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The following biographical sketch of B. W. Johnson was written by J. H. Garrison in 1891, before Johnson's death in 1894.
BARTON W. JOHNSON was born in 1833, in a log cabin on a clearing in Tazewell County, Illinois. His ancestry, on both sides, is of stock which had settled in this country before the Revolution; his father's parents were South Carolinians; his mother was born in Tennessee. His early education was such as could be obtained in a backwoods school, on a farm, and from the few books he could buy or borrow. In his eighteenth year he commenced to study at Walnut Grove Academy, now Eureka College, where he attended for two years. Then, after teaching for one year, he went to Bethany College in 1854. At that time the college was presided over by Alexander Campbell, aided by such professors as R. Milligan, W. K. Pendleton, R. Richardson, and others of less note. In 1856 he graduated in a class of twenty-seven, the honors of which were divided between him and W. A. Hall, of Tennessee.
In the fall of 1856, be engaged in a school in Bloomington, Ill., preaching on Sundays in the vicinity. The next year he took a position in Eureka College, where he remained in all seven years, two years as its president. In 1863, he acted as corresponding and financial secretary of the American Missionary Society, and was re-elected to that position at the convention of 1864, but he declined to continue, having accepted the chair of mathematics in Bethany College. Here he remained two years, until after the death of Alexander Campbell, when he returned to the west. After a pastoral charge at Lincoln, Ill., he accepted the presidency of Oskaloosa College, in connection with the care of the Church at Oskaloosa. A failure of health compelled him to cease teaching two years later, but he continued to preach for the congregation for four more years. In the meantime, THE EVANGELIST, long published as a monthly, had assumed a weekly form, and he became its editor. For about sixteen years he has been engaged in editorial work; on THE EVANGELIST, in Oskaloosa and Chicago, and subsequently on the CHRISTIAN-EVANGELIST in St. Louis. In the meantime he has written several books which have had a wide circulation: The Vision of the Ages, Commentary on John, The People's New Testament, in two octavo volumes, and the successive volumes of the Christian Lesson Commentary, from 1886 to the present time. In the summer of 1858 he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah S. Allen, of Bloomington, Ill., who has made him a devoted and self-sacrificing companion. Three children, all living, have been borne to the marriage. In his Bible studies he had been made to feel the need of a personal knowledge of the places mentioned in the Bible, of the people, manners and scenes of the east; and hence, in the summer of 1889 he crossed the Atlantic. During his absence of between four and five months, he visited Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey in Asia, Palestine and Egypt. The enforced absence from his desk was of great advantage to his health, which had become somewhat impaired by his arduous labors. If his life is spared, additional volumes will in due time appear from his pen, which are already in preparation.