Biography of Daniel Johnson

DANIEL JOHNSON. – Among the pioneers of Oregon, no one bore a better reputation than the subject of this sketch, whose doors were always open to the homeless stranger, and whose memory will be fondly cherished by the many who have been sheltered and fed by him.

Daniel Johnson was born in 1812 in Berkshire county, Massachusetts, and at ten years of age removed with his parents to Onondaga county, New York, remaining with them some thirteen years, and doing any kind of work he could get to do. However, during the latter part of this time, he labored at stone-masonry.

Right here we cannot forbear citing the reader to one piece of labor performed by him. In 1883 H. Johnson, son of Daniel, while traveling through that section of New York, paid a visit to an old fashioned cobble-stone house built by his father in the year 1835, and which is really as firm and solid as when it was first completed, the couple for whom it was built still occupying it.

In the year 1837, Mr. Johnson, leaving friends and home, struck out for the “old West.” Arriving in Tippecanoe county, Indiana, he labored at masonry, plastering, as foreman in a large pork-packing establishment, and breaking prairie lands, until 1844, within which time he had accumulated property to the value of about seven hundred dollars.

During the time he lived in Indians, he met and won the love of Miss Elsina Perkins, whom he married January 22, 1844. She was born in Cattaraugus county, New York, in 1828, and was the daughter of Eli and Sallie Perkins, who removed to Tippecanoe, Indiana, when she was four years old, living there until shortly after the above-stated marriage of their daughter, when they joined the company, of which the young couple were members that were preparing to cross the plains the following summer.

All things being ready, they set out with ox-teams on the fourth day of April to seek new business and a new home on the Pacific coast. Many of the incidents of that journey have been related elsewhere; yet one may be added here; Taking a buffalo hunt with Joseph Smith, Barton Lee and John Perkins, Mr. Johnson came upon a herd of a thousand animals, following which they killed a cow and calf, but upon getting ready to return to the train disagreed as to the direction, and in consequence rode bout aimlessly, moving in a circle. Coming back to the carcass of the cow and being tortured by thirst, their tongues already beginning to swell, they scooped a hole in the body of the animal, and clarifying as best they might with buffalo grass the liquid which gathered, drank each two swallows. Being somewhat revived by this seemingly poisonous an disgusting fluid, they rode on and found the track, and soon came up with the train, which on account of the insistence of the wives of these men had waited a day. They were out two nights and three days, but found upon reaching the wagons that a buffalo herd had passed close by, and that the train was supplied with an abundance of meat.

Reaching the Umatilla, Mr. Daniel Johnson went over to Walla Walla, and spent some weeks in working for Doctor Whitman, making the journey to the Willamette valley in the middle of the winter. At The Dalles he constructed a canoe for himself, and hired another with an Indian pilot. His own he lost in endeavoring to take it over the Cascades, but below the rapids constructed a raft, and at the mouth of the Sandy was accommodated with the Hudson’s Bay Company’s boats. It was the middle of February by the time they reached Oregon City. Early in March he returned to The Dalles for his teams, which he had left with Mr. Bush; and, here he had reached Oregon City once more, he had passed fourteen months of outdoor life, never sleeping under a roof except a few weeks after first arriving at the falls.

Once fairly in the valley with all his effects, Mr. Johnson and his wife went out to the picturesque hills and uplands at the riffles of the Yamhill river, and near the present site of Lafayette, Oregon, took up their Donation claim. This magnificent tract of land, they still own and have lived upon until recently, making of it one of the best of the “old places,” and rearing there their family of eight children, – Hull, Melissa (deceased), Anna, Lilian, J.P., Effie G., Jennie and Maud. All but one are married and have homes in Oregon.

Mr. Johnson, although now approaching old age, is still hale and active, and of unimpaired mind.



History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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