This week we received a new addition to HSMC's portrait collection. This is a charcoal drawing of Hophni Van Fossen Johnson, who was from Norristown. He was a musician in the PA Reserves Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.
Charcoal Drawing of Hophni Van Fossen Johnson, HSMC Portraits Collection, 2023.052.001
After being discharged, Hophni became a miller. He married Elizabeth Shrawder in 1864 against the wishes of her father Joseph Shrawder. According to family genealogy books, prior to their marriage, Hophni wrote to Elizabeth through a third party to prevent her father from realizing they were communicating.
In April 1868, Hophni bought two tracts of land including a grist mill from his father David Johnson for $2,000. In May of that same year, he bought another small piece of land from William Evans for $200. One month later he paid $1 for the water rights in the Skippack Creek above the grist mill. Unfortunately, Hophni was not good with finances, which ultimately caused his milling business to fail.
Unidentified Mill, HSMC Photographs Collection, 2014.342.710
Hophni sold part of the land in October 1875 to Levi Shrawder for $4,520. He filed for bankruptcy the following year. At the time of his bankruptcy his assets were $543.91 and he had claims of $1,603.86. After the bankruptcy, all legal documents were in Elizabeth's name. Hophni transitioned to making watches and clocks.
In 1884 Elizabeth and Hophni purchased a house on Ridge Pike in Lower Providence. Their mortgage was $550 and was supposed to paid in one year with an interest rate of 5 percent. However, for many years Elizabeth only paid the interest payments. She did not start paying the principle until 1892. Their debt was finally paid in full on August 15, 1902.