Johnson, William Munroe (1833–1911)

By: Cecil Harper, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 1, 1995

William Munroe Johnson, engineer and Confederate soldier, son of Thornton Fitzhugh and Margaret Louisa (Walren?) Johnson, was born on March 11, 1833, in Georgetown, Kentucky. In 1851 he received his B.A. degree from Western Military Institute at Drennon Springs, Kentucky, a college his father had founded in 1847. After graduating, Johnson worked as an engineer on railroads in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky. In 1855 he was awarded a master of arts degree by the University of Nashville, and in 1856 he became a receiving and forwarding merchant at Napoleon, Arkansas. On March 6, 1861, he married Anna Buckner Ousley at Hannibal, Missouri. The couple had three children. With the coming of the Civil War, Johnson enlisted in the Confederate Army and was made a quartermaster. After the war he was employed by the Atlantic and Mississippi Steamship Company at Vicksburg, Mississippi. He resigned that position in 1868 and became an engineer, first for the St. Joseph and Denver City Railway and then for the Burlington and Southwestern. While employed by the Burlington he assisted in the completion of a hydrographic survey of the Missouri River and in the location of a site for the bridge across the Missouri at St. Joseph.

In September 1871 he traveled to Dallas as an engineer in charge of construction of the portion of Thomas Scott's Texas and Pacific Railway that was to run from Mesquite to Eagleford. When the operations of the Texas and Pacific were suspended in 1873, Johnson organized the engineering corps and located the site for a portion of the Dallas and Wichita Railway. He was also involved with the surveying and construction of numerous other rail lines in North Texas, including tracks running from Dallas to Forney, Cleburne, and Lewisville.

From 1874 to 1877 and from 1882 to 1885 Johnson was city engineer of Dallas. In that capacity he superintended the construction of the city's first pipe sewer and macadamized street. He also patented a bois d'arc paving process that was used extensively in Dallas. Among other projects, he laid out Dallas City Park, the State Fair Grounds, Trinity Cemetery, Oak Cliff, Belmont, Chestnut Hill, and Monarch. On three occasions he served as an engineer for the state of Texas. The last was in 1889–90, when he was put in charge of the improvement of the Capitol grounds in Austin. Johnson was a deacon at the Central Christian Church of Dallas. He died in Dallas on March 20, 1911, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976).
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cecil Harper, Jr., “Johnson, William Munroe,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995

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