Stoughton Shoe manufacturer and local historian

Henri L. Johnson has passed the eighty-first milestone on life's journey but in spirit and interest seems yet in his prime, keeping in touch with the trend of modern thought and progress. He is serving as the president of the Stoughton Historical Society and few men are as well informed concerning events which have formed the history of Norfolk county and of the state. He was born in Stoughton in August, 1836, a son of Lewis and Esther (Talbot) Johnson, who were likewise natives of Stoughton, the former born in 1800 and the latter in 1803. The father was a farmer by occupation and also worked in the shoe factories of this section. He continued a resident of Stoughton throughout his entire life, passing away in 1867, while his wife, surviving for three decades, was called to her final home on the 15th of October, 1897.

Henri L. Johnson, spending his youthful days under the parental roof, is indebted to the public schools of Stoughton for the educational advantages which he received in his youth. He then went to work in the shoe factories and was employed along that line until about 1869, when he entered into partnership with Henry B. Crane under the firm style of H. B. Crane & Company for the manufacture of shoes. They conducted the business for three years, or until 1872, when they consolidated their interests with the Upham Brothers factory and the firm style of Upham Brothers & Company was then assumed. The business was carried on under that style until the early '90s, at which time their interests were incorporated and enlarged. Mr. Johnson has been connected with the business throughout the entire period and is the only one living of the original firm. There are but four members of the company, Albert A. Mead being the president, Charles S. Upham, treasurer, with Mr. Johnson and Dennis Toomey as stockholders. They concentrate their efforts largely upon the manufacture of ladies' high priced shoes and the output is about seventy-five dozen per day. Formerly they made men's shoes but have largely discontinued their work in that connection. The business has always remained one of the important productive industries of Stoughton and throughout all these years Mr. Johnson has occupied an important position in connection with the shoe trade of the city—a trade that has been one of the important sources of progress and prosperity in the community.

On the 24th of April, 1859, Mr. Johnson was united in marriage to Miss Louise M. Atherton, of New York city, a daughter of Hiram and Hannah (Stoddard) Atherton, who were natives of Massachusetts. The father became a shoe manufacturer and spent the greater part of his life in North Bridgewater, now Brockton, Massachusetts, where he passed away in 1849 at the age of forty-seven years. His widow survived until 1897 and reached the eighty-sixth milestone on life's journey when called to her final rest. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson became the parents of two children: Helen L., the widow of A. S. Metcalf, who died in August, 1914, Mrs. Metcalf now making her home with her father; and Frank Lewis, who was accidentally killed August 4, 1896.

In religious faith Mr. Johnson is a Universalist and has ever been a broad-minded and liberal man. Politically he has maintained an independent course and has ever stood for high ideals in citizenship. In 1869 he represented his district in the state legislature. Since the organization of the Historical Society he has been connected therewith and for fifteen years has been its honored president, a position which he still occupies. He is a representative of one of the oldest families of the city and there are indeed few who equal him in knowledge concerning all that has had to do with shaping the annals of Stoughton. He is honored and respected by all who know him and most of all by those among whom he is best known.

Source: History of Norfolk County Massachusetts 1622-1918 (New York, S. J. Clark Publishing Co., 1918), 2:84-87.




Mr. Henri L. Johnson, noted local Historian, a pioneer Shoe Manufacturer,; and highly honored citizen of this town, passed away early Friday evening, at his home, 224 Lincoln street, after succumbing to a stroke which he received a few days ago, that followed weeks of failing health. He was in .his 91st year.

Mr. Johnson was a native son of Stoughton, and was an offspring of one of Stoughton's first families. He was the son of Lewis and Esther (Talbot) Johnson, who were both natives of Stoughton. It was on the 8th day of August, 1836 that Henri L. Johnson first saw the light of day. His parents were not long in determining the destinies of their son of whom they were proud. Mr. Johnson passed the days of youth under the parental roof, with pleasant environments that would make any son love his home. He loved his parents, honored them and worked for them, and his long life came as his reward for his faithfulness to them while they lived.

He always reckoned himself as indebted to his native town for the educational advantages offered him in his youth, which fitted him for life's duties. After school days he became ambitious for the shoe business and worked in the shoe shops which were [operating] here at that time, grasping quickly the making of a shoe from start to finish. About 1869, Henry B. Crane pioneer shoe manufacturer of Stoughton, saw in Mr. Johnson, a man of sound business principal, and one who had been thorough in acquiring knowledge of the shoe business. So at that time he and Mr. Johnson entered into partnership together in the manufacture of boots and shoes under the name of the H. D. Crane & Company. They conducted the business three years, or until 1872, when they consolidated their interests with the Upham Brothers Factory and the name of Upham Brothers & Co. was then assumed. Their business was carried on under that name until the early 90's when their business interests were incorporated and enlarged, and has since that lime been a growing firm, with but little change , in the personnel of the firm from time to time. Mr. Johnson had been connected with the firm ever since until about three years ago, and up to that time was the only living member of the original firm. The firm that Mr. Johnson so successfully started with Mr. Crane has to this very day been one of the leading manufacturing enterprises in Stoughton. 

Coming from one of the old line families of this town, Mr. Johnson, all through life had been deeply interested in the history of his native town, and concentrating his intellectual ability on learning all he. could of Stoughton's history from long before its inception, he became one of of the greatest local historians of his day. It was through his interest in Stoughton, historically, that more that 20 years ago, that the Stoughton Historical Society was organized, and with confidence in him, the charter members were unanimous in their selection of him, as the first president of that organization, which office he held for 18 years, or until he become unable to attend the meetings of that organization. He was with the organization at heart and his valuable counsel has ever been given when sought for the interest of the society and historic Stoughton.

It was on April 25th, 1859, that Mr. Johnson was united in marriage to Miss Louise H. Atherton of New York City, and after a brief period they returned to Stoughton. They were blest with two children: Frank Lewis Johnson, who was accidentally killed, August 4, 1896, and Mrs. Helen L. J. Metcalf, widow of Arthur S. Metcalf, who has for many years made her home with her parents and sacrificed her all to make life sweet and comfortable for them. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson lived 66 years of a happy wedded life together, with but two dark shadows coming across their pathway, one, in the loss of their son 30 years ago, and another when their daughter's husband, Mr. Metcalf passed away, several years ago. Some over a year ago, Mrs. Johnson, who had been a kind and loving helpmate to him all those years answered the summons, and passed on to receive the reward of the faithful. Mr. Johnson has been called to join her and share with her the joys as well as the happy mysteries of the Great Beyond.

Mr. Johnson was a man of sterling qualities, He stood for everything that was right, and out of his big heart had lived to help others to five and helped many over the rough places in life. Often in business life he was called upon to give counsel to the young and started many a young man on the right road to prosperity and right living. He was indeed a wonderful citizen, a successful business man, a kind husband and father, and although he had outlived the three score and ten by over 20 years, the town suffers a distinct loss by his death.

In politics, Mr. Johnson always pursued an independent policy, but has always stood for the highest ideals in citizenship. In 1869, he was representative in the Massachusetts Legislature from this district, and was faithful to the people of his district there.

Mr. Johnson had one of the greatest desires of his heart-granted having lived to see the town fittingly ob-serve the 200th Anniversary of its incorporation.

He was identified with the Universalist church, and for many years was a trustee of the Evergreen Cemetery Association, and was greatly interested in the Stoughton Cooperative bank.

He is survived by one daughter, Mrs. Helen L. J. Metcalf, who has the sympathy of the townspeople in her sorrow.

The funeral services were held from the residence, 224 Lincoln street, Monday afternoon at 1:30, where relatives, friends and neighbors gathered to pay their final tribute to the life of the deceased. The services were conducted by Rev. Charles Tenney, of Southbridge, formerly pastor " of the Universalist church here, who spoke. In high terms of the life of Mr. Johnson an he knew him. There were several floral tributes. Burial was in the family lot at Evergreen cemetery.




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