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Samuel Johnson papers

 Record Group
Identifier: UA-17.120

Scope and Contents

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.


  • Creation: 1824 - 1944


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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

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.


1 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials



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

Legal Status

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



Samuel Johnson Papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Historical Collections Repository

Conrad Hall
943 Conrad Road, Room 101
East Lansing MI 48824 US