Patrick Johnston and Louise Knox – Our People, Our Heritage

Patrick Johnston and Louise Knox

This is the story of two ordinary people who, in search of a better life, migrated to Canada in the early 1800’s.

They were both born in Antrim, Belfast, Northern Ireland and knew each other in their early days there, but came to Canada separately, only to meet up later and marry.

Louise Bell Knox 1822 -1911

Louise Knox was born in 1822. We know little of her life in Ireland, except that she came from a large family of two brothers and five sisters, Louise being the third youngest. From what we know, she moved with her older sister, Eleanor, and Eleanor’s husband John Kerr, to the area around Mountain, Ontario. While we are uncertain of the date they left Belfast, Eleanor’s first child, Robert, was born in Canada in November of 1840, so the chances are good that they left prior to this date quite possibly in 1839. Louise would have been around 16 years old when she started out on her big adventure. Settling in Mountain Township with her sister and brother-in-law, she would no doubt have been a great help to her older sister and her young family.

Patrick Johnston, 1819-1892

Patrick Johnston was born in Antrim, Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1819. It was said that he was the least educated of his three brothers (John, Samuel and James) and one sister, Eleanor. This may have been the reason he decided to leave the security of his home and immigrate to Canada. Perhaps as a young man in his 20’s, he was just out looking for adventure. We know nothing about his sailing and arrival in Canada. The ship on which he sailed most likely took him to Montreal, where he would have then taken a smaller ship up river and then by road to his final destination of Elizabethtown, or what is now known as Brockville. What brought him to Brockville is unknown.

He must have travelled around the area, because on one of his trips to Bytown (Ottawa), he ran into a friend from Belfast who told him that Louise was living in the Mountain area. Patrick found his childhood friend Louise. They were married around 1845 and settled west of Brockville. Their first house was located in what is now Oakland Cemetery. The stone foundation can still be seen in the westerly portion of the cemetery, backing onto Grant’s Creek. Judging by the size of the foundation the house was small, probably a log house, with a dirt floor and loft for sleeping.

Patrick and Louise started their family with the birth of their first child William James in 1846, who died the next year in 1847. Their family grew as the years went by and eventually they had nine children, six boys and three girls. Two of the boys died in their youth, William at 1 year and David at 3. Both children would have been buried in an unmarked area of the cemetery reserved for children.

The Rock School built in 1844

Their children would have gone to school at the Rock School House, a stone school built in 1844 and located just west of where they were living.

Patrick was a cabinet and furniture maker as well as a mechanic, perhaps a “Jack of All Trades”. How good he was is unknown, but he must have been able to make enough money to support his wife and seven remaining children. At some point the family moved from their small cabin to a house located on the Halleck’s Road just west of where the Lyn Road used to cross over the Grand Trunk RR Tracks. (The location is now buried by Highway 401.)

Home purchased by John F. Johnston in 1887

In 1887 with their family grown and having moved out, their youngest son John, purchased a house and farm with 75 acres on the Lyn Road just south of the Grand Trunk Railroad. Patrick and Louise moved in with him and the three of them lived together in this small, five-room house. In May of 1891 John married Lilly Bell Patterson, and she moved in with her new husband and his parents. Perhaps the last thing a new bride wanted in those days was to live with her in-laws, but she accepted it and they all managed together.

In August of 1892 Patrick, at the age of 73, met an untimely death. He unfortunately had taken a “fondness to Drink” and would take the ferry from Brockville across to Morristown, N.Y when the taverns were closed in Brockville. On one of his adventures to Morristown, he may have had a bit too much to drink, for on his return when stepping off the ferry onto the dock at Brockville, he slipped into the water between the ferry and dock and drowned. An inquest into his death was held, and the corner ruled it an “Accidental Drowning”.

Louise continued to live with her son John and his wife Lilly Bell, and their family of three small girls, until her death in 1911 at aged 88. She was remembered as a very kind woman, who would sit rocking in her rocking chair smoking a clay pipe.

Their children married and had their own families. The boys grew into tall men, all over 6 feet.

Windsor Hotel Bar c 1900

Samuel went into the “Saloon” business and somehow managed to scrape together funds to purchase a Saloon/Hotel in Brockville called the Commercial Hotel. After selling that, he bought the Windsor Hotel located on Perth St. The building still stands today, but not as a hotel. Sam’s two brothers John and Stewart would work for him on weekends acting as ‘bouncers’ for those customers who got too rowdy. Samuel died in 1909.

John is the tall man on the deck next to the monument

John learned the trade of a stone mason and worked for a time at the Brockville Cemetery Memorial Works, and later went out on his own as a stone mason. Some of his work can still be seen around the area. He died in 1950.

Stewart moved to Gananoque and met an untimely death by drowning in the St. Lawrence River in 1902.

William, (named after his deceased older brother who passed away at the age of one), worked as a painter at Canada Carriage, a very large carriage factory in Brockville. He died in 1918.

Patrick and Louise along with their son Stewart lie buried in Oakland Cemetery across the road from where they first lived.

The descendants of Patrick and Louisa now number over 600 known relations and have moved throughout Canada and the United States.

This is the story of two ordinary people who moved to Canada in search of a better life. In so doing they gave their descendants a chance to grow and thrive in a free and democratic society.

Oakland Cemetery Tombstone for Louise Johnston
Oakland Cemetery, Tombstone for Patrick Johnston
News Story on the death of Patrick Johnston

News Article from the Evening Recorder, Monday, August 29, 1892

Accident or Suicide

Another Body Found in the River

Between six and seven o’clock this morning the body of a man was found floating in the Transit’s slip at the C.P.R. dock by a labourer named Kelly. He immediately gave an alarm and a large crowd was soon gathered. The remains were quickly identified as those of an elderly cabinet maker named Patrick Johnston, who resided west of the town on the Lyn road. After being taken from the water the body was given in charge of Undertaker Clint and removed up town for holding an inquest. Chief Rose enpanelled a jury which viewed the remains and adjourned until tomorrow night at seven o’clock.

The fact of the body being found floating gives the affair an air of mystery though it is generally thought the Transit’s wheel may have brought it to the surface. In so far as known there are no marks of violence on the body and as deceased was seen alive on Saturday he could not have been long in the water.

Deceased who was 67 years of age and a fine mechanic was somewhat given to the use of intoxicants, but would be very unlikely to take his own life. He leaves a wife and large family of grown up children all respectably connected and who are at a loss to know how the unfortunate man met his death. The funeral will take place to-morrow at 2:30 p.m. from his late residence to the cemetery.

Obituary for Louise Johnston

The Evening Recorder, Tuesday Feb 14, 1911

Mrs. Patrick Johnston

Another of the elderly residents of this section, Mrs. Patrick Johnston breathed her last evening at the home of her son, Mr. John F. Johnston, Lyn Road, after an illness of several months, the last three of which she had been confined to her bed. A breaking up of a hitherto robust constitution incidental to her advanced years was the cause.

The late Mrs. Johnston was born in Ireland ninety years ago, her maiden name being Louise Knox. Coming to Canada she settled in Elizabethtown sixty five years ago and had since been a resident of the Township. Mr. Johnston died nineteen years ago, and a family of two sons and two daughters are now called upon to mourn the loss of their mother. They are Mrs. Harry Woods, of Vancouver, B.C.; Mrs. E. Tobey, Montreal; Wm. J., Brockville and John F. Elizabethtown. In religion she was a Methodist.

The funeral will take place from her son’s residence to-morrow at 3:30 to Brockville cemetery. Service at the house at 3 o’clock.

John F. Johnston, stone mason- 1866-1950
Johnston’s house on the Lyn Road
Johnston’s Lyn Road Home in later years
John Johnston, farmer clearing his land c1900
The Windsor Hotel, Brockville photo taken in 2000
Samuel Johnston, 1853- 1909
Advertisement for the Windsor Hotel, Samuel Johnston Prop.