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Swan Johnson was born in Walby near Cimbrisham, Sweden, February 28, 1826. His mother died a few years later and his father married again. There were several other sons in the family, brothers and stepbrothers. As Swan grew up he learned the carpenter trade, specializing in mill work, building and maintaining the old type mills with their upper and nether millstones which were then in use.
In 1853 Swan Johnson was married to Kjerstin Vesterson, of Wiby, Sweden, and as Kjerstin was the oldest of the living children, they lived in her home and took care of her mother for fourteen years. Six of their children were born there – Thilda, Peter, John, Nels, Ida and Eric. They were a saving and industrious family. Mr. Johnson was always busy and received good wages, and they prospered there, but seeking better opportunities for their already large family, they immigrated to America in May 1868, locating at and living in Chicago for two years. Here another son was born, William, on January 30, 1870. Leaving Chicago they moved to Bement, Piatt County, Illinois, where Mr. Johnson worked eight years for a wealthy landowner, William Vorhies, electing and maintaining the improvements on his numerous farms. Three more children were born to them at Bement — Victor, Oscar and Ellen.
Considering that the West offered better opportunities for expansion and education, Mr. Johnson, without seeing it, bought a farm where Salem Church and Village of the same name is now located in Nebraska, west of Methodist Looking Glass Church. In 1878 they loaded their belongings into four covered wagons drawn by horses, left Bement and steered their course westward toward the new land of promise. John and Jim Atkins and Hans Johnson (my father) helped drive the teams. They brought a good milk cow with them so as to have milk for the family on the long journey. They also brought a Singer sewing machine with them which was very useful in later years. The Atkins boys brought a “dresser” along which the John Atkins later used. Mother stated that they enjoyed the long trip across Illinois, Iowa and into Nebraska, as the weather and roads were fine, and all kinds of fruit, fowl, meat and vegetables were available. Every day was a picnic, as they did not hurry, and would “stop” a day or two at pleasant camping places.
They crossed the Missouri River on a ferry at Plattsmouth. The country here looked too rough so they continued the trip in search of smoother land and rolling prairies. Mr. Johnson inspected the land as they progressed, and many pleasant memories linger in the minds of the children of this protracted and wonderful trip.
They stopped at Columbus a few days, then moved on into Nance County, locating temporarily near the Postoffice at Keatskotoos, just over the line in Platte County, where they rented a house from Lafayette Anderson about one and a half miles east of Genoa. Here they lived about eighteen months.
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Mr. Johnson bought a farm of four hundred acres, one and one-half miles west of Genoa and here they built their home, the largest and best in that part of the country, with cattle and horse barn, granaries, corn cribs, chicken house, ice house, smoke house, well and deep cave. They set out a large orchard, layed out a 1arge garden and otherwise improved the place.
Grandmother always had a drove of turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens, as well as a large garden where all types of vegetables were raised for summer and winter use. The late summers were always busy with cooking and stirring the large copper kettles while making different kinds of apple, plum, peach and gooseberry jams and jellies, together with pickles and relish. Of course watermelons and muskmelons (did not know about cantaloupes in those days) were a favorite with everybody, especially on Sunday afternoons. In the spring beef and hogs were butchered and smoked or salted for summer use. Sausage was made, fried and packed in stone jars, and the cave was always well stocked with food of all types.
In addition to farming those 400 acres, of the home place they also, for some years, farmed the place at Salem Church. Later Mr. Johnson disposed of it. He also built many of the homes, stores, and the Congregational Church at Genoa.
Minnie was born at Keatskotoos, and Mary at the home west of Genoa.
Swan Johnson passed away January 26, 1894 from a heart attack at his home one and one-half miles west of Genoa, Nebraska, and was laid to rest at the Genoa, Nebraska Valley View cemetery. Will Johnson took over and operated the farm for two years and at the end of that time — the fall of 1896 — had a sale and disposed of all the farm livestock, machinery and incidentals.