Thursday, November 12, 2009

A different young man - John Johnston

It's finally time to retire Captain Kirk and friends, though I have enjoyed seeing them on the blog for a few months. I haven't been AWOL this time (the last post was in August, sheesh!), I've been busy. If you check out my websites you will see I have two new books for sale - one is a kids' book and the other is a novel based on the life of this young man.

John Johnston was born in 1775 in County Fermanagh, Ireland, in the small village of Enniskillen. His father was Stephen Johnston. His mother, Elizabeth Bernard. In Concerning the Forefathers Being a History of Col. John Johnston and Col. Robert Patterson by Charlotte Reeve Conover, it is stated that Elizabeth was ‘a girl of French descent, of a rich and influential family, and of a liberal education for those days. Her grandparents, having emigrated from France to Ireland, settled in a home not far from Ballintra and left her at their death a fortune of ten thousand pounds sterling.’[1]

Today’s equivalent would be nearly three million dollars.

This wealth may explain John Johnston’s own emigration at the age of 11. According to the same book, he charmed his mother into allowing him to come to America with a kindly priest, who was a family friend. The priest served as an onboard tutor for boy. Once in America, John lived with the family of Judge John Creigh. Judge Creigh was a bit of a Renaissance man, serving in turn as judge, doctor, tutor and owner of a mercantile establishment. John Johnston’s residence in Judge Creigh’s home was a great influence on the course his life eventually would take.

In the early 1790s, inspired by the tales of the west told by soldiers returning from the frontier, John and Judge Creigh’s son, Samuel, set out on their own. They opened a mercantile establishment in Cincinnati, Ohio where they sold ‘slops and goods’,[2] and then, in time, began to ferry the goods to the army and to travel with them. After they parted ways, John Johnston attempted to start a store with his brother, William. The venture failed, and John returned to Philadelphia and what would become his destiny.

In 1802, after working as a clerk for the Prothonotary of the Supreme Court, John Johnston was appointed as one of the first US factors to the Indians. The wars had ended, and many of the Indian tribes wanted to trade with the United States government instead of the British and French. At Little Turtle’s request, one of the first factories, or stores, was established at Fort Wayne in the Indian Territory (present day Fort Wayne, IN). John Johnston and his bride arrived there in September of 1802 to begin a stay that would last slightly over ten years.

In 1809 John Johnston was appointed Indian Agent upon the dismissal of William Wells. The majority of the words spoken by John Johnston concerning Wells in this book are paraphrased versions of direct quotes. John did not trust Wells and considered him a ‘rapacious unprincipled character’.[3] He warned anyone who would listen that Wells as a ‘bad’ man.[4] It seems the dislike was mutual. Letters show that Wells complained of John Johnston and sought ways to undermine his authority. It is the author’s personal opinion that something transpired between the two men of a deeply personal nature. In all of my study of John Johnston’s papers and letters, there is no other individual of whom John speaks with such blatant aversion. Hence the matter of my book as concerns the implications of Wells’ duplicity in the robberies, lies and fire.

In 1811, complaining of illness, John Johnston resigned from his post at Fort Wayne. Seven years earlier, in 1804, he had fulfilled his dream of buying the land at Upper Piqua. The first time John saw the farm site he determined to purchase it at any price. It consisted of 250 acres of rich dry prairie covered with grass and skirted with beautiful woods, an unusually large and never failing spring of pure, cold water coming out of the second bank of the Miami, a house that sits 40 feet above the first bottom on the west side of the river, a half mile below the mouth of the Loramie Creek.[5] He wanted nothing more than to be a gentleman farmer. That dream came to be, but was put on hold when hostilities broke out between the United States and Great Britain in June of 1812 and war was officially declared.

During the War of 1812 the homestead at Upper Piqua –including a large log house, a springhouse, double-pen barn and other buildings—became a haven for Indians loyal to the United States government and the American soldiers. Before heading west and north to relieve Fort Wayne in September of 1812, William Henry Harrison’s army was encamped on Johnston’s 250 acres. It was there that Harrison received his commission as General of the Army of the Northwest. At one time, Harrison sent the members of the Delaware nation to John Johnston for protection. They numbered 900 Indians. The people in the local town of Lower Piqua were rather boisterous and vocal in their opposition to the idea, even going so far as to petition the governor at the time to remove the savages. John Johnston was labeled more than once an ‘Indian sympathizer’—and that was by his supporters![6] He was, according to the native population of the state, an honest man who did his best to obtain justice for them.

During the war, John Johnston was appointed Indian agent to the Shawnee nation. Later on, in 1816, the Wyandot, Seneca and Delaware were added to his jurisdiction. The brick house at Upper Piqua, constructed during the war years, became an Indian Agency and continued as such until 1829; one year after Andrew Jackson became president. Jackson was a Democrat and John Johnston, a Whig. In 1829 the agency passed to a new agent and, for the first time in nearly three decades, John Johnston was no longer a public man.

Over the next few years John channeled his considerable energy and abilities into assuring the progress of the canal through Ohio. In 1825 he had become a Canal commissioner. He also had a keen interest in progressive farming and was a strong supporter of education for all. John was a member of the traveling board of the West Point Military Academy (where his son, Robinson, attended) and was a founding member of Kenyon College in Ohio.

John Johnston lived to the ripe old age of 85. He died in 1861, just one month short of the outbreak of the Civil War. As a young man he had seen George Washington with his own eyes. On his last trip to Washington DC (the city in which he died), he may have witnessed the construction of the new dome of the Capitol building, and Abraham Lincoln occupied the White House.

John’s body was brought back to Upper Piqua where it was interred in the family cemetery next to his beloved wife, as per his wishes. His tombstone reads:

Colonel John Johnston. b. 3-25-1775, d. 2-18-1861. Served the US in various important trusts for a period of forty years, by his own desire, lies buried here close by the side of his beloved wife, Rachel, hoping to rise together at the resurrection of the Just. Life’s labor done, securely laid in this their last retreat, unheeded o’er their silent dust the storm of life shall beat.

In the Midst of Danger is the story of John and Rachel Johnston's early years in Fort Wayne, IN. According to John Johnston '‘every means that malice and disappointment could suggest’ were employed against him' during his time as a US Factor at Fort Wayne. As the author, I found I needed no imagination to invent the action of the tale - it was all there and completely true.

If you are interested, the book can be picked up a Or you can buy it from me by check or paypal via this email address:

All profits from the sale of the book go to the Piqua Historical Area and Johnston Farm, which is the house and land owned and lived in by John and Rachel from 1811 tp 1848. Times are tough and we have to raise 1/3 of our operating budget for the coming year, which amounts to approximately $70,000. Buy a book, enjoy a good read and a rollicking adventure, and help save the site!

[1] Charlotte Reeve Conover, Concerning the Forefathers: Being a History of Col. John Johnston and Col. Robert Patterson (Published in cooperation with NCR 1905) 20
[2] Leonard U. Hill, A Reproduction of a Scrapbook, 117
[3] John Johnston to William Eustis, letter, November 6th, 1810
[4] ibid
[5] Leonard U. Hill, John Johnston and the Indians in the Land of the Three Miamis,(Stoneman Press, Columbus, Ohio 1957) 42-45
[6] Charlotte Reeve Conover, Concerning the Forefathers, Introduction

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sadly it's time to move Mr. Spock below the fold. Still, I'm not ready to bid farewell to my current obsession with Star Trek. While doing some research I stumbled upon the following 'motivational' posters at I thought I would share them as they brought a smile to my face. If you do too, visit the site and let their creator know.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Quite Logical Affair of the Heart

Okay. I admit it. I've been AWOL for literally months. I restate all the obvious platitudes as my excuse: When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. What does not break us, strengthens us. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I could tell you about it, but that would be pretty boring.

It would be much more interesting to tell you about my lifelong love affair with Mr. Spock.

Shocking, isn't it? Bet you never knew the old Vulcan - or the getting older Ms. Fair - had it in them. Well, you see, it was quite serious about 43 years ago (42.725 Earth standard years according to the guy with the ears). I was 6 years old at the time that Star Trek hit the TV screen. I think I fell in love instantly. (And I can tell you, Daniel Boone's friend, Mingo, was quite upset as he got shoved to second place in my heart.) I watched Trek when it first came out. I know that because my memories of the show include watching it with my brother who died in 1968 when the show was just starting its 3rd season. Mark was always cracking jokes about Captain Kirk and his puns.

Me? I named my Siamese cat Spock.

What is it about the outsider, the lost one, the man who is (as Mingo put it on the old Daniel Boone series) a 'confusion to himself' that so intrigues women? I have to admit for me it also had something to do with that black patent leather hair and those ears. Leonard Nimoy never 'did' it for me. It was Spock. Poor confused, constricted, conflicted Spock. I didn't want to help him out of his troubles, I just wanted....

Well, who knows what I wanted when I was six.

So what has brought about this rekindling of the affair? Why, the new Star Trek movie, of course. If you are a long time Trekker like me and did not see it, then seek it out at the $1 cinema or catch it on cable. The film was a 5 star, AAA+ homage and refit as far as I am concerned. (I should know, I saw it 6 times!) Sheer genius concocted the idea of an alternate timeline that allows the movie to both honor the old show and yet be fresh and new. Oh, and I always kind of liked the crusty old physician too (and his affectionate adversarial fights with my guy). Karl Urban 'channels' McCoy masterfully.

And now, about the NEW Spock.... Well, I think I'm in love again. Zachary Quinto is wonderful. His Spock is a little 'kinder and gentler'. He has more emotion seething under the surface, but then, this Spock is young and straight out of the Academy. Anyone who knows the original series canon knows it took Spock years to decide he wanted to be totally Vulcan. Just watch 'The Menagerie' where he smiles upon finding an unusual plant that sings and you will know what I mean. Unfortunately, this time I'm the one on the...older end of the affair. I was 6 when I fell in love with Leonard Nimoy's portrayal. He was 36 or so. I'm 50+ now and the new kid (yes...sigh... kid) is 31.

Oh well, there's always time travel....

By the way, my granddaughter Leah saw the movie with me. She went in with a crush on Kirk and came out of the theater telling me that I was right. Spock was the cute one. By the way, Leah is 6 years old.

I guess they do make them like the used to.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blog mania

Ah, I remember that time long ago when I had no idea what a blog was. Now I manage four! Hopefully I can keep them straight and don't start posting doll info to the historic one, or historic info on the writers' one, or....

Well, you get the picture.

This post is to introduce my newest blog, which is really sort of a store front. My mother and I have repaired and restored antique dolls for over 20 years. The business had fallen away - mostly due to lack of advertising - but now it's back. With the cuts at the historic site, I will be concentrating on repairing this treasures of the past in order to fill in for lost income. If you have a doll in need of a doctor, or know someone who does, send them to the blog at

Tell them the interpreter, writer, artist, and general crazy person sent you!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

As I said last week when I was on my soapbox, the lovely sight above was almost lost this year. There was a movement afoot in the Ohio Historical Society to close all their sites - not because they wanted to, but because there simply were no funds to keep them open. Due to a few fine folks who stepped 'up to the plate' so to speak, the sites remain open, but with severely cut hours.

In order to make more people aware of our site, we have created a blog featuring our events, news, hours, etc. Posts will be history-oriented and will cover a range of topics from the Johnston children's lives to the excavation of the 1740s Pickawillany site - a trader's village that was burned to the ground, contributing what many historians think was the 'spark' that ignited the French and Indian War' - as well as Ohio's ancient Indians, the Miami and Erie Canal, and much, much more. Please visit it often or, if you want, sign up to follow the blog and recieve automatic updates.

Beyond this, I would like to make a plea that - wherever you are - you take time this summer to visit your local historic sites. I bet many of you never have. I was as guilty as the next person. I've been to Williamsburg, but up until 6 years ago I had never been to the site where I now work. It was in my backyard - WHY would I go there? If our history is to be preserved, we need you. Most times, an all day visit to a site with fun for the whole family costs less than the admission to a single movie.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

History's Call to Arms for 2009

Where's George Washington when you need him? The in-the-red cuts are coming!

I rarely use my blog to rant, but today has been ONE of those days. Why is it that, whenever the sword of financial woe strikes, history is expected to bare its breast and take the first thrust? I know times are tough, but there seems to be enough money to keep the stadiums and movie theaters open. Why is it, then, that so many historic sites are being shut down or having their hours severely cut? The site I work at is one of the lucky ones, though our hours have been greatly shortened. Our doors will still be open this season. I run a Yahoo list that is aimed at historic interpreters. I know from them that others have not faired nearly so well. There are states that are contemplating cutting their entire history program. Have we learned nothing? Why is it that people cannot see how precious history is?

Remembering where we have been is what will get us where we need to go. The historic sites in all of the 50 united states are living reminders of where we came from and of what is truly important. They also serve as a check and balance against the fear and panic of such days as the ones we are living in. Have there been periods of financial hardship before? Yes. In the 1790s, the 1830s, and on and on until the great depression. We can learn from those who tell our past just how to survive our future. For all of the children out there, the past is a precious present that cannot be tossed away. Without it, they will have little foundation for tomorrow.

Please, any of you who read this blog, take a moment and send a donation to a local historic site. I don't care if it is $5. If everyone in a city would do that, none of these unique representatives of our past would have to worry or wonder about where their next dollar is coming from; they would have all the money they need. THINK about it. The town I live in - and its a small one -has nearly 25,000 inhabitants. At $5 each, that would give our historical sites and societies $125,000 to spend. I'm sure all of us pick up a pack of cigarettes or drink a mocha at least once a week. Skip it for once and save all of the wonderful people who tell history's tales .

Marla (on the soapbox)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Marla & Kelly on Dayton Public Radio

February 3rd & 5th, 2009

Marla Fair & Kelly Smith of The Gallimaufry Writers' Group will be featured on ArtsFocus hosted by Larry Kensington on Dayton Public Radio WDPR 88.1 & WDPG 89.9 in a two-part segment airing February 3rd & 5th. The first part of the interview will air on Tuesday the 3rd at 7:55 a.m. and 4:55 p.m., and the second at the same times on Thursday, the 5th. Larry was a kind and gracious host and asked all manner of interesting things. Please tune in and support both the program and the Gallimaufrians! If you miss the segments, they will be archived after it airs at

Friday, January 23, 2009


The first week of February 2009, Marla & The Gallimaufry Writers' Group will be featured on Dayton Public Radio. Dates and times will be posted as soon as they are known.

February 7th, 2009, Marla and The Writers of Gallimaufry will hold a book signing at New and Olde Pages Book Shoppe in Englewood, OH. Come and buy a romance or romantic historical for Valentine's Day and give that special someone in your life a few ideas! Featuring the books of Marla Fair, Beth Henderson, Rebekah McCoy & Nioma Stephan. Contact Marianne Guess, owner, at 937-832-3022or 1-800-887-2665. Olde and New Pages Book Shoppe is located at 856Union Road, Englewood, OH. Hours are 10 - 7 Monday through Saturday.

Titles available from Marla at the signing will be: COPPERHEAD: Book One Son of the Silver Fox, Goodnight Robinson: A Tale of Love Across Time, My French Rebel: Book One of the General's Daughter & *NEW* The Flowering Thorn: Book Two of the General's Daughter.

March 13 & 14, 2009, Marla & The Writers of Gallimaufry will appear at the 2009 Book Lovers Festival in Troy, OH. Event dates will be March 13 and 14, 2009 so mark your calendars now. For more information visit or call the book store at (937)339-1707. Registration is $35 and covers: A goodie bag filled with all kinds of goodies, refreshments on Friday night, breakfast on Saturday morning & lunch on Saturday Afternoon.

To register use this link and tell Sue we sent you.
Hope to see you at one or all!