President Roosevelt said recently in eulogy of a man. “He has done things.” And in speaking of the highly respected gentleman whose name appears above, we can say nothing more eulogistic than to recount somewhat the achievements of his life. They speak in no uncertain terms.

Stephen Johnson was born in Greene County, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 1839, being the son of Zephaniah and Rachel (Ulery) Johnson. The father was born in Pennsylvania, on December 21, 1812, and farmed in Greene County, and his death occurred on July 12, 1895. His parents were Zenias and Sarah (Crane) Johnson, both of German descent. The mother of our subject, who was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, about 1818, being of German extraction, is now deceased.

Our subject received the beginnings of his education in his native place, but since that time Mr. Johnson has improved his time in a most commendable manner and stands today a well educated man, with a ready reference library at his hands with which he is very familiar. When the budding years of twenty came he started out and in Ohio and Iowa he worked at his trade of builder and contractor for sixteen years. Soon after the war he purchased land in Benton County, Iowa, aggregating seven hundred acres. While doing a contract business here, he had charge of the following churches: Garrison church, Benton County: Grundy, Grundy County; Iowa River and State Center churches, Marshall County; and Waterloo, in Blackhawk County, in joint charge with Elder Miller.

A sad experience in Mr. Johnson’s career was the loss of his eyesight at the age of forty-five, but, using his own words, “Through skillful treatment and the blessings of the Lord. I am able to say, ‘Whereas I was blind, now I can see’, and I give all the praise and glory to His name.” In 1883 he retired from the field of business and for twelve years devoted himself entirely to preaching, being thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the gospel.

In 1897 Mr Johnson came to the reservation and took land, which is now adjoining the town of Nezperce. He has improved his land in a becoming manner and is now retired from the more active calls of business. Mr. Johnson is still very active in preaching and for five years he proclaimed the gospel in this vicinity and George W. Thomas, whose heart and soul was in the work, was an able assistant in this worthy labor. Mr. Johnson is now presiding elder for the congregation at Nezperce and the one at Moscow also. He was the moving spirit in organizing the church here and has done much to foster and build it up. One beautiful characteristic of our subject that we must not omit is that spoken of by the apostle that those in authority should be of good repute with those who are without. Thus shall the faith for which the church stands not be brought into disgrace. And it is with pleasure that we are able to state that in this particular Mr. Johnson is of exceptional standing with all who know him, being highly respected and esteemed.

On March 7, 1865, in Knox County, Ohio, Mr. Johnson married Elizabeth, daughter of Philip and Saloma (Rice) Hardinger, natives of Knox County, where also Mrs. Johnson was raised. To this happy union there have been born eight children, named as follows Elma A., Zephaniah A., Zenas C William F., Sarah O., George P., Mary E., James M. After preaching the gospel for thirty-five years he, accompanied by his wife, went to Lordsbury, California, in quest of health. Mrs. Johnson has been a constant and faithful helpmeet of her husband and it is gratifying to see them in this, the golden time of their life, stanch testimonies to the truth and deserving of the encomium, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if found in the way of righteousness.”

Mr. Johnson has three brothers and two sisters: Silas, near town; George, in Iowa; Daniel, on the old home place in Pennsylvania; Phoebe, wife of Isaac Kemp, in Greene County, Pennsylvania; Sarah, residing with her brother, Daniel. Mrs. Johnson has three brothers: Jacob, in Sullivan County; Frederick, there also; Philip, in Benton County, Iowa. Jacob and Frederick served three years in the Forty-third Ohio Infantry in the Civil War. George, another brother, died on a gunboat on the Mississippi. Frederick was wounded in the hand. George, the brother of Mr. Johnson, was also three years in that awful conflict, as was his brother, Zenas, now deceased.

Back to: Nez Perce Biographies

Source: An Illustrated History of Northern Idaho, Embracing Nez Perce, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, Western Historical Publishing Company, 1903