Late postman's stories show intriguing history
Tuesday, April 29, 2014 3:31 AM
It's been intriguing to read many stories that our late postman, Harry R. Johnson, recorded for friends and for the local historical society. He told that his ancestors, the Johnsons, Greens and Kendricks, all came to Ontario, Canada, from Baleytolie and Wells villages in Wexford County, Ireland, about 1811. His grandfather was Dr. Jonathan Rossington Johnson (1855-1905) seen in the inset. J.R. was a clinical clerk to the renowned Canadian physical and medical educator, Sir William Osler. He married Jamaica "Jennie" Green (1856-1894) and they came to Spring Valley in 1883 after his graduation from medical school. After Jamaica's untimely death at age 38, he married Martha Banks (1874-1958) who reared his three children: Harry Harold (Spring Valley jeweler), Dr. Charles Harcourt of Spring Valley, and Florence. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and Modern Woodmen, and highly esteemed in the community. J.R. (Ross) died at only age 49, after a short illness, and was remembered as a "noble and beloved friend, citizen and physician."
Residence at 316 North Broadway, once the home of Dr. J.R. Johnson; later Jorris; now the site of Hindt Funeral Home.
Dr. J.R. Johnson, his brother Dr. Charles Johnson of Austin, and his half-brother, Dr. Wm. Kendrick, were all cum laude graduates of McGill University College of Medicine in Montreal, Canada. When J.R. came to Spring Valley, he at once was elected to the Minnesota State Medical Society and allied with the Houston-Fillmore Medical Society. Dr. Kendrick began medical practice in Austin, but soon came to Spring Valley in the early 1900s, being here for 31 years.
Dr. J.R. lived in the house shown here on North Broadway where today we find the Hindt Funeral Home. There was a large barn out back like many other homes in town, where the horses were kept. Dr. J.R. had a driver and groom named Lester Hill who lived three houses south on Washington Avenue. Hill was remembered as always neatly dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and tie when he drove for Dr. Johnson, and a kind, gentle man. When Dr. Johnson's wife, Jamaica, died, the Hills helped care for the children until he married Martha Banks. Hill and his wife later had a farm near Chester, Iowa.
Dr. Johnson had a heavy and wide-spread practice and sometimes consulted with Dr. Albert Plummer of Racine/Hamilton. He was a great admirer of Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo, who were sometimes called for consultations. He had a following amongst the Dutch and Irish families in the Cherry Grove area, and he often slept en route while his driver and team took him on those long-distance house calls. He kept three teams of horses in the barn which were always busy but well cared for.
The house seen here became the Archie Jorris home about 1912, but their funeral parlor and furniture store was on Broadway. It was said the barn out back of the house also housed two funeral coaches, one of which was an ornate, beautiful dove-gray coach, horse-drawn, that made many trips to the cemetery. Son Loren, began using the house as a funeral parlor about 1955 but in 1958 the house was moved to 408 Warner Avenue, and a new funeral home constructed on-site which included an apartment for living quarters. The 1965 plane crash, piloted by Loren Jorris, killed his wife and mother and totally disabled him. Wally Osland and his wife acquired the property in 1968 and they also operated an ambulance service.
Other family notes by Harry R. Johnson, only son of Harry H. Johnson, talked about cousins: Florence married Claude Rossman of Minneapolis and they had seven children. Dr. Charles Johnson had four children - Ross, Miriam, Wayne and William, all of whom served in the military in World War II - Wayne in the U.S.Army, Ross in the Navy, William in the Medical Corps, and Miriam in the Army Nurse Corps. Miriam was a registered nurse and the only female on the register of members of the Methodist Memorial Church serving in World War II. William became an optometrist here in town, and his children were Sandy, Nancy and Patrice. Sandy married Dr. Robert Fagerholm and she is an occasional volunteer at the local historical society.
Harry R. Johnson wrote many stories about Spring Valley history, especially relating to the trains that came through town. We've used some of his material in other columns, and no doubt you'll hear more of the same. Any errors above may be attributed to faulty memories of times and places, but we trust you enjoy the reading. Happy springtime!