Thomas W. Johnston, who has spent the greater part of his life in Sacramento county, is proprietor of the well known Alpine vineyard near Elk Grove, and, as one of the leading vineyardists of this part of the state, he is president of the Elk Grove Wine Grape Growers' Association. His beautiful and valuable estate, containing one hundred and sixty acres, has been in his possession and his home since 1878. The Elk Grove Wine Grape Growers' Association was organized in 1902, since which time Mr. Johnston has served as its president, and this association has done much excellent work in promoting the interests of the vineyardists in this locality. In 1886 Mr. Johnston began grape culture on an extensive scale, planting in that year forty acres in vines, and he has since increased his acreage until his vineyard now contains sixty acres. The "Mission" grapes are his choicest and principal variety, but he also has some Tokays and others equally well known.
Mr. Johnston was born in Ontario, Canada, May 12, 1849, the same year in which the great westward movement to California began. He was a son of Walter and Phydelia (Daley) Johnston, his father a native of north Ireland and his mother of New York state. Walter Johnston came to California, by way of the isthmus route, in 1852, and for several years he was engaged in gold mining at Placerville, then did freighting to the mining camps, and later settled on the Sacramento river near Richland, where he followed farming from 1867 till 1890. His death occurred in 1897. Two years after his arrival in California, in 1854, he sent for his family, and they all came out by the Isthmus of Panama direct to Hangtown (now Placerville), the son Thomas being five years old at the time.
Mr. Johnston received his education mainly in the public schools of Sacramento county, and also attended a business college in Sacramento city. In 1863, when fourteen years old, he went to the Reese river in Nevada, and during his residence in that vicinity for some ten years he was employed part of the time in freighting and part of the time in silver mining. He returned to Sacramento county in 1872, and has been a resident of that section practically since that time. He went to Alaska in 1899, and was mining in the gold fields of that territory for several seasons, returning home in the fall of 1902. The protion of his farm which is not in vineyard he devotes to general farming.
For two years Mr. Johnston served as deputy sheriff of Sacramento county, under Sheriff Thomas O'Neil. His political allegiance is with the Democratic party. He is interested in the educational advancement of his community, and has served as a trustee of the Elk Grove Union high school.
January 21, 1879, Mr. Johnston married Miss Ida A. Derr, and they have two children, Lester B. and Thomas W., Jr., both at home. Mrs. Johnston was a daughter of Henry and Elizabeth C. (Parrish) Derr, and when she was a child, in 1861, she accompanied her parents to California, from their original home in Iowa. They settled near Franklin, in Sacramento county. Her father died in 1898, and her mother, who is now past seventy, resides in Sacramento county.
Source: History of the New California - Its Resources and People, Volume II
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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