Things to See at Johnston Farm

exhibits
  • Johnston Farm MuseumPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Johnston Farm MuseumPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Johnston Farm MuseumPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Johnston Farm MuseumPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Johnston Farm MuseumPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith

Johnston Farm Museum

"On the ground stood one of General Wayne's Forts...after the troops were withdrawn the buildings, pickets and blockhouses were left intact. ...the military had 40 or 50 acres under cultivation and under good fence..."
Letter ~ John Johnston, 1858 

The museum, some '400 paces' from Johnston's farm as John Johnston recorded, is a modern building, which was constructed to resemble the blockhouse style of Fort Piqua, General Anthony Wayne's 18th-century supply post. Exhibits trace the story of the Eastern Woodland Indians of Ohio and the Pickawillany village site. Restroom facilities and a gift shop are located in the museum.

The patio portion of the museum building allows visitors the opportunity to view a restored mile-long section of the Miami and Erie Canal, which extended the length of Ohio from Toledo to Cincinnati. Inside, interpretive panels explore Johnston's later role as a state canal commissioner and provide an introduction to how canals helped in the development and expansion of frontier Ohio. Guests may enjoy a ride aboard the General Harrison of Piqua, a replica 70-foot-long canal boat often used for transportation of passengers and cargo in the 19th century. Costumed guides direct the mule-drawn boat to provide an authentic and memorable experience for all.

WOWSlider
  • 1815 FarmhousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1815 FarmhousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Drawing RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • Dining RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • Parents' RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • Boys' RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • Girls' RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • Grandma's RoomPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair
  • KitchenPhoto courtesy of Marla Fair

1815 Farmhouse

"As soon as I heard of the change I came in from Fort Wayne, gave the legal owner his price, and entered as much woodland adjoining as I wanted, and there became at last fixed in a home to my mind."
Letter ~ John Johnston, 1838 

John Johnston's three story Federal farmhouse (including a winter kitchen and office level set below ground) was a unique structure on the Ohio frontier, acting as both a family home and the only Federal Indian Agency in the state. Construction began somewhere between 1811 and 1812 and was completed after the conclusion of the War of 1812 in 1815. During that time the Johnstons lived in a large two story log house located just west of the brick structure which, unfortunately, no longer exists.

The materials for the home were drawn from the land, with the bricks being made in kilns located to the east and north of the house. John Keyt, a brick layer and mason, was brought in to burn the bricks and to superintend the construction of the house. Keyt had been educated in the trade of brick masonry in New York, and came from New Jersey.

exhibits
  • 1808 Double Pen BarnPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1808 Double Pen BarnPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1808 Double Pen BarnPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1808 Double Pen Barn and HorsesPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith

1808 Double Pen Barn

"Expense of building a log house 26x36, two stories high, $300; clearing and fencing ten acres of meadow $200; twenty acres of upland, etc.,$200, other buildings, $300." 
John Johnston Memorandum book, 1808

With the intention of becoming a “gentleman farmer,” John Johnston began development of his Upper Piqua farm in 1808 with a two-story log cabin and one of his "other buildings," this double pen log barn. The surrounding outer sheds were built to protect the log pens from the weather.

One of the oldest structures of its kind in Ohio, the barn is built around two hand-hewn log pens, each sixty-foot square. The barn served the family’s farming activities and was a storage facility for trade goods Johnston needed when the farm was the Piqua Indian Agency.

 

exhibits
  • 1815 SpringhousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1815 SpringhousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • 1815 SpringhousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith

1815 Springhouse

"It was a warm summer's day, and he (Johnston) took me to his spring and gave me a drink of pure, cold water, the quality of which he praised with the air of a prince." 
Henry Howe, 1886 Historical Collections of Ohio 

Down the hill and toward the river from the Johnston's brick house lies a two story spring house. Built between 1808 and 1815, this large structure was a center of activity. Through the bottom of it, utilized in a cooling room and bucket drop, runs the original spring from which the Johnston family drew their water. The top floor of the brick structure was devoted to textile production, with an upper loft where hired hands could sleep. The room facing the river served, on the bottom floor, as a place to make candles, lye soap, or - perhaps - use the water and fireplace for a private bath!

 

exhibits
  • 1828 Cider HousePhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Letter Letter from microfilm located at the Piqua Public Library

1828 Cider House

This recreation of the Johnston's 1828 Cider House brings to mind cool autumn afternoons when the frontier family would gather together to peel and process apples to create products that would prove invaluable to them throughout the year. The Johnstons made both hard and soft cider, which were used as products for sale and trade, as well as apple cider vinegar.

Apples were one of John Johnston's main crops. He was known for innovative farming and had at least two orchards with eight varieties of apples, including Golden Pippins and McMahon's.

 

 

 

exhibits
  • General Harrison Canal BoatPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • General Harrison Canal BoatPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • General Harrison Canal BoatPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • General Harrison Canal BoatPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • General Harrison Canal BoatPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith

 

"Our canal is progressing. We can see it from our door. I have nothing particular to write about so will conclude with all our love to you."
Rachel Johnston to Robinson Johnston, Jan'r 1st, 1835


General Harrison Canal Boat

Following the War of 1812, Ohio saw a movement to improve internal transportation. Road building began in earnest at this time, however; a way to move large quantities of goods, mainly farm produce, quickly and cheaply, was of primary concern. In 1825, after the completion by New York of the Erie Canal, Ohio broke ground for her own canals. To oversee the construction of this new transportation system, a seven member Canal Commission was appointed. John Johnston was one of the seven named to this Board. Through his work not only was the Ohio-Erie Canal constructed through central Ohio, but also the Miami-Erie Canal became a part of the landscape of western Ohio. The canals of Ohio did exactly what they were built to do: farmers could, by 1845, ship goods to markets more cheaply; items came to areas such as Piqua at a much lower cost; businesses grew along the canals; economic prosperity brought more people to western Ohio. Thanks in large part to the efforts of John Johnston, Piqua and Miami County now had an outlet to the world. The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency is proud to own and operate one of Ohio's working canal boats still drawn, as it was nearly two centuries ago, by a team of mules. Guests may enjoy a ride aboard the General Harrison of Piqua, a replica 70-foot-long canal boat often used for transportation of passengers and cargo in the 19th century. Costumed guides direct the mule-drawn boat to provide an authentic and memorable experience for all.

Excerpt from A Window in Time by Andy Hite

 

 

exhibits
  • Adena Indian Mound and EarthworkPhoto courtesy of Richard Smith
  • Adena Indian Mound and Earthwork1950s photo from the book, John Johnston and the Indians, by Leaonrd U. Hill

Adena Indian Mound and Earthwork

"On the road from Piqua to this stone wall we passed a very large mound, which had been partially cut down in order to make room for the road. This mound has, as we believe, never been opened. In this vicinity and near the bank of the river is the residence of Colonel John Johnston, the Indian agent, a man whom we judge to be of estimable feelings as, unlike most of the settlers in this new country, he has respected the remains of these Indian works, and has not suffered the ploughshare to pass through them."
J. C. Smiley

Approximately 3,000 years ago, an entirely new way of life had begun to develop that is known as Adena. This culture made many advances over their ancestors’ ways of life. People began to live in small hamlets of 15-20 individuals. Their homes were built from wood, and could protect them from the weather very well. Artistic skills began to be more highly developed, and pottery was manufactured in quantities large enough for everyday life. The people began to build mounds and earthworks, like this one for ceremonial reasons. Perhaps the most important thing the Adena did was to begin planting seeds and raising gardens to increase their food supplies.
The Adena mound and earth work found on the Johnston Farm was preserved for the future by John Johnston's care and compassion, and can still be seen today.
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