These wood survey posts were donated to the Morrison County Historical Society (MCHS) in 1940 by assistant county engineer, Roy Johnson. Identified in MCHS accession records as “Government Witness Trees of 1852 N.S. Survey,” they were intended to serve as permanent objects marking the exact location of surveyed points or lines. Witness trees, also known as bearing trees, serve as a witness to survey corners. According to the instructions for government surveys by J. A. Williamson, Commissioner of the General Land Office, (c)orners may be marked by a cross (x) marked at exact corner point on a rock in place, or by marks on a tree growing at the corner. Corners are also marked by stones, posts, burnt stakes, charcoal, mounds of stone and earth, and pits. Witness corners or bearing trees are also established to assist in identifying the true corner. (Randall, Phil. S. and R. R. Reilly. Atlas of Morrison County, Minnesota. Minneapolis, MN: Chas. L. Pillsbury Co., circa 1922.)
Roy Johnson’s professional career provided him with ample opportunity to collect unique and interesting objects related to county history. Before he began working for Morrison County in the early 1920s, he had been employed by the state highway department for four years. Roy E. Johnson was born on August 19, 1903, to Andrew K. and Mary (Lewis) Johnson. He was the fourth of six boys. Roy’s parents owned 120 acres in Section 24 of Cushing Township, not far from the Northern Pacific Railroad and State Road No. 4 (now Highway 10). Roy’s interest in transportation may have been partly inherited from his father, whose probate records from 1941 list two motor vehicles as part of his personal possessions – a Model A Ford worth $65 and a V-8 Ford worth $450. On December 27, 1926, two years after he moved to Little Falls, Roy married Sibyl O’Connor in Minneapolis. Roy and Sibyl had one daughter, Jayne. Roy died on October 9, 1949, at the age of forty-six. At the time of his death, Roy was working for the Socony Vacuum Oil Company located at 508 Fourth Northeast in Little Falls.