Monday, December 6, 2010

Support History Day

One of our goals at The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency is to make history come alive.  Another, is to KEEP it alive!  Many Ohio children have benefited from their participation in Ohio's History Day and yet, sadly, due to budget cuts, there are many who have not had a chance to do so.  History Day allows children not only to delve into a particular subject that interests them, but to learn analytical skills that are necessary in the history field, but in many others as well.  This month you can help support hisory just by clicking!  Please go to the link below and take a look.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Johnston Farm Life on an Indian Agency

Our July event has come and gone.  Everyone attending seemed to have a great time, and with nearly twice as many visitors as last year, that was a lot of fun! 

Nearly two hundred years ago John Johnston's Ohio farm  became an Indian Agency for the Shawnee Indians.  It was unique in Ohio then and still is today.  John Johnston was known as a friend of Native Americans and spent his time and money supporting, supplying and providing a sancutary to Indians.

This years focus was on the early years of the agency, established in 1812. Grandma Johnston, John Johnston's mother, made an appearance, speaking about her life as a single mother on the frontier.

Jim Johnson was on hand representing Johnston's native friends, and he brought many a smile to both children and adults alike with his talents and generosity. 

As usual our talented volunteers were also on hand to show all of the various chores and tasks it took to keep such a busy, active and important agency working smoothly.

 In other words, a great time was had by all!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Johnston Farm Family Fun Day June 2010

Our 2010 season kicked into high gear with last weekend's Family Fun Days.  Old and young alike enjoyed watching the Ohio Village Muffins 1860s baseball team, taking a ride on the 1830s canal boat, visiting the Indian Museum, and touring the 1815 farmhouse. 

Spinning, weaving, cooking and candle making demonstrations, along with a chance to try your hand at nineteenth century chores and Native American beading, rounded out the day. Take a look at the smiles on the faces of those attending and make certain you mark your calendar to come to the next event, Life on an Indian Agency, July 10th and 11th. There will be more of the same plus 1812 reenactors and a first person presentation featuring John Johnston's mother, Elizabeth Bernard Johnston, sharing what it was like to live life as a single mother on the frontier.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Signing of Johnston Book at the Piqua Taste of the Arts Festival May 21st, 2010

Friday night Piqua Ohio hosts its annual Taste of the Arts.  This year Marla Fair, interpreter at the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, will be a part of the Author's Book Fair located in the lobby of the Piqua Library in the newly renovated Fort Piqua Plaza.  Marla will be on hand her to sign the recently published book, 'In the Midst of Danger: Book One of the Johnston Chronicles'.  All profits from the sale of the book go to support the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, 9845 N. Hardin Rd. Piqua OH. 

Come and see Marla and go home with a book or other item knowing that your purchase is helping keep history alive!

Taste of the Arts, Time: 5:00pm - 9:00pm  Location: Downtown Piqua.  14 area restaurants will be offering taster size portions of their popular menu items.   Enjoy an evening of fun with art demonstrations, children's activities, music and more. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

History Day Update - Ruolin Yang goes on to State!

Canals and Locks - What America Has Forgotten
Ruolin Yang

We are excited to announce that Ruolin Yang who did the canal website we featured last month has qualified for the National History Day contest in June! She also won the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board Award for her project and received a check for archives use.

Congratulations, Ruolin!

Friday, April 16, 2010

History Day Project - Individual Website made by Ruolin Yang

National History Day in Ohio is an exciting co-curricular program for students in grades 4-5 and 6-12. Each year, students conduct research based on the annual theme and create historical papers, original performances, media documentaries, creative exhibits and imaginative websites as a result of their research.  More than just one day, History Day is a program that allows students to do independent research and create a project that has a life outside the program. Students choose a topic related to the annual theme and can create a paper, exhibit, documentary, performance or website.

For this week's post we'd like to share with you one local student's project.  Ruolin Yang chose to do her History Day project on transportation, featuring America's canals and locks.  She met with Andy Hite, site manager of the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency, and toured some of Miami County's remaining canal sites in preparation for creating her imaginative website.  We'd like to thank Ruolin and her family for sharing the site with us - and now with you.

You can view Ruolin's project, Canals and Locks - What America Has Forgotten, at

Please add a comment and let us know what you think and we will pass it along to Ruolin.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Dickens of a good time was had by all!

Just as Charles Dickens did when he met John Johnston in 1842, Roger Jerome and his masterful performance have come and gone in the space of two days. 

April 08th, 2010 saw the public premiere of Dickens in Ohio.  The event was held in the William McKinley Domed Ballroom at the Fort Piqua Plaza in Piqua OH.  For the nearly one hundred and fifty guests in attendance, the event kicked off at 7:30 with a plate of period correct desserts and a cup of lemon shrub, and concluded with Roger Jerome's performance.  In between there was time to mingle with costumed interpreters and volunteers (only a few guests were startled by the Indians!), to take a look at the 1840s exhibits (including a local collection of dageurreotypes, and artifacts kindly supplied by the Piqua Public Library), and to make a purchase at the PHA Friends Council table.  Items for sale to support the site included hand-woven scarfs and sashes, ornaments and Cat's Meow representations of the site, as well as the first in a series of historical novels chronicling the Johnstons' lives - In the Midst of Danger. 

The program, which began at 7:30, was introduced by James Oda, director of the Piqua Public Library.  He was followed by Burt Logan, the new executive director and CEO of the Ohio Historical Society.  Mr. Logan was in attendance not only to see Charles Dickens, but to announce the Piqua Historical Area's new name.  Designation of an OHS site has only been changed two times in the Society's history.  In order to reflect better the aim and purpose of the Piqua Historical Area, and to come more in line with the name most familiar to the public, the site's new designation is: Johnston Farm and Indian Agency, with the added identifying tag of 'Native American, Frontier and Canal History'. 

As Andy said, 'Johnston Farm' is what the public calls the site already.

With this event, the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency looks forward to an exciting 2010 season.  Watch the blog for news and events, as well as updates on local construction and more.


William Bernard Johnston - The Merchant 1824-1890

William Bernard Johnston, the fourth son of John Johnston, is a bit of a mystery.  Though there are more images of William (as an older man) than of any of the other boys, there are very few written references to him. William was born on January 22, 1824 at Upper Piqua, OH and seems to have followed the path of several of the other boys - schooled at home and an Ohio college, and then sent out to learn about buying and selling; finally, to establish his own business. He is listed in the 1880 census as a 'fine European merchant'.  His business location was Cincinnati, first in a store with his brother James known as Johnston Brothers, and then, later, on his own. The location of Johnston Brothers was Pearl Street.  Pearl Street Market, founded in 1816, was the oldest public market in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Market occupied the middle of Pearl Street between Broadway and Sycamore. The market was later torn down to make way for Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium.

William married Josephine Brownell at Piqua, OH, Nov. 20, 1866. They had two children, Cornelia and William Jr. Neither child married.  William Jr. and Cornelia lived with their mother until her death, and after that, with their maternal aunt. 

William Bernard Johnston died November 17, 1890 in Cincinnati, OH at the age of 66.

Letter to Julia, Mary, Rosanna, Rachel, Rebecca, John, Catherine, and William Johnston at Upper Piqua Columbus January 22, 1833from John Johnston, at Columbus, OH
In answer to William’s letter, I am glad you all go to school, and that you are learning. At the time you wrote it was a very cold day here as it was with you. The weather is now warm again. I want you to learn to ride Charley so that you might go errands to the Post Office, etc.

John Johnston to AR Johnston January 1840
Your brother William at Columbus was quite well, growing tall* as yourself and Stephen. He is a boy of fine habits and temper and gives great satisfaction to his principals. (*author’s note: AR Johnston was over 6’ tall)

John Jones to AR Robinson Oct. 3 1843 Cincinnati
William is getting along very well in Rushville, IN. He is a remarkably fine young man. I like him much.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Two days and counting...

..until Charles Dickens makes his appearance in Piqua, OH!  You still have time to join the well over one hundred people attending this unique event.  Call the site at 937-773-2522 or 1-800-752-2619 (toll free) to make your reservation.  Come enjoy an evening of shrub, music, and masterful entertainment.  Tickets cost $25 and include Roger Jerome's performance as Charles Dickens, beverages, and dessert, as well as an evening spent in the splendor of Piqua's newly renovated and restored William McKinley Domed Ballroom in the Fort Piqua Plaza.

Monday, March 15, 2010

***New date for DICKENS IN OHIO event***

Due to the unexpected illness of Roger Jerome who portrays Charles Dickens, the DICKENS IN OHIO event has been moved to Thursday, April 8th, 2010. For those of you who could not attend the March date, and those who failed to get their invitations sent in time, this gives you an additional three weeks to do so.

Take advantage of this unanticipated opportunity by contacting Andy Hite at the Johnston Farm (aka Piqua Historical Area) at 937-773-2522 or 1-800-752-2619.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DICKENS IN OHIO March 18th, 2010


The Piqua Historical Area Friends Council and the Piqua Public Library will present the public premier of "Dickens in Ohio" by veteran actor Roger Jerome on Thursday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Piqua Plaza on the Square, William McKinley Ballroom, 308 North Main St.

The most famous living writer of his time, Charles Dickens visited several cities in Ohio in 1842 and met Col. John Johnston, whose farm is part of the Johnston Farm Historic Site in Piqua. The meeting with Johnston, and others he met during his travels in Ohio, is portrayed in the virtuoso performance of humorous stories, impressions and period music.

Tickets are $25 each and include a dessert reception and beverages. Reservations can be made by calling 800.752.2619 or 937.773.2522. Proceeds will benefit the Johnston Farm Historic Site. Other sponsors include the Miami County Convention & Visitor Bureau, Comfort Inn in Piqua and Eagle Printing & Graphics.

"This will be a wonderful event for our area for all who love our history and all who have enjoyed the many works of Charles Dickens," said Margaret French, chair of the development committee of the Piqua Friends Council. "Roger Jerome as Dickens provides an entertaining and absolutely fascinating glimpse of Ohio shortly after it celebrated its 30th year as a state."

The Friends Council has also arranged for Mr. Jerome to present his program to students at Piqua High School on March 19. A native of England and resident of Ohio, Mr. Jerome is a veteran presenter of Dickens’ works and has performed in a variety of venues throughout the country. He is a member of the Dickens Fellowship.

Dickens called Ohio "all that America had been, is and would be" following his month-long visit in April 1842 to Cincinnati, Lebanon, Columbus, Upper Sandusky, Tiffin, Sandusky and Cleveland. Generally considered the greatest English author of the Victorian period, Charles Dickens wrote several books that are still considered "required reading" today, including A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist and the Pickwick Papers.

John Johnston was a farmer, public official and United States Indian agent for western Ohio from 1812-1829. His farm is the centerpiece of the Johnston Farm Historic Site, which also includes the Johnston home and out-buildings, a museum with exhibits that trace the story of the Eastern Woodland Indians of Ohio and Ohio’s canal area, a restored portion of the Miami and Erie Canal, and a replica of the General Harrison of Piqua, a 70-foot-long mixed cargo canal boat. The site is administered by The Ohio Historical Society and the Friends Council is the primary support group.

For additional information about "Dickens in Ohio" and/or the Piqua Historical Area, please call Andy Hite, site manager, at 800.752.2619 or 937.773.2522 or

Dickens in Ohio is co-sponsored by the Piqua Historical Area Friends Council and the Piqua Public Library, in cooperation with the Ohio Historical Society

Roger Jerome's image courtesy of Mr. Jerome. The above text was composed by Scott Mueller of The Piqua Historical Area Friends Council

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

John Henry Dearborn Johnston - The Reluctant Farmer 1820 -1863

John Henry Dearborn Johnston, the third son of John and Rachel Johnston, was born on June 25, 1820 at the farmhouse at Upper Piqua, OH. John HD, as he was usually referred to, was the son chosen to inherit the farm and a farmer's life. There are indications in family letters that he was not well suited for it by constitution or temperament. His mother constantly refers to the fact that he is not rugged enough, and in the 1840s - when John HD was old enough to be settled down and to inherit the farm - he simply refused to 'get a wife' as it was put in that era. Getting married would have removed any impediment to him taking over from his aging father.

I cannot get John inclined to get himself a wife, yet we are in great need of a female head to the house. Our losses are considerable here on this house account. My health is declining with my years and want John suited before I am called. John Johnston to AR Johnston December 8, 1843 Upper Piqua, Ohio.

Another letter mentions the fact that John HD had decided to 'get' his wife in Pennsylvania, rather than in Ohio. Still, his sister Maggie suggested in a letter to her father that the idea of marrying had frightened him 'effectively out of the nation." Margaret Johnston to John Johnston April or May 1841 Upper Piqua

John HD finally 'got' his wife. Her name was Mary Jane Dye. The couple was married June 12, 1845 at her home in Piqua. Soon after the two of them took over running the Johnston family homestead.

In the late 1850s John HD advertised the Upper Piqua farm for sale. There are indications that this caused some sort of a rift between him and his father. John Johnston altered his will at the time, and in an addendum to it, tells his eldest daughter Elizabeth:

14th Octbr 1857 In the event of my son John selling or in any way disposing of the Upper Piqua Farm, I have enjoined upon him to give of the avails to his sister Mary McLean $2000 and to his sister Rachel Reynolds $2000, his sister Julia Patterson $1000, - and I charge you to see that this is fully complied with as an act of sheer justice; the property he received from me being of more value that than what all the other heirs received of my estate. John Johnston to Elizabeth Johnston Jones, Dayton June 9, 1856

This, along with a statement made by John Johnston in July of 1852, seems to suggest this is a continuation of an older trouble.

Had you gone to Upper Piqua John and wife would have made you welcome, and if you can make your arrangements for going there next spring, do so. If alive I will make all right there for you. Never be backward to go there. You all have right to go there. John Johnston to Mary McLean, July 26, 1852

Due to his fragile health, John HD did eventually sell the Upper Piqua farm to his brother, William and moved to town. He died on February 23, 1863, at age 43, of consumption. In his obituary John HD is described as ‘a modest, unassuming man and highly esteemed.’

Rachel Johnston to AR Johnston, January 1, 1835
John is grown a great deal and now works on the farm with a brother of James Miller. He is a good boy and we get along with the work very well.

Rachel Johnston to AR Johnston Upper Piqua, March 1, 1835
John is farmer this winter. I am afraid he is not rugged enough for it. A very little makes him sick.

Image of the Johnston Homestead is from Henry Howe's History of Miami County, 1846

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rebecca Johnston II, The Gentle Spirit 1818-1841

Rebecca Johnston (II) was born August 02, 1818 at the farm at Upper Piqua, OH. Like her closest elder sister, Rachel, not much is known of her life. It appears she enjoyed visiting with the Pattersons in Dayton and living the ‘city’ life. Rebecca was also one of the girls who seemed most prone to illness. Family letters refer often to her health and her parents concerns over it.

Rebecca married James Findlay Whiteman May 13, 1840 at the Upper Piqua farm. She died April 26, 1841, age 22, several weeks after giving birth to her son, Benjamin, who followed her in death a few months later. The death was blamed on the birth though, as was often the case in the 19th century, the most likely cause would have been contamination carried to the mother through the person of the attending physician (if there was one). Doctors in this time period had no concept of germs and few washed their hands between patients.

John Johnston to his children at home, January 22, 1833
I suppose Rachel and Rebecca has to do the work, and lets Ma sit still and give orders and sew and darn stockings etc., and Julia make pound cake, and Rosanna milk and churn.

Rachel Johnston to Rebecca Johnston, December 20,1833
We looked for you last Monday and was disappointed when night came at not seeing you, but I suppose you are enjoying yourself. I was in hopes the bishop’s good words would have had such an effect of the good people of Dayton, they would not care for having more balls, but I see it was not the case. I was told there was a young lady at it, her name was Rebecca Johnston, I suppose you don’t know her. I know her and she is to write to her mother. If you see her, tell her how I was very much disappointed at not receiving a letter (by) the engineers (that) came up.

Julia Patterson to Jefferson Patterson – Piqua, April 13, 1833
I suppose by this time you are beginning to feel a little lonesome and would like to receive a letter. I know I should be monstrously glad to get one myself. Ma and I had a pleasant ride up though the roads were much worse than I expected to find them. All went well until Friday noon when Rebecca found an apple in my basket which she took and eat it and not being accustomed it made her very sick. She then went into a cold room to lie down and took a violent cold which has increased very rapidly and made her very ill. The Doctor is attending her and I believe considers her dangerous. At least he says he is astonished that inflammation has not taken place in her stomach. He bled her a few moments since and I think she appears easier. Neither Pa nor Ma appears at all alarmed about her, but it is my firm belief that her health will never be restored.

George Holtzbecher (brother-in-law) to Stephen Johnston Esq
It becomes my painful duty of informing you of the death of your dear sister Rebecca Whiteman who left us for the world of spirits today at 2 Oclock P.M. – Eight days since she became the mother of a fine boy since which time she was attacked with the bilious fever which terminated in a mortification of the bowels. – I need not endeavor to offer to brothers & sisters consolation for such a bereavement for you alone know the value of such an inestimable sister. – Her poor disconsolate husband is indeed to be pityed (sic), he was the most (devoted) of husband. he was throughout her sickness to be found at her bed side, he is inconsolable. Your father has not yet visited us being still at Sandusky, it will be a heavy stroke for his feeble frame to bear

Epitaph, Johnston Cemetery:
In memory of Rebecca Johnston Whiteman…a gentle spirit whose short life was devoted to those whose claims upon her affections and regards, as a daughter, she was ever dutiful and kind, as a wife perfectly devoted under all circumstances, and as a Christian meek and lowly, with a mind well disciplined for the enjoyment of those realms of bliss to which she was so early called.