PIQUA — Following brief introductory remarks offered as master of ceremonies by Johnston Farm Friends Council board member Richard Adams, the Piqua Veterans Elite Tribute Squad posted the colors. As the Piqua High School Band’s Director Mitch Mahaney conducted the musicians as they played the Star-Spangled Banner, the audience, appreciative of the large tent that shielded them from the afternoon’s blazing sun, joined in singing the National Anthem.
Johnston Farm Friends Council President Mike Gutmann expressed his appreciation for all of those who had been instrumental in the property being purchased five decades ago, the home and barn being restored, and the museum being constructed. “Now a half-century later, we’ve restored the home to more what it looked like when the Johnston Family lived here and we’ve made our third addition to the museum. Certainly we thank the State of Ohio for their foresight in recognizing the significance of the site, and for their continued efforts to assist in maintaining the property.”
Piqua Mayor Cindy Pearson read her proclamation, in which she paid tribute to the site’s role as an educational resource. She also noted the site’s role in illustrating family life on the frontier, John Johnston’s role as a Federal Indian Agent and as an Ohio Canal Commissioner, as well as the site as a valuable resource for the thousands of students who visit each year.
Miami County Commissioner Greg Simmons noted he did not often read proclamations, but would in this case because of the “historical information the proclamation contained. “The Johnston Farm officially opened for visitors on September 3, 1972, one of the 58 historic sites now owned by the State of Ohio and Operated by Ohio History Connection.”
“The site was first occupied by one of the pre-Columbian, mound-building cultures thousands of years ago, with one of their mounds a part of the site,” Simmons continued. “The mound builders were displaced by the indigenous tribes who were forced westward due to European settlement in the Eastern part of the continent,”
Simmons said “the Miami Indian village of Pickawillany was constructed along the Miami River on the site and flourished as a trading center until it was destroyed on June 21, 1752, by a combined force of French and Indians as a prelude to the French and Indian War.”
“General “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s Legion of the United States constructed Fort Piqua in 1792 along the river approximately where the museum is located today,” Simmons continued. “John Johnston accompanied General Wayne’s Legion of the United States, first becoming acquainted with the site at that time. He determined that he would one-day own the property because of its natural beauty and ‘never failing spring of purest and coldest water’.”
Simmons noted that “John and Rachel Johnston raised their 15 children here, and it is here that John’s beloved wife Rachel, several of their children, and John himself is buried.”
Simmons also mentioned that “John Johnston was first appointed an Indian agent by President Thomas Jefferson in 1802 in Fort Wayne, and later relocated to Upper Piqua in 1811. Because of the trust the tribes under his care had for his integrity, he was able to convince the Miami, Shawnee, Wyandot, Seneca and Delaware people to remain neutral in the War of 1812, likely insuring American victory in the war.”
Simmons also noted Johnston’s many other contributions. “John Johnston was a progressive farmer, a canal commissioner, a founder of Kenyon College, a trustee of Miami University, a published author, and a member of the Board of Visitors of West Point.”
“The barn, constructed in part from logs from Fort Piqua, is thought to be the oldest barn in Ohio,” Simmons said.
Simmons then moved the history of the site forward about a century. “During the Civil War, the grounds became Camp Piqua, which remained in use from 1862 to 1864 as the training ground for the 94th and the 110th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiments.” Simmons concluded his remarks by stating that as a young man, he lived nearby, and recalled with fondness taking short cuts along the canal through the property.
Representing Ohio History Connection was their new executive director, Megan Wood. In her comments, she spoke of the organization’s mission.
“We were established in 1885 as the state’s history partner back when our name was the Ohio State Historical and Archaeological Society. Our mission is to spark discovery of Ohio’s stories, to embrace the present, share the past, and transform the future. Our main method of fulfilling this mission is through our extensive network of sites.”
“The Johnston Farm and Indian Agency has been a part of our network of sites for 50 years,” Wood continued. “A place like the Johnston Farm is a way for Ohioans and visitors to connect to a long human history on this land. Here we have an earthwork constructed by the ancient American Indians, we have the canal cutting through revolutionizing transportation and the movement of goods. And, fifty years ago, we have the recognition of how we were losing histories and awakening to saving our history.”
“I want to thank Andy Hite and his staff and the Johnston Farm Friends Council for their daily stewardship of this site, and for raising the money that made it possible to bring the Johnston family home closer to its original glory,” Wood stated.
“Ohio History Connection is striving to improve every community that we touch,” Wood noted. “By bringing people together, by cultivating pride and by encouraging economic development, we work to accomplish our mission. Our partners like the Johnston Farm Friends Council, help us realize those aspirations every day”
Site Manager Andy Hite spoke briefly thanking staff past and present, the board members, and the donors who had supported the site throughout the past fifty years. He then invited all those present to visit the newly renovated museum, the home, barn and springhouse, and to take a ride on the canal boat.
“Next Saturday would have been the actual 50th Anniversary,” Hite noted, “but when we looked at the football schedule and saw that Ohio State was playing Notre Dame, we decided that if we wanted anyone to attend, we needed to change the date.”
The program concluded with the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad retiring the colors as the Piqua High School Band played a medley of patriotic tunes.