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Joseph W. Johnson, our second Sheriff, was born in North Carolina on the 29th day of October 1818. At the age of 31 years, he left New Orleans by ship and sailed to California, arriving here October 10, 1849. During the year of 1851 and early 1852, Johnson held the positions of Bailiff and Deputy Sheriff under Sheriff John Yontz. Johnson took office on April 5, 1852, beating W.B. Thompson in the September 1851 election. During Johnson's short career as Sheriff he was responsible for the hanging of two men at the county jail. Ramon Romero was hung on November 26, 1852, for Grand Larceny, probably horse stealing. Then an Indian named Guadalupe was executed on December 17,1852 for the murder of another Indian. Johnson left the Sheriff's office on October 3, 1853.
After leaving office, Johnson continued to serve the people of San Jose and Santa Clara County. From 1863 to 1867 he was elected as the 9th Mayor of San Jose and for 18 years before his death in 1880 he served as a Justice of the Peace. On Tuesday, March 22, Johnson went to the Bank Exchange Saloon on First Street and after a brief conversation with the proprietor ordered himself a drink. Within minutes he collapsed and died. He was 61 years old.
The Alta California, September 6,1851
The Alta California, November 27,1852
The San Jose Weekly Mercury, August 1,1872
The San Jose Mercury, March 25,1880
Foote, H. S., Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World, The Lewis Publishing Co. Chicago Ill., 1888