On this date in 1939, a permanent club, the first known of its kind in the United States, officially formed in McHenry County. Prestigious as it was, membership was not so difficult to attain. After fee of twenty-five cents, the members only needed to share a common characteristic – the name John, whether “first, second, third, or fourth name,” according to the Mouse River Farmers Press.
Any form of the name was acceptable, it seemed, and the newspaper reported, “Anyone who claims his name is John will be welcome to join, and no questions will be asked. Names like Johnathan, Johnnie, Jon [without an h], Johan or Johannes will be recognized as John. Creed, race nor political affiliation will have no consideration.”
So this date was celebrated as Johns Day, and Johns from across McHenry County were encouraged and urged to come to Towner. They met at the courthouse at 1:30 for a business meeting, after which they went out to Forest Park for lunch and recreation.
The day was a success; each John in attendance approved the idea of a Johns Club. Officers were elected during the business meeting. John Colby of Vrendrye was elected president, John Ellingson of Towner was elected secretary, John Burkharsmeier of Towner was elected treasurer, and John Ekstrom of Towner, who was also the John who organized the event, was elected field manager.
Forty-seven members were signed up on Johns Day, and after the business meeting and picnic in the park, the men spent an hour entertaining themselves by giving short speeches, singing songs, and having their picture taken.
Finally, tentative plans were made to hold another Johns Day the following year, on the same day, and in the same place. This time, all of the Johns were to invite their family and bring a dish to share, with ice cream, coffee, cream and sugar supplied through the Johns Club.
There were sure to be plenty of Johns available to join the club for years to come; according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, John was the top name given to males in 1911 through 1923, the second most-popular name from 1924 to 1928 and 1960-1961, and the third most common name from 1929 to 1952, 1963-1965, and again in 1968.
Shakespeare may have pondered what’s in a name…but those 47 Johns in McHenry County only reveled in theirs.
Dakota Datebook written by Sarah Walker
Mouse River Farmers Press, June 22, 1939
Mouse River Farmers Press, June 29, 1939
Mouse River Farmers Press, May 25, 1939