Recalling
Famous
Explorer


Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, Jan. 3, 1957

Martin Johnsonís Trips With Jack
London Recalled by Lincoln Resident

An article in a recent issue of the Kansas City Star giving sort of a resume of the life of the late Jack London, famous novelist, brought back some interesting early day history to A.J. Stanley. Probably there are still early residents here who will remember the John Johnson family, early day jewelers of Lincoln, and especially their son Martin.

Mr. Stanley was well acquainted with the Johnsons, and he recalls that when Jack London was making plans for one of his jungle ventures, he rigged up a sailboat called the Snark, which received considerable publicity, and Martin applied for a job with the caravan as a cook or something of that order, although his knowledge of dietary regimen was limited at that time.

Martinís principal interest at the time was amateur photography, and on his many trips with London to little known and uninhabited places, he was able to secure pictures of wild animals of the jungle that became historic and brought fame to Martin.

Osa Johnson, his wife, accompanied her husband on many of his trips with Mr. London and has written a book entitled "I Married Adventure," covering a history of the Johnson family and the many hair-raising incidents they experiences on their extensive travels to the South Seas and their safaris in Africa.

The book devotes a good deal of space to the history of Lincoln at the time the Johnson family came here. The jewelry store was located in the building just east of the Saline Valley Bank, but later was sold to the Miller family when the Johnson family moved to Chanute, where Martin met and married Osa.

Some 15 or 20 years ago, Martin and Osa paid a brief visit to Lincoln and Martin renewed acquaintances with some old friends remaining here and spent some time looking over some of the scenes of his boyhood. They made the trip here in a gaudily decorated airplane. There being no airport here then the plane landed in a pasture south of town where it drew a lot of interest from the townspeople.

Martin lost his life in a plane accident in California after his visit here and his wife Osa was seriously injured.

The following excerpts from Osaís book, which it is hoped is not an infringement, will be of interest in depicting Martinís boyhood days in Lincoln:

"Martin was born Oct. 9, 1884, in Rockford, Ill., where his father was foreman of the stem-winding department of the Rockford Watch Company. A new ambition stirred in John Johnson with the birth of a son. Word had come of the railroad that was being laid through the rich farm lands of Kansas, and of a new assembled town, with the result that the spring of 1885 saw them established in that still raw and thinly settled community named Lincoln Center.

"When he set out for Lincoln Center in 1885, Martinís father knew exactly what to expect. The streets were unpaved and the business section was a huddle of as yet unpainted stores. Wisely he rented the store adjoining the newly erected Saline Valley Bank, put in a stock of jewelry but little larger than would make a fine display in the brightly polished front window.

"His father taught him to swim when he was five; and every Saturday morning found him up early, barefooted and off in bibbed blue overalls and wide brimmed hat to explore the unfailing wonders of the Saline River. Ben Marshall and the Everett boys usually went with him on these expeditions, and the Rees brothers, who father owned the mill, made up a noisy, lusty six. The Saline River, except at flood time, was an orderly stream, and so the boys liked the best that spot at the foot of the mill where a cataract tumbled and gave the sound and feeling of danger to a place that in reality was as safe as a stone, bulked large and solid and was, Martin knew, one of the biggest buildings in the world; anyhow, bigger than anything in Lincoln Center.

"Driving all night as we often did in Africa, we would make a game of comparing dates. When he first ran away in Lincoln Center, for instance, I was first seeing the light of day in Chanute. I shall always love the memory of his mother for her rare understanding of her only boy on that night when he first decided to leave home. He had failed to pass his grades. There was nothing to do, he decided, but to run away. When he thought no one was looking, he left by the back door. He stopped at the pump for a drink and there, to his astonishment, his mother overtook him, carrying an old carpet bag packed with his things. Giving it to him, she wished him a cheerful goodbye and sent him on his way. Martin got as far as a cave which he and his friend, Ben Marshall, had dug in the railroad embankment, crawled in, then crawled out and ran straight home, where he was received without surprise or comment."


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