Thilda Johnson

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THILDA JOHNSON, first of the chil­dren of Swan and Kjer­stin John­son, was born at Wiby, Swe­den, August 26, 1854. She got her school­ing in Swe­den. A lady lived in the school­house teach­ing sewing and cook­ing, a man teacher com­ing in dur­ing school hours to teach read­ing, writ­ing and arith­metic. In 1868 she went with the fam­i­ly to Amer­i­ca, stop­ping with them in Chica­go. Here she took employ­ment in a tai­lor shop, learn­ing the trade and made such good progress that she was soon put in charge of the coat­trim­ming, pock­ets and fin­ish­ing coats. In after years she did all of the sewing for the fam­i­ly.

After two years in Chica­go she fol­lowed her par­ents to Bement, Illi­nois, tar­ry­ing there eight years. She then came West with them and made her home with them near Genoa, Nebras­ka.

In those ear­ly days she usu­al­ly went call­ing or to par­ties on horse­back. She often vis­it­ed a friend, Anna Mun­son, at West Hill, sev­er­al miles north of Genoa, Nebras­ka.

Indi­ans used to set up their teep­es and camp along Skeedee Creek, on the John­son home­stead. A report was cur­rent that at some pri­or time a great bat­tle had been fought along here. Any­way, the chil­dren used to pick up large num­bers of choice arrow­heads in that local­i­ty for many years. It is believed Uncle Eric gath­ered up many of them and took them to John Ster­ling’s home at Nebras­ka City, Nebras­ka.

Thil­da joined in mar­riage with Hans Julius John­son of the Look­ing Glass Coun­try near St. Edward, Nebras­ka, April 1, 1882. A home was pre­pared and ready for them on a very good farm on Look­ing Glass, pur­chased from the Rock Island Rail­road Com­pa­ny at $3.00 per acre, and here they lived hap­pi­ly for sev­en years. A fine orchard was set out. It pro­vid­ed them with an abun­dance of all sorts of fruit, large and small; they always had enough and to spare, shar­ing lib­er­al­ly with neigh­bors. No one thought of sell­ing fruit in those days. Hans brought the trees and shrubs with him when he came to Nebras­ka with the John­son fam­i­ly. To this union were born five chil­dren: Lena Eliz­a­beth, Elmer Wesce­lious, John William, Hans Julius who died in infan­cy, and Lily Vic­to­ria.

Hans John­son passed away April 13, 1889, from a very painful ill­ness that seemed to be cen­tered in the region behind his ear. It was very painful and a hem­or­rhage was the result and caused his death. Moth­er stat­ed that there was no pre­scribed method of treat­ment for such ail­ments, and espe­cial­ly in such small com­mu­ni­ties where there was a scarci­ty of com­pe­tent doc­tors, but she learned in lat­er years that the direct cause of death was a mas­toid which could have been avoid­ed in lat­er years. He is buried in the ceme­tery at the Look­ing Glass Methodist Church.

After man­ag­ing the farm for two years fol­low­ing her hus­band’s death she had a farm sale dis­pos­ing of all of the live­stock, farm machin­ery and tools, and rent­ed the farm and moved back to Genoa in order to give her chil­dren a bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ty for edu­ca­tion and to be near her rel­a­tives.

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She pur­chased two town lots and built a home using funds as she received from her sale, mak­ing a loan for the bal­ance. Her only income being the rent from the farm, and hav­ing a num­ber of bad drought years, she received very lit­tle rev­enue. One year I recall she received only $20.00, so in order to sup­port her fam­i­ly of four chil­dren it was nec­es­sary for her to find oth­er means of rev­enue. Hav­ing tai­lor­ing expe­ri­ence, she did a great deal of sewing for dif­fer­ent peo­ple.

Com­ing from such a large fam­i­ly she nat­u­ral­ly was a good prac­ti­cal nurse and was in con­stant demand from the dif­fer­ent fam­i­lies to assist dur­ing peri­ods of ill­ness. She was espe­cial­ly in demand for child­birth, and many are the chil­dren she attend­ed at their advent into this world.

She was always an ardent mem­ber of the Methodist Church and for her sev­en­ty-fifth birth­day the min­is­ter, Rev­erend Reich, announced that the Church would spon­sor an anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tion in her hon­or, the affair to be held in the Church. As she was vis­it­ing in a neigh­bor­ing town, one of the ladies was del­e­gat­ed to noti­fy her so that she would be sure and be at home, but the par­ty failed to noti­fy her and the recep­tion was held with­out the hon­ored guest. She was very dis­ap­point­ed, of course, when she found out the facts of the case, as she always enjoyed meet­ing her friends, and near­ly every­one in the town was num­bered among them.

Resem­bling her moth­er, Kjer­stin John­son, in many ways Thil­da was and is a great moth­er, giv­ing end­less ener­gy and care to her chil­dren and her home. So strong was the moth­er instinct in her that after suc­cess­ful­ly rais­ing her own flock, she took in the youngest child of her deceased sis­ter, Ida when he was but a year old, loved him and cared for him as only a true moth­er can. As a liv­ing evi­dence of her efforts Nor­man John­son now, at the age of 35, is well over six feet tall, weighs near two hun­dred pounds, and is a den­tist in Rut­land, Ver­mont.

This being 1936, Thil­da is long past eighty-one years of age and is in remark­able health. She is keen­ly inter­est­ed in the large John­son fam­i­ly and her own chil­dren and grand­chil­dren, as ever. This would be a bet­ter and kind­lier world if there were many more like her. Thil­da spent the win­ters and the last ten years with her daugh­ter Lena, at Nehawka, Nebras­ka, on the farm.

Thil­da became ill in May 1937, but made a nice recov­ery. Again she became ill in May 1938 with gall­stone trou­ble. She died June 20, 1938 and is buried in Nehawka Ceme­tery. She had wished to move her hus­band’s remains to Genoa so Ben Pear­son had a State under­tak­er come to Genoa and they, togeth­er with Uncle Peter, Uncle John Young and Thil­da, went to Look­ing Glass Ceme­tery and decid­ed against it as they could find no remains suit­able to move, only the tomb­stone remain­ing to mark the loca­tion of bur­ial. So my (Lena) boys want­ed to keep their grand­moth­er at Nehawka as there would be some­one for years there who would want to care for her grave, so Elmer and Bil­lie (the chil­dren of Lena) decid­ed that was best, and she was laid to rest in our lot at Nehawka Cemetary.

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