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