Guide to the Harry M. Johnston Law Journal Collection (1891 – 1892)

Overview +


Collection Number



This collection was assembled by Harry M. Johnston of Santa Cruz and Fresno, CA. This collection formerly belonged to the Fresno Historical Society, and was passed on to the Santa Cruz County Historical Trust by John Panter, Archivist. It was later formally donated by Evelyn Johnston Rose, Harry Johnston’s daughter after making its way to the Museum of Art and History and the Santa Cruz County Historical Trust in 1992.


Number of Containers:  One (1) Box
Linear Feet:  0.5 Linear Feet


Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Archives
705 Front Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060


This collection contains a journal belonging to Fresno city attorney Harry M. Johnston who also practiced law in Santa Cruz for two years. The journal dates from 1891-1892 and contains notes on court cases in Santa Cruz such as the defendant and plaintiff, jury decision, nature of the case, petitions filed, and dates of trials. Occasionally newspaper clippings that reference the court cases and the individuals involved are included. It is not clear if these newspaper clippings date from 1890 or were pasted in at a later date. The notes and especially the newspaper clippings give an interesting account of court proceeding and cases of the 1890’s such as a particularly compelling case regarding a man and his estranged wife. This is a good collection for those interested in the law. Date range: 1891-1892


The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, CA

Preferred Citation

The Harry M. Johnston Law Journal Collection, The Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, Santa Cruz, CA

Publication Rights

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the head of Archives at MAH.  Researchers may be responsible for obtaining copyright permission to use material not produced by museum personnel.

Process By

Renata McRee

Date Completed


History +

Harry M. Johnston, a native of Mississippi, belonged to the law firm of Johnston and Jones in Fresno, CA. Harry was born in Coldwater, De Soto County in 1865 where he lived on a Southern-style plantation. Harry received a Master’s degree from South Western Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1888 and then after a year abroad in Europe he attended Columbia Law School in New York. In 1890, Harry traveled to California where he was admitted to the bar—it is said by his daughter Evelyn, that Harry passed the bar exam under Judge Logan who lent his name to Logan-berries. Harry eventually opened a law office in Santa Cruz, CA where he was city attorney for two years after which, in 1893, Harry moved to Fresno. In Fresno Harry became city attorney and opened Johnston and Jones. He was city attorney for four years, from 1908-1912 and served under Mayors L.O. Stephens and Truman Harl.


Eventually, Harry wed Laura M. Barksdale of Arkansas and had three children: William B, Harry M. Jr. and Evelyn S (donor of this collection). Harry was a Presbyterian and member of the First Presbyterian Church of Fresno as well as Lodge No. 162 and No.247 Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, and was a Past Council Commander of the Woodmen of the World. He was also a member of the Sequoia Club and the Masons. Harry Johnston passed away in 1942 and was survived by his wife, daughter, two sons, two brothers, and two grandchildren. Harry Johnston’s work for the city of Fresno was recognized when after his passing, Legislative Commissioner Glenn Devore passed a motion to adopt a resolution that honored Johnston’s memory in “’appreciation of his fine work in the formative period of our present charter government’” (qtd. From Devore in The Fresno Bee The Republican 10/1/ 1942).According to the Fresno Bee, Johnston was first city attorney to operate under the present charter set forth by Fresno which was set in 1921 (sources: Vandor, Paul E. Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1919 and The Fresno Bee Republican “Harry M. Johnston, Former City Attorney, Dies” 10/1/1942).


Contents +


One (1) Journal

Series Scope and Content Summary:

This series consists of one (1) approx. 12×7” journal featuring a black, yellow, and red design of swirls that resembles marbled paper and the name “H.M. Johnston” in gold ink on the cover. The journal is in fair condition considering its age—the pages are mostly intact and suffering from little to no yellowing, though there is some cracking on the edges. The binding is in the worst condition, though the front and back covers are intact, the front cover is coming loose from the spine. Inside this journal are 192 pages containing notes on court cases in Santa Cruz during the years 1891-1892 made by attorney Harry M. Johnston. Notes include information such as plaintiff and defendant, name of the attorney for the defendant, notes on complaints filed, jury verdicts, and the nature of the case such as “nature of divorce habitual intemperance” (Stewart vs. Stewart pg. 143) and “petition to see children and modify order of the court” (Short v. Short pg. 151). Occasionally newspaper clippings about the court cases are included pasted with the notes. Clippings appear for about one half of the cases in the book which are alphabetized via convenient tabs in the journal for each letter in the alphabet. Some court cases of particular interest include Stewart vs. Stewart that concerned a suit for a divorce between Elizabeth Stewart and Dr. John Alex Stewart. The attorney for the defended was Joseph Skirm whose journals appear in the Joseph Skirm Journals Collection. This court case includes notes on the court proceeding as well as four pages of newspaper clippings that contain details of the very fascinating case and how Elizabeth Stewart became estranged from her husband and how she suspected her husband’s “sister” was actually a woman he had wished to marry. Some other court cases include: People vs. Villa who was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon but later discharged, and newspaper clippings and notes on an interesting case involving a parasitical specialist of tape worms regarding wages and seizure of his stock (Carl Pantzer vs. L.M. Slocum pg. 129), People vs.[ Francisco] Robles who claimed he was acquitted of perjury charges, than was convicted again—it was the first conviction for perjury that took place in the county according to newspaper clippings. There are many other interesting notes on court cases and newspaper clipping in this journal. Please handle the journal with care. Date range: 1890-1892

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