Solano County

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Though by birth an Englishman, George A. Johnson, veteran lumberman and former mayor of the city of Benicia, has been a resident of the United States for more than forty years, thirty years of which time have been spent in California, and thus accounts himself a thoroughgoing American with the added distinction of being also a thoroughgoing Californian, and it is but fitting and proper that in this definite history of the favored region in which he so long has had his habitation and abiding place there should be set out some brief review of his life and of his services to the community to which he has for years been devoted.

Mr. Johnson was born at Braintree, an important manufacturing town in Essex county, England, August 9, 1856, and was there reared and schooled amid an excellent social environment. As a lad he was apprenticed to George Williams of the great dry goods firm of Hitchcock & Williams, St. Paul's churchyard, London, and under that capable direction spent four years acquiring a thorough knowledge of the "art and mystery" of merchandising as applied to the greatest city in the world. As a matter of interesting information it is but proper to explain that this George Williams, Mr. Johnson's mentor, was the founder of the Young Men's Christian Association and Mr. Johnson has the tenderest and kindliest recollections of the benefits he received in his youth from this good man. It was in the summer of 1844 that Mr. Williams influenced twelve young men to meet with him for the purpose of creating a society "for improving the spiritual condition of young men engaged in the drapery and other trades." Out of the organization effected at that meeting on June 6 of that year under the inspiring influence of this kindly merchant has been developed the great Young Men's Christian Association, with branches in every Christian country on the globe.

Upon completing his apprenticeship as a draper Mr. Johnson determined that a somewhat more active vocation would be better suited to his energetic temperament and instead of following the lines of the dry goods trade he took up engineering and was connected with the engineering firm of Wimshurst & Hollick in London until in 1883, when he determined on a trip to the United States with a view to effecting a location in this country should conditions be found favorable to such a course. After looking about a bit in the east he went down into Texas, which in the '80s seemed to promise much for ambitious and determined young men, arid at Weatherford in Parker county became connected with the lumber trade. He presently moved from there over to Fort Worth in the neighboring county of Tarrant and there became thoroughly familiar with the lumber industry, learning the business "from the bottom up" and becoming familiar with all branches of the trade. He then established himself in Chicago, where he remained eight years, this period including that time of feverish activity in the building trades in that city during the time of preparation for the great World's Columbian Exposition there in 1893, and then, in 1896, he came to California, which state ever since has been his home.

In 1906 Mr. Johnson moved from Stockton to Benicia as the local agent for the Port Costa Lumber Company and was thus associated here with the lumber trades until that company went out of business in 1914, since which time he has been engaged in the lumber business on his own account, with a well established and well stocked lumber yard on First street, where he is in a position to meet all demands for material in his line. He also for some time has been engaged in the general fire insurance business, local underwriter for several well established insurance companies, and has created a valuable connection in that line. Ever since he took up his residence in Benicia, Mr. Johnson has done his part as a good citizen in the promotion of the general civic affairs of the city and for four years (1920-24) rendered efficient public service as mayor of the city, many important municipal improvements having been brought about during this incumbency.

In 1891, in Chicago, George A. Johnson was united in marriage to Miss Jeannette Roe, who was born in the state of New York, and they have a son, Alfred Roe Johnson, born during the time of their residence in Chicago. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are members of the Episcopal church and take an interested part in the general activities of that parish. Mrs. Johnson is also one of the leaders in the work of the local chapter of the American Red Cross and in general welfare service in and about Benicia. Mr. Johnson is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Knights of the Maccabees, having joined the former order at Merced and the latter at Stockton.

History of Solano County, California By Marguerite Hunt and Napa County, California By Harry Lawrence Gunn. From Their Earliest Settlement To The Present Time. Chicago. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. 1926. 883 pages.

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