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Old 07-22-2012, 04:28 PM
Location: Where the mountains touch the sky
4,885 posts, read 5,769,245 times
Reputation: 8262


Originally Posted by stoneoak View Post
not up on my wild west history, being a yankee and all...Liver Eating Johnson?!? What's the story behind that guy? Not a pre-Hannibal Lecter I hope
Liver Eatin Johnson, (sometimes called Crow Killer Johnson) was a Mountain Man in the 1840s in what would become The states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana.

The legend is just that, a legend as there is very little documentation to back up the claims that he ate humans.
Liver-Eating Johnson • Damn Interesting

Most of the legends seem to follow one general premise that the Crow Indians killed his wife, and either their unborn child or a child they had adopted.
He declaired war on the whole Crow Nation and for years dead warriors were found with their livers cut out.
One written acount that is supposed to be written by a witness claims to have seen him kill a Crow Warrior, cut out the liver, take a bite and ask if anybody else wants some.
I have heard accounts that his makings for biscuits included a "Quart of Crow Blood" as an ingredient.

It is very possible that if he did kill Crow Indians as the stories go, it is possible that he cut out livers as mutilation of slain enemies was common among the Indian tribes for various reasons, most of which centered on the slain warrior being rendered unable to draw a bow or hold a weapon, (cut off the fingers or hand) see the man who killed them in the spirit world, (cut out the eyes) or so they couldn't tell the Great Spirit who had killed them, (remove the tounge or cut the throat).
Some cultures consider the Liver as the seat of all emotion, not the heart, so if Johnson believed this, perhaps he was cutting out their liver just as they had cut out his by killing his wife. Who knows?

Most of his story is oral history, so it is hard to seperate fact from fiction, but it is a fact that many of the Mountain Men were completely insane from lonliness, starvation, privation, and the fact there were absolutly no way to stop them from doing anything they wanted as there were no other people around them for the most part. They lived in solitude for long winters trapping, no contact with other people for months or years on end.
Some served in trapper companies, or with partners, but there were loners as well sometimes called "free Trappers".

What is known for fact is that he joined the Union Army in St. Louis at the beginning of the Civil War, served as a scout and Marksman, was discharged honorably, Served as Town Marshall of Red Lodge Montana in the 1880s and died in 1900.

The movie Jerimiah Johnson starring Robert Redford was VERY loosly based on the life of Johnson (or Johnston, depending on your source).
Pretty good movie, but don't look to it for any facts on the real Liver Eatin' Johnson.

Much of the movie is a romantic view of what might have happened in the years of Johnson's war with the Crow, but the man did exist, was a contemporary of men like Jim Bridger and Hugh Glass and John Coulter.
How much is fact, how much are old trapper tales, who knows. Most of the stories are of a man who was larger than life, not to tightly wrapped mentally, but a very intelligent and capable man.

He is part of Montana's history, but as to the real story, you will have to make up your own mind.

Last edited by MTSilvertip; 07-22-2012 at 04:41 PM..
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