Jan 23 1938 Nancy Irwin-16 years old
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Johnston
Celebrate Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary
On the boundary between Hay and Stanley, townships about midway
between Blake and Drysdale, is a farm where a highly respected couple Mr. and
Mrs. Thomas Johnston, this winter celebrated their sixtieth wedding anniversary.
They have lived throughout their married life on this farm which has been Mr.
Johnston's home since he was three years of age. Mr. Johnston will celebrate
his eighty-ninth birthday on April 14th. Mrs Johnston will be eighty-two March
Miss Mary Haugh, who lived five miles south on the 14th concession of Hay and
Thomas Johnston, were united in marriage on January 23rd 1878, by Rev Mr.
Cameron, of Kippen. The young couple drove to Kippen for the wedding in a buggy,
a fact which both remember because it was one of the first buggies in the
neighbourhood. The bridesmaid was the bride's sister Barbara who about a year
later became Mrs. Geo. [George?] Kellerman of Dashwood. Patrick Johnston was
In the evening of their wedding day there was a big supper and social gathering
at the home of the bride.
Mr. Johnston was born in Ireland, at Bellamanagh ,Antrim county He was three
years old when his parents came to Canada and was too young to retain memories
of the trip to a "new" home, but recalls the story of this important event in
their lives as told by his parents.
The ocean voyage was made in a sailing vessel and lasted for six weeks and three
days. They brought provisions and cooked their own meals during the voyage. From
Quebec to Toronto they came by boat. A team of horses and a wagon brought 21
persons and all their luggage from Toronto into Western Ontario.
Mr. Johnston does not recall the route followed but knows the wagon eventually
reached Brucefield and Varna. His parents often told of settlers coming out of
their homes at many places along the journey and after chatting with the
travellers usually supplied a drink of milk for all the children. Two other
families, the Renie Armstrong's and the George Irwin's neighbours of the
Johnston's left Ireland at the same time and they travelled together to their
new home. A brother of Mr. Johnston's Mother, Andrew Kain, had come to Canada at
an earlier date and was already settled a mile and a quarter east of Drysdale.
He was at Varna with a big party of friends to meet the wagon bringing the
newcomers from the homeland.
A joyous reunion and welcome took place; recollections of stories in connection
with the gay celebration still bring smiles to Mr. Johnston's face. The fifes
supplied plenty of music, Renie Armstrong himself being a noted fife player.
Details of the event are lacking but apparently they "made the dust fly." The
Armstrong and Irwin families settled on the Gosben line, Stanley. The Johnston
family settled on the Hay -Stanley boundary.
Mr. Johnston was then only three years old and still lives on the farm where his
parents settled. Mr Johnston is the last surviving member of the Johnston
family; his sister Sally (Mrs Patrick Johnston) and his brother William, both of
whom lived nearby on the boundary, passed away many years ago; two other members
of the family died before the family came to this country. Mr. Johnston received
his Father's name, Thomas.
His earliest recollections of happenings in the neighbourhood take Mr. Johnston
back to the building of a log school at Blake; he was about six years old, and
remembers events in connection with the erection of the school in a vague way
but clearly recalls starting to school just after its completion, because he was
at first afraid to go a mile or more through the bush alone and his Mother
accompanied him most of the way.
The first teacher was Miss Roach who taught a short time at Blake; a brother
Thomas Roach later taught the school for a number of years. Other early teachers
were Wm. [William?] Armstrong and Thomas Currie. Some of the pupils of that time
who went into the professions were Rev. Archie McKibbon; Dr. Samuel McKibbon who
practiced at Fairgrove Michigan; John Sherritt became a teacher.
The log school was a place of worship for a time. Revival meetings were also
held within its walls. Rev. Mr. Duncan came once a month from Varna. Services
were also held at various homes in the vicinity. Mr. Johnston remembers the many
logging bees when much wood was cut and burned in order to get the land cleared.
He recalls walking to Bayfield with his Mother while he was still a small boy.
One of the older generation, James Sherritt, was a particularly strong man and
it is related that he walked all the way to Goderich with a bag of grain on his
shoulder, had the flour made and carried it home.
Mr. Johnston is still very active for his years; last summer he was busy during
the harvest driving the binder as expertly as ever. In recent years he carved a
sleek deer's head from wood and mounted on it deer horns sent from Northern
Mrs. Johnston is like her husband, still quite active. She will be 82 years of
age on March 23rd. Formerly Mary Haugh, daughter of John and Mary Haugh she was
born in Rainham Twp. [Township?] near Lake Erie, and came with her parents at a
very early age to the 14th concession of Hay Twp. [Township?] near Dashwood. Of
a family of twelve children two brothers and two sisters are now living; Dan
Haugh of Dashwood, Chris H. Haugh of Brucefield; Mrs. James(Lydia)Twitchen of
London and Mrs. Slim (Barbara) Schluchter of Pigeon, Michigan.
Transcribed by Elizabeth Prentice