Joseph Prosper Johnson (1813-1891).
Prosper, indeed. Johnson did indeed do that, but so did the town, which he served in one capacity or another for almost all of his long life. Herman A. Jennings devoted an entire chapter to Johnson in Provincetown or, Odds and Ends From the Tip End (1890), in which we learn that Johnson arrived in town from Essex, Conn., when he was 17, apprenticing himself to his brother, Timothy P. Johnson, as a sailmaker. He was responsible in 1836 for the purchase of the town’s first fire engine, the George Washington, which is on display at the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum. In 1850, Johnson formed the grocery and chandlery business of Hilliard, Johnson & Company, on Hilliard’s Wharf. Two years later, he and Reuben F. Cook opened Johnson & Cook — vessel outfitters, packers and dealers in cod and mackerel — on Market Wharf, located at what is now 195-199 Commercial Street. Over the course of 34 years, Johnson was elected to 10 terms in the General Court, eight as a representative, two as a senator. He was the Town Moderator for 28 years. “Having for some time been retired from active business life,” Jennings wrote of Johnson, “he can be seen nearly every day at the Post Office relating some anecdote, of which he has a large store, to eager listeners, and as it is told in his peculiar way it never fails to be greeted with applause, nor does it tire the patience of his audience. And that he may still be spared to us long, is the wish of every good citizen.” Sadly, Johnson died the following year.
¶ Last updated on 1 July 2017.
Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key O-4, Page 3.