Memorial Day has always been a day of memorial and respect in my family.
My maternal uncles, Gordon Johnson and George Johnson served in the U.S. Army, and my father, Budd Boldan, in U.S. Navy during World War II. Then for the next three decades, they continued their community service, joining together with other Motley and Leader area veterans in the American Legion Tri-County Post's Honor Squad that marched, stood at attention and fired salutes at four different cemeteries each Memorial Day.
I grew up with many of my maternal family cousins in our Johnson family. There were 27 first cousins among our four families that all lived within one mile of each other in the 1950s. Five first cousins would serve in the U.S. Army — Lonnie Johnson in the Korean War in the 1950s, Curtiss Johnson in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s and Jeff Johnson, Loren and Mark Bendson in Europe in the 1970s.
There were many second and third cousins and beyond among the Johnson and Matthews families of the Poplar-Leader area. There were seven families moved from northeast Iowa to homestead in Cass County in 1894. The military service was often in the history of ancestors and descendants on both sides.
Our great grandmother Susie Matthews married George N. Johnson. Her father, our great-great-grandfather George F. Matthews Jr. , was born in Canada and immigrated to Iowa in the 1850s and onward to Minnesota in 1894. He enlisted, fought and was wounded serving with the 32nd Iowa Infantry of the Union Army in the Civil War.
Our great-great-great-grandfather George F. Matthews Sr. was born in 1796 in England and enlisted in the 64th Regiment of Foot in the British Army in 1817. He would serve in Gibraltar and later became an officer. After leaving the service after eight years, he and his wife, Mary Summers, would later move to Canada West, now Ontario.
Our collective families were fortunate through all of this military service that no close family members were killed during their military service.
However, that brings me to the focus of my remembrance on this Memorial Day column. Our Johnson line had been confirmed back to Jesse Johnson, our great-great-great-grandfather, who was born about 1797 in Virginia. He would later move to Maryland, then onto Ohio and then to southern Indiana. He and his two brothers, Peter Johnson and Hosier Johnson, would eventually all settle in Nineveh Township in Bartholomew County in central Indiana by the late 1840s. But our Johnson history does not end there.
In late 2018, I got a call from a fellow Johnson researcher and cousin Wayne Johnson of Nashville, originally from Illinois. He and his wife, Dove Pratt, had found an 1883 obituary on my great-great-great-grandfather Jesse Johnson, which identified his parents as William and Isabel Johnson. This spurred me onto researching central Indiana digital archives and soon found the obituary for the other two brothers, Hosier and Peter Johnson. Census records of all three brothers listed their father as being born in Virginia.
Peter Johnson's 1889 obituary says that he was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1811 and that his father (William Johnson) had died on 13 October 1813, after fighting with U.S. military and militia forces in the Battle of the Thames in the War of 1812 against combined British and Indian forces.
The Battle of the Thames on 5 October 1813 was significant in two ways. General William Henry Harrison's American forces routed the British and Indian forces in southwestern Ontario battle. During the battle, the famed Native American leader Tecumseh and the Wyandot chief Roundhead were killed. This American victory secured the United State's northwest frontier for the remainder of the War of 1812. Harrison's army suffered about 27 killed and 57 wounded.
Where our great-great-great-great-grandfather William Johnson exactly died or is buried is still unknown and whether he was serving with the Ohio or Kentucky Militia or U.S. Army still needs to be clarified.
Peter Johnson's obituary state that his mother and he would soon moved to Kentucky and eventually onto Indiana. There the three Johnson sons of William Johnson would settle in Nineveh Township and all three are buried in the Kansas Methodist Cemetery. In 1942, the entire township was taken over by the U.S. government and became a military base known as Camp Atterbury.
Today we remember our ancestor William Johnson's memory and his ultimate sacrifice for the young United States. Today, his Johnson family descendants live on in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washingon and elsewhere.
We all remain #JohnsonProud.
Kelly Boldan is the editor of West Central Tribune and is a 5g grandson of William Johnson.