John Johnson's obituary:
From The Red Lodge Picket newspaper
Feb. 10, 1900
Headline: -Died in California-
'Liver-Eating' Johnson, the Noted Scout Is No More
John Johnson, known the country over as 'Liver-Eating' Johnson, died at the National Soldiers' Home at Santa Monica, Cal., on Sunday, Jan. 22, and thus came to an end the earthly career of a trail-blazer and intrepid pioneer whose heroic exploits on the western plains are inseparably connected with the early history of the commonwealth of Montana. The announcement of his death was last Saturday received by the Picket in a letter written to this office by Sergeant Whitehead, who penned this brief note:
National Soldier's Home, Los Angeles county, Cal., Jan. 22, 1900. to the Editor Red Lodge Picket - Dear Sir: Thinking some of his friends might be interested and like to know, I write to inform you and them that John Johnson, better known as 'Liver-Eating' Johnson, died at this home yesterday and was buried here today.
This simple announcement will produce a pang in the hearts of those of his companions of early days who are still in the land of the living and will be received with feelings of general sorrow by his legion of old-time friends throughout Montana.
For the past twelve years Mr. Johnson had made Red Lodge his home, coming here from Billings and taking up a ranch, which he disposed of last summer to C.W. Savage of Hunter's Hot Springs. Before Billings had a place on the map, Mr. Johnson was deputy sheriff of Custer county, with headquarters at Coulson, and was on duty there in the early eighties at the time his bosom companion, 'Muggins' Taylor, himself an officer of the law, was shot and killed in the discharge of his duties by Henry Lump, a drunken galoot, whose wife supported him by taking in washing. Mr. Johnson was the first constable of Red Lodge and served several terms in that capacity. though a powerful man physically, exposure in camp and on the trail brought its inevitable result, and his iron constitution finally giving way. Wrecked in health and in purse, he was forced to accept financial assistance from his friends, and this worried him considerably. Though disliking to leave the scenes of his former exploits, with the attendant associations, his aversion to being made an object of public charity overcame his prejudices against becoming an inmate of the home for disabled veterans and so he reluctantly consented to enter the California Soldiers' home. Upon leaving Red Lodge less than two months ago, the old man broke down and wept like a child as the train whirled him away from his friends, and it is fair to presume that his last thoughts as he lay dying in a strange land, among strange people in that home by the side of the sea, were of those generous friends and exciting scenes of former days.
Liver-Eating Johnson was a man among men. Brave and loyal and true, he never shirked a duty, never betrayed a friend, never gave quarter to a foe. Born in New Jersey three quarters of a century ago, he came to Montana in 1862 and remained a few months in Alder Gulch. Then he went to Colorado where he enlisted in the war for the preservation of the union. He served under General Price of Missouri and was in serveral fierce engagements. He was wounded in the battle of Newtonia and discharged from further service. A year later found him back in Montana and from that time until the capture of Sitting Bull he camped on the trails of hostile Indians and saved the lives of hundreds of early-day settlers. He served as chief of scouts under General Miles in 1877 and participated in more raids against the redskins than any Indian fighter of the west. It is related of him that he took more scalps in those eventful days than anybody. It was during one of these Indian-killing expeditions that he got the uncouth name that he took to his grave. This was at the head of the Mussleshell in 1868. The story is that he killed an Indian, cut out the savage's liver and actually ate with great relish. But the story is only partly true. The circumstance is perhaps best related in his own words as he told the story at Hunters Hot Springs less than a year ago. He said:
"We was attacked by Injuns, and we licked 'em -- licked 'em good. There was fifteen of us and we killed thirty-six of them and wounded sixty. It was toward the close of the fight that I got my name. I was just getting' my blood up and feelin' like fightin'. We was short of ammunition and as I saw an Injun running toward the cover I threw my gun to Bill Martin and took Bill's knife. I wasn't going to waste any good cartridges on him, for I could lick any Injun I could lay paws on. I was considered the best shot with a rifle in Montana at that time, but I wanted to save my cartridges. We had a three hundred yard run to the bushes and I caught the injun by the hair of the head and threw him down just at the edge of the brush. I danced and sang on the Injun's body, for that's what they did to a party of whites a few days before. Then I scalped him and then I danced and sang some more. Then I ran my knife into him and killed him and part of his liver came out with the knife. Just then a squeamish old fellow named Ross came running up. I waved the knife with the liver on it in the air and I cried out:
"Come on and have a piece! It'll stay your stomach 'till you get home to dinner!"
"Don't want none," sez he.
"Come on! sez I, dancing around; I've et some and its' just as good as antelope's liver. Have a bite!" And I kind of made believe to take a bite.
"Then Ross threw up his guts. And he always swore after that he seen me tear a liver out of a dying Injun and eat it. But that ain't so. I was all over blood and I had the liver on my knife, but I didn't eat none of it. The liver coming out was unintentional on my part. But Ross, he vowed 'twas so and I never got rid of the name."