An Article of Interest

Johnston Family

by Susan Pryke

Tom and Jane Johnston were amongst the earliest settlers in Muskoka, settling in Morrison Township (lot 7 Range West) about 1861.

A newspaper article written by J.R. Hale 26 March 1936, mentions that Mr. Tom Johnston bought his property for the price of “a bag of flour”. The following information is also given.

“About three months after he came here he (Johnston) was fishing in the river from an old dug-out canoe at a place near where the bridge (Severn Bridge) now stands and the canoe upset. Mr. Johnston was drowned. He was the first man to die in Morrison Township and was buried on his own property.”

His wife died a short time later, after returning with her children to relatives in the Ottawa area. Their deaths marked the final chapters of an saga which began in Sligo Ireland.

The following information is taken from notes written on 17 March 1938 by Martha (McMASTER) STANTON–granddaughter of Jane Johnston. Jane’s father (Adam Johnston) was a strict Orangeman with strong opinions on matters of religion. On one occasion he was beaten and left for dead. He recovered, but the beating affected his mind. He wanted his eldest daughter Jane to marry a young squire. Jane, on the other hand, had fallen in love with her cousin Tom Johnston. On the eve of her wedding–with the wedding guests gathered in their house–Jane, with the help of her uncles, stole out her bedroom window and married her cousin Tom.

Her father was enraged when he found out and struck her name from the family Bible. Later, he relented and took Jane and her family back.

The family sailed to Canada in 1852 and settled in North Gower near Ottawa. Attracted by the promise of financial gain in the lumbering business, Tom moved to Morrison Township. After their parents death, the children were raised by relatives near Carleton Place but all returned to the Severn Bridge area later on. The children were: Tom (1847-1389), Adam (1849-?); Mary Ann (McMASTER) (1852-1906); John (1855-?) and William Rutledge (1856-1948).

This article first appeared in the April 1986 newsletter, Volume 2 - Number 1