Our story begins in 1853, when Joseph Harvey Johnson was born to Lewis Johnson and Elizabeth Van Horn in Penn Township, Jay County, Indiana. While we only know of a few things about Joseph, we know enough to begin the story of this Museum.
Joseph left Indiana and some point in time in the 1800’s and ended up in central Illinois in the town of Browning. He met and married Margaret Josephine Ivins in 1876. They had two children, Cecil Ivans Johnson and Lilliam Edith Johnson (known to us as “Aunt Edith”). Cecil was born in in 1877 and Lillian was born in 1881. Margaret Josephine died at the age of 33 in 1883, but we don’t know the cause of her early death.
Subsequently, Joseph married Annie Teresa Williams. They started a family, probably around 1885, or 1886 with the birth of Fay. Myrtle Sophia, (our heroine) was born in 1887 in Driggstown, Logan County, Arkansas. and she was followed by her brother Henry in 1888. The family moved to Oklahoma Indian Territory in 1896 by covered wagon. The last child, Ray, was born in 1897 in Centralia, Oklahoma (now a ghost town).
Somewhere along the way Joseph became a pharmacist and then a doctor. In the end, Joseph ended up in the Home for Aged Masons, as a Scottish Rite 32nd Degree Mason. He lived for ten years in Arlington, Texas. In a letter to his daughter Myrtle, in 1934, he described himself in poor health and broke, and hoped to stay there “for the remainder of my young life.” He described the home and main hospital building as being built by the Knight Templar Masons. It was maintained by “The Royal Arch Masons”. (This letter is among the exhibits for Myrtle.)
Dr. Johnson passed away in 1943. Although he died in Texas he was buried in Bader, Schuyler County, Illinois, 3 miles north of Browning, next to his first wife. His tombstone shows his name and Margaret Josephine’s name. It makes one wonder if he bought the stone and plot when she passed, or did he have the plot and a family member added the stone after his death.
In the Museum you can see the only remaining belongings of Joseph. They are cool, many over 100 years old, and include:
–the 8-page letter Joseph wrote to his daughter Myrtle
–the book printed in 1873, titled Diamond Edition of The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, complete Edition, signed and dated 1879, by J. H. Johnson
–the Excelsior Edition of The Poetical Works of Robert Burns signed by J. H. Johnson in December 1880 for his granddaughter, Virginia McKee Field Alexander.
–the interesting classic, a 1-1/2″ thick book, signed by J. H. Johnson in Decatur, Arkansas, titled A Practical Treatise on the Diseases of Women, by John M. Scudder, M.D., printed in 1874.
It would be nice to know more of Joseph’s life. Fortunately, for now, we can just be happy that he and Annie gave the world Myrtle and Henry so we can continue our story of their impact on Hominy, Oklahoma.