Branch: U. S. Army

   Rank:  Private

   Status: Killed in action

   Date of Service: WWI

   Home Town: Weme

Melvin B. Johnson

Melvin B. Johnson, a rural Clearbrook man who was killed in action in WWI, is the namesake of the Clearbrook American Legion Post #256.

Melvin was the son of Peter and Olina Johnson who owned a farm a mile north of Weme in section 5 of Eddy Township. Peter and Olina were both Norwegian immigrants. Peter had immigrated in 1867 when he was 32 years old, and Olina in 1867 when she was 15. They met and married in 1870 and farmed in Minnesota, North Dakota and Iowa in their early years of marriage.  Their first child Julia was born in Minnesota, their second child Mary in Iowa. Louis, Clara and Charles were also born in Iowa. Annie, who was born in 1881, was born in Minnesota. The family was farming in Penn, near Devil’s Lake in Dakota Territory when Martin was born in 1883. Martin was followed by Theodore in 1888, Jessie in 1890, Melvin in 1893 and Elma, the last child in 1896. 

It was that year that the reservation lands were opened for settlement and Peter and Olina were some of the first settlers to homestead in the area. The older boys labored on the farm, which eventually grew to 120 acres, while the younger children attended school just down the road until the 8th grade.

Melvin was a tall, slender young man with light-colored hair and gray eyes. He grew up working on the farm so it was natural that he should seek out farm work. He was working for a farmer in Greve, Montana when the U.S. instituted the draft on June 5, 1917. Melvin was drafted into the Army from Phillips County, Montana and became a member of Company M, 163th Infantry, which was a regiment of the Montana National Guard. It went overseas with the 41st Infantry Division.

Pvt. Johnson and his unit departed Hoboken, New Jersey aboard the Leviathan on December 15, 1917. He would never return.  He was killed in action on October 19, 1918 near Gesnes, France and his remains were interred in Plot E, Row 18, Grave 10. at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France. His parents were presented with his posthumous Distinguished Service Cross on July 31, 1919. The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Army. It is given for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.

Peter Johnson died in 1926 and his son Theodore took over the farm.  Melvin’s brother Martin married Christine Westerlund in 1907 and they operated the store and post office in Weme until 1910 when they moved into town. Martin was one of the first businessmen in Clearbrook. He built a livery barn in 1910 and was in that business until 1925 when he started a trucking business.

The Clearbrook American Legion was granted its charter in April of 1929 and adopted Melvin’s name to memorialize it.