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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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John Johnston
August 25, 1762 - September 22, 1827

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credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

John Johnston
August 25, 1762 - September 22, 1827

John was born on August 25th, 1762.  Where he was born was not certain, but his great-grandfather was born in Scotland.  He married into an English family.

John's father, William, enlisted in the British Navy as a midshipman during the French and Indian War.  After peace was declared, he was appointed surveyor of Port Rush and the Barony of Dunluce in the country of Antrim.  He got married to Elizabeth Hamblelton although the year was uncertain.  He died at the age of 43 in 1771.  He was poisoned by the medicine prescribed by his doctor. 

When John was about age seven his father died and he was shipped off to school in Coleriane.   Elizabeth was left to raise her children on a diminished income.  As there was little money John was forced to leave school and from then on his aunt Nancy, who lived with the family, and a was tutor, taught him English grammar, writing, and arithmetic.  He then helped to teach his brothers and sisters.  John developed a love for classic literature, which lasted his life.

When seventeen, he was sent to Belfast to take charge of the waterworks that was property of the family.  He did a good job and raised the value of property considerably.  He sold the company to seek his fortune in the new world, which is North America.

On his 28th birthday, he stepped on American soil and there he saw his brother William, who previously had come to America.   In May 1791, He joined Andrew Todd, and voyaged to Michilimakinac via birch bark canoe.  When he arrived, he built log cabins before winter.

He met Waubejeeg, a fluent speaker and composed eloquent war songs and poems.  He was a brave warrior who participated in many campaigns against neighboring tribes.  He did not marry until he was thirty years old. Later, he married again, this time, to a fourteen-year-old girl.  They then had a daughter Ozhahguscodaywayquay (Woman of the Green Glade).  She was born about 1772 at Chequamegon.  She was brought up with the Indian customs.

She married John Johnston but she was terribly afraid of the white man and she coward in the corner and fled to her grandfather's house.  Her father had made a promise to Johnston that she, Ozhahguscodaywayquay, would marry him.  She gradually came to love him.

Johnston's first child, Louis Saurin, was born in Chequamegon.  On October 16, 1793, shortly after the family moved to Sault Ste. Marie, John previously received a land grant on July 1, 1792.  On it, they built log houses, barns, warehouses, and other structures.  They planted vegetable as well as fruit trees and flowers.  They also raised some livestock on their property and the river supplied them with lots of fish.

Seven more children where born in the Sault and they adopted one infant, Nancy Campbell.  Because of the children, a larger house was built on the property.

After the Revolutionary War, he retained citizenship although his property was on the American side of the St. Mary's River.  Then, in 1804, his mother died in Antrim and he inherited the family estate.  He found it necessary to return to Ireland to tend to the estate.  After finishing the estate, he went to London, England after deciding not to go back to Ireland and he missed his wife and children.  He was seriously thinking about moving his family to Montreal where he could buy a farm and find better schools for his children.

When Johnston was 64, his foot his ankle occasionally gave him great pain and sometimes deprived him of the ability to walk, which he never did without limping. He also became very ill.

Then John's illness caught up with him in the winter of 1826 and was confined to his room for a long period of time.  He often complained about rheumatism by spring of 1827, he felt well enough to travel to New York where he was given "The Canal Memoir Silver Medal".

He returned back to his beloved wife and children.  John was glad to be back home with his family.

He took another trip to New York and on the way back; his illness worsened and was most likely typhoid fever.  He was carried from the dock to his house on a stretcher.  On September 22 he died.

His wife had a pine coffin made and hammered out a plaque for it from some silver teaspoons.  He was buried in a military cemetery at Fort Brady.  But later, was reentered at the Riverside Cemetery.

The old house was brought to the city of Sault Ste. Marie and was rebuilt as a historic building.


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