Joseph Johnson, named after his father and grandfather , came from a long line of Barrow farmers. His father was a church warden in 1845, the year in which his wife Priscilla nee Wright gave birth to their second son Joseph , 3 years after their marriage in June 1842. The family was living in South St. in 1851. Joseph now had 3 siblings and living with them were a butcher’s apprentice and 2 servants. His father was a butcher and farmer of 160 acres employing 2 men and 2 lime burners so must have had a substantial income. By 1861 the family had moved to 19 North St. and Joseph senior was still a butcher, lime burner and farmer although now farming 170 acres and employing 7 men and 2 boys. Joseph was working on the farm aged 15 while his older brother Henry was still a scholar. Living with them were 2 siblings, a domestic servant and John Sheppard, a cowboy.
The following year Joseph’s father was elected to the first Lighting Committee - to carry out a scheme to bring gas lighting to the village. His wealth and influence continued to grow and by 1871 he was farming 290 acres and employing 6 men and 4 boys. He is also known to have owned some framework knitters cottages in Nook Lane and he was a well respected member of the community. In 1875 he became one of the first members of the School Board, and the Council School opened in Cotes Rd. in 1880.
His son Joseph was still unmarried, by 1881, living at home and working on the farm. Also in the household were his widowed sister Louisa and her daughter Ellen along with a housekeeper and a general servant. The farm had now increased in size to 436 acres, although this was probably not all one parcel of land but distributed around the village. Priscilla Johnson, Joseph’s mother, died in March 1887 aged 76 and was buried in the churchyard.
By 1891 the Johnson household had changed significantly. Joseph Johnson senior, now aged 78 and a widower was living with his son Joseph 46 and still unmarried, his son Henry, now also a widower and Louisa his widowed daughter. They now had just one domestic servant living in. Joseph’s father died in Sept. 1895 aged 83 and was buried in the churchyard with his wife. Their gravestone can be clearly seen from Church Lane. By 1901 Joseph Johnson was living at Catsick Farm on his own. This was probably part of the farm he inherited from his father. He was aged 55, still single, a farmer and employer.
By 1911 however his life had changed completely. In 1902 he had married Mary Ann Lewis who was born in Kingsthorpe, Northamptonshire in 1880. She was the daughter of a knife finisher and she was still living in Kingsthorpe as a ladies companion in 1901. They married in Loughborough and their daughter Elsie was born in 1904. By 1911 they were living at Ryecroft Farm, in a farmhouse with 7 rooms.
The incident with the stray donkey took place in Nov 1915 when Joseph was 70 and his daughter was 11. The donkey was on Cotes Rd. which ties in with the location of Ryecroft and Catsick Lane.
In spite of the age difference of 36 years Joseph and Mary Johnson lived together until his death in 1929 aged 85. During those years their daughter Elsie married Herbert Phipps in 1920 and they became grandparents to Noreen in 1922. In his will written in 1908, before his daughter’s marriage , Joseph left his assets to be divided between his wife Mary Ann Johnson and his daughter Elsie Johnson after £100 had been given to his friend Charles Toone and his niece Nelly Shaw of Catsic Lane, Barrow.
*Probate Record: JOHNSON, Joseph of Catsick Lane, Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire died 6 April 1929. Probate Leicester 1 Aug to Mary Ann Johnson, widow, Charles William Toone solicitor and Nellie Shaw, spinster. Effects £2156 12s 7d.