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Rev. Franklin Johnson (1835-1920)
First Minister of the First Baptist church in Bay City.

1917 biography. - Added Feb., 2010.

The University of Chicago Magazine, Vols. 3-4, 1917


Dr. Franklin Johnson was a man of diversified gifts and large attainments. He was born at Frankfort, Ohio, November 2, 1836. His father, Hezekeah Johnson, was a Baptist minister, who, while living in Ohio, was influential in founding Denison University. In 1846 the father moved to Oregon, where he organized the first Baptist church on the Pacific Coast. While living at Oregon City he was one of the founders of Oregon City College, which was the predecessor of McMinnville College.

In 1861 Dr. Johnson was graduated from Colgate Theological Seminary. He continued his education by studying at Heidelberg, Jena, and Liepizig, and by traveling in Palestine and Syria. In 1869 he received the degree of D. D. from Jena. In 1898 he received the degree of LL.D. from Ottawa University.

Dr. Johnson had several pastorates. The first was at Bay City, Michigan, 1861-63; following that, at Lambertville and at Passaic, New Jersey, 1864-72; next in 1872 in Clinton Avenue Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. Succeeding this was his pastorate of the Old Cambridge Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This pastorate last from 1874 to 1888. As a preacher Dr. Johnson ranked among the first. He was genial, winsome, scholarly, practical, brilliantly and correctly imaginative. His whole presence and manner were imposing in the highest degree.

In 1889 he became president of Ottawa University in Kansas. This position he held until in 1892, at which time the young University of Chicago selected him to be one of the comparatively small group of men chosen to institute and develop its important functions. Until the time of his retirement in 1908 he was Professor of Church History and Homiletics. He was a scholarly and inspiring teacher. His students always knew that he was entirely competent to sit in judgment on new aspects of questions that might arise. He made sure that the new was true before he allowed it to displace the old. While devoted to research and thorough scholarship, his faith never grew dim.

Dr. Johnson's literary was constant through all his life. In 1873 he published The Gospel of Matthew with Notes; in 1875, Heroes and Judges from the Law-Gives to the Kings; in 1874, Moses and Israel; in1884, True Womanhood Hints on the formation of Womanly Character and A Romance in Song Heine's Lyrical Interlude; in 1886, The New Physic Studies in Their Relation to Christian Thought; in 1896, Quotations of the New Testament from the Old Considered in the Light of General Literature; in 1899, the Home Missionaries; in 1901, Have We the Likeness of Christ; In 1904, The Christian's Relation to Evolution. He was also a translator of Latin and Anabaptist hymns, a writer for enclyclopedias, and an extensive book-reviewer. His scholarship was broad as well as minute, as is evidenced by his publications. He was also a master of fine English, and all that he wrote, whether in art, science, or theology, possessed the essential features of literature. He was a constant and extensive traveler. He visited Europe many times; and in 1888-89 he made an extended tour in Greece; in 1901-2 he traveled in Egypt; and in 1912-14 he made a tour of the world, visiting Japan, China, India, Palestine, and the Balkan States. It is an interesting fact also that he was a member of the Republican National Convention in 1860 which nominated Lincoln. He was delegated to represent the state of Oregon together with Horace Greeley and the father of Anson Burlingame.

Dr. Johnson was married in Buffalo, New York, September 28, 1863, to Mary Alma Barton, who lived until 1882. On June 29, 1886, he was married to Persis Isabel Swett, of Boston, who survives him. His death occurred at Brookline, Massachusetts, October 9, 1916.

Addition Notes.

1900 Census Chicago, Cook, Ill.

  • Johnson, Franklin, b. Nov. 1836 Ohio, professor divinity
  • Persis S., wife, b. Nov. 1856 Maine
  • Reference Notes & Pages

    Rev. Franklin Johnson

    Rev. Johnson was minister at the first church building, which was located on Washington Avenue.
    Related Pages:
    First Baptist Ch.
    People Referenced
    Barton, Alma B. (1-wife)
    Burlingame, Anson
    Greeley, Horace
    Johnson, Franklin (subject)
    Johnson, Hezekeah (father)
    Lincoln, Abraham
    Swett, Persis I. (2-wife)
    Subjects Referenced
    Balkan States
    Bay City, MI
    Brookline, MA
    Buffalo, NY
    Cambridge Baptist Ch.
    Chicago, Univ., IL
    Clinton Ave. Baptist Ch.
    Colgate Theo. Seminary
    Denison University
    First Baptist Ch.
    Frankfort, OH
    Lambertville, NJ
    McMinnville College
    Newark, NJ
    Oregon City College
    Ottawa University, KS
    Passaic, NJ
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.