Born: 1799-12-29 Hardy County, (West) Virginia
Died: 1887-12-03 Mount Vernon, Illinois
Growing up, Johnston lived in Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana. In 1830, he left home to marry Mary Bullock, and the couple moved to Jefferson County, Illinois, where they began farming. Johnston soon won election as a county commissioner and then as county clerk. He also served as a justice of the peace for twelve years and deputy U.S. marshal for four years in the late 1840s. Voters elected Johnston as a Democrat to the Illinois Senate, where he served from 1838 to 1842. In 1845, he served as Enrolling and Engrossing Clerk of the Illinois Senate, and the following year he was elected to the state House of Representatives. In 1852, the General Assembly appointed Johnston, Abraham Lincoln, and Hugh T. Dickey as a commission to examine claims against the State based on the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. In 1847, President James K. Polk appointed him as a paymaster in the army with the rank of major, a position he held until the end of the Mexican War. In November 1854, the Illinois Supreme Court appointed him as clerk for the First Grand Division, a position to which he was elected and reelected in 1855 and 1861. In 1860, Johnston was a clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court living in Mount Vernon, where he owned $2,000 in real property and $2,000 in personal property.
John Clayton, comp., Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 206, 208, 214; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Jefferson County, IL, 1; William Henry Perrin, ed., History of Jefferson County, Illinois (Chicago: Globe, 1883), 191-95; Gravestone, Old Union Cemetery, Mount Vernon, IL.