Levi was a deputy sheriff for the newly developed Granite county while John Cole was sheriff. Levi then ran for the office of Sheriff as a republican against incumbent John Cole and Samuel Snyder in 1896. Election results in November were as follows: Cole 180 votes; Johnson 357 votes and Snyder 172 votes. Thus, Levi became the second sheriff of Granite County.
The term of sheriff was for two years and Levi was involved in many ventures besides filling the office of sheriff. After serving the 2 year term as Sheriff, he did not run for re-election. Levi did run for Sheriff again in 1900 and lost to George Metcalf.
As stated in an earlier article, Johnson was involved with George Babcock in the discovery of the Golden Sceptre. With the building of Quigley, Levi constructed a sawmill a short distance up Rock Creek that was put into operation on May 28, 1896. According to “Up the Creek.” written by Darlene Olsen, after the fall of Quigley, Johnson opened a sawmill on 160 acres he bought near the junction of Willow Creek and Rock Creek. Research does not reveal that Levi owned property on this Willow Creek. His ranch was located on Lower Willow Creek where he was operating a sawmill at the time of his death.
Levi’s funeral notice in the Philipsburg Mail states that he died at the Conn ranch on Willow Creek and under the headlines “Johnson’s Death Statement” in the March 28, 1902 Mail is the following description:
The trial of Thomas J. Wilson charged with murdering ex-sheriff Levi C. Johnson in November last, was commenced in the District Court in this city… On the morning of November 27th last, at his saw-mill near the Conn ranch on Willow Creek, Levi C. Johnson was shot and mortally wounded by Thomas J. Wilson, his engineer. Two days later the injuries proved fatal.
Leading up to the tragedy there was some little misunderstanding concerning a ratchet breast drill that was missing and Johnson accused Wilson of getting away with it. What occurred in the bunk house no one knows as the two men were alone.
As the trial began the state produced plats of the Johnson saw-mill camp where the shooting occurred and the dying statement of Levi C. Johnson, which follows: November 27, 1901. I, Levi C. Johnson, believing that I am about to die, do now make my declaration to the facts that led up to my receiving the wound of which I am dying. I believe that I cannot recover and that I will die from the effects of the wound from which I am suffering.
About nine this morning, in the bunk house at the saw-mill on Willow creek, Thomas Wilson, the engineer, was packing his effects preparatory to leaving. He had quit and I had settled with him and paid him off. I went into the bunk house and told him to leave that breast drill that he had taken from my camp at the dam at Georgetown Flats. He said that he would not do it; that he had no breast drill that belonged to me or the company; that the drill he had he had bought from the Missoula Mercantile Company and had paid for it. I told him that I had been informed different. He said that he would take it with him. I said he should not. We had a kind of clinch and he put his hand in his hip pocket and pulled a pistol and fired three or four shots... After the shots were fired I walked out of the bunk house and said to Thompson and some more of the men around there: “Boys, he has killed me, or shot me, or something like that,” when I saw the hole in me… I have now told all that occurred at the bunk house between me and Wilson as near as I can remember and the foregoing statement I solemnly make in the belief that I am about to die from the effects of the wound received at the hands of Thomas Wilson.
L.C. Johnson Levi died two days later on November 29, 1901, at the Conn ranch at the age of 46. His remains were brought to the Odd fellow’s Hall in Philipsburg where the body was guarded around the clock by the membership. Internment was in the Philipsburg cemetery. Levi’s headstone states he was born on February 4, 1855 but research does not detail his birthplace.
The jury found Wilson not guilty after Dr. Conyngham testified he had multiple defense wounds which demonstrated he fired in self defense.