Biography of John F. Johnston of Glynden Minnesota

John F. Johnston, born on May 6, 1830, in Sterlingshire, Scotland, played a significant role in the development of the Red River valley. Son of Dr. Alexander Johnston and Marian (Forest) Johnston, he immigrated to the United States in 1874, settling in Elmwood Township, Clay County, Minnesota. Representing London merchant M. Howard Gilliat, he also secured his own preemption and led a land company, selling thousands of acres to settlers. Johnston acquired a 237-acre estate in Glynden Township, named “The Terrace,” where he lived until his death in 1903. Married to Mary Ann MacVicar, they had ten children, many of whom continued his legacy in the region.

John F. Johnston, a crucial figure in the history of the Red River valley, was born on May 6, 1830, in Sterlingshire, Scotland. He was the fourth son of Dr. Alexander Johnston and Marian (Forest) Johnston, and had five siblings. He received an excellent education in his homeland. Around the age of twenty-five, he traveled to Ireland, where he engaged in farming for nineteen years. In 1874, he came to the United States on behalf of M. Howard Gilliat, a wealthy merchant from London, England. Mr. Johnston settled in Elmwood Township, Clay County, Minnesota. While overseeing Mr. Gilliat’s affairs, he also claimed a preemption for himself and became the president of a land company. He sold thousands of acres to pioneer settlers in Clay and Wilkin counties.

Mr. Johnston was a forward-thinking and industrious businessman. He possessed remarkable organizational skills and conducted his affairs with integrity and honor. In approximately 1880, he acquired a fertile tract of 237 acres in Section 2 of Glynden Township, located half a mile north of Glynden. He established his residence there, naming the place “The Terrace” in memory of his Scottish home. The property thrived with a diverse array of shrubbery and thousands of trees, becoming a haven of refinement, culture, and domestic bliss. Mr. Johnston lived and worked at The Terrace, commanding great influence in the community and earning universal adoration, until his passing in 1903. His loss was mourned by all who knew him.

In 1860, Mr. Johnston married Mary Ann MacVicar, the daughter of John Koss MacVicar and Catherine Young. Mary Ann was born in 1836 near the “Bridge of Allan” in Scotland and received her education in Edinburgh. She possessed noble qualities and proved to be a true companion to her husband. She cheerfully endured the hardships and challenges of frontier life and enjoyed the friendship and love of a devoted circle of friends. Mrs. Johnston passed away in 1891.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnston had ten children together. Marian, their first child, William, their third child, Jane H., their fifth child, and Robert, their eighth child, are deceased. Catherine, their second child, married Mr. Foster Paige and resides in Fargo, N.D. Annie Y., their ninth child, and Flora M., their tenth child, now own and live on the family homestead, where Alexander, their seventh child, also resides.

Their fourth child, John R. Johnston, was born in Ireland in 1865. He was raised on his father’s farm and received his education at the schools in Glynden. He owns a splendid farm near Sabin, which he inherited from his father. The farm is currently managed by a tenant, while Mr. Johnston has spent the past twenty years operating a threshing machine and sawmill.

In 1891, he married Annie R. Lewis, the daughter of John R. Lewis and Annie Reese. The Lewis family were early settlers in Clay County, arriving in the 1872 colony, with John R. Lewis serving as the county surveyor for many years.

Mr. Johnston is a prominent figure in the community. He has served on the board of supervisors in his township and actively participates in local affairs. He is a member of Lodge 126 in Moorhead, Free and Accepted Masons, and also belongs to the Modern Woodmen of America.


C.F. Cooper & Company, History of the Red River Valley, Past And Present: Including an Account of the Counties, Cities, Towns And Villages of the Valley From the Time of Their First Settlement And Formation, volumes 1-2; Grand Forks: Herald printing company, 1909.

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