Johnsons predate Iola

Register Reporter

Register/Anne Kazmierczak
Orin Johnson has roots that predate Iola’s founding. Two of his forebears, Aaron Case and Nimrod Hankins, moved to the area in the mid 1800s. Orin’s wife, Lavon, traces her roots to early 1900s Gas City.

Orin Johnson can trace his Iola roots back to before Iola was a town. Orin’s forebears, great-great-great grandfather James Case, great-great grandfather Aaron Case, and Aaron’s teenaged daughter Elizabeth Case, who would become Orin’s great grandmother, all came to the area in the mid 1800s.
In 1855, Aaron Case was selected as Cofachique’s postmaster. About the same time, Nimrod Hankins, who later married Elizabeth Case, arrived and lived in a cabin in Cofachique.
A few years later, Aaron and Hankins, who had become the local tax assessor, would be among the company that selected the site at the confluence of Elm Creek and the Neosho River that would become known as Iola.
Orin’s grandfather, William Case Hankins, was born to Elizabeth and Nimrod Hankins Oct. 17, 1868. William became father to Celia Hankins in 1901. Celia would grow to marry Coleman Johnson, a distant relation of former President Andrew Johnson.
Shortly after Celia’s birth, the widowed Lottie Kinman moved with her three children from Burlington to Gas City. In due time, Kinman’s granddaughter Lavon would find Celia’s son Orin and the two would make a life together that continues to this day on the south side of Iola.

LAVON KINMAN married Orin Johnson on June 22, 1951, and moved into a home on South Street.
“We’d been married two weeks before the big flood came,” she said.
“The water was up to the third porch step,” Orin recalled.
Two houses across the street with lower foundations flooded completely, Lavon said.
“We didn’t have a honeymoon because we couldn’t get out,” Orin noted.
But the flood didn’t dampen the Johnson’s love for each other. They still live in the house on South Street, where they raised three children through the years.
Charles was born in 1952. He now lives in Gas, in the house his mother grew up in. Patricia came in 1954, followed by Ronald in 1956. Patricia and Ronald both moved away, though they live in the larger region, Patricia in Ozark, Mo., and Ronald in Gypsum.
Charles stayed nearby. He and his wife Roberta operate Home Detail on the Iola square. They also had three children, Michael, Linette and Kristina, who, too, left Iola. One, though, “my middle daughter,” may be moving back, Charles said. “They bought land near Humboldt,” he said.
Lavon mused that if their family had a particular business, each generation might not have moved away.
“But we didn’t have any one thing,” Orin said. His grandfather “was in the abstract office way back,” Lavon said. His father had a service station. Orin and his brother Richard both worked there. But “when dad had a heart attack, we had to shut the station down,” Orin said of the business at 423 N. Washington. “There’s a dentist office there now.”
Orin didn’t look far for work after that. “They had just built a new fire station across the street so I went and worked there.”
He retired as shift captain in 1986, after 18 years with the Iola Fire Department.
Other Case descendants still live in the area as well, Lavon said.
Orin’s brother Richard died in 2002, but his daughter, Charmanne Sayles, lives in Gas.
Celia’s sister’s, Ida Lee, is 86, and lives in Overland Park. Ida Lee’s granddaughter, Nicole Hines, her husband Sean and their two sons, Wyatt and Weston, also live in Gas, Lavon said.
As for Orin and Lavon’s descendants, “we have five grandkids and seven great-grandkids,” she said. None live in the Iola area. “If they wanted, we’d be happy to have them move back, but they’re pretty well content where they are now.”