Pat Burns

 Family and Genealogy

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Harrison Victor Johnston

HARRISON “HARRY” VICTOR JOHNSTON son of Samuel Caperton Johnston and Mary Josephine (Ruehl) Johnston

  • born: 31 Mar 1890 in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
  • died: 07 Apr 1973 at the age of 83 in Edina, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
  • married: 1stBEATRICE “BESSIE” CATHERINE WONDRA, before 1933 in Minnesota, USA
  • married: 2nd : OLIVE DOROTHY MACKENZIE JOHNSTON, 08 Apr 1972 in Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA

BEATRICE “BESSIE” CATHERINE WONDRA, daughter of Frank G. and Catherine A. (Novacek) Wondra

  • born: 02 Mar 1900 in Minnesota, USA
  • died: 19 Dec 1958 at the age of 58 in Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA

    Harrison Victor Johnston and Beatrice “Bessie” Catherine (Wondra) Johnston had the following child:

    MADRIENNE JOHNSTON  (most likely still living).  She married RICHARD E. LARSON.

OLIVE DOROTHY MACKENZIE daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Mckenzie

  • born: 27 Feb 1900 in Minnesota, USA.
  • died: 8 Dec 1981 at the age of 81 in Broward County, Florida, USA

Harrison Victor Johnston Stories

Harry was a cowboy, an author, an entrepreneur, a millionnaire and a philanthropist. The following stories provide the best information on this larger than life Cowboy!!


Dakota Cattle Country Finds Local Historian

Book of the Week1
Dakota Cattle Country Finds Local Historian
by Jacob S. Qualey
21 Feb 1943

Several Years back while deep-sea fishing with the late Zane Grey, Harry V. Johnston, Minneapolis culvert man, gave out with some tales of his experience while a youth in the bad lands of North Dakota.
Grey was intrigued. “Write them,” he urged the Minneapolis man.
Johnston did and the result is MY HOME ON THE RANGE (Webb, $2.50)a book which in any chapter catches more of the western flavor and draws a truer picture of the plains than a whole shelf of Grey’s “escape” fiction.
* * *
Harry Johnston was introduced to that charming and fantastic territory of which Medora, North Dakota, is the hub when he was ten years old. That was in the late nineties.
His father had acquired the old Bellow’s ranch, a spread that bordered Teddy Roosevelt’s Elk Horn outfit on the north.
From the first moment the author was enamored of the cattle country and remained there until he was well into manhood. The book he has written relates his strenuous, exciting and often humorous experiences a a cowboy, and later as a stockman in his own right at sixteen.
* * *
The book also is shot through with stories Johnston heard first hand from those rugged men who came up the Chisholm Trail, who fought the Indians and who first settled the Northwest range.
The author explains the mild feud that existed between that faction in the Medora country which admired Teddy Roosevelt and an opposing smaller group that followed the Marquis de Mores, the fabulous French nobleman who chose to settle at Medora and established there a vast packing plant in an abortive effort to utilize the western herds at their source.
* * *
Greatest merit of Johnston’ book lies in its authenticity. This reviewer dares to use the word “authentic” in relation to this book because he, himself, spent a number of years in a region not 200 miles from the Medora country, and has been amazed at the parallel between his territory and the country of Johnston’s youth. It seems to him that only names need be changed to make the story, in most aspects, fit the country he knows.
Johnston has written with admirable restraint. His adjectives are few, his story straightforward, incisive and bona fide, Johnston, I’m sure, does not pretend to be a literary man, yet he has written a story that rings truer than a good many by acclaimed literary lights.
* * *
This is because he knows of what he writes, because he is a keen observer and because he has done a fine job of winnowing fiction from fact in the ore of the region.
His book is a distinct contribution to the history and literature of the Northwest.


European Tour Ends for Harrison Johnstons

What We Hear2
European Tour Ends for Johnstons
By Joan Keavent
20 Mar 1950

EUROPEAN TRIP CONCLUDED––Mr. and Mrs. Harrison V. Johnston, 4401 Browndale Avenue, Edina, have just returned from a two-month tour of European countries.

They visited England, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Germany and France before sailing home on the Queen Mary. The Johnston took the Queen Elizabeth on their journey to Europe.

Johnston is now deep sea fishing in the Bahama Islands. Mrs. Johnston and the couple’s daughter, Madrienne, will fly down Saturday to join him. They’ll stay on during Madrienne’s spring vacation from Northrop Collegiate school, then motor back.

Edina man Confers on N.D. Museums

Edina Man Confers on N.D. Museums3
08 Sep 1964
* * * * * * * *
Edina Man Confers on N.D. Museums

Harrison V. Johnston, 73, learned to ride a bucking bronco when he was 10.

“My uncle said any kid my age had bones so limber they wouldn’t break, no matter whet, so he’d help me up on the horse,” said Johnston, 4401 Browndale Av., Edina.

“He was right, too. Took me 72 years to break my hind leg. i was trying to do that dance where you go under the pole––yeah, the limbo––last year at a party I gave for some White Earth Indian Reservation people.

“Then when I went out to look for my car in the dark afterward, I fell into a hole. Broke my hip, wrenched my knee and hurt my ankle and shoulder. Doctors at Rochester said it probably started to break while I was trying to dance.”

Johnston walks without a cane now, and he says, “If I got scared bad enough I could probably run,” but he hasn’t tried the limbo lately.

He thought it probably would be better if North Dakota Gov. William Guy and other state officials dame to talk to him last week about his panned gift or two museums to North Dakota instead of his going to Bismarck to see them.

Nothing Crazy

“Being handicapped now, I’m putting the burden on them (the North Dakotans) to round up some bids for the plans. I’m going to approve them, though. They might want something round or crazy like you see at the World’s Fair.”

Johnston, who estimates he is “worth $6 million or more,” wants to do something for North Dakota because he grew up there.

Born in St. Paul, he moved to a ranch near Medora, N.D. (site of one proposed museum) in 1899, when he was nine.

Harison V. Johnston at home

“My father bought the ranch, but mother wouldn’t leave St. Paul, so he had to put my uncle in charge of it. I went to live with him,” said Johnston.
In 1907 the elder Johnston gave the ranch to Harrison’s uncle after a crash in the cattle market “so he wouldn’t need to support a bunch of cowhands.” The uncle traded the ranch for the Rough Rider Hotel in Medora, and 17-year-old Harrison set out on his own.

“First I moved to a little log cabin on the Ash Coulee, where I hwas breaking wild horses for a living,” said Johnston. “Then I got a slick-heel rider (somebody who doesn’t wear spurs) and a couple of other helpers and we went to break horses on sully Creek.”
During the next eight years, Johnston and his three hired hands broke horses to ship to Minnesota, where farmers bought them.

“I used to go along and offer to ride a bucking horse once in the morning and once in the afternoon, as an exhibition to get the famers in.” Johnston said “Sauk Centre, melrose –– that area –– I’d come in with two carloads of horses.

The horse business declined, and in 1915 Johnston bought a movie theater in St. Paul from “a fellow who didn’t have the gumption to run it.” He followed the theater business with a try at a small loan company, but he got out of that because “it was too tough on poor people.”

Dressed in high – helped boots, a flannel shirt, jeans and a cowboy hat, and without a dollar in his pocket, Johnston applied for a spelling job with Lyle Culvert Co. in 1919.

“The man who owned it asked whether I knew anything about culverts. I said, “What are they?” he explained them, and I told him I could sell horses and cattle. “Then you can sell culverts,” he said, and promised me $60 a month.”

The culver – selling business got better and better. Johnston began investing his money, and in 1956 he retired owning 12 corporations.
“Twelve corporations –– isn’t that a helluva note for an old cowpuncher?” he laughed.

Johnston, whose only formal education’s a few winters in grade school when he wasn’t needed on the ranch, said he doesn’t “rightly know how come I have all that money. I didn’t rob no banks for it, though.”

He was married in 1918 to a stenographer from LeSueur whom he met at a party. Johnston and his wife, Beatrice, lived together in the stone house he had built in Edina until she died in 1959.

Harrison Victor Johnson Obituary 1

Monday, 09 Apr 1973
Harrison V. Johnston

Services for Harrison V. Johnston, 83, 4401 Browndale Av., Edina, who went from breaking horses in North Dakota to owning a dozen corporations, will be at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Werness Brothers Chapel, 3500 W. 50th St., with burial in Roselawn Cemetery, Roseville.

Born in St. Paul, Mr. Johnston moved to a ranch near Medora, N.D., with his uncle at age 9. At 15 he started breaking horses and supplied horses for the American and French armies during World War I.

In 1919 he started selling culverts and by the time he retired in 1956 Mr. Johnston owned a dozen companies in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota that produced sheet metal, culverts, industrial and highway machinery and contractors’ equipment.

At the time of his death, Mr. Johnston was board chairman of four steel fabricating companies; the H. V. Johnson Culvert Co. of Minneapolis, Fargo, N.D., and Aberdeen, S.D.; and the St. Paul Corrugating Co. of Minneapolis.

Mr. Johnston ws a portrait artist and wrote two books, “My Home on the Range” and “The Last Round-Up,” stories of the West.

Mr. Johnston established the Harry V. Johnston Foundation to promote and preserve Indian culture. The foundation has helped support several museums in North Dakota and South Dakota and various Indian self-help programs.

In 1967 Mr. Johnston became a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Survivors include his wife, Olive; two sisters, Mrs. Frank G. Bernard, Crystal and Mrs. P.S. Peterson Edina; and a daughter Mrs. Madrienne Larson, Edina.

Harrison Victor Johnson Obituary 2

H.V. Johnston, executive, dies5
Tuesday, 10 Apr 1973

Services for Harrison V. Johnston, 4401 Browndale Av., Edina, whose career went from bronco busting to ownership of corporations, were to be today at Weness Brothers mortuary, 3500 W. 50th St., with burial in Roselawn Cemetery, Roseville.

He died Saturday at 83.

When he was 9 he lived on a ranch with an uncle near Medora, N.D. When he ws 15 he was breaking horses for sale to American and French armies during World War I.

As a young man he went to work selling culverts for a Minnesota firm. At the peak of his career he owned and managed about 10 corporations engaged in making road machinery and equipment. They included Rosholt Equipment Co., Midwest Equipment Co., Empire Equipment Co. and rosholt-Empire Equipment Co.

At time of his death he ws board chairman of the steel fabricating firms, H. V. Johnston Culvert Co. and the St. Paul Corrugating Co.

He was an avid sportsman, known for big game hunting and ocean fishing, and worse two books, “My Home On The Range” and “The Last Round-Up,” stories of the Old West. he also was an artist.

He established the Harry V. Johnston Foundation to promote the preservation of the culture of the North American Indian. The foundation was instrumental in creating the Cheyenne Sioux Indian.
In 1967 he was named a member of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame at Oklahoma City.

Survivors include his widow, Olive, a daughter, Mrs. Richard E. Larson, Edina; four grandchildren; and two sisters, Mrs. T. S. Peterson, Edina and Mrs. Frank G. Bernard, Crystal.



  1. Dakota Cattle Country Finds Local Historian, by Jacob S. Qualey, Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota) 21 Feb 1943, Sun, p 45. (Accessed 14 Aug 2019).
  2. European Tour Ends for Harrison Johnston by Joan Keaveny. The Minneapolis Star 20 mar 1950. Page 25, retrieved from online at<br/>ison/?xid=637<br/> (Accessed 14 aug 2019)
  3. Edina Man Confers on N.D. Museums. The Minneapolis Star Minneapolis, Minnesota, 08 Sep 1964, Tue, Page 5. Retrieved from _donates_to/?xid=637 (Accessed 22 Sep 2019)
  4. Harrison Victor Johnston Obituary “H.V. Johnston, executive, dies”,  The Minneapolis Star, Minneapolis, Minnesota 10 Apr 1973, Tue, Page 46, retrieved from website at (Accessed 14 Aug 2019).

The family Information was retrieved from a variety of family trees, webgens and family stories. I will note citations as appropriate and hope the information assists you in your research, but please do not use this as proven evidence. Feedback is welcome!

Pat Burns. Copyright © 2021. All Rights Reserved.
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