Saturday, May 30, 2015

Timoleon Oscar Johnston (1849-1899)

From the 1898 Quarter Centennial Anniversary Souvenir of the So. Illinois State Normal University.

    Curiously named Wisconsin native Timoleon Oscar Johnston joins an ever growing list of political figures who've been named in honor of a prominent statesman of ancient Greece; in this case being Timoleon, a Corinthian general who led military forces to victory over Dionysius and Hicetas after the siege of Syracuse. Timoleon would lead the Greek city-state of Syracuse for several years until his death in 337 B.C.  
   Having the given name of a distinguished Greek statesman proved to be appropriate, as Timoleon O. Johnston would go on to wide repute in Ogle County, Illinois, being the owner and editor of the Ogle County Reporter from the mid-1870s until his death. Also active in Ogle County politics, Johnston served as an alderman for the city of Oregon, Illinois and would later be elected to one term as that city's mayor. The story of this oddly named man begins in Franklin, Wisconsin, where he was born on June 30, 1849. One of four children born to Wesley and Sarah Phelps Johnston, Timoleon's education took place at the Sinasawa Mound College in Wisconsin and later at the Rock River Seminary in Mt. Morris, Illinois.
   The Johnston family would relocate back to Illinois (having resided here in the 1830s and 40s), and during adolescence Timoleon Johnston began to learn the printing trade. Once finished he left Illinois for Vinton, Iowa, where he would join the staff of the Vinton Semi-Weekly Eagle. His time in Vinton also saw him wed Mary E. Shockley (1850-1931) on December 30, 1869, and the couple later had a total of three children: May Aileen (born 1871), John Phelps (1873-1926) and Lillian Eidola (born 1878).
   After three years residency in Vinton  Johnston and his family relocated to Ogle County, Illinois, where in 1872 he "purchased an interest" in the Ogle County Reporter. For part of 1872 he was partnered with W.H. Gardner, and after a period of several months purchased the entire paper, and as "sole proprietor" continued to oversee the paper as both editor and publisher until his death in 1899. A longtime member of the Illinois Press Association, Johnson was named as a delegate to meetings of the National Editorial Association on four occasions and would also hold the post of Secretary of the Illinois Republican Editorial Association.
    Timoleon Johnston first entered Ogle County political life in the late 1870s, winning election as an alderman for the city of Oregon in 1877. He would serve three further terms as alderman in 1878, 1879 and 1880, and in 1883 was elected as Mayor of Oregon. Little is known of Johnson's tenure as mayor, excepting that it was a term of two years. Prior to his ascension to the mayor's office, he had twice been a delegate to the Illinois State Republican State Conventions in 1878 and 1882.
    Active in several fraternal groups in Ogle County, Timoleon Johnston was for many years affiliated with the Ogle County Old Settler's Association and served as its vice president in 1896. He was also a member of the Royal Arch Masons and Knights Templar, Odd-Fellows and the International Order of Red-Men. Early in 1897, Johnston was appointed by then Illinois Governor John Riley Tanner as a trustee for the Southern Illinois State Normal University, where he would serve until his death on April 2, 1899, a few months short of his 50th birthday. He was survived by his wife of twenty-nine years, Mary, who, following her death in 1931, was interred alongside her husband at the Riverview Cemetery in Oregon, Illinois.
Portrait from the First Decennium of the National Editorial Association of the United States, 1896.

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