William Henry Johnson

My Great Great Grandfather-

BIOGRAPHY: William Henry Johnson, was born in Placerville, California on July 12th, 1869 and passed in San Jose, California on Feb 7th, 1938.  He married Isabelle Margaret Ziegler on July 12th, 1892 in San Jose, California.  The gave birth to Albert Sidney Johnson and Pearl Adel Johnson-Fickes.


"Fascinating Lives"

 Taken from: History Of San Jose California - Narrative and Biographical; by William F. James & George H. McMurry; A.H. Cawson Publisher, San Jose, Calif, 1933; Smith Printing Company, San Jose, Calif.


"Fascinating Lives, filled with all the color and interest that the West can provide, are those of W.H. Johnson, San Jose attorney, and his parents who were most active pioneers of the days of '49.

In 1879, when W.H. Johnson, the subject of this sketch, was 10 years old, his father John Calhoun Johnson moved from Placerville to Arizona where he took up a large tract of land. It was there that Mr. Johnson's father met his death, when he was killed by Indians.

Mrs. Emily J (Hagadorn) Johnson, Mr. Johnson's mother, came over the plains in a covered wagon, to California in 1850.

Mr. Johnson was educated in Placerville until he reached the age of 12, when he ran away from home and became a jockey.  He rode in various parts of the United States and finally went with J.B. Hagan, race horse man.  At Hagan's ranch, ten miles north of Sacramento, he began school again. He went to the Kent College of Law following his graduation from high school and was admitted to the bar and began practice in 1897.

He was associated with John Goss in San Jose for a time and next with Bert Herrington.  Later he took up practice without a partner until recently when he became associated with C.F. Harding, the present firm name being Johnson & Harding.

He was married to Miss Bell (Isabelle) M. Ziegler, daughter of a pioneer San Jose family.  Their children are Albert Sidney Johnson and Pearl Adel Johnson who, by marriage, has become Mrs. Lilburn Fickes.




Endorsed & Filed: Dec. 15, 1938

By: Frank W. Hogan; Clerk



Deceased Member of the Bar and an              :

Officer of the Court                                      :



     To the Honorable, The Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of Santa Clara:

     Your committee appointed by this Court to prepare resolutions of respect to the memory of William Henry Johnson, a member of the bar, respectfully reports as follows:

     William Henry Johnson, a beloved and respected member of this bar, died on the 7th day of February, 1938.

     A native of this state, Mr. Johnson was born in Placerville, Eldorado County, July 12th, 1869, next to the youngest in a family of nine children. He was truly a son of the pioneers.  His father, John Calhoun Johnson, who was a native of Ohio, was a member of an old Virginia family, Albert Sidney Johnston of Civil War fame (possibly) being his cousin.  After coming to California, the father dropped the letter "t" from his name. The father was also a lawyer by profession. He crossed the plains with ox teams in the spring of 1848.  His first employment in the west was in the government service, carrying the mail on snowshoes from Placerville to Nevada City, during which time he gave the name of Lake Bigler to that beautiful body of water now known as Lake Tahoe.

     This brilliant father was engaged in the practice of his profession in the days of the vigilantes and also acted as judge among the miners. When California was admitted to the Union, Mr. Johnson, Senior, was one of the first lawyers to be admitted to the


bar of this state and engaged in practice in Eldorado, Amador, Nevada, Sacramento, and other northern counties in the District and Circuit Courts. He was also a member of one of the first sessions of the California legislature.  In 1876, with the pioneer instinct still his dominant trait, he went to Arizona to assist in the upbuilding of that country and took up land near Prescott where he was killed by Apache Indians.

The mother of William H. Johnson was formerly Emily Hagerdon, a native of Wisconsin, whose father, Captain Hagerdon, brought the first schooner that ever came to California around Cape Horn. She was a cousin of Commodore Perry, noted naval Commander of the war of 1812.

     William H. Johnson attended school in Placerville and later in San Jose to which he removed when he was twelve years of age.  Shortly thereafter, while a mere boy, our late associate at the bar became a jockey and rode for "Lucky" Baldwin and others on the principal race tracks of this country as well as in Australia and the Hawaiian Islands.

Upon deciding to take up a more settled occupation, Mr. Johnson learned the barber's trade and as a young man operated a barber shop in San Jose for several years.

     Mr. Johnson with the great natural ability inherited from his pioneer ancestors, was not contented with this station in life, however and so, bearing in mind his father's career, decided to become a lawyer. He studied law in his spare time while working at his trade and occupied his study at John Goss' Kent College of Law, which was also attended by many other able members of this bench and bar, and he attended his goal when on January 7th, 1897 he was admitted to practice by the Supreme Court of the State of California.


     He practiced law for a short time with his former teacher, John Goss, and then for several years in the office of D.W. Herrington and Bert Harrington and thereafter opened his own office which he maintained until the time of his death.  In 1932 he was associated in partnership with the late Charles F. Harding.

     During the first decade of the century, Mr. Johnson was very active in the Democratic conventions of those days and during that period served a term as chairman of the Democratic Central Committee of Santa Clara County.

     During the administration of Mayor Charles W. Davison, now one of the Judges of this Honorable Court, Mr. Johnson served as City Attorney of San Jose from 1910 to 1912, to which position he brought a thorough knowledge of street law, in which he was considered an authority. He filled this office with distinction.

     On July 12th, 1892, Mr. Johnson was married to Miss Belle M. Ziegler, daughter of a pioneer San Josean, who with their tow children, Albert Sidney Johnson and Mrs. Lilburn Fickes (Pearl A. Johnson), survive him.

     Mr. Johnson was a lawyer of unusual ability. He never forgot the rules of the common law which he learned so well from his study of Blackstone and constantly applied them in his legal problems.  He was possessed of keen analytical mind and a remarkably retentive memory.  he could instantly recall the volume and page of the leading opinions of the Supreme and Appellate Courts. He was an efficient trial lawyer and was unusually successful in his appellate practice, a member of favorable appellate decisions won by him being considered landmarks of the law in this state. He was held in high esteem by the judiciary and his brethren at the bar.

     Mr. Johnson, an adversary, was most courteous, yet he


never hesitated to stand for courage of his convictions, and his clients always found their confidence in him well placed.

     In his death we have lost a good friend, and the community has lost a good citizen. We who knew him so well will ever cherish his memory. his family can never be compensated for the loss they have sustained, but he has left to his children the noblest of heritages, an honored name and an unblemished reputation.

     Therefore this Committee respectfully submits the following resolution:

     RESOLVED that this Court and the Santa Clara County Bar Associations sincerely deplore the loss of William Henry Johnson, the Court losing an honorable officer and the bar a beloved member.

     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this memorial be spread upon the minutes of the Court, and that a copy be transmitted by the Clerk of this Court to the bereaved family of the decedent.

Respectfully submitted.  




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