Creator: Johnson, Warner, 1866-1917

Provenance Note: The Warner Johnson letters were donated by his grandson Robert K. Johnson, of Bozeman, Montana, to the Museum of the Rockies and transferred to Special Collections in August 1984.

Historical Note: Warner Johnson was born in 1866 in Tennessee. His father William Franklin Johnson moved the family to Dent County, Missouri in 1869. Nettie Friebelman was born in 1869, probably in Dent County, Missouri. In 1882 the Johnson family left Missouri for Montana, going up the Missouri to Fort Benton by steamboat, where Warner's father first worked on a dairy farm. Soon after, he staked a homestead claim on land outside Highwood, Montana. At the time the letters in this collection were written, Warner was 23 and was probably living on his own. Nettie and Warner were married sometime after the date of last letter in the collection. They lived on a homestead near Belt, Montana. By 1916-17, they had moved their family to Bozeman, Montana. Warner was killed in an accident in 1917 and Nettie continued to live in Bozeman with her children until she died.

Content Description Note: Love letters written by Warner Johnson while living at Highwood and Belt, Montana and written by Nettie Friebelman while living at Barney, Dent County, Missouri from April 1, 1889 to November 30, 1892. It is probable that Warner and Nettie began writing because they had mutual friends in Dent County and had met before he left for Montana around the age of 16 or shortly thereafter when Warner was back for a visit. (They had been writing for 6-7 years according to Warner in an 1890 letter.) Warner's letters commence in 1889 when he is planning to return at Christmas to bring Nettie back to Montana as his bride, which he failed to do. Warner's letters were written from both Highwood and Belt, where he apparently worked as a hired hand at times and had some cattle, perhaps kept on his brother Braxton's homestead at Highwood. The letters describe making and selling butter, raising chickens, selling hay as income, and the weather. Warner's letters also describe his conflicting plans of moving back to Missouri or buying more stock for his own homestead which he located on Willow Creek outside of Belt. His letters mention less of daily life than they do of his feelings towards Nettie. The first letter from Nettie dates from March 1890. Nettie's letters pertain mostly to neighborhood news and her routine activities in Dent County, along with a continuing expression of reluctance to leave her family to join Warner in Montana. There are also a few letters from friends of both that reflect the fluctuations of the courtship. (Warner and Nettie both suggested calling off the romance at times.) The last letter, from Nettie on November 30, 1892 indicates that Warner will come for her at Christmas time.


Box 1
1. Letters April 1,1889 - March 24, 1890
2. Letters April 3, 1890 - June 11, 1890
3. Letters July 9, 1890 - September 30, 1890
4. Letters Oct 6, 1890 - December 22, 1890
5. Letters January 1, 1891 - March 17, 1891
6. Letters April 16, 1891 - June 29, 1891
7. Letters July 12, 1891 - December 7, 1891
8. Letters Feb 9, 1892 - Jun 27, 1892
9. Letters July 13, 1892 - September 26, 1892
10. Letters Oct 2, 1892 - November 30, 1892
11. Letters undated - circa 1890-1892

Contents | Special Collections

Updated: 3/16/09