UPPER PIQUA OHIO, 1815
Abraham Robinson Johnston was born to John Johnston and Rachel Hoping Robinson Johnston in
May of 1815. His father, John, was an Irish immigrant from Enniskillen Parrish, County Fermanagh
in Ireland. John Johnston's clan was known there as the 'gentle Johnstones'. Robinson's ancestors
had been given land by King William for military service, but apparently the family was not cash
wealthy. John's father, Stephen, who came to Fermanagh as a soldier fighting the Catholics, married
Elizabeth Bernard, a child of Huguenots, who had inherited her grandparents' fortune of
approximately 10,000 pounds sterling. It is my personal belief that this woman not only brought the
family to America by her wealth, but continued throughout her long life of 89 years to have great
influence over both her son, and his sons and daughters. Robinson would have known her well. His
mother, Rachel, was from Philadelphia, the daughter of Quakers. She grew up in the country's
capital in the midst of the forming of the new nation, living near both George Washington and
Benjamin Franklin. In marrying John Johnston, Rachel abandoned her faith and family, and traveled
with him into the American wilderness and a kind of life she most likely had never conceived.
Robinson was one of 15 children, 14 of whom survived to adulthood. He was the second son of 5
boys, giving the Johnston's 10 girls! Robinson was close to his elder brother, Stephen, in spite of
the fact that 12 years separated them and, when Robinson was only 5 years old, Stephen left to join
the Navy. In a way he was another 'first' son. It is my belief that Robinson, more than Stephen,
reflected his father's personality and interests. I believe he was also closer to his father. Stephen's
letters begin 'honoured father' and often end with your 'dutiful' or 'obedient' son. There is a
formality to them, not a bad one, but they are the letters of one accomplished man writing to
another. Robinson's letters are to his 'Pa'. Signed most often 'your affectionate' son, they are
almost always addressed 'my dear father'.
If one takes the letters and lives of John Johnston's family and tries to piece them together - there is
precious little info about the children in what is available from 1800 to 1840 - one comes away with
an impression of a very well-educated, intelligent and humorous group of people. They were not
immensely wealthy, but were comfortable. As John Johnston put it himself - 'I had not wealth, but a
competency, stayed out of debt, and made two ends of the year meet." ref. Recollections of Sixty
Years by John Johnston . They had fine things like Wedgwood and silver, were of good social
standing, and connected with all of the 'right' people including General William Henry Harrison and
the Patterson family of Dayton. Their girls were boarding school educated - all of them. In their
letters every one of them is literate, writing with only rare mis-spellings and very few mistakes.
They lived a life somewhat rare for Miami County, Ohio in the earliest years of the nineteenth
century - until a change in political fortunes cost John Johnston his federal job. John was a Whig
and the new president, Andrew Jackson, a Democrat. John lost his job and a salary of over $200,000
dollars per annum by today's standards.
With this, in 1830 when Robinson was 15, everything changed. It is my opinion, backed by his
father's words, that this is why Robinson was sent to West Point. It was a free education.
With his admission to West Point, Robinson's time as a 'boy' ended and so did his days at Upper
|The south face of Robinson's home as it looks today... and might have looked yesterday.
John Johnston and Rachel
Hoping Johnston, original
wedding portraits courtesy of
Mike Thomas Haydock Jr, a
descendant through their eldest
daughter, Elizabeth. John
Johnston was 27 years old and
Rachel, just two days away
from 17. They married July