About the Collection
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
Alma Johnson was born on 2 December 1858 in a one-room adobe house in Manti, Utah, to Robert Johnson and Elizabeth Johnston. His parents were both English converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who emigrated to America and crossed the plains in 1853 to be with the saints in Utah. The following year, the small family moved to the recently settled town of Manti. Alma was the eighth of fourteen children born to Robert and Elizabeth. Early in life Alma became accustomed to hard labor, often running the family farm so that his father could work on the Manti Temple. To earn extra money he also worked as an ox team driver, transporting logs to Manti at the age of twelve, and supplies to Nevada mining camps at the age of fourteen. As a young man of twenty he found work with the railroads grading soil for future tracks, and then later with the mining companies at Park City, hauling lumber to construct the mine shafts. He eventually did well enough farming that these part-time occupations were no longer necessary.
Alma was a great outdoor enthusiast. Hunting, fishing, and camping in the mountains were favorite family activities. He carried a fishing license until at least the age of 90. He was also an excellent tenor, participating in church choirs in Manti his whole life, in which capacity he sang in the dedications of the Manti and Salt Lake City temples. He even sang a solo for a community event at the age of 91. However, he was not a born leader, so when called to direct the choir at one point he “stayed away from Sunday School so [he] was released.” 1 In addition to singing he played cornet in the Manti brass band.
On Thanksgiving Day, 25 November 1886, Alma married Margaret Estella Henrie in the Logan temple. As no record of his baptism could be found prior to the marriage, he was rebaptized just before their trip to Logan. The young couple then moved into a small adobe house in Manti where they spent the remainder of their lives, although the house was enlarged several times as the family increased in size. Margaret bore ten children, seven of whom survived childhood. As the first five surviving children were girls, Margaret and the daughters played an integral part in the operation of the farm.
Alma received a mission call to England on 22 December 1893. He accepted this assignment, leaving his wife and two young daughters, and placed his farm in the care of a nephew. In England he was called to the Nottingham Conference where he labored his whole mission. Interestingly, his father Robert served in the same area ten years previously. Alma rarely expressed his feelings in his journal, but he did have a testimony of the gospel which he demonstrated in a meeting in Nottingham : “Almost everyone in the house got up and bore there [sic] testimony to the truth off the work off [sic] God and I along with the rest off the them [sic] and it gives me strength to perform the duties required at my hands.” 2 Here he became a scholar of the scriptures, recording many thoughts supported by scriptures in his notebooks. He also made many contacts with his relatives that remained in England. One notable event occurred on 28 July 1895, when Elder John Taylor visited the missionaries, and “spoke fo an hower [sic]…bore a strong testimony of the restoration of Gosple [sic].” 3 On 5 February 1896, Alma was honorably released from his mission and returned to America aboard the ship Furnsia.
After his mission Alma continued to work as a farmer in Manti. A tragedy occurred in 1902 when Alma and Margaret’s fourth child and first son, Alma Henrie, fell to his death while playing with friends in an abandoned quarry. He was only five years old. Alma labored as a farmer until he was eighty years old, then passed the family business on to his two surviving sons. He then devoted the remainder of his life to temple work. On 1 November 1956 Alma Johnson passed away at home, just shy of his 98th birthday and 70th wedding anniversary. Alma was remembered as a cheerful, optimistic man that valued hard work, but had a sublime sense of humor and a generous heart.
1 Alma Johnson, “Alma Johnson, Manti, Utah, 9 March 1941.” [BX 8608 .A1a no.1515 in Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collection, Harold B. Library, Brigham Young University]
2 Johnson, “Diary, Feb 1894-Nov 1894.” 25 February 1894, MSS 589, LTPSC.
3 Johnson, “Diary, Nov 1894-Jan 1896,” 28 July 1895, MSS 589, LTPSC.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries & Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Johnson, Alma. “Alma Johnson, Manti, Utah, 9 March 1941.” [BX 8608 .A1a no.1515 in Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University]
________. “Diaries, 1883-1896.” MSS 589, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
________. “Papers 1858-1956.” MSS 1866, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Library, Brigham Young University.
Nielson, Alice. “History of Alma Johnson.” Manti, Utah: n.p., 1950. [BX 8608 .A1a no.1514 in Americana Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University]