Johnson Machine Works, steel fabricators with a worldwide market and Lucas County's oldest industrial employer, celebrated its centennial in a big way during 2007 so I'm not sure if there'll be cake this year. But February would be a good month to extend 110th birthday greetings anyway.
This was the month back in 1907 when the Johnson brothers, sons of Swedish immigrants and English Township farmers Carl Gustaf and Emma Charlotte (Erickson) Johnson, bought the old Eureka Foundry, also known as Chariton Iron Works, on North 11th Street, just northwest of the square, and got busy.
David Johnson (1875-1923) made what now is known as Johnson Machine Works his life's work and if you know where to look, you'll find representatives of the fourth and fifth generations of Johnson descendants managing and/or otherwise occupied in helping to operate the company.
Headquarters and Plant No. 1 still are located on North 11th Street, just across the street east of the site of the Eureka Foundry, which burned during 1914. Support offices and design rooms now occupy buildings on the west side of the street. The first phase of Plant No. 2 in northwest Chariton, where a majority of the fabricating work takes place today, was built during 1954.
Here's how The Chariton Patriot of Feb. 21, 1907, reported the launch of JMW under the headline, "Eureka Foundry Revived: Johnson Bros. Have Bought It and Will Enlarge It and Make It a Credit to the City."
The Eureka Foundry, later known as the Chariton Iron Works, which has been running in a half-hearted sort of way, under changing management, for several years, has been bought by the Johnson Bros., Eric M. and Peter E., carpenters and contractors of this city, and their brother, David F., who has been a skilled machinist in a large Waterloo factory for many years. These gentlemen are all skilled in their respective lines, and are business men of the highest character. They will gradually enlarge the plant, making for the present the stackers, hay rakes, etc., that have been made there for years, and doing custom work in wood and iron, and repairing of all kinds.
They will put the foundry in first class shape, rebuilding it in most part, and will install a new engine and much new machinery in the wood working department. When the plant is finished, it will be capable of much more and much better work than heretofore, and will no doubt soon grow to be the large manufacturing plant that it should be, and that Chariton so much needs.
They will continue to do all kinds of carpenter and contracting work, in which they will be greatly aided by the machinery in the plant, and the machinist member of the firm will see to it that none but first class work is turned out in his department, so that it looks as if the plant is at last to become what it was intended and hoped for when it was first built.
We wish the new firm abundant success in their venture, and bespeak for them the loyal support of all in the community who believe in building up home industries.
A week later, The Leader --- lagging behind --- reported the story, too, under the headline "New Foundry and Shops."
Recently the Johnson Bros of this city purchased the Eureka Iron Works and are busy at the present time overhauling the property and putting it in thorough order. They installed, this week, a new sixteen horse power gasoline engine, also retaining the steam power when needed. They are putting their lathes and forges in first class order and will soon begin the erection of a 24-foot addition to the building on the south for a foundry.
Another brother, D.F. Johnson, expects to soon move here from Waterloo to take charge of the works. He is a thorough machinist and molder. The Johnsons will also continue their contract business and will be enabled to do their mill work in their own shop. The Johnson are thoroughgoing men and will push the business to success. The shops are well equipped and it will not be long before the machinery is placed and ready for business in its full capacity. But as it is, they are busy in spite of the torn up condition.