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Papers of Harvey Johnson

Identifier: WHGJ

Scope and Contents

The Papers of Harvey Johnson consists of documents dated 1907 to 1989, with the bulk falling from 1960 to 1980. This collection documents the life of Harvey Johnson and his family through oral history transcripts, biographies, and family tree information. Topics addressed include the improvement of the City of Fort Collins' water resources, damming the Poudre River, and the creation of Chambers Lake and Long Draw Reservoir for water storage. The collection includes correspondence, news clippings, photographs, land deeds, oral history transcripts, and biographies.

The unpublished biography of Johnson by Bill Hartman traces Johnson's family history from the southern region of Sweden through their immigration to America and arrival in Iowa, Kansas, and Colorado. Hartman discusses Johnson's farming years in Fort Collins and his two terms as mayor. The oral history recorded by Dr. James Hansen of Colorado State University in 1985 builds on Hartman's biography. Topics discussed in the oral history include Johnson's childhood in Fort Collins, working for the Farm Bureau, selling farm equipment, serving as mayor, and his involvement with and the history of the Water Supply and Storage Company.

The photographs include images of Johnson and three others touring "high country" water sources, Johnson receiving a plaque during "Better Water for People Week," James Michener and Johnson overlooking mountains, and portraits of Johnson.


  • Creation: 1907-1989
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970-1989


Restrictions on Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Restrictions on Use

Not all of the material in the collection is in the public domain. Researchers are responsible for addressing copyright issues.


As a farmer in the early 1900s in Fort Collins, Colorado, Harvey G. Johnson learned the value of water. Born on his family's homestead near St. Francis, Kansas, in 1895, Johnson moved to Fort Collins with his family in 1903. His formal schooling ended at grade six when he left school to run his father's farm. Growing up on a farm northwest of Fort Collins, Johnson became well aware of the growing water problems in the town. After running various farms in Fort Collins and owning his own, Johnson retired from farming in 1944.

Beginning in 1936, Johnson became a board member of the Water Supply and Storage Company. He would eventually work simultaneously for various water companies, including serving as president of the Tunnel Water Company, which operated the Laramie Poudre Tunnel; president of the Sherwood Ditch Company, which distributed water from Arthur's Ditch; and a member of the Board of Directors at the Jackson Ditch Company. Also during this time, Johnson served as state secretary for the Farm Bureau and as an agriculture appraiser for the Federal Land Bank. During World War II, he managed immigrant and prisoner-of-war labor on beet farms throughout northern Colorado. In 1944, Johnson entered the farm equipment business with his son, Gordon, selling Allis Chalmers farm equipment.

Johnson was asked to serve on the Fort Collins City Council and was elected mayor of Fort Collins in 1964. During his two terms as mayor, Johnson changed the way the city annexed land and managed water. Since, previously, the city only acquired the land and not the respective water rights with the land, Johnson thought Fort Collins would be ill-prepared for the future. He oversaw the purchase of water shares from Horsetooth Reservoir and the Colorado-Big Thompson project to ensure the city would have adequate access to water supplies. The city water department was started, a water board was appointed, and a new filter plant with storage capabilities was built.

He married Margaret Capps in 1917, and they had four children. Johnson died in 1991.


0.5 linear feet (1 document box)

Language of Materials



Having spent over 45 years of his life as a farmer in Fort Collins, Colorado, Harvey Johnson (1895-1991) understood the value of water. He served on numerous water boards, most significantly the Water Supply and Storage Company Board, of which he became a member in 1936 and served for 54 years. He was asked to serve on the Fort Collins City Council and served two terms as mayor in the 1960s. Johnson was instrumental in preparing the city to store water for future growth. This collection contains a significant amount of Johnson family history information, including oral history transcripts and biographies. Materials also include correspondence, photographs, news clippings, and land deeds. A portion of the collection is digitized and online.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by folder title and category title. The collection consists of one box.


The Papers of Harvey Johnson was acquired by CSU Water Resources Archive in March 2008 from Mr. Johnson's oldest son, H. Gordon Johnson.

Online Materials

Some materials have been scanned and are available through the Colorado State University Libraries website. In the electronic version of this document, direct links appear in context.

Related Collections

The Water Resources Archive also has the Water Supply and Storage Collection. This collection holds three oral history transcripts, nineteen audiotapes, and one reference folder relating to Harvey Johnson. Two of the oral history transcripts in the Papers of Harvey Johnson, those recorded by David McComb and Jim Hansen, are duplicates of the transcripts in the Water Supply and Storage Collection.


Materials were re-foldered in acid-free folders and housed in an archival box. All paper clips and metal fasteners were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Photographs were sleeved in archival sleeves, and negatives were placed in an archival envelope. Some news clippings and photographs were separated from each other but a photocopy of the correspondence that links them accompanies each set of material.

Inventory Note

Note: Title information supplied by the archivist is bracketed. Estimated pagination is preceded by an "e."

Guide to the Papers of Harvey Johnson
Edited Full Draft
Prepared by Angeline J. Allen
Copyright 2008
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the CSU Libraries Archives & Special Collections Repository

Fort Collins Colorado 80523-1019 USA