Thomas Merrill Johnson b 29 Dec 1849

Thomas Merrill Johnson was born 29 December 1849 in Rutland VT, the sixth of ten children of William and Lorette (Proctor) Johnson.  In 1850, the family lived in Sandgate, VT, but shortly thereafter, the family moved west to Illinois, where his father was granted a homestead in 1855. 

In 1860, the family lived In Hahnaman IL.  There is a Thomas M Johnson who served in the Civil War in the 20th Regiment, Illinois Infantry, but I do not know if this is the same person.  Thomas was still in Hahnaman in 1870.

Thomas moved to Freemont, Nebraska, and on 11 May 1876, married Sarah Catherine “Kate” Dolan, daughter of James and Rose Dolan.  Thomas and Kate had four children: William Wallace, Franklyn Ed, Nettie Louretta, and Charles, born between about 1876 and 1882.

In 1880, the family lived in Elkhorn, Nebraska.  Thomas was a carpenter.  Kate died about 1883 in Nebraska.  Family lore is that the children were given to relatives.  When Thomas remarried, he sought to get his children back but did or could not. On 28 Nov 1883, Thomas married Hattie Ellen Duggan, daughter of Samuel and Mary Matilda (Hetrick) Duggan. Both lied about their ages – Thomas was 34 but claimed to be 27.  Hattie was just over 14 but claimed to be 17.  The Nebraska state census of 1885 shows Thomas in Arlington, Nebraska. His four children, William, Franklyn, Nettie, and Charles are with Thomas and Hattie, as well as Hattie’s first child, Myra, who was born 10 months after they married.  If Thomas gave the children up to Kate’s relatives, it would appear that this happened after the marriage to Hattie.  One can only imagine how hard it was to suddenly be mother to five at the age of sixteen!

The Moline IL city directories list a Thomas Johnson at 624 Railroad avenue, a carpenter, in 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888.  This may be the same family.

A “cousin” and fellow researcher provided more details of the Thomas and Hattie Johnson family history:  In 1890, they took their four girls – Myra, Eugenia “Jean”, Julia and Ruby Ellen “Nellie” – to Washington state to seek employment.  They took the train and after spending the summer in Washington, decided it was too rainy and wet to live there.  An epidemic of scarlet fever broke out, so they got back on the train and headed home.  The two youngest girls, Julia and Nellie, caught scarlet fever and Julia died on the way home in Wyoming.  Nellie died in Nebraska.   

In 1900, Thomas was recorded in the census in Rock Falls, Whiteside, IL with Hattie and the children.  He was a carpenter.

The family stayed in Nebraska a few more years and had two more girls, Lorette “Laura” and Alice.  They moved to Whiteside county, Illinois, where Thomas’ family (parents and Lilly and her family) were living.  There in Rock Falls, Hattie gave birth to their last three children, Napoleon, Anna “Marie” and Hattie Quintilla.  Family lore is that Thomas was an alcoholic and had a violent temper.  The end of Thomas and Hattie’s marriage came when Thomas shot a gun at Hattie and missed her, but made a hole in the fabric of her dress.  According to the story, all Hattie had to do was show the judge the hole in the dress where Thomas had shot it, and the judge granted her the divorce.  The court record page lists both the divorce and Thomas’ court case for assault.  Thomas spent 5 years in prison for this crime.  They were divorced as of 19 October 1901.

The 1910 census for Uniontown, Fayette Co, Pennsylvania lists Thomas with third wife Jennie Miller and her daughter Bertha Miller.  He was a house carpenter.  They both listed this as their second marriage although actually it was his third.  The census asks for number of years of present marriage, and Thomas and Jennie listed “O” so they must have been newlyweds in 1910. Jennie came from a large family, also, as the 1910 census reports that she had nine children, six still living. The 1910 census is also supposed to document military service, and there is no notation that Thomas served.

In 1920, Thomas was back in Rock Falls, Coloma Twp, Whiteside IL with Jennie and her daughter Bertha Miller (and granddaughter Charlotte Miller).  He was a house carpenter.

Thomas died 3 March 1923 in Sterling, IL. Jennie Johnson is listed as his surviving spouse.  He is buried at the IOOF cemetery in Coloma IL.


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