atm-logoIn your June 2013 gunfighter graves article, the marker for Liver-Eating Johnson reads “Johnston.” Which is correct?

Joe Yarchin
Mesa, Arizona

The question about whether the mountain man’s last name was Johnson or Johnston has come up a number of times. “All the vintage accounts had him as Johnson, and he often signed his name that way. However, he did sign it as Johnston on legal documents,” says Nathan Bender, former curator of the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.

Much of what is claimed about Johnson came from Raymond Thorp’s book Crow Killer, but his sources are vague. Vardis Fisher then wrote his novel Mountain Man, which romanticized Johnson/Johnston. The two works became a movie in 1972, starring Robert Redford in the title role as “Jeremiah” Johnson.


Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His latest book is Wyatt Earp: Showdown at Tombstone.  If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

Related Articles

  • john waynes brother

    What is a “grass widow?” Brad Peters, Phoenix, Arizona Grass widow is a term dating…

  • gunfighter-in-gotham_dearment

    Many deem Robert K. DeArment’s 1979 biography, Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, as…

  • Alex-Johnson_Hotel

    Sure, most grand hotels have fancy chandeliers, but we’ll wager none have one quite like…