Brothers operated stores in the area

It seems in the history of things that siblings can either tear each other apart or become close enough to go into business together and be a success. Forest Lake was lucky enough to have the Johnson brothers working together operating a store for the benefit of the entire community.

Andrew W. and Otto Johnson were both born in Sweden in the 1860s. The family moved from Sweden to Meeker County, Minnesota, in 1869. Andrew left home in 1886 after receiving a common school education and went to work for U.L. Lamprey on his farm near Forest Lake for five years. He then continued on the farm for another six years, eventually handling the entire management of the farm.

Andrew then went to the Village of Forest Lake in 1897 and went into partnership with J.L. Simmons. The firm handled dry goods, boots, and shoes. In 1900, Andrew sold his interest in the store and for one year handled agricultural implements. In 1901, he formed a partnership with C.B. Hurd. They built a store building and put in general merchandise goods. Two years later, Andrew bought out his partner’s interest and continued the store with his brother Otto.

After five years, the Johnson Brothers sold half interest into the store to Fred R. Schmitz, of St. Paul. The firm lasted many years until the store was sold to another enterprising person who carried on the tradition of the Johnson brothers for many years.

Andrew was married in April 1892 to Lydia C. Pulver, of Anoka. The couple had seven children. 

Otto moved away from Forest Lake to North Dakota. Last year, a stash of Otto’s photos that were discovered in North Dakota were returned to the Washington County Historical Society and can be seen in the research center upon appointment.

Andrew was a stockholder and director at the Forest Lake State Bank and the secretary and manager at the Forest Lake Co-operative Creamery Association. He was also a member of the Garnet Lodge No. 166 F. & A. M., of White Bear Lake; and the Forest Lake Camp, No. 17, of the Modern Woodmen of America. He served on the council of Forest Lake village for several terms.

Andrew died in April 1948. The date and location of the death of his brother Otto, who moved out west, are unknown. The writers of history stories have called A.W. Johnson “a man of considerable ability and everything that he has undertaken has prospered. He is a good citizen and a man of sterling integrity.”

Since the times of the Johnson Brothers store, more and more development has taken place in Forest Lake. What was a rural community has quickly become one of the most industrious areas in the Twin City metro area. The days of the store are gone, but the service and respect for patrons remains the same in Forest Lake.

Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. 

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