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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 19, 2003 - Issue 85


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Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (Obahbahmwawageezhagoquay) Biography

by {byline}
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Jane Johnston (Obahbahmwawageezhagoquay) Schoolcraft
Woman of the Sound that Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky
January 31, 1800 - May 22, 1842

Jane was the third child and eldest daughter of John and Susan Johnston. Born at Sault Ste. Marie on January 31, 1800. Named of her father's oldest sister her Native American name was Obahbahmwawageezhagoquay, meaning The Sound That Stars Make Rushing through the sky. Jane had no known formal education.  She was taught at home by her parents.  Jon Johnston teaching her English, Reading, Writing, and Bible.  While she learned the Ojibway language and culture from her mother. In 1809 she went to Ireland with her father.  Perhaps, she was his favorite child.  She was the only child of the family that had ever seen his native land.  After visiting their relatives in Dublin, and while John was attending to the affairs of his estate, Criagballynoe, she spent the winter with her uncle and aunt, John and Jane Johnston Moore, in Wexford.  They wished to educate her, but John Moore's sudden death and little Jane's frail health ended their plan.  In April 1810, she and her father went to London where he had further business, and in June, they sailed for home from Liverpool but did not reach the Sault until late November, just before the St. Mary's River iced over. Her father continued to educate her, and she soon began to share his love for literature, history, poetry, and religion.  She also did needlework and learned to make household crafts from her mother.  In 1814 she was on Mackinac Island, whether for schooling or visiting is no known.  They do know that she was there when John commanded the Old Fort of the British post on the island against and attack by American troops, and that Jane helped sew new shirts for two wounded prisoners. Jane was intelligent, gentle, gracious, and deeply religious.  She was fairly tall and slender, with dark eyes and hair, which she wore in ringlets.  Troubled from childhood with physical frailty, she spoke slowly and in a tremulous voice. There was an appearance of passiveness in her letters and in her description from others. In 1822 Jane met Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who had come to the Sault as US Indian Agent   for the Michigan Territory when he was twenty-nine. Henry was a man of interests, he was very serious, and had a little sense of humor. He was a prolific who wrote on geography, geology, mineralogy, ethnology, and linguistics of the area he visited. They fell in love and on October 12, 1823 they became happily married.  Henry loved to learn, he disapproved of idleness, and liked recognition.  Although he loved Jane and the children, he was ambivalent about their Indian blood and could be very much the autocratic Victorian husband.  However, the marriage at first was very happy.  They worked together and participated in many community activities.  Their first child, William Henry, called Willy or Penaysee (Little Bird), was born in June 1824. In November 1825, a daughter was stillborn, and Jane's health was a major concern. In the winter of 1826-1827 Henry produced a weekly manuscript magazine called the Literary Voyager. In the March 1827, next to the last issue, tells about Willy's sudden death from croup. Jane' had two more children. She was a loving and indulgent. Just like her mother had been to her. Jane's health got worse and worse as the years went by. She was prescribed for laudanum, but bad health didn't stop there. Henry's health was poor too, as he began to suffer from recurrent, mysterious paralytic attacks. Jane went to live with her sister in Dundas, Ontario, while Henry was away in Europe. Jane died very suddenly there on May 22, 1842, and was buried in the cemetery at St. John's Church, Lancaster. The Schoolcraft's first child William Henry, who died on March 13, 1827, was followed by Jane Susan Ann (Janee), born on October 14, 1828.  Janee was charming, blonde, blue-eyed girl who won her parents' heart.  John Johnston Schoolcraft, born October 2, 1829, was dark, active and vigorous.  He suffered a real handicap as his father compared him unfavorably of the lost Willy, while his mother found him hard to handle.  In their childhood, the children were taught by their parents and taught them at the old mission school in Mackinac.  They had one year of schooling in Detroit in 1836, 1837, and 1838, Henry put them in boarding schools.  Janee at age eleven was able to handle it, but Johnny, at nine, missed his mother and could not do very well in school. On January 13, 1847, Henry married Mary Howard of South Carolina.  Both children were upset by their father's second marriage and eventually became alienated from him and their stepmother.

Genealogy Information

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft 
b: 28 March 1793 in Watervliet, Albany Co., New York, USA
d: 10 December 1864 in Washington DC, USA
Occupation: Glassmaker, explorer, scientist, Indian agent, writer.

+Jane Johnston  b: 31 January 1800 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA 
m: 12 October 1823 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA
d: 22 May 1842 in Dundas, Canada
Occupation: Assisted HRS in translation of Indian lore.
Father: John Johnston
Mother: Susan

William Henry Schoolcraft
b: 27 June 1824
d: 18 March 1827 in Ft. Brady

Jane Susan Ann Schoolcraft
b: 14 October 1827
d: 25 November 1892 in Richmond, Virginia, USA

John Johnston Schoolcraft
b: 02 October 1829
d: 24 April 1865 in Elmira, New York, USA
Occupation: Disabled Civil War Veteran, wounded at Gettysburg.


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