Life in Moffat County missing from old-time politician's history

A famous politician whose career originated in Craig deserves a more complete archive, according to local researcher Kris Smith.

Edwin C. Johnson homesteaded west of Craig in 1910. He went on to manage a grain elevator in Craig and then launched a political career that lasted more than three decades.

He served in the Colorado General Assembly for four terms. He became the lieutenant governor, then the governor, then a U.S. senator for three terms. After that, he finished his political career as Colorado's governor again.

But all that is well documented, Smith said.

"The only part of his history that is missing is that portion that documents his life in Moffat County," Smith said.

Johnson, lovingly known as "Big Ed," because he stood six feet four inches tall, would have celebrated his 120th birthday in January 2004. Smith thinks it's a fitting year to develop a local archive about the man.

Smith is looking for local stories, anecdotes, campaign flyers, letters or any other memorabilia that could shed light on Johnson's time in Northwest Colorado.

"Basically, I would like to collect anything about 'Big Ed' Johnson that I can get."

There ought to be a lot, considering that Johnson was active in the community before his rise to power and visited the region throughout his life. But time is running out, Smith said.

Most of Johnson's peers are no longer living. Generations that followed, who may have heard stories from their parents, could provide valuable anecdotes about the man who was perhaps the most famous Craig resident, Smith said.

Smith is hoping those who remember Johnson will come forward with any mementos that still exist.

The Museum of Northwest Colorado offers a display about Johnson's life. It contains a timeline of his career and memorabilia from his life as a politician, including honorary groundbreaking shovels, the Key to Kansas City, along with photos and campaign materials. In storage, the museum has many more items, such as Johnson's governor's chair and pictures of Johnson's homestead.

But the museum's director, Dan Davidson, agreed that Johnson's life could use a closer look.

He'd be an interesting character for somebody to research on a large scale, Davidson said.

"The old guys tell me he remembered everybody's name," Davidson said. "He came to town a lot."

Smith said it doesn't matter if people have "family stories" that have been passed down and can't necessarily be proven.

"I would simply like to receive the stories for part of this collection," Smith said.

If people would like to donate physical items to Smith's project, they should send them to P.O. Box 1111, Craig, CO, 81626. Personal recollections of Johnson can be mailed to the same box

or e-mailed to:

krissmithcolorado@hotmail.com.

"I would prefer not to be contacted by phone, as I am a lousy stenographer and would prefer to have stories and recollections in their own words," Smith said.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com.

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