August 6, 1999
Here's more about Henry A. Johnson, an early day Perry attorney who was often confused with Henry S. Johnston because of their similar names and the fact that both were attorneys. Henry S. Johnston was very large on the political scene in Oklahoma politics from the day of his arrival here only hours after the opening of the Cherokee Outlet until his death in 1965. Henry A. Johnson apparently was here at the opening but he maintained a low profile outside of his law practice. I had the pleasure of knowing both gentlemen but I knew little about H.A. Johnson's pre-Perry background. A recent chance call from a relative of his in South Carolina has now filled in some of the blanks. Here is a portion of what I gleaned from the caller:
".... Henry A. Johnson's mother first married a Mr. Elrod and they had three children," the caller stated, "one of whom was (the caller's) great-grandmother. Elrod then entered the Civil War and was killed about three months later. Henry's mother later married Henry Johnson and they had one son, Henry A. Johnson. Sadly, however, Henry Johnson was called into the war when young Henry was about one year old, and he was killed. Henry's mother married again for the third time. The war was over by that time, and Henry's mother had two boys by her third husband. Both of those boys became medical doctors, and had very successful careers as family doctors within their communities."
The Johnson family information continues: "In 1903 Henry Johnson Jr. went to the Chicago World's Fair, and instead of returning to South Carolina, he went to Oklahoma, acquired some land under the Homestead Act and later became an attorney. We have no record of his entering law school, and I we think he may have passed the Oklahoma Bar exam after studying law on his own, or possibly studying under another attorney."
"We do feel that Henry's mother, my great-grandmother, must have been a remarkable person with lots of stamina, courage and dedication to her children, to have stood up under the strains and sorrows of her married life, yet raised six children, all of whom had very successful lives. My grandmother was Henry's half-sister. She died several years before Henry, so Henry's property in Oklahoma was divided among her heirs and those of his half-brothers."
According to Judge E. W. Jones' Early Day History of Perry, Oklahoma, which I personally consider indispensable, H.A. Johnson was among the "nearly 100" lawyers, attorneys, banisters and judges "legitimate or otherwise" who came to the Perry townsite on September 16, 1893, when the Cherokee Outlet was opened to white settlement. To clear out the charlatans and other frauds, those claiming to be attorneys were required to submit to three days of examination, and Mr. Johnson was among those who were licensed to open up for business. Several others whose names ring bells of familiarity for their roles in the early development of this territory also passed the three-day examination successfully.
There appears to be a contradiction in family records and/or Judge Jones' account. The family shows Mr. Johnson came to Perry after the 1903 Chicago World's Fair, not in 1893. I don't know how to reconcile those dates. According to my copies of the Perry City Directory, Mr. Johnson had a law office at 645 1/2 Delaware in 1910-11, and that's the earliest directory I have seen for Perry. I know Mr. Johnson was still in that location in the 1930s when our family had an apartment across the hall from him. In the 1940 City Directory, Mr. Johnson's office address is given as 405 1/2 Seventh street. Whatever else, he was a colorful and interesting part of the history of this storied land.