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.