Civil War Veteran
Murray Johnston was only 16 years old when he “heard the call of his country for more soldiers to fight in the great war between the states.” He’d been born in Davenport, Iowa, in 1849, and enlisted there in Iowa Infantry, Company E, 8th Regiment. After the war he enlisted for three more years with the 77th Regiment Infantry of the regular army, serving from 1866-1869.
Rock Island Railroad
Johnston began working as a railroad fireman for the Rock Island in Davenport, married Mary Bogart in 1874, moved with his family about 1880 to Stuart, Iowa, and made his home there.
He survived a terrible accident on January 10, 1899, when two engines collided at the Chautauqua switch just east of Council Bluffs. Murray Johnston was the engineer on engine No. 508. He and fireman John Colwell jumped off and into a ditch. Colwell was killed when struck on the back of his head. A runaway boxcar sheared over Johnston, but he was okay. Two of the three men on the other engine, No. 829, were killed. I was told that the accident had been because the other engineer was intoxicated.
Iowa Soldiers and Sailors Monument
According to his daughter, Phyllis Kennedy Cameron, Murray Johnston was selected to haul Iowa’s Soldiers and Sailors monument in sections on flatbed rail cars from Peoria, Illinois to Des Moines. Family members even got to witness the train’s arrival in Des Moines.
Murray Johnston’s regular run was as engineer on the Liza Jane on the branch line of the Rock Island, from Stuart to Guthrie Center. One winter he was on a return trip from Guthrie Center, according to his granddaughter, and got caught in a snowstorm. He was snow bound in Windy Gap near Monteith for three days, having run out of coal and water.
Murray Johnston worked for the Rock Island Railroad for 42 years. His last run was on the Guthrie branch in 1912–on Engine #344, affectionately called Liza Jane, possibly a Baldwin.
He retired from the Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad because of ill health.
According to his obituary, among his “brother engineers” at his funeral were four from Rock Island, Illinois, and five from Valley Junction. John Murray Johnston is buried at South Oak Grove Cemetery in Stuart. (There are also family pictures on the Find-a-Grave cemetery link.)
Thanks for help with information and pictures from Engineer Johnston’s granddaughters, Phyllis (Kennedy) Cameron and Roberta Kennedy, and Phyllis Cameron’s daughter, Lori (Cameron) Lovett.