A large man who stood more than six feet tall and weighed 200 pounds, Johnson was a keen-eyed hunter and agile runner.
Moving from Missouri to Montana in 1870, John Johnson (Liver-Eating Johnson; CrowKiller) became a mountain man who trapped deer, bear, and buffalo and was considered the greatest hunter of his day. He maintained a cabin near Rock Creek, near Red Lodge, Mont., which William “Buffalo Bill” Cody used as a camp for his buffalo hunting expeditions. Johnson reportedly maintained a private war with the Crow Indians, who murdered his Indian wife and child. He killed dozens of tribe members over ten years. One Easterner who hired Johnson to take him into the hills to hunt bear witnessed Johnson creep up on an Crow camp and attack it single-handedly, wounding several Indians and killing two. He then casually butchered the two corpses and ate their livers, thus earning the sobriquet “Liver-Eating Johnson.”He was also an expert knife-thrower, and he served for some years as an Indian scout for the U.S. Cavalry under General Nelson Miles. In 1880, he was appointed sheriff of Coulson, Mont., a rough-and-tumble town of mountain men and miners. He carried a rifle around town, never a six-gun. He always settled disputes with his fists and he later proudly stated that he never had to shoot a man to keep the peace. Johnson maintained law and order for several years in Coulson before moving into the high mountains and disappearing.