Johnston Farm Renovation Campaign

 
Sharing the Vision Campaign

The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency sits on 250 scenic acres in Miami County near the Great Miami River. This farm and museum celebrates 2,000 years of Ohio's rich history, from prehistoric Indians to the Ohio's canal era.

Central to this site is John Johnston's home, his extraordinary career and amazing life with wife Rachel and their fifteen children during the early 1800s.

The Sharing the Vision Campaign will raise the funds necessary to return the Johnston's family home to what it would have been when the family lived there.

Original renovations in the 1960s stabilized the home and concentrated on showcasing a home of that time period. However recent research has uncovered a better understanding of what the interior of the home looked like during the period the Johnston family resided there. We are fortunate that so much of the original woodwork - the mantelpieces, the doors, the chair rail etc. - were salvaged fifty years ago by John Carpenter, the contractor engaged by the Ohio Historical Society. We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his skill and foresight.

We ask that you consider contributing to this important effort. Your gift, no matter the amount, will help restore the home to what we today understand to be its original condition. In turn, future generations will have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of how the family lived, and how they influenced the course of history.


Sharing the Vision Campaign Committee

Michael and Elizabeth Gutmann, Co-Chairs
Dan and Margaret French, Honorary Co-Chairs
Richard Adams, PhD
Mike Barhorst
Brett Baumeister
Cheryl Buecker
Karen Crump
Scott Mueller

 
Johnston Farm Campaign Goals

 John Johnston's Two Great Loves
Johnston Farm Renovation Campaign

 John Johnston experienced love at first sight twice in his life. The first occasion was when he traveled through the upper Miami Valley. The second was when he met Rachel Hoping Robinson.

Both loves were transformative, changing not only his life but also the lives of countless others to this very day. Born March 25, 1775, young John Johnston immigrated to America from Ireland at just eleven years of age. His parents and five siblings followed five years later, joining John in Pennsylvania.

As a wagoner in General "Mad" Anthony Wayne's Legion of the United States, Johnston was in his teens when he first set eyes on the verdant land along the Great Miami river that would be his family's home.

Returning to Pennsylvania, Johnston spent several years working as a law clerk. When he was 27, he met Rachel Hoping Robinson, and fell in love for the second time in his life. John and Rachel eloped on July 15, 1802 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Appointed as Indian factor for the newly established trading agency in Fort Wayne, Indiana, the young couple settled there. The early years of John and Rachel's married life were not easy. Far removed from the comforts of Pennsylvania, the first five of fifteen children were born at Fort Wayne - the first Caucasian children born in that part of the wilderness.

In 1811 Johnston asked to be transfered to a new Indian agency being established in Piqua, Ohio. Moving his family to the land he saw as a teenager, he began construction of their home.

The Johnston's life in Upper Piqua was filled with activity. Their family grew by ten more children, Johnston dealt fairly with the Native Americans, was a progressive farmer, canal commissioner, a published author, a founder of Kenyon College, a trustee of Miami University, and a member of the Board of Visitors at West Point.

John and Rachel Johnston were married for 38 years before Rachel became ill and eleven days later, died on July 24, 1840. John Johnston was devastated. His bereavement after the death of his wife caused him to leave the home he loved, living in Cincinnati and Dayton with his daughters.

John Johnston traveled to Washington, DC in 1861 and died there February 18, 1861. His body was returned to Piqua on February 22, 1861, and laid to rest next to his beloved Rachel. There, John Johnston was reunited in death with his two loves.

 

The First Restoration of the Johnston Family Home

 Preserving historic buildings is vital to understanding our nation's heritage. The building boom spawned by the end of World War II was relentlessly future-oriented. The decision whether to restore or demolish a building often depended primarily on financial issues relating to real estate value, economic potential and functionality of the existing structure. If something was old and obsolete, the logical move was to get rid of it.

Even structures that were preserved were altered. Certainly that was the case with the Johnston's family home. The home, as it existed, was evaluated in terms of what was known at the time. For example, were the mantelpieces that were in the home when it was acquired by the state of Ohio original? What would a home on the edge of the American frontier actually have looked like? It was believed that the features in the Johnston family home were more indicative of a home in an upscale neighborhood in Philadelphia in 1814 than a home on the Ohio frontier.

As a result, the best minds of the time decided that the home should simply be reconstructed in a way that was typical of what a home in this part of the country ought to look like. The chair rail, the mantelpieces and the bannister were removed. Even the door to Colonel Johnston's Indian Agency office was removed and replaced with a window.

There is no question that the restoration work that was done from 1968-1972 saved the home. There is no chance to renovate or to save a historic site once it's gone. And we can never be certain what will be valued in the future — fortunately, the contractor (John Carpenter) who undertook the work was certain that the mantelpieces, chair rail and other features removed from the home were original.

Instructed to remove those features, Mr. Carpenter did so with care. Fortunately, he placed them in the loft of the barn, where they remained for the next four decades.

The thousands of visitors who have toured the home since it opened to the public in 1972 by the Ohio Historical Society (now the Ohio History Connection) have been in a place that provides an idea of what life was like for the Johnston family. This restoration project is a unique opportunity to add significant historical accuracy to the structure so that if the Johnston's could visit, they would immediately recognize it as theirs. Even so, it has provided those many visitors with an idea of what life was like for the Johnston family.

 

Johnston Farm Renovation Campaign
 

Sharing the Vision

 Now that the architects and historians have completed their work, carefully analyzing data from multiple sources including photographs taken before and during the restoration undertaken between 1968 and 1972, documentation including family letters, historical layers of paint analyzed room by room, it is time to undertake the work necessary to return John and Rachel's home to a condition they would easily recognize if they were to walk through the front door.

It is anticipated that the immediate work necessary to return the Johnston home to its original condition will cost $285,460. This includes rebuilding the staircase to its original grandeur, re-installing and restoring all of the preserved mantelpieces and doors, new trim as needed, plaster and painting, and other miscellaneous details that will need attention.

It is estimated that since the home was open for tours, more than 180,000 school children have visited. If you can imagine all those little feet tromping through your home, you will have some idea as to the wear and tear on the home over the course of what will soon be half a century.

All those little feet may compare to what Rachel Johnston experienced herself. As John wrote years later, "In the front room, the floor would be covered with blankets, cloaks, buffalo robes, and such articles as travelers carry with them for the purpose of camping out. No one ever looked for a bed in those times. It was not unusual for twenty or thirty persons to lodge with us for a night. Indians, missionaries, soldiers — General Harrison and his aides were often guests. We lived on the extreme edge of the frontier, and travelers could nowhere else find accommodations."

 

 

Renovation Pledge Card

Printable Gift & Pledge Card

 

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     9845 N. Hardin Rd.
     Piqua, OH 45356
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