Johnson (family)

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Johnson (family)

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The Johnson family was a prominent Newfoundland professional and polictical family. Members of the family represented in the fonds include George Macness Johnson (1853-1935), and daughters Sybil Johnson Dunfield (1887-1973), Estelle (Jill) Johnson Toplis, and Dorothy Johnson.

George Macness Johnson (1853-1935), lawyer, politician, judge, was born in St. John's, Newfoundland on 11 August 1853, son of the Rev. George M. Johnson (1824-1905) and Frances (Carrington) Johnson. He married Anne Elizabeth Bown of Sydney, Nova Scotia. They had three daughters, Sybil, Estelle, and Dorothy, and one son, Macness. Johnson died in St. John's on 17 December 1935.

Johnson was educated at the Church of England Academy, St. John's and at St. John's College, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, England. After completing his education, he returned to Newfoundland in August 1870, and joined the law firm of William Whiteway. In 1878, Johnson and Whiteway established the partnership of Whiteway & Johnson. For nearly two decades, Johnson carried on the law practice while Whiteway pursued his political career.

Johnson entered politics in a 1894 by-election, running as a Liberal in the three-member district of Trinity. Along with two other Whiteway supporters, he won his seat by a narrow margin. In the October 1897 general election, Johnson and his Liberal colleagues lost to three Conservative candidates. Johnson again contested the Trinity district in the November 1900 general election, securing victory.

In 1902 Johnson was named an Associate Judge of the Newfoundland Supreme Court. He remained on the bench until 1926 when he retired to England. He returned to Newfoundland in 1935 shortly before his death.

Johnson organized a branch of the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) in St. John's, based on the English organization. From 1875 he was a member of the Masonic Order. He was also a keen sportsman and instituted the Johnson Shield Sports which organized games among boys under twelve years of age who attended the St. John's school colleges.

Sybil Johnson Dunfield (1887-1973), was born 19 November 1887, the eldest daughter of George and Elizabeth Johnson. On 8 August 1918, she married Brian Dunfield (1888-1968), a St. John's lawyer who received a knighthood in 1949. They had one daughter, Dorothy Helen, and two sons, John Brian Macness and Anthony Henry. Sybil, Lady Dunfield, died in St. John's 14 December 1973 at the age of 86 years.

Sybil Johnson attended Bishop Spencer School and Spencer Lodge in St. John's before going to Europe to finish her education (1902). She attended Cheltenham Girls School, England (1902-4) and later studied music, violin and voice in Leipzig, Germany. She remained in Leipzig until September 1909 when she returned to Newfoundland.

Little is known of Sybil Johnson's life after her return to St. John's. Two years after the outbreak of World War I, she joined the war effort, and, in 1916, enrolled in the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD). She left St. John's in December 1916 and journeyed to New York and then to England via the USMS St. Louis. She trained as a VAD at Queen Mary's Hostel for Nurses, London, before being assigned to the 1st Western General Military Hospital, Fozakerley, near Liverpool, in January 1917. She remained there until July 1918 when she returned to Newfoundland via New York.

Following her marriage, Sybil Johnson resided at "Arcady" located at 173 Waterford Bridge Road, St. John's. She was involved in various social activities, often providing violin music at charitable events.

Estelle (Jill) Johnson Toplis and Dorothy Johnson were Sybil's younger sisters but little information is available on them. Like Sybil, they received formal education in Europe; during 1908-9 school year, all three sisters were at school at Leipzig. Estelle (Jill) eventually married a Mr. Toplis; Dorothy did not marry. Both women were still alive when Sybil died in 1973.


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Created - April 18, 2013


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