Thursday, July 16, 2009

Life on an Indian Agency July event report

This season we introduced a new July event, Life on an Indian Agency. Everyone who attended had a great time learning just what it took to operate a United States Indian Agency in the early to mid-1800s. John Johnston's tenure as an agent ran from 1802 until 1828. Johnston's job made him put on many hats - Native Americans were contacted, worked and treated with, traded with, as well as simply cared for on an agency. Treaties were worked on and completed, negotiations undertaken, but there were simpler everyday tasks to perform as well - Native men and their families were cared for, fed, and given a safe haven in times of need. At one time, during the War of 1812, the members of the Delaware Nation - counting in the hundreds - were brought to Johnston's agency to be cared for on their trek to their new home in the west. As might be expected, the local inhabitants of the nearby city of Piqua were not too happy. They even went so far as to petition the governor of Ohio to have the natives removed.

The event this weekend touched on many of these things. Jim Johnson of Troy, a member of the Shamanic Institute, represented the native aspect. Set up in the Indian Agency office, Jim spoke of native beliefs and customs while helping anyone who wanted to, to make a medicine bag. Sycamore Springs Clothiers, owner and operated by Beverly Smith and Kitty Thompson, represented the trade end of the business. Johnston carried many items on his land for trade. John Heater and Sheri Barhorst were on hand to demonstrate European and Native weaving. Nancy Weatherhead worked on the lucette, creating a knotted cord as Mrs. Johnston and her daughters would have done.

The day's special feature was a talk given by Robert Bowman on the Johnston's son, Abraham Robinson Johnston. Known to the family as Robinson, he was killed during the pivotal battle of the western campaign of the Mexican War, dying in 1846 at the Battle of San Pasqual. Bob used a powerpoint presentation to showcase the all too brief life and death of John Johnston's second son. Also in attendance that day were Richard Rozevink and David Bennett representing the agency during the War of 1812, when General William Henry Harrison was encamped at Upper Piqua before going to free Fort Wayne (IN) from the seige laid to it by the British and opposing Indians.

This event will repeat in the 2010 season with a special first person presentation of John Johnston's mother, Elizabeth Bernard Johnston. Elizabeth will speak of what it was like for the family to live in an agency house and to deal with the danger brought to it by the war.

Mark your calendars!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Elizabeth Johnston Jones 1807 -1878, Queen of the Queen City

On September 22, 1807 Elizabeth Johnston was born in blockhouse #1, Fort Wayne, IN. At the time Fort Wayne was still, literally, a fort. She would have come into the world when her father John was US Factor to the Indians. Her earliest years would have been spent in the company of her brother Stephen, for her sister, Rebecca, died approximately 6 months before she was born. This made Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of the family. As such, as a young girl and teen, she seems to have been the little 'mommy' to her younger siblings. Elizabeth's existing letters reveal a woman who cares deeply for her extended family and is concerned about the proper order of things. These traits epitomized her adult life as the wife of John D. Jones of Cincinnati, one of the Queen City's premiere merchants.

Elizabeth was married on her sixteenth birthday to John Davies Jones, ten years her senior, in the Upper Piqua farmhouse September 22, 1823. While marriage near this age was not unusual in the early 1800s, she was still a very young bride. The household she kept in Cincinnati would have taken all of her young attention and energy to manage. Elizabeth and her husband supported the city’s many charitable organizations, including founding an institution for orphans, and their children were involved in the bank and railroad industries, several serving as presidents of major companies. Three of her sons served the Union side in the War Between the States. Col. William Graham Jones was killed in action at the Battle of Chickamagua, TN

Living in Cincinnati, the family was subject to the frequent outbreaks of cholera common to the time. The losses - which included three daughters lost in a period of less than two years -seem to have left Elizabeth's physical strength fragile. Her brother Stephen expresses concern for her in several of his extant letters, wishing she could avail herself of the 'sulfurous waters' in order to heal. As eldest surviving child of John Johnston, she served as her father’s executor. Elizabeth died November 19, 1878, at the age of 71 and is buried in Cincinnati.

Catharine Johnston Holtzbecher to A. R. Johnston, Cincinnati Sept. 23rd, 1840

My dear Brother,
I wrote you some time since if you had no objection I would take the money after paying your debts and purchase some articles for sister Margaret. I waited until yesterday for answer and decided not to wait any longer as I was going to Piqua. Supposing you would be glad to do anything for her in your power I purchased a handsome shawl and breast pin enclosing our dear mother’s hair for her and some other small articles she had need of. Write to me soon and tell me if I have done what is proper. Good bye and believe me your affectionate sister.
Elizabeth Jones
AR Johnston

John Johnston to AR Johnston, Columbus Ohio Dec. 20, 1834

Elizabeth had the great misfortune to loose her only daughter and namesake by the cholera somewhere about the beginning of the last month. Being the third child she has buried her health since has been bad, but the last account she was recovering from the effects of her trouble.

Stephen Johnston to John Johnston July 19th, 1847

I was desirous that Sister Elizabeth should have joined us. I believe that these baths, with the use of the Sulfurous waters afterwards, would have done her great service.