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Mama, wife, knitter, blogger, spinner, wannabe something or other. That's enough, right?

Friday, December 16, 2011

FO Fri....wait, nope...

Normally, Fridays would be all about FOs and while I do have an FO, I haven't uploaded photos and you've kind of already seen it (I added the earflaps and i-cord ties to the hat for Sweet Girl) that's no fun.

I have something completely different today. Today, it's all about genealogy in my house (note: if you don't want to read about genealogy, then you can stop right **now**).

A couple of months ago, I was perusing a lovely site called Find A Grave and updating information (specifically, my mother's information and her parents' information). I decided to do a search on my grandma's parents, James Edward Johnston and Martha Louise (Fagerlind) Johnston. I was connected to their sites and gained a host of information, including information about their parents, grandparents, some siblings, etc. I also contacted the person that supplied the information, Joe Johnston, asking if he knew more about the families because, well, I was interested.

Turns out that one set of his great-great grandparents are a set of my great-great-great grandparents: Rachael (Smith) Johnston and Joseph A. Johnston.

So, did he have information? Oh yes...tons. We've been e-mailing back and forth now for a couple of weeks with information and pictures and websites and all of that. Yesterday, when I picked up the mail, there was an envelope from Joseph Johnston from Libby, MT. The envelope contained two copies from newspapers in the Eau Claire, WI area, the Dunn County News (which is still in existence, actually).

The first one is an obituary for my great-great grandfather, John Abner Johnston, from the Dunn County News on March 3, 1941. It reads:

John A. Johnston, son of Joe and Rachel Johnston, was born at Dry Wood, Penn., in 1858 and died at the age of 83 years. He was united in marriage to Lydia White in 1883 who proceeded him in death four years ago. Nine children were born to this union, Lafe [Lafayette, maybe Lafyette], Eau Claire; John, Banks, ND; Cole, Leve [unknown city, can't read the copy very well]; Pearl, Mrs. Nels [Nelson] Taylor, Eau Claire; James, Eau Claire, Hazel, Mrs. Joe Reidinger, Eau Claire; Bernie [Burney], Durand; Margaret, Mrs. Ray Myres [Meyers], Eau Claire; Charlie, Hammond, Ind; one sister, Ann Hoig, White Fish, Mont., 29 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, other relatives and friends also survive. 
Funeral services were held Sunday, March 16 at 2 p.m. at the Downsville M. E. church. Burial made in the Downsville cemetery. Rev. Chas. H. Butcher, pastor of Wesleyan Methodist church of Eau Claire, officiated. 

There are a few "funny" things with this. The obituary says he was born in 1858 but the headstone says 1857. Based on the fact that he was 83 when he passed in March 1941 and the fact that he was born in December, it would appear that the headstone is correct. However, I know record keeping wasn't anyone's strong point in the mid-1800s so it's possible that he really was born in 1858 and the newspaper got his age incorrect. It's not like I can go back and ask anyone because, let's be honest, anyone that would know absolutely 100% for sure has long since passed away.

Anyway, moving on...

The second thing was a copy about my great-great-great grandmother, Rachael (Smith) Johnston's accident and subsequent death from the Dunn County News, October 10, 1890. It reads:

Fatal Accident
Last Saturday, Oct. 4, Mrs. Joseph Johnson [Johnston], whose home is a couple of miles south of Downsville, met a violent death in Eau Claire. She had gone to that city by team to visit a married daughter, Mrs. Schutte [Mary Emma (Johnston) Schuette]. While passing along the street the horses became frightened and ran away. Mrs. Johnson [Johnston], in attempting to jump from the wagon, fell beneath the wheels and sustained injuries from which she died in a few hours. The remains were brought to Downsville and interred on Wednesday of this week. The deceased was about seventy years old.
Mrs. Schuette accompanied the remains to Downsville and on Tuesday was the victim of another accident caused by the runaway of the same team that wrought her mother's death. She was thrown from the wagon, a collar bone and a rib broken. Dr. Reed was called and reduced the fractures and the lady is no rapidly progressing toward recovery.

Because this is such an old article, I'll translate it into the very short version: Rachael (Smith) Johnston, approximately seventy years old, went to visit her daughter, Mary Emma (Johnston) Schuette in Eau Claire. She hooked up the horse team to the wagon and off she went. While she was out and about, something spooked the horses who decided to run off. In her attempt to jump from the wagon to avoid (further) injury, the wagon rolled over her and she died as a result of her injuries.

Old articles like this are kind of amusing to read, if only because they're so full of flowery language. I guess people wanted to know the extra details back then (like my great-great-great aunt Mary Emma also being thrown by the same horse team). *sigh* Whatever, it makes for interesting stories for me.

Let me tell you more about Rachael (Smith) Johnston and her husband, Joseph A. Johnston...because I can :)

Joseph A. Johnston was born in either 1823 or 1824 somewhere in either Elk or Cameron County, Pennsylvania. I've heard from other distant family members (in the Johnston line) that he was born in  Gibson Township, PA which is actually a township in Cameron County (which is the county directly east of Elk County). Of course, counties changed borders, just like states did and it's quite possible that at the time of his birth, Gibson Township was in Elk County because Cameron County may not have existed. I'll have to dig into that. Anyway...he was born, probably at home, the nearest large city being either Harrisburg or Allentown, both a good distance away, especially if you were traveling by horse and buggy, as they would have been at that time. There is a possibility that his parents were named William and Sarah (Clark) Johnston and were living in Buffalo Township, Washington County, PA in 1850 with their son, Joseph (aged 25 years), daughters Sarah A. (aged 26) and Mary (aged 23). At that time, William was 72 years old (which would have put his birth around 1778) and Sarah was 61 years old (which would have put her birth around 1789). However, at this time, more research is needed to determine if this is, in fact, the correct family. It may not be.

In 1860, Joseph A. Johnston is living in Gibson Township, Elk County (Cameron County), PA with his wife, Rachael (Smith) Johnston. Joseph is listed as being 31 years old at that time but that cannot be correct. He would have to be 36 years old, at least, based on his birthday...or his birthday is wrong and he was actually born in 1829 or 1830. I'm going to have to look into that a little more closely. My guess is that someone doing the transcription did not hear correctly or the year of Joseph's birth is incorrect or whoever transcribed the age had difficulty reading the numbers on the census page (this comes from census information). Rachael is listed as being 25 years old in 1860 and having four children living at home: sons William (8 years), Joseph C. (6 years), and John A. (4 years - the one in the obituary from above), and daughter, Gillette J. (2 years). The children are listed under the surname of Barker, which may have been William's middle name. In 1860, Joseph is a farmer and his land is worth approximately $200.

Rachael (Smith) Johnston, on the other hand, was supposedly born in approximately 1820 to George Washington Smith and Elizabeth (Overturf) Smith (based on the obituary article from 1890). Whether that is the actual year or not I am unsure about at this time. If the information from the 1860 census is correct, then Rachael was actually born in 1835...but I cannot imagine that she is a full decade (or more) younger or older than her husband, especially if the obituary article is correct and she was approximately seventy in 1890. I imagine that she was actually 25 1860 considering that their oldest child, William, was 8 years old in Rachael would have been 17 years old when he was born which, while somewhat improbable, is more likely than her having been 32 years old, having her oldest child.

Anyway, sometime between 1860 and 1870, the Johnstons moved to Dunn County, Wisconsin, specifically to Dunn Township. Joseph is listed as being 40 years old, Rachael 36 years (I'm just going to go with these numbers as being "correct," for my own sanity). From an obituary from Rachael's family, it sounds like the Johnstons moved to Wisconsin soon after the Civil War, in 1866. Living with them are their children: William (18 years old), Joseph C. (16), John A. (15), Gillette (listed as "Jane," which was her middle name, 12 years old), Emma (Mary Emma, 9 years), Elizabeth (6), and Jeremiah (2 years). They're still farming; the farm being worth approximately $600.

By the next census, 1880, their oldest son, William, and, apparently, John have moved out of the house but the rest of the children are still living at home. Joseph is listed as being 55 (seriously, he aged 15 years in the span of 10? I don't think so; he was more likely 50 years old), and Rachael is listed as 47 (which would be correct). The children living in the house are: Joseph C. (26), Jane (Gillette Jane, 22 years), Emma (Mary Emma, 18 years), Elizabeth (15), Jeremiah (12), Thomas (9), Jacob (7), and James (4). Rachael's younger brother, Alonzo Smith, is also living with them (29 years).

Joseph supposedly dies in 1885 but more research is needed to find out for sure. Rachael dies in 1890 and although the newspaper article says she's close to 70 years old, I suspect that she's closer to 57 years old.

I'm going to have to get a subscription to Ancestry and do a bit more research about this. It's a lot of information and it makes me think more and more about my family. I'm rather disconnected from most of my family, actually. I mean, my mom's immediate family are all gone so I have to rely on great-aunts and great-uncles and second (and fourth and sixth and third and gazillionth) cousins for information. It's disheartening. I do not want Little Man to go through not knowing his family...but it's going to happen anyway. *sigh*

The next time I discuss my family roots, I'll discuss John Abner Johnston and his wife, Lydia (White) Johnston.

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