J.B. Johnson


>> back to
story index

home | back to NIHM website
The Book Of Life
Alphabetical Story Index
Taken from the Icelandic Appeal website, circa 2000.
Johnson, J.B.

Jón Björnsson (J.B.) (Jónsson) Johnson was born in 1886 in Vopnafjörður, Iceland. He moved to New Iceland in 1892 and at age 12, he began fishing with a net of his own. It was the beginning of over 70 years in the fishing industry on Lake Winnipeg.

J.B. fished in all 3 seasons of the year until 1948, when he decided to give up winter fishing. In his life, he missed only 4 summers on the lake. Once due to a fisherman’s strike, twice because the lake was closed due to mercury pollution, and once for a journey to London, England, to deliver 99 sled dogs for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Trans Antarctic Expedition in 1914. J.B. was asked to come to Antarctica as a dog driver, but he thought he should go back to Canada and his family. He and the other three Canadians with him, were presented with engraved gold watches by Sir Ernest in appreciation of their contribution to the expedition.

J.B. endured many hard times and many adventures on the lake. He was the only known man to have been drawn under the ice of Lake Winnipeg and emerge alive.

In addition to being a fisherman, J.B. worked for Armstrong-Gimli Fisheries from 1917-1931 as a foreman, and again from 1935-1938 as a fish purchaser for that firm in Gypsumville. J.B. was also involved in running the fish station at Warren’s Landing from 1940 to 1970. Through all of this, he was fishing the lake — sometimes as foreman of sail boats, or gas boats, but nearly always self-employed and supplying his own equipment and hired men.

J.B. retired in 1972 at the age of 86 and fished alone from this small skiff. He caught his full limit.



J.B.Johnson & L.Stevens Partnership

In 1939, J.B. Johnson and Lawrence Stevens began a partnership that lasted for 17 years. They fished from Warren’s Landing in the summer season for the first 7 years, and then moved to Fox Island for fall fishing until 1959.

Jón Björnsson Johnson was the senior partner. Born in Iceland in 1887, he immigrated to the Gimli area with his parents, Björn Jónsson and Guðrún Grímsdóttir, in 1892 where he began fishing at the age of 12. He married Jósefbína (Bina) Josephson in 1913. While he was out on the lake, she ran the farm, cared for 2 aged mothers, and looked after children and hired hands. J.B. spent 75 years in the fishing industry as a fisherman, a foreman and a manager of fishing stations. He retired in 1972.

The younger partner, Jón Stefán Lawrence Stevens, was born in 1914 in the Minerva district near Gimli. His parents were Jón Hans Stevens and Ragnhildur Benjamýnsdóttir. He began fishing at 14 years old in 1928 and retired in 1991 at age 76.

The Johnson/Stevens partnership was also a family affair. In 1938, Lawrence married J.B.’s eldest daughter, Guðrún (Runa). Both were involved in community and Icelandic organizations. Runa was Fjallkona of the Icelandic Festival in 1963 and taught the Icelandic Choir.

Their descendants are proud of the substantial contributions to the development of the Lake Winnipeg fishing industry made by J.B. and Lawrence during careers that spanned most of the 20th century.