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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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