Joseph Johnston

Joseph2 Johnston, (John1), 17 March 1840-21 January 1861. 1 Joseph was the second child and first son of John Johnston and Margaret Tait. Joseph was born on or about 17 March 1840 in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. The inscription on Joseph’s gravestone states that he was 20 years, 10 months and four days of age on 21 January 1861. This may be the only source for the date of his birth. The 1851 Canada West census, which was taken in early 1852, states that he and his older sibling Elizabeth, were born in “Pennsylvania”. 2 Perhaps Joe was born in the city of Philadelphia like his older sister Elizabeth. The family entered what was to become the country of Canada in 1840, the same year as Joe was born. If we apply the “Scottish naming pattern”, Joseph, as the second child and very first son of John and Margaret, could have been named after his paternal grandfather. Therefore, “Joseph Johnston” may have been the name of his paternal grandfather. The census report for 1861 mentions two deaths in the family, one at 21 years of age due to consumption that had to have been Joseph. Very little else is now known about Joseph, however, we can realize that pioneer farming would have been very strenuous especially after his father had passed away. For exactly five months Joseph would have become the head farmer in the absence of his father. The condition of his health during these months we can only guess. After Joseph passed away his younger brother, Benjamin, would have taken over caring for the Johnston farm. Benjamin had three younger teenage brothers that would have been able to help. There were now eight Johnston children to help or be cared for, four of whom were still in school. The wisdom and necessity of having large families during the pioneering era become clear when we consider the effort required to live off of the land. Joseph’s gravestone is placed alongside the gravestone of his father at the “Pioneer Cemetery” which is located at the top of Center Street in Mount Albert, Ontario.

1 Joseph Johnston gravestone, Mount Albert Methodist Pioneer Cemetery, Center Street, Mount Albert, York Region, Ontario. Joseph’s gravestone states that he died January 21, 1861, aged 20 years, 10 months and 4 days. Joseph’s date of birth can therefore be calculated as 17 March 1840.
2 Microfilm reel number C-11,761, District No. 4, East Gwillimbury Township, York County, Canada West, page 97. National Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario. The 1851 Canada West census, which was taken in early 1852, states that the two oldest children, Elizabeth and Joseph, were born in Pennsylvania. Located by the author 27 08 1996.

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