Elinor Marie "Nora" Preston Johnson

Elinore Johnson, wife of John A. Johnson, c. 1890

First Lady
January 4, 1905 - September 21, 1909

Born: [1874-1878]
in Wonewoc, Wisconsin

Died: May 28, 1955
in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Married June 1, 1894 to John A. Johnson

Elinor Marie "Nora" Preston was born in Wisconsin to John E. Preston, a English immigrant, and Josephine Matteson. Various sources give her birthdate as January 13, 1874, June 1875, and January 13, 1878. Orphaned early in life, Elinor lived first with her grandfather, Horatio Nelson Matteson, in Wonewoc, Wisconsin, and then with an aunt in Rochester, Minnesota. Following her schooling at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Rochester, Elinor went to St. Peter, Minnesota in 1893 to teach music and drawing in a parochial school. It was there that she met an up-and-coming newspaper editor, John Albert Johnson.

Elinor and the 32-year-old Johnson were married in St. Peter in 1894. Johnson biographer James Baker described Elinor as a "modest, cultured and excellent lady, of fine manners, much admired in her circle, and a worthy companion of her distinguished husband." John Johnson was elected to the Minnesota State Senate in 1898 and then to the governorship in 1904. On September 21, 1909, during his third term as governor, John died unexpectedly in Rochester following complications from surgery for a stomach ailment. His wife was at his side.

Elinor remarried in St. Paul in 1913, to lumberman William Alley Smith; they had two children, William (b. 1915) and Elinor (b. 1918). William A. Smith died in Minneapolis in 1933. Elinor Preston Johnson Smith died in 1955 and is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Photographs of Elinor Preston Johnson