Members of Eli Johnson Family Fought in 3 Wars

From a very old newspaper photo-copy.

Parents, 12 Children Lived on Farm Near McFarland

Members of Eli Johnson Family Fought in 3 Wars

By C. H. Sanderson

The McFarland Area has been the home of several prominent people. The list includes a supreme court judge, a University president, college and university professors and the like. Some interesting and colorful families also lived in the vicinity. Most of these families were of Norwegian descent. A typical family group in this category in the 1900 era was that of Eli and Martha Johnson, whose farm home was just 1 ½ miles south of the village. There were 12 children.

Johnson came into possession of the main part of the farm in the late 1860s, according to Dan County records. Later he acquired the small farm of his brother, Isaac. This was and still is a beautiful tract situated on the banks of the Yahara River. The gently rolling terrain sloping back from the river is one of the many terminal moraines in the area, all running north and south, a reminder of the glaciers in their relatively recent visit to Southern Wisconsin some 10,000 years ago.

Isaac must have moved West, because the records show that one Aaron Johnson, presumably his son, and a cousin of the Eli Johnson sons and daughters, came back from South Dakota to the University of Wisconsin to become an outstanding athlete and one of the early graduates of the college of agriculture.

Because the Eli Johnson family was a large one – the men of the family including the father and six sons-the military experiences and contributions were extensive and not without tragic consequences. Their military activity spanned three major wars.

The father, Eli, enlisted for service in the Civil War Sept. 19, 1861, when he was 18, and became a private in the Company E., Eight Infantry. He was discharged the following July 5 after he became disabled. No details are available.

Oscar, the oldest son, enlisted May 13, 1898, just 19 days after Spain had declared war against the U.S. over the trouble in Cuba. He was a private in Company C, (Wisconsin) 8th Infantry, First Regiment. At the close of the short-lived war, sometime between the armistice, Aug. 21, and the Treaty of Paris, Dec. 12, of the same year, he was discharged.

When he returned home he became a well-driller, a profitable business in those days. Later he acquired the old home farm from the other heirs. Title is still in the names of his two widowed daughters-in-law, Mrs. Elliot Johnson, Madison, and Mrs. Marvin Johnson, Milwaukee, although there have been two or three transfers of propriety interest by virtue of a land contract. The present occupant, a tenant, operates the farm.

Martin also enlisted and served in the Spanish-American war. After discharge he returned home and lived the life of a near hermit and did not marry. What with his government pension and small cash crops, Spartan self denial and shrewd investments he was found at the time of his death to have accumulated a sizable estate. Since he had never made a will the estate was divided among his surviving relatives. He died in 1951 at the age of 75.

Andrew, third youngest of the boys, and a plague to small fry when he was an older boy in the grades, with his lively and sometimes aggressive pranks, was killed in action Oct. 24, 1900 near Luzon in the Philippines. He was a member of the Troop L Third Cavalry, or the U.S. occupying forces against whom one Emilio Aguinaldo was in rebellion until he was captured by the U.S. Gen. Frederick Funston.

Those who attended Andrew’s re-interment in the family lot in the McFarland Cemetery, a long time after the trouble in the islands was over… [text went off page photocopy]

Elmer, the youngest of the family, was a corporal in the U.S. Marines, the family contribution to Wold War I. For many years after the war he lived at317 W. Lakeside St. In Madison, where his widow still lives. He died at 69 last July.

There are no military records for Oliver or Alfred. Oliver was one of the older sons. He was married to Belle Olson, the village seamstress, and they operated a small farm near (now in) the village, together with the other land near the old farm home. In their later years they became deeply religious; and, having no children, bequeathed their property to the McFarland Lutheran Church. That part of the village has recently sold to the Alvin Mitchell and wife by Knute Vinjhe who had acquired it from the church.

Alfred married and had one son. Later in life he lived along in the dwelling on the old Isaac Johnson place. Around 1902 he played in the outfield in Ted Edwards’ famous Waubesa Baseball Team.

Stella was the oldest Daughter of the Eli Johnson’s. She and her husband, Jake Nelson, lived for many years on the farm with the faded red brick house across from what is now Dvorak’s Tavern. This couple in their later years became enthusiastic followers of Alexander Dowie, then in his prime as a religious leader, and the founder of Zion City, Ill. In 1904 they sold the farm and moved with their children to the Dowie Headquarters in Zion City, where some of the children still make their home.

Four of the other daughters moved West and settled in California, near and in Pasadena. These were Mrs. Marian Fullmer, Mrs. Irene King, Mrs. Edythe Hansen, and Emma who never married. Helen remained in the home area and became the wife of Peter Tingom. The Tingoms had two sons and lived at 1237 E. Johnson St., in Madison, where Mr. Tingom, a retired Gisholt employe[e], still lives. Helen died three years ago. Of the entire Johnson family only Marian and Edythe survive.

Eli Johnson was what would be called today a rugged individualist. He was a man of positive and emphatic ideas, habits, and temper. He was a strong man physically. He used neither tobacco nor alcohol. His aversion against tobacco was so positive that not a stalk of the plant was raised on the home farm during his lifetime although in those days it was a highly profitable cash crop. He died in1901, at the age of 58. His wife Martha… [end of page].

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