Samuel Johnson Papers

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
Creator -
Baker, Ray Stannard, 1870-1946
Creator -
Johnson, Samuel, 1839-1916
Samuel Johnson papers
Date [inclusive]
1.0 Cubic feet

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

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Biographical Note

Samuel Johnson was born July 7, 1839 in Springfield, New York; the son of Squire Johnson and Adelia Johnson (nee Hotchkin). He attended Cazenovia Seminary in New York receiving an M.S. degree.

In September 1864 Johnson married Eliza A. Clark and they moved to Dowagiac, Michigan, where he taught school and began the Wilderness Farm. Johnson was a township officer from 1864-1870 and county superintendent of schools from 1871 to 1874. Eliza died in 1874. He remarried to Sarah B. Hall in June 1876. Johnson had five children: Alice Adelia (MAC class of 1884), Clara, Henry H., Philip Sidney and Emily.

In 1877 Johnson was elected to the state legislature and served until 1880. An accomplished farmer, friendly legislator and experienced teacher, Johnson was appointed Professor of Agriculture at M.A.C. in 1879. Charged by the Board to operate an orderly and efficient farm, he established a neat and profitable university farm which included a pedigreed herd of short horn cattle. He was also a popular lecturer at farmer’s institutes.

However, Johnson lacked a background in science. He felt that area was for other professors on campus and that he was to concentrate on practical versus scientific agriculture. His students and several faculty members did not agree. Student resentment grew to such a point that Johnson resigned in August 1889.

Johnson returned to the Wilderness Farm. He served as secretary of the State Agriculture Society in 1891 and was President of the Farmer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Cass County, 1900-1912. Johnson died March 1, 1916.

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Scope and Contents note

The early correspondence gives a description of Civil War fighting in Virginia and comments on the controversy following McClellan’s removal by Lincoln. The correspondence from the 1870s recounts Johnson’s efforts as Professor of Agriculture and deal with animal sales and purchases, grain tests, and other topics. Also included are lectures read by Johnson and Ray Stannard Baker’s student notebook of lectures given by Johnson.

The second portion of the collection contains the papers of Samuel Johnson’s first wife Eliza, second wife Sarah, daughter Alice, sons Henry and Philip and of the Wilderness Farm. This part contains correspondence commenting on routine events and personal feelings, diaries of farm life, student class notebooks, school district assessor records within Cass County, a military inventory and two documents related to a women’s school in Buckland, Massachusetts. It also contains a volume of messages received by a medium, Mrs. Denslow.

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The papers are divided into two groups: the papers of Samuel Johnson and the papers of other family members and the Wilderness Farm. Chronological.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Revision Description

  June 2005

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status note

Copyright: Michigan State University. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Michigan Agricultural College.


  • Diaries
  • Ledgers (account books)
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Notebooks

Geographic Name(s)

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

Personal Name(s)

  • Fox, George
  • Kuhn, Madison


  • Agricultural colleges -- Michigan
  • Agriculture -- Michigan -- Societies, etc.
  • Education -- Michigan
  • Education, Higher -- Michigan
  • Spiritualism

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Collection Inventory

Personal Papers 


Box Folder


22 1

 1879, 1887 

22 2

 January-June 1888 

22 3

 July-October 1888 

22 4

 November-December 1888 

22 5

 January-February 1889 

22 6

 March-May 1889 

22 7

 June-September 1889 


 Circa 1880s 

22 9
Box Folder

Annual Stock Certificates 1888-1889 

22 10

Inventories, Teacher’s Certificate, Yale Commencement 1850, 1857, 1861 

22 11
Box Volume

Student Notebook of Ray Stannard Baker 1885 

22 1

Secretary of State Agriculture Society records 1891 

22 2
Box Folder

Scales of Points of Breeds of Cattle 1885 

22 22

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Family Papers 

Alice A. Johnson 

Box Folder

Papers 1883, 1892 

22 13
Box Volume

Lecture notes while at M.A.C. 1883 

22 3

Diary (pp 73-324) 1914, 1927-1929 

22 4

Diary 1930-1944 

22 5

School District Assessor’s Records 1867-1936 

22 6

School District Assessor’s Records 1870-1882 

22 4

Eliza A. Johnson 

Box Folder

Correspondence 1860-1865 

22 14

Henry H. Johnson 

Box Folder

Notebook Undated 

22 15

Philip S. Johnson 

Box Folder

Diaries 1897-1898 

22 16

Sarah B. Johnson 

Box Folder

Correspondence 1824, 1829, 1848-1849, 1859 

22 17

Wilderness Farm Records 

Box Volume

Account Ledger 1866-1878 

22 7

Account Ledger and Inventory 1868-1899 

22 8

Account Ledger, Inventory, Animal Register 1896-1921 

22 9

Account Ledger 1928-1930 

22 10


Box Volume

Spirit Communications 1891-1892 

22 11

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