Biography of Leonard F. Johnston
Merced County, CA Biographies





LEONARD F. JOHNSTON
One of the substantial ranch owners and a highly respected citizen of the Hilmar Colony, Leonard F. Johnston is a man of whom it may well be said "His word is as good as his bond and his bond is of the very best." In many ways he has proved a valuable citizen of Merced County, contributing to its growth, fostering its enterprises and promoting its welfare. He has much in common with his brother, A. O. Johnston, the well known merchant and rancher at Irwin, who was a partner of his at Waverly, Nebr.

Leonard F. Johnston was born in Sweden, January 26, 1873. When nineteen years of age he set out for America and arrived at Waverly, Lancaster County, Nebr., where he found work as a farm hand at twenty dollars a month. After working around for a few years he had saved enough money to go in with his brother, A. O. Johnston, in the purchase of an eighty acre home place near Waverly; to this they added 160 acres, and also cut hay on shares on 400 or 500 acres of upland by which they cleared about twenty five dollars a day. Their parents were Johannes and Anna Charlotta (Samuelson) Johnson. It is a peculiarity of the Scandinavian names to add "son" to the Christian name of the father. The father's name being Johannes, the surname of the son should have been Johanneson, or shorter, Johnson. But on account of the confusion of names in the mails the sons found it convenient to change the name to Johnston.

While the boys were growing up in Sweden they learned blacksmithing and carpentering in the shop of their father, who was a mechanical genius. So the boys became expert machinists, an accomplishment which has been of great service to them in America. They first bought a Nicholas Shepard thresher, made in Battle Creek, Mich., and afterwards an Avery, made in Peoria, Ill. They were operated by a steam traction engine for power. Their corn sheller had a capacity of 1000 bushels per hour. Being expert machinists, by replacing worn parts at night, they were able to run a whole season without losing more than three hours for a breakdown. By frugality and good management they had accumulated considerable capital when they came to California. A. O, Johnston was the first to come to California. Leonard has forty acres one mile southwest of Irwin and another ten acres under a high state of cultivation one mile north of the home forty acres.

Leonard Johnston was married in 1917 to Mrs. Alette Dignes, widow of Jens Dignes of Randsfonden, Norway, and daughter of Borger and Bertie Marie (Anderson) Guibrandson of Hadeland, Norway. She had one son by Dignes, Borger, now a farmer in the Hilmar Colony. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston have adopted John Vernon Nordstrom a bright lad and the youngest child of Mrs. Johnston's deceased sister. Though successful as a whole, Mr. Johnston met with a heavy financial loss by becoming bondsman to the amount of $10,000 with A. T. Anderson for O. C. Holt, builder, in the erection of the high school gymnasium building at Tracy, Cal. Mr. Holt died before the building was completed; so the bondsmen had to make good and Mr. Johnston is out over $11,000 cash.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnston are hospitable and very highly esteemed in their community. Mr. Johnston has acquired a vast stock of knowledge through experience and general reading, and he aims to keep himself posted on the national, State, county and local issues and he will cast his ballot without fear or favor for what expresses his honest conviction. An interesting incident in his life is his acquaintance with W. J. Bryan, which came about through his enthusiastic admiration of Bryan and free silver in the latter's first campaign for the Presidency. Bryan heard of it, and when he was in Waverly called on him and walked up the street with him. His respect for the Great Commonor is as profound as ever.

From:
History of Merced County, California
With a Biographical Review
History by John Outcalt
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1925


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