Monday, October 22, 2018

Anton Johanssen, Caretaker of Johnson’s Island Cemetery

From about 1911 to 1956, Sandusky resident Anton Johanssen worked as the caretaker of the Johnson’s Island Cemetery, on Johnson’s Island. The cemetery is the final resting place of over two hundred Confederate soldiers who died at the prison camp on Johnson’s Island during the Civil War. An article from the December 5, 1953 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that Mr. Johanssen made the trip from Sandusky to Johnson’s Island from early Spring until late Fall to mow the grass at the cemetery, and care for the “most peaceful place on earth.” He would drive to Marblehead, and then take a small motorboat out to the island. (At that time, the causeway to Johnson’s Island had not yet been constructed.) For many years he decorated each grave with both a Confederate and a United States flag. 

Anton Johanssen was born in 1879 on a Danish Island. He emigrated to the United States in 1895. When he first settled in Ohio, he resided on Johnson’s Island, where he raised cattle and farmed over 75 acres of land. Besides working as the caretaker of the Johnson’s Island Cemetery, Mr. Johanssen also worked for twenty-five years at the American Crayon Company. 
On October 27, 1967, Anton Johannsen passed away at the age of 88. He was survived by a son, daughter, and several grandchildren. He lived a full and busy life in his adopted country. Mr. Johanssen must have found this monument to the Confederate soldier (built in 1910) a familiar sight.


Ed Daniel said...

One of our neighbors on Fifth Street, Mrs. Erma (or Irma??) Runner, was born and raised in Virginia, and despite having lived in Sandusky for many years, she never lost her soft Virginia accent. She was a very kind lady, and as a loyal daughter of the Old South, she felt kindly toward the memory of Confederate soldiers who had died on Johnson's Island. Every year when I was growing up (1940's and 50's), Mrs. Runner and several other Sandusky ladies who likewise were originally from a southern state, would travel over to the island and decorate the graves in the cemetery. I'm certain that she well knew the man described in your posting who took it upon himself to maintain the cemetery grounds.

cate said...

Wonderful human interest story about a local man and a local sight.
Thank you.

Ed Daniel said...

When I was growing up in Sandusky in the 40's and 50's, one of our neighbors on Fifth Street was Mrs. Runner. So, I was very pleased to see her name ("Mary Runner Collection") on the photo of the Johnson's Island Cemetery. Mrs. Runner was a native of Virginia, and she retained her soft Virginia drawl during her years in Sandusky. On Memorial Day weekend every year, she gathered some other southern-born ladies in town, and went over to the Island to decorate the graves.