SOURCE: Biographical History of Clark and Jackson Counties, WI, (pub. 1891, pgs. 302-303)
JACOB ASTOR JOHNSON, one of the most respected citizens of Melrose, was born in Otsego, New York, a son of Jacob and Betsey (Davidson) Johnson, who were natives of Berkshire County, Massachusetts. His paternal grandfather, Barachiah Johnson, was also a native of the same county. His maternal grandparents were Richard and Elizabeth (Beach) Davidson, the former a native of Hartford County, Connecticut, and the latter of New York. The two grandfathers were in the Revolutionary war. Our subject has four brothers and three sisters, namely: John J., William L., Delevan, Barachiah, Lydia, wife of Amon Taylor, of New York; Olinda, wife of Henry Richards, of New York; Betsey, wife of John Taylor, of New York.
Mr. Johnson spent most of his early life in his native State. Four years and a half he lived in Massachusetts, and while there reached his majority, and there cast his first vote, it being for General William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States.
In 1857 he came to Wisconsin, locating in Melrose Township, Jackson County, where he engaged in the lumber business. He built the first saw-mill of any consequence in Melrose Township, in which he afterward took an interest. Three years afterward the mill was destroyed by fire. Mr. Johnson had devoted his spare hours to the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1858. His fellow-citizens, recognizing his efficiency, elected him District Attorney in 1862, and at the ensuing election in 1864 he was reelected to the same office. When he first came to this county few improvements had been made, and it possessed no railroad advantages. He has taken an active interest in the politics of the county; has been chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Melrose Township, and ex-officio member of the County Board, and for one year chairman of the County Board of Supervisors.
He is temperate in all things, and on the question of temperance he is radical; and to these views and his firm convictions the village of Melrose owes much of its sobriety and prosperity. Away back in 1852, in the early organization of the Good Templars, he connected himself with that order, and was a delegate from Fly Creek Lodge, Otsego County, New York, to the first grand lodge meeting ever held, which convened at Ithaca, New York, when a new and complete ritual of the order was made. He volunteered to take the fist initiatory service for the purpose of demonstrating the workings of the new ritual. In 1865 he organized Melrose Lodge, No. 222, I. O. G. T., which has now over fifty members, including himself and family. In 1867 he was elected Grand Councilor of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, when he began lecturing in the interest of temperance, and organizing lodges in different counties in the State. He has organized between 150 and 200 lodges, and by his eloquence and earnestness induced thousands to connect themselves with this great temperance order, which has saved hundreds from filling drunkardsí graves. Many happy homes, filled with the comforts of life, can be traced back to the influences of this benevolent organization. Three attempts have been made in Melrose to carry on a liquor trade in connection with other lines of business, but meetings were held by the good citizens, Mr. Johnson being a leading spirit in such meetings. Resolutions would be passed boycotting the merchant, and he would, like the Arab, fold up his tent and silently steal away. So the township of Melrose has never been cursed by the sale of liquor.
May 3, 1846, Mr. Johnson married Miss Matilda Herkimer, daughter of Henry G. and Silvia (Martin) Herkimer, who was born in Herkimer County, New York, which was named after Mrs. Johnsonís great-grandfather, who was a member of the Safety Committee in the time of the Revolutionary War. Mr. Johnson has had the following named children: Orinda S., now the wife of Sidney R. Davis, of Clark County; Mary B., wife of Lewis B. Marsh, of the same county; the youngest, Carroll B., a thoroughgoing young business man now filling the responsible position of bookkeeper in the First National Bank at Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
Mr. Johnson was for many years a Republican, and was closely identified with the formation of that party. He is now a strong Prohibitionist, or third-party man. During his long residence in the county he has ever sustained a reputation for integrity and good citizenship, and his voice has always been heard advocating principles of morality and temperance. The world is better by having such men living in it.
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