Columbus Johnson along with Benjamin Singleton organized the Tennessee Real Estate Homestead Association in 1869.
Johnson was born in Maryland, the child of a free man and slave woman who eventually bought her freedom. His mother died when lightning struck a tree, and Columbus was taken to Tennessee where he was auctioned.
Johnson picked up several trades and could also read and write. He married a young slave girl named Josephine when she was 13 years old. Johnson later served in the Civil War and when he returned, he made his home in Gallatine, Tennesse.
During this time, he along with Benjamin Singleton organized the Tennessee Real Estate Homestead Association. After relocating to Topeka, Kansas, he was active in the Kansas Colonization project with Pap Singleton, under the auspices of the Freedman’s Aid Society. In 1884, he moved the family to Dunlap where he was active in the community. In June 1884, Johnson and five white businessmen organized the Farmers Bank of Dunlap.