Thomas Johnson, President of the Council

Thomas Johnson (1802-1865)

Thomas Johnson was the best known of the Bogus Legislators and was elected President of the Council. He was 53 years old in 1855, born in Virginia in 1802. He went west in 1826 as a Methodist minister and served in Mount Prairie, Arkansas, until appointed at Fishing River, Missouri in 1828. In 1830, he was made missionary to the Shawnees and served as superintendent of the Shawnee Methodist Mission until 1841 when he resigned for health reasons. Regaining his health, he was appointed again in 1847 and served until the Manual Labor School closed in 1862. [Connelly, Standard History, 1197ff] Johnson introduced slavery to the Territory in 1832 along with Indian Agent Richard Cummins, and some Shawnees followed. Slavery and Johnson's ambition to dominate the mission field in Kansas led to disputes with Baptist and Quaker missionaries in the area. [Abing, Before Bleeding Kansas, 58]

In 1853 Johnson was "chosen" in a three-man race as congressional delegate from the territory. [Barry, Annals, 1184] Johnson shared with Indian Commissioner George Manypenny a belief in the wisdom of breaking up the reservations and while in Washington was pivotal in determining the fate of Shawnee land in the 1854 treaty that divided the reservation and assured Methodist domination in schooling Indian children. [Abing, Before Bleeding Kansas, 64ff] Although Johnson was not active in the Kansas-Nebraska debates, it is clear he was the Atchison faction candidate for congressional delegate and that he was opposed by Atchison enemies Senator Dodge of Iowa and Congressman Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. [Connelly, Nebraska Territory, 58]

Johnson was an aggressive entrepreneur who capitalized on opportunities in the frontier community on the border. By 1850 he had formed a freighting business and also dabbled in real estate in the town of Kansas. [Abing, Before Bleeding Kansas, 63] In 1855, he listed his occupation as "Farmer" on the rolls of the Legislature and owned a farm in Jackson County, Missouri, where he lived until murdered on the night of January 2, 1865, either by guerrillas who opposed his Unionist views or for the $1,000 in cash he was thought to have in his possession. [Connelly, Standard History,1197ff.]

Charles Clark