Terry C. Johnston Remembered

Terry C. Johnston on Broken Hoop Tour, Nebraska, 1998
Terry C. Johnston on Broken Hoop Tour, Nebraska, 1998

On March 25, 2001, we lost one of America’s foremost historic fiction writers – Terry C. Johnston.  His Plainsmen series covers the period of the Indian Wars between 1866 and 1877.

In this series we follow frontier scout Seamus Donegan from Ft. Phil Kearney in Wyoming to Ft. Robinson in Nebraska, from the Fetterman Massacre to the death of Crazy Horse.  Another series covered the era of the fur trade and the mountain men and it was to his character Titus Bass that Terry personally related.

Terry was the best of storytellers and his attention to historic detail phenomenal.  Although a writer of fiction, I considered Terry one of the best historians on Western History.

Nancy and I had the privilege of going on a “Terry Tour” with History America in 1996.  Our destination – the Northern Plains.  We both agree it was the best trip of our lives.  Spending an entire week surrounded by folks who love frontier history and having Terry there to explain in detail what had happened at each site was amazing.  Neither Nancy nor I wanted to leave that special “crack in time” and return to our everyday routine.

I think one thing that made Terry’s books so accurate is that he would travel to the historic sites, often on the same day corresponding to an event in history, so that he could experience the geography, the weather conditions, the difficulty traversing a place on horseback, as people did over one-hundred years ago.  Perhaps that gave him an understanding of events that we lack from only reading about them as opposed to standing in history’s footsteps.

When we went to the site of the Battle of the Rosebud it was the first time I recognized the huge scope of that battle – reading about it previously had definitely narrowed my perception of that place.

Terry C. Johnston's tombstone
Terry's Resting Place, Billings, Montana

We miss Terry and his storytelling and will always have the fondest of memories of our time spent with him.  If you love this period in Western History, you owe it to yourself to read the works of Terry C. Johnston.  The story doesn’t get any better than this.

For a listing of Terry’s books in the Plainsmen Series and the Titus Bass Series at Amazon, just click.

6 comments

  1. Hello, my wife Karen, and I were on the History America Tours trip through Montana and Wyoming with Terry Johnston in the summer of 1996. I’m trying to recall a “Nancy” and I didn’t get your name? I can’t believe I just stumbled on this web page. I was just thinking about Terry and did a little web searching and found this page. Very, very cool and very special. Best, John Polati

  2. Vicki, I just clicked on “Who are we” at the top of this page and OF COURSE I remember you and Nancy! This is such a special find for me here on the internet to see such a nice memorial to Terry and to think back on what a fun and memorable trip that was back in 1996. Remember Charlie Barrett? He was our tour bus comedian and I still have the video tape he made and sent to all of us. I’m not sure if you remember Karen and I, but we certainly remember you and Nancy. I hope all is well with you both and I look forward to hearing from you. All the best, John & Karen Polati

  3. To whomever : I recently bought one of Terry’s books(Winter Rain). Inside the cover is a personal note from Terry. (The ink bled thru the page). The note says:”Especially for Krista, Best always from the High Plains”. Signed TC JOHNSTON 25 AUG 1994.

  4. Terry was borned Arkansas City, Kansas and I remember discussing the area of the flinthill near Teaterville.

    You are right we lost a good friend, historian, and story teller. In reading your comments on tours to the Northern Plains for 1996 I was (which is not uncommon, senior moments are comming more offten) a little confused.
    My brother and I attended Terry’s first “Terry Johnston’s West” tours with History American in the summer of 1994 to the Northern Plains, and the Central Plains in July 1995. Was not able to make the Southern trip in 1996.

  5. the plainsman series was the best, with seamus donegon. just wish he could have completed the nez perz story. I was looking forward to one more seamus adventure.

  6. will be waiting forever, sadly, for end of Seamus story. i stood on Rosebud battlefield last spring(2016). cried for the Seamus, the soldiers but mostly for the Indians and all they lost

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