Biography of Frank Johnson

FRANK JOHNSON. – The career of this well-known contractor is a clear case of the promotion of merit. He has acquired an enviable position in the business world from simple integrity and excellence of worth.

He was born in Holland in 1844, and came with his widowed mother to New York in 1852. He went soon to Buffalo, and there began to learn the trade of a carpenter and joiner. The war breaking out, and an appeal being made to the patriotic young men of the city, he volunteered as a soldier and served gallantly until the close of the struggle, meriting and receiving special mention by the colonel of the regiment. He saw severe work both in the West and South and at sea, and was wounded in a skirmish on the line of the Mobile & Charleston Railway. Being mustered out at Albany in 1866, he returned home and continued his studies as architect with Frederick Scott, one of the master mechanics of the city. In 1874 he began business on his own of the city. In 1874 he began business on his own responsibility, and made a specialty of first-class work and of overseeing construction.

Tiring, however, of the city, and desiring to try the real American life of the West, he came to Washington Territory in 1880, and took up a farm in the Palouse country, using his soldier’s right to a claim of one hundred and sixty acres. He began in earnest, fencing sixty acres, and plowing thirty the first year. But “his light could not be hid.” A settler, who had made money in the cattle business, was wanting a house, and, hearing of Mr. Johnson, sent for him to do the work. Wishing to accommodate a neighbor, our architect lent a hand, and, feeling an interest in his old trade, set himself to make the best looking house that the circumstances would permit. With nothing but rough lumber to begin with, he matched and planed and joined, and even molded and made, rolled heads for the piazza fronts, constructing so elegant a house as to excite interest in all the region, and to spread abroad his fame.

The railway authorities, hearing of his skill, persuaded him to take charge of work in the construction of depots along their line. He became foreman of this work and operated one year. This led to his receiving the appointment to build the United States quarters at Fort Spokane, then growing up, where he worked twenty-two months, overseeing from twenty-five to ninety-five men all the while, and building a considerable village of officers’ houses and soldiers’ barracks. From this time his place was assured. Although still trying to live on his farm, he was called away to build the Catholic chapel; and he finished the college at the Falls. He build the first business block in the place (Keith’s), and made the plans and supervised the construction of the famous Wolverton Block. He also built Mr. Brown’s magnificent residence, and has erected a very handsome dwelling for himself.

Mr. Johnson is respected and well-nigh beloved by the people of Spokane Falls, Washington, where he resides, for his frankness, geniality, good fellowship, and neighborliness, as well as for his superior ability in his special line.



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

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