Johnsville likes good life and bad bulls This weekend it'll gather at the rodeo


Residents in the tiny community of Johnsville jokingly call it a "Leave It to Beaver" kind of place.

Most people do their yardwork on the weekends. There is little, if any, conversation about crime. And, other than the frequent rumbling of trucks down the small stretch of Route 75 that is Johnsville's Main Street, daily activity is tranquil.

The general store that once offered everything from haircuts to fertilizer is gone. So is Gruber's Garage, and the local antique store.

With only a few more than 300 residents, this Frederick County community that rests between Union Bridge and Libertytown would certainly suit June and Ward Cleaver just fine. Wally and Beaver could help out on one of several large farms. Ward might join the local Ruritan Club that meets the first Tuesday of every month.

June could walk over to buy fresh eggs from Bonnie Lawson, or sit on the front lawn with Brenda Kegley, Florence Bruchey or Charlotte Snoots -- Johnsville residents for 22 years, 13 years, 21 years and 15 years, respectively.

"It's a quiet, regular little town stuck in the '50s," said Brenda Kegley, who lives in Johnsville with her husband, Rickey.

"You can hear the church bells all the time, and in the winter they play Christmas carols," Kegley said. "Santa Claus rides on top of the Libertytown firetruck and tosses candy to the children up and down the road."

"There is never any badness going on," Snoots said. "Everyone has good neighbors."

Johnsville folks do know how to have a good time, of course. Throughout the year, as many as 3,000 people travel to the community to watch rodeos at the 47-acre J Bar W Ranch, bid for antiques at Austin Bohn's Auction Barn, or roam the Ruritans' Antique Tractor and Car Show in May.

If this weekend's Labor Day Rodeo is anything like previous rodeos, more than 2,500 people will pack the stands to watch cowboys from the United Bull Riders Association struggle to stay on top of 2,000-pound bulls such as Chucker, who has chucked off most of his riders in 5 seconds.

John Williams, a resident of Johnsville for 48 years, and his son John Jr., nicknamed "Sonny," brought the rodeo to Johnsville in June.

The rodeo, antique auctions run by Bohn and Charles Funkhouser, as well as the Ruritan Club's annual antique tractor show pull the community together. Members of the Johnsville United Methodist Church fry chicken in iron skillets outside the public auction barn.

The Ruritan Club sells food at the rodeo, and residents gather to share fun times.

Generations of families have called Johnsville home since it was established in the 1700s. Today there are several 120-acre to 600-acre farms, including the beautiful Johnsville Farms, run by Richard Grossnickle and his son Bobby, which harvest corn and soybeans.

The community's name, according to resident Ellen Wyatt, came after the realization that most of the men who lived on Johnsville's main three-mile stretch of road were named John.

Wyatt, with the help of Marie Burns and Sundra Funkhouser, authored "Johnsville: An Historic Review," which is essentially a survey of the homes in the community. "I'm living in a home that dates back to 1790," Wyatt said. "Many homes out here are log homes with logs that are so old they have petrified like stone."

There is very little residential turnover in the town. And, according to local real estate agents, most homes would sell in the $125,000 range. Property often moves by word of mouth or is sold from one family to the next, as evidenced by the lack of activity on the Multiple Listing Service. The most recent listing appeared in October 1996, but was withdrawn in 1997, after the $599,000 vacation property failed to sell.

Lawson said she found her house in Johnsville many years ago when a relative, who was hauling corn to a mill in Mount Pleasant, saw a "for sale" sign in the front yard.

"We were in the service and looking for a place to buy and remodel," Lawson said. "This house fit the bill. So did the community. People don't mind my mini-zoo or that my rooster crows at 4 a.m."

Two roosters, two dogs, one cat, one rabbit, 27 chickens, and a whole lot of inside and outside fish live with Bonnie Lawson, her husband Kenneth, 9-year-old daughter KT, and 23-year-old daughter Jolene.

"It is a warm community without busybodies and gossipy neighbors," said Marti Funkhouser, whose husband has worked with the auction barn on Molasses Road and auctioneer Austin Bohn for 30 years.

"Nobody bothers anybody else," she said. "It is an ideal place to live."

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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