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Milo, Ore. Rancher Fights Congress for Property Rights

Southern Oregon rancher John Johnson of Milo, Ore., struggled for decades to get the U.S. Congress to return 40 acres of property taken from his inherited homestead.

Finally, successful, Johnson told his story to a reporter in 1967 who visited him at his log cabin on the property where he was born and had lived for 69 years. 

Johnson’s father claimed the land in the foothills east of Canyonville, Ore., in 1888.  A railroad that owned the acreage had ceded title to the elder Johnson, but in 1916 Congress reasserted federal ownership on a great deal of land given to the railroads to encourage their expansion.  In the process, Johnson lost 40 acres.

John Johnson, who claimed to be part Indian, tried for years to regain full title to the original 160-acre homestead.

In the 1960s, he made his case to Oregon Sen. Wayne Morse, who worked together with Oregon Rep. John Dellenback to push a bill through Congress that removed the cloud from the title.

Johnson got the land back when President Lyndon Johnson signed the rare private-relief bill specific to the Johnson case in June 1967.

Source:  Turner, Kernan R. "Man Gets Homestead Restored." The Associated Press 1967 [Portland, Ore.]. Print.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.