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“On Tuesday evening, Oct. 10,1911, at 7:30 o’clock the marriage of Miss Ruth Sanderson and Mr. Oliver Johnson took place at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Felix W. Sanderson, two and one-fourth miles west of Knoxville. Rev. Joseph Helm performed the ceremony. Quite a number of friends and neighbors assembled to witness this union. After congratulations and best wishes the party was invited to the dining room where light refreshments … The young couple were recipients of many beautiful and valuable presents which attest the esteem in which they are held by their many friends. After a week’s visit among Ray County relatives they will go to Kansas City to make their future home, Mr. Johnson being in the employ of the Metropolitan Street Rail-way Co….”
Oliver and Ruth are Jenne Layman’s grandparents. Since we love this picture and their story, we decided to throw them a 100th wedding anniversary party on Saturday, Oct 8 at the museum. Cake and punch were enjoyed by all who attended. I feel it is only proper to share a few stories about this couple on their anniversary.
After the Johnsons moved to Kansas City, Oliver made The Kansas City Star headlines. “Quindaro car no. 266 crashed into the rear of Central Avenue car No. 218, when the trolley rope of the latter broke and that car was stalled in the darkness. Passengers on the rear platform of the Central Avenue car lit matches and held them up as a warning against cars that might be following.”
The No. 218 cable car was stranded in a tunnel when it was hit by the No. 266 cable car. “Oliver H. Johnson of 5th St and Franklin Ave, Kansas side, was conductor of the Quindaro car. He was not injured,” the story noted.
After three years in Kansas City the Johnsons moved back to Ray County. Family lore says that Oliver was homesick because every time he heard the trolley bell clangs he was reminded of working with his brother Joseph Philander Johnson in his Dockery blacksmith shop. The sound of a hammer clanging against the anvil brought Oliver back to his roots and he spent the rest of his days doing what he loved. In 1917, Oliver and Ruth moved to Morton and ran a blacksmith shop there for many years. They had one child, Mary, who married Will Holloway. Their daughters were Jenne and Lulabelle.
Last October I wrote a story about 1920s Morton. I’m reprinting now since one of the characters was Oliver Johnson. “It was not Halloween in Morton unless the local boys played a prank on their neighbor, Octavius Wall. Mr. Wall, also known as “Oc” by his friends, decided one year it was pay-back time. With the help of Oliver Johnson, Oc came up with a plan. He took the pellets from some shotgun shells and loaded the empty shells in his shotgun. Oliver and the other boys went to Wall’s house after dark on Halloween night with Oc waiting for them. He stepped out on his porch with his shotgun and yelled, “I’m tired of messing with you boys every year.” He then shot in the air. Just as the gun fired, Oliver threw a handful of pellets in the air. As the other boys felt the pellets falling all around them, Oliver yelled that he’d been shot. Several of the others said they’d been hit, too. They helped their limping friend Oliver as they all ran down the road to get away from Wall’s house. I am sure this was one Halloween none of them forgot. I wonder what the boys thought when they realized that Oliver was fine and had helped ole Octavius Wall pay them back.”
Many people remember Oliver and his blacksmith shop in Morton because he sharpened plows for the farmers. My dad, J.B. Martin, spent time with his Uncle Jim and his Grandpa Morgan hanging out at Oliver’s shop. J.B. was one of the young men that Oliver asked to join him as an apprentice. I wonder how my family might be different if my father had gone to work for Oliver. Morton is just a short distance from the now famous Richmond Raceway and I have been told that the sound of the race cars could be heard all the way to Morton. I wonder if Oliver Johnson heard the race cars and went over to see what was going on.
This is an example of how our choices can affect our lives. What if J.B. had become a blacksmith and never went to South Carolina with the National Guard? He wouldn’t have run into Lee Petty and the Richmond Raceway might have been built elsewhere. But who knows, I might have grown up in Morton and got to spend time with Oliver and Ruth Johnson instead of just reading about them 100 years later.