One of the important figures in the business life of Newton is Edgar F.
Johnson. For many years he was identified with the mercantile life of the town,
and now he is doing even more towards the development of Newton by his activity
in the real estate and loan business. He is the son of a remarkable father, a
man who possessed all the qualities that go to make the successful man, that is,
an indomitable determination to let nothing stand in the way, the power of
perseverance and self-confidence united with a willingness to take advice. These
qualities that made of the father a successful doctor have made of the son a
successful business man.
Edgar F. Johnson was born at Alma, in Marion county, Illinois, on the 24th of April, 1867, the son of John B. Johnson. The latter had been born in Ohio, during the month of February, 1819, and had spent his childhood in learning the first principles of how to look out for himself, for his father had died when John was a mere babe. Determined to get an education, he had attended school whenever he could, his duties at home often preventing. When he had finally acquired all the knowledge his home schools could give him it seemed as though he would have to be content, for the nearest college was miles away, and he did not have the money to take him there had he had the money to pay for his tuition at the higher institution of learning. Nothing daunted, the lad rolled his clothes into a bundle, strapped his few books across his back and set out to tramp the hundred and fifty miles to the college of his choice. On his arrival, foot-sore and weary, his first move was not to enter the college building* and matriculate, but to hunt for work. It took much pluck and'hard work but supported by a burning desire for knowledge he worked his way through college, taking an elective medical course in the Medical College at Cincinnati. During the Civil war Dr. Johnson was assistant surgeon in the Seventy-second Indiana Regiment in Wiler's Brigade. He served through a good part of the war, and was discharged finally on account of ill health. There being no way in which he could longer serve his country he returned to Indiana and in 1866 moved to Illinois, where he located on a farm in Marion county, near Alma. His practice was a large one, covering the territory about Alma and Shumway, and he stuck manfully by his guns, doing the work of two men, until his health permitted active work no longer, and he was forced to retire to Alma. His last years were spent at the home of his son, Edgar F. Johnson, at Newton, and here he died of heart failure in 1892.
He had always been an active political worker and upheld the banner of the Whig party. As the people's candidate he served as a member of the House of Representatives for one term, and fulfilled their expectations to the highest degree. In religious matters he was a member of the Church of Christ and of the Missionary Baptist. In the latter denomination he preached for several years. His only interest in the fraternal world was in the Masonic order, in which he was a loyal worker.
Doctor Johnson was twice married. His first wife was a Miss Davidson, whom he married in Indiana. By this marriage he had three children, but the wife and mother died. He later married Rebecca Adylotte, a native of the state of Indiana, and of this second marriage six children were born, E. F. being the next to the youngest. Mrs. Johnson's death preceded that of her husband, taking place in 1876.
Edgar F. Johnson spent his childhood in Alma, but when he was fourteen a great change came into his life, for his father went to live for a few years in Arkansas. The country had not yet recuperated from the disastrous years following the war, and the rough state of the country was a most decided contrast to the comfortable Illinois farm house that the boy had known as his only home. He acquired an education in the public schools and on his return from Arkansas went to Altamont, where he went to work in the postoffice. He held this position for two years and then took a commercial course in Evansville Commercial College, Evansville, Indiana. In 1886 he found himself ready to start out in business, and had only to settle on a location. He was attracted to Newton, and decided that the town offered just the inducements for which he was looking, so he came hither and opened up a mercantile establishment. For seventeen years he continued in this business and by his honest business methods and the good values which he offered his patrons in exchange for their money, he made a reputation for himself and his store that was founded upon the stable foundation of genuine worth. Eight years ago he sold out the business and went into a new line, that of real estate, loan and insurance. He has been engaged in this ever since, and the reputation which his straight-forward methods of buying and selling brought to him he has since upheld in his new field.
In politics Mr. Johnson is a Prohibitionist, and is much interested in the affairs of his local government, being always willing to fulfill the obligations which he owes as a citizen. He has served one term as a member of the school board and is always active in urging any movement conducive to the growth of Newton. To this end he is a member of the Commercial Club, which comprises the most progressive men in the town. In religious matters he is a member of the Church of Christ, and in the fraternal world belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America.
In 1889 Mr. Johnson was married to Effie Humphreys, of Kinmundy, Illinois. She is the daughter of John Humphreys, a farmer of Marion county. One daughter has been born to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Margaret Urilla.
Extracted 07 Nov 2017 by Norma Hass from History of Southern Illinois, by George W. Smith, published in 1912, volume 3, pages 1434-1435.