LABAN HARTWELL JOHNSON, M. D., was not only an interesting character but one of the most forceful and enterprising citizens of the country. He was of English descent, and was born at Wellington, near Hartford, Connecticut, April 12, 1846, son of Cyrus S. and Phoebe (Hartwell) Johnson.
At the outbreak of the Civil war in 1861 he volunteered as a drummer boy, and was captured and confined in Libby prison eleven months and was then exchanged for three Southern prisoners. He re-enlisted in the First Connecticut Cavalry, serving under Custer and Sherman. He was once wounded by a rebel shell, and at the close of the war he received an honorable discharge and honorable mention for brave and efficient service.
Some of the interesting points in the record of the First Connecticut Cavalry are noted in a letter written to Gen. E. W. Whitaker, a personal friend of Doctor Johnson, by Gen. G. A. Custer, dated October 15, 1867: "To meet those with whom I was associated during the rebellion is, and always will be, one of my greatest pleasures; to meet the gallant veterans of the First Connecticut Cavalry would be particularly gratifying. I cannot fail to remember the many triumphs in which your regiment bore such a prominent part. The dangers, toils and privations we have undergone together are still fresh in my memory, nor have I forgotten that in that memorable battle at Five Forks the First Connecticut Cavalry achieved the honor of being the first to leap the enemy's breastworks, secured his cannon, and turned them upon the retreating foe. This is but one of the many exhibitions I have witnessed of the gallantry and intrepidity of your whole regiment, and I have this to remember that under the many trying circumstances in which we have been placed, while opposed to the enemy I never made a demand of the First Connecticut which was not complied with; never gave then an order they did not execute, even though it was to ride up to the cannon's mouth, and never saw them yield in the face of their foe, unless ordered to do so. Is it strange, then, that I should cherish a warm and lasting remembrance of the services of the sterling patriots of the First Connecticut Cavalry?"
By trade Laban H. Johnson was a pistol maker, and followed that occupation until he entered Yale College, graduating Doctor of Medicine in 1876. During the summers he was editor of the society columns of the leading Newport paper of the times. During his college year he assisted a leading physician of New Haven. After graduating Doctor Johnson practiced medicine in Baltimore, Connecticut and in New York City.
At one time he was foreman of the railroad yards at Reading, Pennsylvania. While in Reading he met Eleanor Naomi Ritter, soloist, daughter of a prominent banker and of a family of celebrated lawyers and congressmen. In 1880 they were married by Rev. Dr. Radcliffe. To their union were born four children, the first three of whom died in infancy. The only surviving child is Marguerite Hartwell Johnson, now living in Garden City, Kansas.
Doctor Johnson was connected with the Otis Elevator Company of New York City for several years and later with the Employers Liability Assurance Corporation of London, New York Branch, until his death. He acted as special agent and medical adviser and furnished the former with patents and devices for their business.
Doctor Johnson was a Mason for many years and also a member of other lodges. His political affiliation was with the democratic party. He was fond of all outdoor sports, was a keen business man, and much sought after for his advice on all hues, as he was familiar with all trades and professions, and was a student of human nature and a good judge of character.
In 1896 Doctor Johnson became blind, due to malarial poisoning contracted while in Libby prison. On account of the traffic in New York City he decided to live on the western prairies, and came to Scott City, Kansas, where he kept his office for two years
In 1898 Doctor Johnson founded the "Old Kentucky Home Ranch," sixteen miles north of Garden City, so called because there used to be a hotel run by a Kentucky man on the southwest corner of the ranch during the boom days of 1885-86. In 1901 he married Miss Alice Stringfield, to whom much credit is due for her faithful attendance and excellent care of the doctor. Doctor Johnson spent many thousands of dollars on improvements at his ranch, and entertained sumptuously. He did a great deal to develop the school system in his locality by giving liberally of his advice, time and money. Through his means that part of the country also secured a telephone system. Through his supervision and money furnished by him many miles of telephone were installed so that farmers could be connected with Garden City, Scott City and Eminence, besides the service between their farms and ranches. Doctor Johnson was very liberal in any public progressive enterprises to develop the country, furnishing thousands of dollars for many worthy causes. He also extended his help to people in getting started in the world, and while so much is known and appreciated of his generosity the great bulk of his practical philanthropy was never known to the public.
The last few years of his life Doctor Johnson suffered acutely from angina pectoris, and died at the ranch July 26, 1915. At his special request he was laid to rest in the National Cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac from Washington.
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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