Calhoun County

1891 Biography - Leo Johns

CAPT. LEO T. JOHNS was for a quarter of a century one of the most noted pilots who ever steered a boat on the waters of the Mississippi. He finally retired to the less exciting pursuit of farming and for several years has been connected with the agricultural interests of Calhoun County, owning and successfully managing a farm in Point Precinct, at Martin's Landing, where he is steamboat agent. He now carries on his farming interests through renters. Capt. Johns was born in St. Charles, the county seat of St. Charles County, Mo., April 14, 1833. His father, James Johns, was one of the foremost pioneers of that part of Missouri. He was born in Butler County, Pa., while his father is thought to have been a native of Wales, who emigrated to this country and spent his last years in the Keystone State.

James Johns grew to man's estate in Pennsylvania, and in 1811 emigrated to the Territory of Missouri and was one of the earliest white settlers who boldly ventured to locate beyond the Mississippi River. He took up his abode in what is now St. Charles County, entered a tract of Government land and some years later laid out the town of St. Charles, which was selected as the county seat when the county was organized. He was a brick maker and layer by trade, having served an apprenticeship in Pennsylvania; he and his brother William became contractors and builders in the newly settled country where they were stationed. They carried on their occupation in Missouri in the summer and in the winter went South. They used to contract to erect brick buildings and would burn the brick on the spot. In later days Mr. Johns was one of the Grand Jury which in those times was a continuous office. He died in St. Charles in October, 1844, leaving behind him the memory of a life well spent and a fine record as a pioneer who had been very active in founding the city and building up the county.

The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Julia Martin and she was born in Onondaga County, N. Y. Her father, Macey Martin, is thought to have been born in New York and to have been of English descent. He married a Miss Cole, who was born in Ohio and died in St. Charles. Mr. Martin emigrated to Missouri about 1812 and settled near the present site of St. Charles. He was a trader in horses and cattle and spent his last years on his place near the city mentioned. The mother of our subject passed the latter part of her life in Calhoun County, and died in 1852. She reared but two of her eight children. Her son Myron, who was born in 1821, was for some years a first-class pilot on the Missouri River and its tributaries, and later was proprietor of Martin's Landing and agent there. He died in 1879 at the age of fifty-eight years.

Our subject was eleven years old when his father died, and in 1845 he came to Calhoun County with his mother to reside with his uncle Melanthon Martin, proprietor of the landing that bears his name. He continued with his mother and brother two years and then went to Council Bluffs, where he was employed at various kinds of work the ensuing two years. Returning to Calhoun County, he engaged in chopping, teaming and other work until he was nineteen years old, when he joined his brother Myron who was then pilot on the steamer "Niagara" to learn that vocation of him, and at that time he became a citizen of St. Louis. He remained on the "Niagara" eight months and then having become an expert pilot, he was engaged in that capacity on the "Highland Mary" for one season. He returned to the "Niagara" after that and continued to act as pilot twenty-five years and during that time was connected with the following boats: "The Fulton, "Porter," "Adelia," "Little Giant," “Monongahela," “Robb," and also ran the first packet from Grafton to St. Louis, the "Q. Lloyd."

While he was still acting as pilot our subject bought a farm in Point Precinct and from 1860 made his home there until 1876. In that year he moved to Martin's Landing to take possession of the properly which he had inherited from his brother who had purchased it the year before. He has here a good farm of one hundred and forty acres of choice farming land which he has placed under excellent improvement and now rents it and gains therefrom a goodly income. In 1876 he was appointed steamboat agent at Martin's Landing to succeed his brother. He makes a fine agent as he understands the duties of the position and is always obliging to all with whom he comes in contact.

In the month of October, 1862, Capt. Johns and Mrs. Mary J. (Mackrell) Burnett, a native of Ohio, were united in marriage. They have a pleasant home where coziness, comfort and hospitality abide, and they have six children, Myron John, Belle Ida, Annie Laura, William, Minnie Gay, and Fannie. The Captain and his family are very highly thought of in this community. He is well known and bears an honorable reputation as man and as citizen. A view of the pleasant residence of the Captain will be seen elsewhere in this volume.

Extracted 23 Mar 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Album of Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois, published in 1891, pages 644-647


Visit Our Neighbors
Pike IL
Pike MO

Lincoln MO
Greene IL

Jersey IL
St Charles MO
Search the Archives