This house was built for Captain James Johnson circa 1860.

Captain James “Harry” Johnson, a steamboat captain on the Mississippi River, contracted with Powhatan Baird and Levi Ruggles, to build this beautiful home around 1860. He had a tower constructed so he could view the approach of the steamboats on the river.

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An Early Painting of the Home

James Johnson was born in Kentucky on May 1, 1813. He moved to Pike county with his father in 1818. His wife Margaret Beers was born in Kentucky, June 19,1823. When she was quite young she came to Louisiana to live with her Aunt, Mrs. Silas Farber.1 (The Silas Farber home is just across Virginia Street at 400 N. Main.) In 1843 Margaret Beers married Captain James Johnson the son of Gen. James Johnson.1 They were blessed with five children: Ellen, Henry, James, Irene and Anna.

James Johnson died on March 30, 1861 after a brief illness. The St. Louis newspaper “Daily Missouri Republican” printed the following article on April 2, 1861.

“We are pained to record the death of Capt. James H. Johnson, lately commander of the steamer Die Vernon. Capt. Johnson died at his residence, in Louisiana, Mo., on last Saturday evening, at 11 o’clock, of pneumonia, after an illness of about eight days. His death was a very unexpected occurrence to his friends, and will be deeply mourned by a large circle of acquaintances and relatives. He was about 46 years of age, and had been with the Keokuk Packet Company ever since it was organized. Capt. Johnson was a man of excellent mind, and superior business qualifications, and was deservedly popular in his profession as a steamboat commander. He was a staunch and warm friend, brave, open-hearted and liberal, and had the faculty of endearing him-self to all with whom he came in contact. In a business point of view, his loss will be deeply felt by the Keokuk Packet Company, in whose interest he commanded several steamboats  and also, by his brother boatmen, with whom he was an universal favorite. The flags of all the steamers in port were at half-mast yesterday, in honor to his memory, and the Die Vernon, the last boat he commanded, was draped in deep mourning. It was truly a mournful sight to see the noble steamer Die Vernon leave port last evening, dressed in the habiliments of woe. She started up the river slowly, and all the steamboats at the landing tolled their bells as she passed. It was a beautiful and impressive tribute to the memory of the deceased.” 2

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The J. H. Johnson, the St. Louis & Keokuk Packet Company steamer named in Captain Johnson’s memory.

1 Louisiana Press Journal. 1884. August 30.
2  Daily Missouri Republican. 1861. April 2.

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