Biography of Capt. John E. Johnson
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





CAPT. JOHN EDWARD JOHNSON. - One of the best known of the younger generation of seafaring men who make Eureka their home is Capt. John Edward Johnson, master and part owner of the little gasoline schooner Magnolia, which plies between this port and Brookings, Ore., making the round trip twice each week. Captain Johnson is a native of California and came to Eureka in his mother's arms, when a babe of but three weeks. Since that time he has become well known here, although he has not made his home in this city continuously. He has sailed the high seas for many years and during that time has twice circumnavigated the globe, visiting most of the world famous seaports.

Captain Johnson was born in San Francisco, February 13, 1875, the son of Peter Johnson, a native of Kalmar, Sweden, and a ship carpenter by trade. During young manhood the father came to Humboldt county and followed his trade here, also working in sawmills as a millwright. In early life he also followed the sea for a time. His wife, and the mother of our subject. was Katherine (Redmond) Johnson, a native of New York city. The parents came to San Francisco in 1874, shortly after their marriage, making the trip around the Horn in a sailing vessel in which Mr. Johnson shipped as the ship carpenter. Arriving in California he determined to quit the sea, and located the following year in Humboldt county, where he remained until 1899. From that year until 1906 he made his home in San Francisco, then removing to Lomita Park, San Mateo county, where both parents are now living. There were nine children in this family, all native Californians, and all born in Eureka save the eldest, Capt. J. E. Johnson. The other children are: William August, now residing in San Francisco; Marie A., the wife of F. E. Gist, residing at Long Beach; Elizabeth R.; Arthur, a ship carpenter; Charles, an engineer; Eleanor, Katharine and Edith C., all residing in San Francisco.

The boyhood days of Captain Johnson were spent in Eureka, where he received his education in the public schools. When he was about fourteen years old he began to work at the carpenter's trade under his father, and at the age of seventeen he went to sea. His first sailing was with Capt. James F. Higgins, now deceased, on the steamer Farallon, which went ashore in Alaskan waters several years ago. After continuing with Captain Higgins for a few months he shifted to other vessels. He has followed the sea continuously for twenty two years, with the exception of three years when he was associated with the D. K. B. Sellers Commission Company, of Eureka, being employed in the warehouse at the foot of D street. In March, 1894, he shipped in the Maggie C. Russ, built at Eureka, later sailed with the barkentine Amelia to Honolulu, and returned with her to Puget Sound. At the time of the Spanish-American war he enlisted at Mare Island in the United States navy, being assigned to the cruiser Philadelphia, on which he saw much service. They raised the flag over the Hawaiian Islands August 12, 1898, and in the spring of 1899 went to the Samoan Islands. In June, 1899, Captain Johnson was honorably discharged, after which he returned to Eureka, and during the following winter was with the schooner J. G. Wall. Later he was on the Lizzie Vance in the lumber trade, and afterward was on various sailing vessels until 1902, when he joined the barkentine Hawaii in Newcastle, Australia, remaining with her for two years and eight months. On one voyage, in 1904, he made the run to Puget Sound as master. In 1905 he left the Hawaii and joined the schooner Vine, on which he made a trip to Point Barrow, Alaska. This was his last trip on sailing craft, thereafter signing only on steam vessels. In the employ of the North Pacific Steamship Company he commanded the Newport for Charles P. Doe, of San Francisco, sailing between Eureka and San Francisco for a year. Later he commanded various other small steamers until in 1909 he took charge of the J. J. Loggie, continuing with it until February, 1912 (this boat was wrecked in October of that year), when he took charge of the steamboat Antelope for Captain Coggeshall, remaining with her until June, 1913, at which time he started in business for himself as a partner of Captain Crone, leasing the gas steamer Coaster for the season. He then determined to build a craft of his own, and for this purpose entered into a partnership with Capt. Walter Coggeshall, and the splendid gasoline schooner Magnolia was built for them at the Fairhaven shipyards, in the spring of 1914, being ready for service in May. Of the latest design and first class in every detail, it is sixty five feet long, seventeen feet in the beam, and was constructed at a cost of $12,500. It has a capacity for eighty five tons of freight, and is propelled by two forty horsepower standard gasoline engines. The offices of the Magnolia Transportation Company are located in Eureka, at the foot of F street. Their schedule calls for sailings twice weekly, their destination being Brookings, Ore., making stops at Crescent City and Requa, Cal., the latter on the Klamath river, with Captain Johnson always in charge.

The marriage of Captain Johnson took place in Eureka December 14, 1907, uniting him with Miss Cecelia Johnson, the daughter of George T. Johnson, who located in Eureka in 1875 and died here February 24, 1912. Of their union have been born two children, Sophie Kathrine, aged six, and Edward Cecil, aged four years. Shortly after his marriage Captain Johnson built a bungalow on Fourteenth street, where with his family he has since made his home.

Aside from his business interests Captain Johnson is popular in many lines of activity, and is associated with the affairs of his home city. He is wide awake and progressive and is always in favor of progress and improvement and stands for social, civil and municipal uplift and betterment. Fraternally he is a member of Fortuna Lodge No. 221, I. O. O. F., and of Humboldt Parlor, N. S. G. W., of Eureka. He is also a member of Major Frank Rice Camp, United Spanish War Veterans, and is a member of California Harbor, Masters, Mates and Pilots of the Pacific, with headquarters at No. 36 Stewart street, San Francisco. Socially both Captain and Mrs. Johnson have many warm friends and are popular members of their social circle. Mrs. Johnson and the children are members of the Episcopal church of Eureka, and she is prominent in the various lines of church activities.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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