A Family Murder-Mystery Story
Sep 17, 2019
Brian Johnson
A Family Murder-Mystery Story

Twin Cities author Brian Johnson will talk about his new book Murder in Chisago County: The Unsolved Johnson Family Mystery.

The book, published by Arcadia Publishing and The History Press, delves into the 1933 murder of Alvira Johnson and her seven children in Harris, a Chisago County town about 55 miles north of the Twin Cities. At 3:30 a.m. on April 11, 1933, neighbors and firefighters arrived at the farmhouse of Albin and Alvira Johnson to find a smoldering heap where a seemingly happy home once stood. Beneath the ruins, investigators found the bodies of Alvira and her children, but Albin’s remains were nowhere to be seen. 

The authorities determined that Alvira and the children were dead before the fire, and fingers immediately pointed to Albin. Hundreds of searchers, including the illustrious Pinkerton Agency, combed the area and even crossed into Canada in pursuit of Johnson, who was indicted in absentia for the murders. But he was never found, dead or alive. What happened to the Johnson family and what part, if any, Albin played in the tragedy remain a mystery.

Johnson, a Twin Cities journalist, has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter. A longtime staff writer for a Minneapolis-based business publication, Johnson has won a number of awards from the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. The Minneapolis native graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1989 with a major in journalism and a minor in Swedish. In his limited spare time, Johnson enjoys music (mostly classical and hits from the 1970s) and spending time with his family. He also likes to read nonfiction books (history, biographies, true crime), play with the family’s wild-and-crazy Australian Shepherd, and listen to documentaries on Swedish Radio. Johnson is a grand-nephew of Alvira Lundeen Johnson. Johnson lives in Richfield, Minnesota, with his wife, Stephanie, and their four children: Victoria, Julia, Lydia and William.