Voter ID not serious business in early 1900s
By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer
Local entrepreneur Gary Johnston brought in some historic documents about his grandfather, Magnus Johnston, last month.
One document was a Certificate of Citizenship issued to Mr. Johnston in 1939 by the US Department of Labor when the petitioner was 81 years old.
Strangely enough, another document was a poll tax receipt, showing that Mr. Johnston had paid one dollar and seventy-five cents to the Bandera County Tax Collector, making him eligible to vote. The date on the tax receipt? 1904.
You do the math. Apparently Mr. Johnston voted in elections 35 years before he became a citizen of this country!
Born in 1858 in Sweden, Johnston stated he was 46 in 1904 and had been in Texas 35 years, three of those years in Bandera County. He also swore he resided in Voting Precinct No. 2, was a member of the white race and worked as a carpenter.
He learned the trade as a ship's carpenter before ending up in Bandera. According to the History of Bandera County Texas, Johnston was the builder and contractor for the 2-story rock public school on Sycamore Street built in 1913. Around 1920 he offered the same plans to be used for the St. Joseph's School across from St. Stanislaus Catholic Church.
According to grandson Gary, Magnus added onto the OST building on Main Street and built the original rock structure that now houses Shoe Biz.
He also constructed the 2-story bank building for Mr. Davenport on Main around 1910. That building is now home to Dogleg Coffee Shop.
In 1904, Magnus Johnston, non-citizen voter, owned approximately 164 acres of land in Bandera County which had an assessed value of $375. His total ad valorem tax for the year? $3.93.
The Bandera skyline, such as it is, would definitely be the poorer without the elegantly simple stone schools, banks and shops built by a certain illegal voter who originally hailed from Scandinavia.
Pictured: Photo by Carolyn B. Edwards
Builder Magnus Johnston provided the plans for the St. Joseph School, built around 1920.
Early Bandera builder constructed several sturdy stone buildings along Main Street.
Courtesy Gary Johnston
Local contractor and builder Magnus Johnston became a US citizen in 1939 at the age of 81. He died in 1950 at the age of 92.
Courtesy Gary Johnston
Magnus Johnston paid a poll tax to qualify to vote - decades before becoming a citizen.