangle) Johnson. Both parents were natives of Ohio. They went to Iowa as pioneers and after living in that state for a number of years came to Kansas in 1873 and here also they identified themselves with the pioneer element in Linn County. The father was an active farmer and died in 1876, while the mother survived until 1900.

Charles H. Johnson was the second in a family of ten children, eight sons and two daughters, eight of whom are still living. He lived at home on the farm until he was twenty years of age, and acquired his education partly in Iowa and partly in Linn County, Kansas. After that he continued farming in Linn and Crawford counties until 1885, in which year he removed to Colony. Here he took up the business of auctioneer and insurance agent, but in 1895 he bought the Colony Free Press, of which he was editor and publisher for fourteen years. In 1903 Mr. Johnson also established the Elk Falls Journal, but sold that paper in 1904. In 1905 the plant of the Free Press at Colony was burned out and proved a total loss, but the Free Press did not miss a single issue on that account.

In 1905 Mr. Johnson was one of the organizers of the Rural Mutual Telephone Company of South Anderson County, and gave his time for three years as superintendent of the company.

A man of very active mind and of original ideas, his work as an inventor has brought him no small degree of fame. In 1902, out of his experience as a newspaper man, he invented a newspaper printing press. He also perfected two types of farm gates which have much merit. In 1917 Mr. Johnson secured a patent on what is known as the Johnson Cattle Fly Trap. These traps are now being manufactured by the Johnson Cattle Fly Trap Company of Colony. For a number of years Mr. Johnson studied the problem of some practical machine that would eliminate the pest of the small black or horn fly which has caused so much loss and inconvenience to the cattlemen and dairymen of the country. Everyone who has had experience in handling livestock knows that this fly is not only a source of irritation and discomfort to the animals during the summer season, but by the same token causes heavy loss both in milk and beef production. Different methods have been reported to eliminate this fly, by use of sprays and other means, but Mr. Johnson brought out a machine in the form of a practical trap which catches and kills three-fourths of all the flies carried on the animal each day. Before putting the machine on the market Mr. Johnson demonstrated its merit by placing the machines at different dairy farms and carrying out a series of recorded tests. These tests prove that the machine practically eliminated the fly in a few days, and proved its value by immediate gains in both milk and beef production.

During his long residence at Colony Mr. Johnson has been a man of affairs in the community, and for eight years was a justice of the peace. He is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and is an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

On August 27, 1876, Mr. Johnson married Miss Hattie St. Clair. She died September 27, 1877, leaving one child, Hattie, who died in 1910. On June 26, 1879, in Bourbon County, Kansas, Mr. Johnson married Miss Sarah C. Robbins. Mrs. Johnson is one of the prominent women of Anderson County and of the State of Kansas. She was born in Sangamon County, Illinois, April 13, 1863, daughter of Rev. M. V. and Hannah E. (Ayres) Robbins. Her father was born in the same county of Illinois December 16, 1839, and when a young man entered the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He preached in Illinois and Missouri until 1875, in which year he gave up the ministry for a time and located as a farmer in Bourbon County, Kansas. Five years later he joined the South Kansas Conference and continued active in the ministry until his death at Longton, Kansas, May 30, 1900. Mrs. Johnson was the only daughter of her parents, but she has four brothers, who have distinguished themselves. The oldest, Rev. Bascom Robbins, is now Secretary of the Bethany Hospital at Kansas City, Kansas. Rev. Grant Robbins is now pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Methodist Episcopal Church of Kansas City, Missouri. Henry P. Robbins is on the editorial staff of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. Rev. Kirk W. Robbins is now pastor of the Ravenswood Methodist Episcopal Church of Chicago. Mrs. Johnson's mother died at Colony January 20, 1917.

Mrs. Johnson was well educated in the public schools of Bourbon County, Kansas. Besides rearing and training her own family she has found time to work in different departments of the world's movement for welfare, has been prominent in club and church circles, and has been teacher of the Sunday school for many years and associated with the missionary work. She also assisted her husband in the management of his newspapers. She served as president of the literary organization known as the Forget-Me-Not Club two years, and during her term of office the Community Federation of Clubs was organized, her club being instrumental in its organization. A monument to her work is the playground and park at Colony, she having been chairman of the committee which raised the funds for that meritorious public enterprise.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson have four children, three sons and one daughter, Bascom C., born June 11, 1881; Edward G., born November 21, 1884; William Taylor, born October 16, 1894; and Helen Klondike, born July 11, 1897, and now the wife of Earle V. Dixon.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 13, 2000.

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