WILLIAM A. JOHNSTON, a practical and successful farmer, living in the town of Lenox, Madison County, was born in the town of Smithfield, March 17. 1836. His father, Alexander Johnston. was born in Ireland, and was brought to this country by his parents when three years old. He was a son of Samuel Johnston and his wife (a Miss Thompson before marriage), who were the parents of four sons and four daughters, all of whom have now passed away. With the exception of one of the daughters, all became heads of families.
Alexander Johnston married Lois Mathewson, of Smithfield, daughter of Winchester and Abigail (Swift) Mathewson, the former of whom was a native of Rhode Island, and the latter of Connecticut. They were married February 9, 1832, he at the age of twenty-nine, she at nineteen; and they spent their married lives on their one-hundred-acre farm in the town of Smithfield, which they purchased of Gerrit Smith, paying therefor twenty-five dollars per acre. The timber which covered the farm at the time of purchase Mr. Johnston cut down and cleared off, burning it up, for the most part to get it out of the way, but selling some of it for fifty cents per cord to the glass works in Peterboro. Beginning life without cash capital, Mr. Johnston by industry and wise management acquired a good fortune. He and his wife reared a family of eight children, namely: Abigail, widow of James N. Green, living near the old home in the town of Smithfield; Mary Ann, who died at the age of sixteen, in 1850; William A., the subject of this sketch; Eliashib, a wheat-buyer of Ashton, Spink County, So. Dak.; Winchester, living on the old farm; Isabella, wife of Anderson Johnston, of Peterboro; Barton, a bachelor, living on the old homestead, and Marshall, who died in 1873, at the age of twenty-four, leaving two sons, merchants in Peterboro. The father of these children died August 25, 1850, at the age of forty-seven; and the mother, after living a widow thirty-five years and having successfully reared and educated her children, died August 31, 1885. Both she and her husband were members of the Presbyterian church, and were earnest, consistent Christian people. They were laid to rest in the cemetery at Peterboro.
William A. Johnston was reared at home to farm life and labor, and, being the eldest son, was obliged to work hard in his early boyhood and youth. His education was received in the district schools, which he was able to attend only in the winter season. A universal feature of pioneer life seldom mentioned in these memoirs, but which Mr. Johnston well remembers, was the wide, open fireplace, where cooking was done in a big black iron pot hanging on a crane over the fire. Victuals cooked in this way were, as Mr. Johnston now remembers, more palatable to the taste than any that he has eaten since. The food was of his mother's cooking, and was eaten with the appetite oŁ youth. On August 16, 1862, Mr. Johnston left home to defend the flag of his country against armed rebellion, as a member of Company A, First New York Light Artillery, under Captain Bates, the company being known as Bates's Battery. After serving nearly three years, he was honorably discharged June 28, 1863, having been promoted from the ranks to a sergeancy. In his war experience Mr. Johnston was more than ordinarily fortunate, not being sick, wounded, or taken prisoner, although he had a narrow escape from capture at Chambersburg, Pa., when that place was burned by the rebels.
Mr. Johnston married March 17, 1869, Miss Mary Allen, daughter of George and Arvilla (Whitman) Allen, the former of Rhode Island, and the latter born on the farm upon which she died October 224, 1884, aged seventy-nine, her husband having died in 1851, at the age of fifty years. By trade Mr. Allen was a carpenter, and came, when
yet a young man, from Rhode Island to Madison County, where he married Fannie Pratt, August 30, 1825, who died of consumption July 30, 1828, leaving a son and a daughter. The son died at the age of seventeen, and the daughter at the age of twenty-two years. December 24, 1829, Mr. Allen married Arvilla Whitman, by whom he had four children, and reared two sons and one daughter--Mrs. Johnston. John Milton, the eldest son, died at the age of twenty-six, leaving four children, of whom two are still living: Charles Milton, a manufacturer in Fulton; and John T., a carpenter, of Syracuse. Myron Stuart Allen, the younger son, now of Delphi, Onondaga County, married Miss Flaville Tucker, a sister of O. J. Tucker. They have four children, the eldest, John B., being a physician of Woodstock.
Before marriage Mrs. Johnston attended Oneida and Cazenovia Seminaries, and later taught school three terms, beginning when seventeen years old. She was married at twenty years of age. The house in which she now lives was erected in 1813 by Asa Randall, and for a house eighty years old is still in a remarkably good state of preservation. The farm on which this house stands was purchased by Mrs. Johnston's father in 1849, and she has lived upon it since she was three months old. The memories therewith connected are of the most sacred character to Mrs. Johnston; for it was long the home of her mother, who was a widow for thirty-three years, an invalid the last fifteen, and was the place where her father and her mother's father, John Whitman, spent their last days. Mrs. Johnston's maternal grandfather, John Whitman, was a son of Valentine and Barbara (Olin) Whitman, of Rhode Island. He married Mary James, and came with her first to Vermont, and thence to New York, where their first child was born in
1801, the father being at that time only twenty years old. They became the parents of thirteen children. Mr. John Whitman died in 1862, when eighty-two years old. His wife died in 1853, aged seventy-two. He was a most remarkable man in many ways, and at the time of his death was worth some twenty-five thousand dollars. So much confidence had the people in him that they elected him to various positions of honor and trust, in every one of which, including those of justice of the Peace and Representative in the State Assembly, he acquitted himself creditably and with satisfaction to all concerned. His wife's father, Mrs. Johnston's maternal great-grandfather, James, a farmer in good circumstances, died at his daughter's home in 1814, a very aged man. He left eight children, of whom Mrs. Johnston's grandmother was the third child.
The subject, of this sketch, William A. Johnston, has never failed to vote the Republican ticket. In his farming, though he has not accumulated a fortune, he has been successful, and has justly acquired the reputation of being a most worthy citizen of the great republic. Not being blessed with children of their own, Mr. and Mrs. Johnston take great interest in the children of other people,
especially in their education, and are always ready to contribute to their happiness and advancement. Mrs. Johnston presides over her home with grace and dignity.
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