Saturday, May 29, 2010

Surname Saturday ~ JOHNSON - A story of survival.

George Albert JOHNSON
Born 1875 - Died 1964 - Aged 89 years 3 months

 George is 85 years old in this photograph.

George Albert JOHNSON was my maternal Grandfather.

"Always a source of worry and of fear, a prairie fire caused great concern among the very early homesteaders. The first such fire to cross this particular area was in the fall of 1905. As remembered from conversation by those who were here, it appeared to have started not too far west.

In the long thick grass of many years it swept forward at tremendous speed. Flames rose 20 to 25 feet in the air with thickening acrid smoke. Unfortunate was the odd settler who did not have an excellent fire guard.

One neighbor who witnessed and survived the fire was George Johnson. He had gone west over a mile from their own sod house to see about a fire guard of another settler, James McCracken, when it overtook him on the way home. There was only one salvation - to run through the fire to burned over ground. In so doing he carried scars of that episode to the end.  .  .  ."

SOURCE: LOOKING BACK - The History of the Milden Community; 1905-1965. Published by: The Milden Historical Committee, 1966. Page 14.

In 1969, this 150 page book was given to my parents by one of my father's first cousins. The Village of Milden and the surrounding farming community is where my parents grew up.

NOTE: The fall of 1905 would have been just months after George, his wife Emma (CLARK) and their first two children arrived by wagon on the barren prairies to claim their homestead. George would have been 30 years old; Emma 26 years; Gordon Clark 4 1/2 years; and Mary `Mae` Jane 3 years old. Two more children were born in the sod house. Florence Irene born 1906 and Clifford Fallis born early 1908.

In the spring/summer of 1905 they would have built their first home, the sod house. The family lived in the sod house 3 years, until 1908 when they built the wood frame/cedar house that was their house for the rest of their lives.

This must have been a frightening experience for George and his young family.

Also, over the years, I heard the story of "Grandpa and the prairie fire" as told by my Mother. Although Grandpa did have some scars, fortunately he was not disfigured. As children and young adults, he looked fine to us!


This United States Congress image is in the Public Domain.
Notice the very fancy hats that the two women standing in the center are wearing.
One with a 'bunch' of pink flowers. The other has a hat matching her purple dress.

However, I think this photo has had the colour added, that prairie grass just looks too green! article on the history of Sod Houses

UPDATED: Sunday, May 30th 2010 with images from 

2010 - copyright © Carole Gates

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