Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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John Garrison

 

(July, 1824 - January 21, 1900)

 

John 'Jeremiah' Johnson's real name was John Garrison. Based on Dr. McLelland's research and interviews, John Garrison changed his name after striking a lieutenant and deserting the US Navy. Since desertion was a capital offense, John Garrison became John Johnston. The alias was Johnston and not Johnson.

 

Much legend has been written about John Garrison and most of these tales are unlikely.

 

Born in Little York, New Jersey and of Scottish descent, John started his career as a mountain man about 1843. His adventures during these early years are typical of fur trappers (i.e. grizzlies, indians and mother nature).

 

In 1846, he married a Flathead woman who was later killed by Crow indians. This is where the legends begin. He probably killed a few Crows, not the 300 the tall tales report. There certainly would have been something in the Crow history to reflect this magnificent feat. There is none. Also, the legend of him extracting the liver of his victims and eating it is probably false.

 

Later, Garrison was a sharp shooter for the Colorado Cavalry, a deputy sheriff in Custer County, Montana and turned down an offer from Buffalo Bill to appear in his Wild West show.

 

In between those various jobs, he would return to the wilds he loved where his movements and purpose are not known. In 1895, his health failing (he was 72), he left the mountains and in 1899, entered a Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles.

 

Originally, John Garrison was buried in the hospital cemetery in Los Angeles, but was moved (with Robert Redford as one of the pallbearers) to Old Trail Town in Cody, Wyoming.

 

John Garrison was portrayed by Robert Redford in the movie Jeremiah Johnson. The movie as far as I can tell is pretty accurate.

 

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

Books About John Garrison

 

Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson by Raymond W. Thorp

 

This is the book that started a lot of the legends. I have never read this book, but it constantly gets bad reviews due to its tall tales. Another book was being written to straighten out a lot of misinformation, but I have not heard the status of this publication.

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org