Jerry L. Wallace,
Southwestern College Archives
May 16, 2001


July 23, 2001


In today's mail, I received a photo, ca. 1890, of WILLIAM ORANGE JOHNSON, Mayor of Winfield in 1903. The photo, along with one of his wife, Susan Shenk Johnson, comes from a relative, Ms. Marita S. Bolson, of Council Grove, KS. (I had previously sent Ms. Bolson some bio information on her relative, for which she was happy, other than for learning that W. O. Johnson was of the Republican persuasion. This news has shaken her, and in her letter, she states that "Uncle Orange" will be consigned to the "black
sheep" of her family.) If I recall correctly, the list of Winfield Mayor is missing a photo of Mayor Johnson. I would be happy to make this Johnson photo available for copying. Anyone interested, please let me know. Also, the photos properly belongs, its seems to me, in the holdings of the Cowley County Historical Society. So I will see that the Johnson photos make their way there.

Jerry Wallace
Southwestern College

Mayor Johnson was one W. O. JOHNSON. His full name was William Orange Johnson (see above). At the time of his election in April 1903, he had been a resident of Winfield for 32 years, which means he would have arrived around 1871. He was a businessman, bearing the title of "The Coal Man." This operation was located 210 E. 9th Street. He also operated, along with his son, Art, the Winfield Bottling Works, having a daily capacity of 700 bottles, which was located at 318 E. 9th Street. Johnson was married and his home was at 600 E. 8th Street.

W. O. Johnson was elected Winfield's mayor on Tuesday, April 7th, 1903. He defeated the incumbent, Harry A. Caton of the Citizens Party. Caton had been elected in 1901, defeating P. H. Albright (1899-1900), on a platform to enforce the prohibition law (that is, close down the saloons and joints), as well as those against vice and crime (that is, gambling and prostitution). In 1903, Caton ran again on prohibition platform, which also including planks favoring city owned water, gas, and sewer systems. W. O. Johnson was familiar with City affairs, having previously served on the City Council and School Board. He did not, according the Courier, whose Editor, Edward P. Greer, supported him strongly, wish to make the race but decided to do so (announcement made on March 16, 1903), because of the "demand for his candidacy among the business men and property owners of the city."

The Courier described him glowing terms: "He is a substantial business man, conservative and of good judgment and unswerving integrity, and withal a man of the highest personal character." As for his administration, the Courier predicted, "He will give us a clean, wholesome, honest administration, backed by seasoned business judgment." It appears that Johnson himself did little campaigning, leaving this task to others. Johnson's qualifications and platform were set forth in a letter to the Courier signed "Tax Payer."

"W. O. Johnson is a man of intelligence and experience and in touch with the practical, common sense men of our city, that class who create the wealth and pay the taxes and I apprehend, should he be elected, will guard the morals as closely and effectively as has been done in the past, and in addition give due attention to other important matters. He will make an effort to clean out the alleys, repair the streets and enforce such sanitary measures as will redound to the health and comfort of those who pay the bills.

On Election Day, W. O. Johnson defeated Harry A. Caton. Out of a total vote of 2,081, Johnson received 1,120 votes (54%); Caton, 961 (46%): a respectable victory for candidate Johnson. Out of the City's 5 Wards, Johnson carried them all but the 5th. In that Ward, Caton won 244 votes (65%) to Johnson's 134 (35%). The 5th Ward included a hotbed of prohibition supporter: the students and faculty of Southwestern College. Robert Dunlevy, professor of science at the College and a strong prohibitionist and Caton supporter, was reelected to the City Council.

W. O. Johnson officially became Mayor of Winfield on April 20, 1903. His appointments were: Ed Coats, Marshal; Charles Swarts, Assistant Marshal; L. H. Webb, City Attorney; Ed Hamm, Street Commissioner; D. D. Hadsell City Clerk and Weigh-master; and Dr. H. T. Clary, City Physician; and Charles Scantlin, City Scavenger. Johnson also, it appears, brought back George Nichols as Night Watch (he had previously served under Albright). From early indications, he seemed to carry out his campaign promises for cleaning up the city and enforcing the prohibition laws. We know, for instance, that he himself directed the Street and Alley Committee to go after a hedge on 9th Street. He quickly ordered his officers to clean out the gambling houses and streetwalkers. ("The latter class," observed the Courier, "will have a hard path to travel from now on.") The City Physician, using newspaper ads, was soon urging "the liberal use of lime or copperas about the out buildings and places where there is stenchfor the health of the town." I do not how he addressed the important issue of municipal ownership. W. O. Johnson served only one term. James C. Page succeeded him in 1905.

o o o O o o o

RE: Mayors of Winfield
Date: Wed, 16 May 2001 14:42:06 -0500
From: "Bob Lawrence" <>

Good work, Jerry. We'll get this figured out yet. W. O. Johnson was:

JOHNSON, William O.; b. 9 Jan 1852 northern IA, s/o Hiram & Martha (Means), d. 26 May 1912, bur. Union Cem., m. 8 Dec 1870 to Susan Shenk [or Shunk] who d. 2 Jan 1908, left ch.: Arthur P. “Art”, Rose Etta Davis, & Alfred T., dau. Cora May (dec.) & Alta (d. inf. 17 Sep 1884), bro. & sis.: Louisa A. Banocker, Alexander J., Thomas J., F. P., Theodore, Rolin A., Ella (Mrs. J.C.) Hill, & Hiram Jr. William O Johnson’s obituary was published in the
27 May 1912 issue of the Winfield Daily Courier.
Bob Lawrence

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