Open main menu

History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/Edward Johnston

EDWARD JOHNSTON was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, July 4, 1815. He studied law, was admitted to the bar and in 1837 went west, stopping at Burlington, then in Wisconsin Territory. He was one of the clerks of the Legislature and at the session of 1837-8 was elected one of the commissioners to take testimony in the legal controversy over the titles to the “Half Breed” lands in Lee County. Soon after he located at Fort Madison and was employed as counsel by the St. Louis claimants to these lands to secure a division, which resulted in a decree of title. In 1839 he was elected to the House of the Second Legislative Assembly of the new Territory of Iowa and was chosen Speaker, serving at the regular and special sessions. He was elected a member of the Council of the Third Legislative Assembly and served through the Fourth also. As a lawyer and legislator he ranked high and had great influence in framing laws and shaping the policy of the Territory. When James K. Polk became President he appointed Mr. Johnston United States District Attorney for Iowa. He was chosen a member of the convention which framed the present Constitution of the State and was one of the most influential of the delegates in that body. The last public position held by him was President of the “Pioneer Lawmakers' Association.” Judge Johnston was a lifelong Democrat. After his death, Hon. S. M. Clark, a Republican member of Congress, and long editor of the Gate City, wrote of Judge Johnston:

“He was one of the best as well as one of the greatest men we have ever known. No man in Iowa had more to do with the making and shaping of the Commonwealth than he. He had a hand in making both statutes and Constitution. In the first quarter century of the Territory and State there was not an act of public importance done that he was not consulted, and his judgment used in fashioning it.”

He died on the 27th of May, 1891. Two of his brothers were Governors; one of Pennsylvania and another of California.