Friday, April 12, 2013

Johnstown, Kansas, a McPherson Co. Dead Town

I went to Johnstown in late March 2013 after a reader suggested the little McPherson County hamlet. Today, there's nothing left, but still, it's fascinating to see the location where a former village once existed.

The Johnstown post office was established in 1883, according to the Kansas State Historical Society.

Johnstown had a creamery and a Lutheran church. A school was located not far away, as well. There even was a store, operated by the Larson family, which stayed in business until the turn of the century. Even a train went through the area and stockyards were established along it at Johnstown.
Herman Johnson, Paul "Corky" Malm’s grandfather, bought the Johnstown town site around 1903 – roughly 20 acres he purchased for $500. He even bought the Larson store, which was closed.  

“He owned the land, raised watermelons and was a trapper,” Malm said. “He traveled in an old Model T.”
Herman Johnson wrote an article for a national publication called Camp and Trail, which had articles on trapping. Malm’s copy does not have a date.

“The only game left here now is skunk, mink, coon, civet cat, opossum, muskrat and a few badger and coyote but they are getting scarce except the coyote, which is holding its own,” he wrote. “The otter and beaver is a thing of the past, and so are our game birds a thing of the past if they don’t enforce stricter laws to protect them. There are a few quail and prairie chickens left but they are few.”

Johnson wrote that he used fish for bait, if he could get it, as well as frogs, chicken ad rabbit.

“It must be fresh bait,” he said.

Malm said he grandfather also bred skunks and the skunk dens are still visible along Indian Creek near Kola Johnson’s home. Malm said his grandfather earned enough to support his mother and grandmother.

Johnstown is located in McPherson County between Lindsborg and McPherson, just off 81 Highway.

Today, however, little is left of the little McPherson County village. Kola Johnson said. The skunk dens are still along the creek. A stone in front of her home marks the last remains of the old general store. The railroad bed is still visible, too, the tracks ripped up years ago.
And there is the home that Kola Johnson lives in, the one her father was raised in, she said. They’ve remodeled it and added on to it over the years.
Johnstown still makes television radar maps, on occasion. It still graces a few back road Gazetters, as well.

Kola Johnson thinks this might have been a town well at one time. Today it serves as the concrete that holds the Johnson mailbox.

Around 1919, Herman Johnson built the home Kola Johnson now lives in – an inscription in concrete where the old cistern once stood still marks the date.
Herman Johnson was progressive, Malm said. He built the home with running water and electrical hookups, even though the area didn’t’ receive electricity until 1946.

Kola Malm Johnson's home. Her great-grandfather, Herman Johnson, built it in 1919. Kola, whose husband's family is not related, said they have remodeled and added on to the structure.

A Hutch News article:
McPherson Farmer Served the Crimean War

April 7.—Olar Hawkinson, a Swedish farmer who liveds near Johnstown, has a rare record as a veteran. In fact, there are few who can rank with him.He was in the great Crimean war of 1854. During the progress ofthat war, he was part of the time, a sailor on a English transport that was the scene of the famous battle of Balaklva.

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