The Johnson House
"This Old House"
Written by Ruby Rutledge - January 1995
Two prominent ranchers of early Haskell County were once owners and caretakers of our historical house. The first was Sam Rinehart, who, with his wife, Amanda, homesteaded in Haskell County in 1887. Once a carpenter and merchant in Iowa, Mr. Rinehart continued his trade in Haskell County by operating a mercantile business in Santa Fe. By 1892 he had also established control of a huge ranch, some of which he owned, but mostly composed of leaseholds. Picture an expansive grassland that began at Santa Fe, ran South seven miles along the present highway 83; then West to within a mile of what is now Satanta; North seven miles, then five miles back East to the point of beginning. That was the Rinehart Ranch, compromised of 40 sections, or 25,600 acres, that included a few quarters of cropland. The sizable ranch headquarters were located some two miles South-Southwest of the highway 56/83 junction.
We are fortunate to have made contact with Merritt Roberts, Ph.D, of Lompoc, Ca, who was born at this ranch 1907 and lived there for 11 years with his parents, his father being a working manager of the Rinehart Ranch while his mother also sometimes rode with the hands. Dr. Roberts has a vivid memory of this period of his life and sent a sketch of the layout of the house and other buildings, also outlined the dimensions of the entire ranch he remembers them. The ranch house had only five rooms, including a maid's room and was considered small for the size of ranch it served.
We do not know when the ranch was dissolved. Dr. Roberts feels most of the big ranches broke up because newcomers arriving were farmers from the East and that is the profession they pursued in Haskell County. They cared nothing for cattle, ranches, gates and fences.
The Rinehart's built this fine home in Santa Fe, the house once been described as "how the upper crust lived". Perhaps Mr. Rinehart himself helped in the actual construction. At least we would like to think so. Along with numerous others, the house moved into Sublette in 1913, where Sam and Amanda Made their home. He died in 1917 at age 81. Amanda died in 1927 at age 86
We now go back to 1899 into our other rancher, Henry Johnson and his wife Clara. Ten years married, they, too, came from Iowa, driving into Santa Fe in a wagon loaded with household goods and accompanied by six fine horses. They bought extensive land holdings at the depressed price of $1.00 per acre and he was once considered the largest stock raiser in the county. Their ranch headquarters were two miles South and two miles West of Santa Fe.
But the Johnsons, too, eventually chose to leave their ranch for the city life in Sublette, buying the Rinehart home in 1920.
Henry Johnson contributed much to Haskell County, serving as County Commissioner for 16 years during which time the first courthouse was built in Sublette. Clara was a neighborly and sociable lady, no doubt proud of her outstanding home, once a show place surrounded by wrought iron fence and a beautiful rose hedge.
As the years passed, Henry's health failed. He died in 1925 at age 62 and was buried in the Haskell County Cemetery. His wife Clara was his only heir.
Controversy and mystery swirled around the wealthy window and her extensive real estate holdings until she died in Dodge City Hospital in 1933 at age 77 and was buried in Dodge City cemetery. Before and after her death there was a long-running dispute overheard mental capacity, the proper disposition of her property, the validity of one or both of her two wills, an accusation of her being taken to Dodge City in 1932 in an incapacitated state; and charges that 30 to 40 County citizens attempted to kidnap and return her to Sublette.
In the determination of which of the two wills of Mrs. Johnson was valid, a motion for change of venue was granted and the case was heard in Seward County, the judge remarking that he was convinced that if the suits were heard in Haskell County, jurors from Sublette should be excluded. Disposition of this case and related matters of interest were closely followed by the Sublette Monitor, allowing the public to be fully and partially informed.
Feelings did run high throughout the county and questions still remain unanswered in the minds of some and in the stories passed down over the years.
In addition to the Reinharts and Johnsons, former owners of the house include:
- Lawrence Brennan
- Sophia Johnson
- Amanda Watkins
- Ida Jo Faurot et al
- Sublette Plaza Limited Partnership
- Robert and Ida Jo Faurot
It was a rental for many years, home to several who still live in Sublette. And although time has taken its toll, remarkably the building is in good quite good shape and finally its last journey is planned to be made to the grounds of the County Museum.
Bob and Jo Faurot, who lived in the house for many years, are now donating the house as a gift to the Haskell County Historical Society.
All the one–time owners and tenants have left their mark within these walls in many different ways, and because of the turbulent historical events that occurred during Henry and Claire's ownership, it is to be called the Johnson House.