DeWITT CLINTON JOHNSON, cashier of the Peoples State Bank of Ellinwood, is one of the best known younger citizens of Barton County. The chief items in his experience here have been his work as a teacher, as a merchant, as a banker and insurance man.
He represents old New England stock. His great-grandfather, Joseph Johnson, brought his family out of Connecticut and settled at Mechanicsburg, Ohio, and before the opening of the Civil war moved to Clinton, Illinois, where he died. His wife was Lydia Cook, and they had three sons and three daughters.
Eason Johnson, grandfather of the Ellinwood banker, was born in Connecticut in 1813, and was three years old when his parents moved to Ohio. He grew up and married there and in 1859 made a trip to Texas, but disliking that country returned north and settled in Illinois. He died on his farm near Clinton at the age of eighty-nine. His wife was Alice Callender, who was born in Ohio in 1816 and lived to the great age of ninety-six. Her children were: Amos; Hulda, who married Charles Zogers and lives at Clinton, Illinois; Ira, a Union soldier who died in DeWitt County, Illinois; Joseph, of Clinton; Emma, wife of James M. Kirk, of Clinton.
Amos Johnson, now living retired at Great Bend, and father of DeWitt Clinton Johnson, was one of the pioneers of Barton County. He was born in Champaign County, Ohio, November 12, 1838. He had a limited education in public schools, where the chief items of the curriculum were reading, writing and arithmetic. He was about grown when he moved with the family to Illinois, and in July, 1861, he left his farm and enlisted for three years in Company F of the Forty-First Illinois Infantry, under Captain Brown and Colonel Pugh. His regiment rendezvoused at Decatur, was ordered to St. Louis, catered the field at Bird's Point, Missouri, was then ordered to Paducah, Kentucky, and saw its first severe fighting at Fort Donelson. Amos Johnson was also in the battle of Shiloh, where his captain, being wounded, ordered him to take command of the company, though there were two lieutenants still in action. He obeyed orders and served at the head of the company through that fight, then resuming his duties as a sergeant. He was in the Vicksburg campaign, his regiment being in General Hulbert's command on the south end of the line. He went through that conflict without wounds, though five bullet holes were found in his clothes. Going east from Vicksburg, he was with the troops that crossed the Big Black and on to Jackson, Mississippi, driving the Confederates out of the state capital, marching on to Meridian, and during the counter march to Jackson Amos Johnson was detailed a forager in charge of ten men. As high as five big wagon loads of bacon in one day were gathered by this party, and they were very successful in scouring the district of Hinds and Warren counties, Mississippi, for food. Later the command dropped down the Mississippi River to the mouth of Red River, going up that stream to Alexandria, where Mr. Johnson's command was detailed to share in the work of building a dam to enable gunboats to pass up the stream. During that campaign he and his comrades were in frequent contact with the enemy. Later they were returned to Vicksburg, where Mr. Johnson remained in charge of the company. He was still in the Vicksburg vicinity when his time expired, and he went with his regiment to Springfield, Illinois, where he was discharged. He then returned to his home in DeWitt County. It was about eleven years after the war that he sold his Illinois property and brought his resources to Kansas.
Amos Johnson arrived in Barton County with his family of wife and eight children, making the journey from Illinois by railroad. He reached Kansas in February, 1876, and soon bought a relinquishment on a homestead half way between Ellinwood and Great Bend, that being the southwest quarter of section 28, township 19, range 12, a tract which he still owns. He also bought the northwest quarter of section 33 in the same township and range, and this is also part of his present possessions.
His first home was a sod house which had been erected by his predecessor. Attached to this was a log house about 24 by 8 feet, the logs being taken from old Fort Zarah near Great Bend. When this was torn down the family entered into more comfortable quarters in a two-story frame house of nine rooms. Amos Johnson left this farm and in 1899 removed to Great Bend, where he has enjoyed the fruits of many well spent years.
He brought some capital with him to Kansas and he used it wisely to weather the storms of the earlier years of adversity without recourse to other sources of income than his livestock and crops. He became a dealer in livestock, buying and shipping from Ellinwood, and for about fifteen years was one of the leaders in that business. Out of his growing prosperity he bought other lands, the cheapest price he paid for a quarter section being $740. Eventually he owned six quarter sections, divided into three distinct and well improved farms. The best yield of wheat per acre in Mr. Johnson's experience was forty bushels, and his largest aggregate yield was over 13,000 bushels. But in the year of his biggest crop the price was so low that he fed large quantities of his wheat to stock. When wheat was as low as 40 cents a bushel he declined to sell it. He had been off the farm almost twenty years when the era of high prices caused by the World war brought fortunes to Kansas wheat growers.
Mr. Johnson used his influence as an early settler of his community to secure the best possible school facilities, and served many years as a member of the district board. He has long been active in politics, and has always stanchly supported the republican cause, having cast his first presidential vote for Mr. Lincoln. Amos Johnson is a stockholder of the Peoples State Bank of Ellinwood and of the American State Bank of Great Bend. He is senior warden in Masonry and a past post commander of Pap Thomas Post No. 52, Grand Army of the Republic, and has attended National Encampments at Boston, St. Paul, Denver and St Louis. In Masonry he is a member of the Blue Lodge, Royal Arch Chapter and Knights Templar.
On September 5, 1860, nearly a year before he entered the army, Amos Johnson married Miss Emma Negley, born in Madison County, Ohio, August 20, 1842, and a daughter of Aaron and Eliza (Adams) Negley. She was one of a family of four daughters and three sons. Amos Johnson and wife have the following children: Charles, a farmer of Marshall, Oklahoma, married Josie LaPort and has a daughter, Opal; Clearchus is a resident of Great Bend; Clarence, a farmer of Barton County, married Ida Achatz and has three children, named Harry, Florence and Alfred; Clay, a farmer in Gray County, Kansas, married Emma Wadson and has one child, Lorren; Clyde, a farmer at Idaho Falls, Idaho, married Flora McKinney and has two children, Floyd and Bernice; Miss Clara is a resident of Great Bend; DeWitt Clinton is the next in age; Eason, of Hutchinson, Kansas, married Minnie Ferguson and has a son, Earl; and the youngest is Miss Pearl, of Great Bend.
DeWitt Clinton Johnson was born in DeWitt County, Illinois, at Clinton, November 8, 1873, and was in his third year when the family came to Kansas. He attended common schools, also the Central Normal College at Great Bend, and finished the high school course in Ellinwood. For three years he worked as a teacher in the country schools. He had a mercantile experience of two years in Ellinwood, and then became bookkeeper for M. K. Wolf, a wholesale liquor dealer of Ellinwood. Though connected with a business involving the shipping of thousands of gallons of whiskey, Mr. Johnson never drank a drop. He had two years of practical experience as a farmer, and in one season threshed more than 8,000 bushels of wheat and made almost enough money to pay for a farm of his own. However, he gave up farming to become a banker.
In 1901 he became teller in the Citizens State Bank of Ellinwood, was advanced to assistant cashier and in 1908 organized the Peoples State Bank, and occupied the position of cashier when that institution was opened on March 5, 1908, with a capital of $25,000. The original officers of the bank were: J. H. D. Bosse, president; N. W. Klepper, vice president; D. C. Johnson, cashier; and Charles Mellies, assistant cashier. In ten years this bank has added $25,000 to its surplus account and has also paid more than that amount in dividends. At the present time the bank has total resources of over $6,000 and is the largest bank in Barton County outside of Great Bend.
In the meantime Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mellies have built up a splendid insurance business. He has also increased his farming interest, owning 425 acres, all under cultivation, and devoted to crops of wheat and corn. The only political office Mr. Johnson has consented to accept is city treasurer of Ellinwood, a responsibility he has enjoyed for a number of years. He casts his vote as a republican, is a past master of the Masonic Lodge, and also a member of the Royal Arch Chanter, the Knights Templar, the Eastern Star, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at Great Bend.
In Barton County September 6, 1904, Mr. Johnson married Miss Florence Lash. She was born in Iowa December 2, 1882, daughter of Dr. A. R. and Alice (Scott) Lash. Doctor Lash became a well known physician in Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson have a daughter, Ruth.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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