Biography of Robert H. Johnston
Jefferson County, IA Biographies





Robert H. Johnston, whose life span covers eight decades, is numbered among the citizens of Jefferson county most worthy of honor and veneration, for his record has ever been one of ceaseless effort, honorable principles and high purposes. His well directed labors, too, have brought him substantial success in the business world, and he is now able to leave the active work to younger shoulders, enjoying the comforts of life which his prosperity affords him. He was born in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, on the 14th of December, 1831, a son of Samuel and Prudence (Hill) Johnston, both natives of Ireland, having been born near Belfast. There they were reared and married and in 1825 came to Pennsylvania. The father operated the Pittsburg House on the Diamond, his time and attention being thus engaged until his death in 1836. His widow later brought her family to Iowa, arriving in Van Buren county in 1854, the home being established in Cedar township, east of Birmingham, where she resided until December 16, 1866, when she passed away at the age of seventy two years. The family consisted of four children, of whom the three eldest, Margaret, William and Henry, are now deceased.

Robert H. Johnston, the youngest child of Samuel and Prudence Johnston, was a young man of twenty three years when he came to Iowa with his mother in the fall of 1854. His education had been acquired in the Keystone state and there he learned the shoemaker's trade, serving his apprenticeship near Pittsburg and following that occupation for about seven years in Pennsylvania and also in Iowa. After his arrival in this state he spent one year in Scott county and in the fall of 1855 removed to Van Buren county, where he remained until 1877. In the latter year he came to his present place of residence, which has remained his home for thirty four years. His home farm, which is located on section 36, Liberty township, about two miles north of Birmingham, on the Van Buren county line, consists of eighty acres and is a well improved property, containing all of the accessories necessary to equip a model farm. Indeed it is one of the most valuable and desirable places in Liberty township and in its excellent condition is seen the result of a life characterized by earnest endeavor, by unfaltering energy and well directed effort. It was but a natural sequence that as the years passed Mr. Johnston should prosper in his agricultural undertaking and never was success more worthily won nor more richly deserved. He continued in the active management of his interests until about five years ago, when he turned over the actual supervision of his farm to his sons and is now living in honorable retirement.

The entire attention of Mr. Johnston, however, has not been concentrated in this one avenue, for during the past nineteen years he has served as a director of the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company. In like manner business interests have not been permitted to exclude activity in other directions and he has an interesting military record covering three years service in the Civil war as a soldier in the Union army. He enlisted from Van Buren county on the 6th of August, 1862, being assigned to Company I, Nineteenth Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and remained with that command until honorably discharged on the 6th of August, 1865, having in the meantime been detailed as bass drummer of the regiment. He has since maintained pleasant connection with his old army comrades through his membership in Newell Post, G. A. R., at Birmingham. He is a demisted Mason, while his religious faith is that of the Presbyterian church, holding membership relations with that denomination at Birmingham. In politics he has ever given stalwart support to the republican party and has been called to public service by his fellow citizens, filling the office of township trustee for a number of years. He has also served as school director, being a warm advocate of the cause of education, and he is equally stanch in his advocacy of material and moral progress, doing all in his power to further the interests of the community in which he lives, in every possible way.

It was in 1852 that Mr. Johnston was united in marriage to Miss Hannah Shepler, who was born in Allegheny county, Pennsylvania, on the 21st of February, 1828, a daughter of Peter and Mary (Paine) Shepler, both natives of the Keystone state, where their last days were spent. The Johnston household was blessed with six children, as follows: William, a farmer of Van Buren county, residing near Birmingham; Margaret, who married Jackson Kirkhart, of Cantril, Van Buren county; Mary, at home; Maria, who married Albert Parker, of Derby, Lucas county; Reuben, a resident of Liberty township; and Carrie, who passed away at the age of nine years. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their wedding nine years ago and they confidently expect to celebrate their sixtieth anniversary in 1912. Both have long since passed the Psalmist's allotted span of three score years and ten and they can look back upon a past which has been crowned with successful achievement and characterized by a development of high ideals. Both have lived their lives to noble purpose and now in the evening of life they have in full measure the unqualified respect, esteem and reverence which should ever be accorded old age.

From:
History of Jefferson County, Iowa
A Record of Settlement, Organizatin,
Progress and Achievement Vol II
BY: Charles J. Fulton
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1914


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