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Kimberley Families

The Pontius Johnson Family


submitted by Clarence Backstrom

Pontius (Pont) Johnson was born in Varmland, Sweden, and emigrated with his parents to Salina, Kansas in 1893. He received his early schooling in Kansas, and also worked as a farm helper for a school teacher, who helped further his education. It was through the kindness and thoughtfulness of this man that Pont developed his interest in engineering.

The Johnsons moved to Westaskiwin, North West Territories in 1901 to be near their children. Pont took a homestead and was kept busy on the farm for several years. His first experience in engineering was running an engine for a threshing outfit.

His first job was at the power plant in Wetaskiwin, then at the McEacheran Flour Mill, also in Wetaskiwin and later at the brick plant in Calgary as shift engineer. During this time he studied engineering and was successful in getting his 4th and 3rd class certificates. His knowledge and experience took him to Lethbridge where he worked in the power plant and obtained his 2nd class papers. III health forced him to leave the power plant and he again worked for a threshing outfit near Lethbridge. He continued his studies in engineering and was awarded his 1st class papers in 1915.

Selma was born in Portersmill, Wisconsin to John and Cecelia Borseth, of Norwegian parentage and came to Canada with her parents in 1903. She met Pont at the Backstrom home in Highland Park, and they were married on August 7th, 1917.

After their marriage, Pont and Selma moved to Lethbridge where Pont again worked in the power plant. This time on the installation of new machinery to increase the capacity of the plant.

Pont, Selma and young son James, left Lethbridge in 1918 and moved to Kimberley where Pont accepted a position with the Company. They lived at the Top Mine in a comfortable home partly built of logs. They even boasted of a bath tub that had been installed in the kitchen with the table built over it.

In a few years they moved to Townsite. Their three bedroom house had been moved from another mining property and set up for the Johnsons. They lived here with their three children: James, Shirley and Marjorie.

Selma became her huband's stenographer and typist and used a typewriter she had won witha 25 raffle ticket. As time went on, the office work increased and with her family responsibilities, she was unable to continue. Pont hired Frank Marlow to take over the increasing office responsibilities.

Workers coming into Kimberley were met at the depot by a Company car. The Company kept a fleet of cars for their own use under the supervision of Henry Backstrom.

The Johnsons were active in the Presbyterian Church where Selma served as secretary- treasurer. Pont was active in the Odd Fellow's Lodge and Selma became a Rebekah. Selma was also Vice President of the Townsite group. James was one of the Boy Scouts in the guard of honour when the Prince of Wales visited Kimberley.

Pont was a self educated man. When he found out that his 1st class Alberta certificate was not recognized in B.C., he wrote and received his 1st class B.C. certificate.

Pont was always interested in making improvements and was responsible for increasing the capacity of the ore cars and building a machine for loading ore cars underground.

One winter in the early '20's was very cold. The wood-stave pipe that carried the water from the dam to the Mine, sprang a leak and the water spewed 15 to 20 feet in the air, forming a huge ice mound. It took Pont 48 hours without sleep to chisel a hole in the iceberg and plug the hole.

One of Pont's responsibilities was installing a Nordheimer turbine in the Mine power house. When the turbine was started, it began to vibrate badly and Pont was being blamed for not lining up the turbine properly. Pont contented that the machine was lined up properly, and the trouble was in the spindle. To get to the bottom of the problem, two experts from Sherbrooke, Quebec, were brought in to investigate the problem. Pont told his wife to get ready to move, because if he was wrong, he would no doubt get his walking papers. After the investigation, it was found that there was a bend in the spindle and it was sent to the factory for repairs. Pont's job was saved, and he proved many times during his employ- ment with the Company that his decisions were usually correct.

The Johnsons moved to Vancouver in 1928, due to Pont's health. The Company then sent him to Ft. St. James. After a few years there, he quit the Company and went to work at Wells, B.C. for the Cariboo Gold Quartz.

He retired in Ladysmith, B.C. where he died in 1956. Selma is now residing in the Senior Citizen's Home in Wetaskiwin, Alberta.

Their son, James, married and had two sons, Ryan and Chris, James died in 1962. Shirley trained as a nurse and married Harold Boardman, they now live in Chadds Ford, Penn. Harold is self employed and is associated with Solar energy. .They have three children: Jim, Caroline and Bryan. Marjorie trained as an X- ray technician and married Hal Ritcher of Fort Wayne, Indiana. They have four Children, Melanie, Jeffrey, Kyle and Thad. Hal works for the Environmental Protection Agency.

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