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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