This Johnson family
line has been a "brick wall" that I have spent many
years researching and still have many unanswered questions. I
did find out that Wm. Marion Johnson Sr. was born in Ohio in 1837
to Orville Johnson and Hannah Kirby. He came to the west sometime
in the 1870s or earlier. He was involved with mining claims in
Elko Co, Nevada in 1873.
In 1884 at age 47, he married Olof Thorum Johnson age 20 from Iceland now living in Spanish Fork, Utah. They eventually had five sons, Wm Marion Jr. was their first born in Salt Lake City. Their other sons: Orville, Arthur, Chistopher (died as a baby), Jonathen and David were all born in Spanish Fork. Wm Sr. owned a home in Spanish Fork which now belongs to Lil Johnson's family. From early City Directories of Utah, Wm. Sr. is listed as a saloon keeper in Silver City in 1884 and in Spanish Fork in 1891.
About 1897, Wm Sr. left Utah to go to Alaska for the gold rush there. When he left for Alaska to get rich, he didn't return for many years and his wife thinking he was dead, married James Morby of Coalville about 1900. Family traditions say that Wm. Marion Sr. returned later, found she had remarried and left for Nevada where he was never heard from again.
There is no death date or place for Wm. Sr. I've heard that his son Wm. Marion Jr. when he was in the Navy in San Francisco, Calif. soon after the earthquake in 1906, saw his father. Another story says he died in a hotel fire in New York City. Wm. Sr. was quite the traveler. Other stories say he was quite well to do, owned sheep, cattle and several saloons. Another interesting story says he was a professional gambler who wore a belt around his waist with money, so he could have been killed for his money. Family members claim that his son Jack spotted his father Wm. Sr. in Montana in the early 1900s but he didn't talk to him. A colorful and mysterious person Wm Marion Johnson Sr. remains to be.
Through an inheritance that was left to Wm. Sr. from an aunt Julia Johnson Ewers who died in 1908 in Ohio and who left her estate to all her nieces and nephews or their descendants as she had no children, legal papers were filed by Wm. Jr. to have his father declared legally dead in the Juab County Courthouse in Nephi in 1910 . The Juab County court papers state: "That William M. Johnson in about the year of 1897 then being about the age of fifty-four left his residence at Eureka City, Juab County, Utah declaring his intent to go to Alaska and after his departure from said town sent letters from points in Idaho during the same year in which he left. In said letters he stated his intentions of continuing his journey to Alaska and since said time no member of his family have had any word or communication from him and to the best of knowledge, information and belief that he is now deceased."
These papers say Wm. Sr was 54 in 1897, which would make him born in 1843 but from an Ohio census record I found with his family in l850, he is listed as being 13 years old and the third oldest son of 8 sons and 1 daughter which would make his birthdate 1837. The IGI lists his birthdate as 1860. I was able to trace Wm. Sr. to Ohio and while doing research in Knox Co., Ohio, discovered Wm. Sr.'s parents Orville Johnson and Hannah Kirby listed in a will that his grandfather James Johnson filed before his death. I have been able to trace the Johnson line back from Middlebury, Ohio where they settled after receiving military land for service in the Revolutionary War to Berkshire, Vermont but research still remains to be done to trace this line across the ocean to Europe...a future project for interested family genealogists.
Knox Co. Ohio research notes on Johnson families
(in possession of Lin V. Floyd,)
Court Records-Nephi, Utah (F482007 Probate Records Juab Co, Special Adm 3/22/11 Register B p. 237237)