Strangers to Us All
Lawyers and Poetry

Robert L. Johnson


Robert L. Johnson "of Ebensburg, who was president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria county, ex-treasurer and ex-prothonotary of that county, and one of the oldest members of the Pennsylvania bar at the time of his death, was born in Franklin township, Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania, January 7, 1815, and died October 28, 1890.

His father, William Johnson, was a member of an Episcopalian family of Fermanagh county, Ireland, which had its home in Enniskillen on the banks of Long Erne. After the rebellion of 1798 he, together with his widowed mother and brothers and sisters, emigrated to the United States, landing at New Castle, then the port of Philadelphia. Mrs. Johnson and her family settled at Milesburg, Centre county, Penn., in 1801; and at Bellefonte in 1806, where William Johnson, her son, was naturalized. The latter married, in 1804, Miss Jane Ramsey, of Milesburg, whose mother was a Blair, and claimed purely Scottish ancestry."

Robert L. Johnson "was the sixth of eleven children . . . . His infancy and youth were spent before Pennsylvania had adopted the common-school system, and, therefore, his early education was such only as could be gathered at the private schools then in existence. . . . [T]hrough an accident at the age of fourteen . . . he lost entirely the use of one of his limbs and was confined to his home for a long period, he was enabled to devote himself industriously to such books as were procurable . . . . [I]n 1839, he removed to Cambria county, and entering the office of the late Dan Maghean, Esq., a lawyer of excellent repute and extended practice, he began his studies. In the spring of 1841, he was admitted to practice, and from that period down to his death devoted himself mainly to professional and judicial work. In 1845 he was elected county treasurer, and after serving in this office was elected, in 1851, prothonotary of the county. In both of these positions he was distinguished for his probity and the faithful performance of duty. A democrat in matters of national policy, judge Johnson always took a more or less prominent part in politics in connection with his party, and in 1864 and 1866, was its candidate for Congress in the district in which he lived. The majority in his district holding adverse political views, he was defeated on both occasions. . . .

In the fall of 1883, Judge Johnson was elected president judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria county. He took his seat on the bench on his sixty- ninth birthday, January 7, 1884, and until his death filled his judicial position . . . .

Judge Johnson was twice married. On October 13, 1842, he was married to Eveline Rodrigue (by whom he had a daughter, who married John Scanlon, Esq.) . . . . Afterwards he married Mrs. Mary Glass, by whom he has one son, a boy, now (1896) seventeen years of age."

[Samuel T. Wiley, Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Cambria County 344-347 (Philadelphia: Union Publishing Co., 1896)][A resolution of the Bar Association of Cambria passed to commemorate Johnson's life, attached to the quote bio, states: "He loved poetry, and was the author of occasional poems, one of which deserves an honorable place among the best lyrics of the war."]