Benjamin Johnston

Benjamin Johnston and Sarah Hamilton

Benjamin2 Johnston, (John1), 24 February 1842 1-8 November 1883. 2 Benjamin was the third child and second son born to John Johnston and his wife Margaret Tait. Benjamin was the first of John and Margaret’s children to be born in what would become the country of Canada. 3 Benjamin’s father died in 1860 and his one older brother, Joseph, died in 1861, leaving him at age 19 the oldest male in the family. For a few years at least he would have helped to care for the farm, his mother, and his other siblings. In 1864 his sister Elizabeth married, and in 1865 his brothers James and Thomas headed for America (James to Bay City, Michigan, and Thomas to Piqua County, Ohio and the Civil War). As of 1865 Ben and his two youngest brothers, Samuel (age 18) and John Jr. (age 8), were the only male members of the family still in the area. On Tuesday 8 October 1867 Ben married Sarah Hamilton in Newmarket. 5 Rev. John Brown of Newmarket performed the ceremony. Jane Brown and Cecelia Burns from Newmarket witnessed the ceremony. Sarah had been born 10 May 1842 in Nova Scotia, the eighth child and third/last daughter of George Hamilton, 1799-10 March 1873, and Jane Patchell, circa 1801-20 September 1888. George Hamilton and Jane Patchell were both born in County Derry, Ireland. Hamilton family tradition indicates that George and two of his brothers emigrated to New Brunswick in 1819. They may have arrived in company with Jane Patchell and her parents Edward Patchell, 3 October 1778-26 May 1854, and Mary (Gettis?), who also emigrated from the Parish of Glendermot, County Derry, Ireland to New Brunswick at about the same time. Some time in the 1830’s George and his family moved to Nova Scotia. 6 By the time the 1851 Canada West (Ontario) census was being taken in early 1852 George and Jane Hamilton had moved from Nova Scotia and eventually settled on a farm near Ravenshoe. Benjamin and Sarah farmed on Lot 19, Concession 1, Scott Township, Ontario County where they had three children. Sometime after 1871 they moved to Lot 4, Concession 5, North Gwillimbury Township, York County, Ontario. By the close of 1882 they had a thriving family of six children. Then tragedy struck. In mid May of 1883 Ben and Sarah lost their infant son. Sometime before November the family moved to the nearby town of Sutton, Ontario. Then in early November an outbreak of diphtheria in that town robbed the family of two more children. Although Ben died in the midst of this diphtheria that afflicted his children his civil death record states that he died after having suffered from “consumption” [tuberculosis] for about ” 12 months “. On 25 November 1883, Ben’s younger brother, Samuel Johnston (1.6), registered all three deaths as having taken place in Georgina township, which included the town of Sutton. The Newmarket Era newspaper commented on the families misfortune. In the Friday, November 16th edition of that paper the following was stated under the heading “Sutton Items”:

“Mr. B. Johns[t]on, who recently moved into the village [Sutton] from Ravenshoe, died last Thursday [November 8] and was buried on Friday. The funeral was largely attended.”

Next week in the Friday, November 23rd edition of the Newmarket Era the “Sutton Items” column continued:

“Diphtheria is also to be found in a few families in this vicinity; another child of the late B. Johns[t]on succumbed to this fatal malady on Tuesday [November 20] morning and was buried in the afternoon – this making the third funeral from that sad home in the short space of about three [actually 15 days] weeks.”

In less than a year the family had been effectively halved. Sarah had lost her husband and two of her children all in one horrifying two-week period. In the 1887 Farmers and Business Directory Sarah is listed as still living in Sutton West while Ben’s brother Samuel is listed as being on the farm. Sarah did not remain on the farm despite the fact that comfort for her and her three remaining children was not far away. Sarah’s mother and several siblings lived on farms located along the same road where Ben and Sarah had lived at what is still known locally as “Mount Pleasant”. On Thursday 5 January 1888 Sarah married Nathaniel Mitchell and moved to the nearby town of Zephyr, Ontario. The 1901 census shows that the two surviving males were still living on the farm. Their young cousins, Samuel Johnston’s children, had moved in next door with the elderly Swains, who were also related through the Shaw family. Since 1842 when Benjamin was given his name, at least seven other descendants of John Johnston have been named Benjamin. Sarah died 18 February 1920. Benjamin, Sarah and their children are buried at Queensville Cemetery, Queensville, Ontario.

1. Joseph Hamilton3 21 August 1868 7 -20 November 1904 8
2. Margaret Jane3 29 March 1870 9 -11 November 1954 10 md Francis Albert Williamson 11 8 children
3. John James3 31 December 1871 12 -5 November 1883 13
4. Mary Luella3 14 June 1876 14 -20 November 1883 15
5. Benjamin Wilmot3 4 August 1879 16 -9 May 1965 17 md Joy Prosser 18 5 children
6. William McLaren3 5 December 1882 19 -19 May 1883 20

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