Jane “Jennie” Johnston

Jane Johnston  is a “mystery” woman, information about her is hard to come by.  She was the original owner of a locket in my possession, and my great-grandmother.  Jane’s daughter, Winnie Alice Kaiser, was my Dad’s mother.

Jane Johnston was born about 1867, using calculations from early census records and her marriage record.  It is likely she was born in Grey Township, Huron County, Ontario on lot 34 concession 12 where her parents John Johnston and his wife Catherine Raper lived.

Jane had 3 older siblings, Catherine “Kate”, Margaret “Maggie”, and James.  Her younger sister Barbara Winnie was born in 1876.  The Johnstons were of Scotch heritage, both John and his wife Catherine reported their birthplace as Scotland on the 1871 census.

Life in Grey Township* from 1860-1880 was similar to early pioneering life in the US. The original homes were  log cabins.  Huron County was and is a rural farming community.  Tax records between 1866 and 1879 show that the Johnston family owned between 7 and 10 cattle, 0 and 8 sheep, and a hog or two.  They consistently had 2 horses, and there was sometimes a dog.  Of the 100 acre lot that Johnston owned, 30 acres were cleared.

The Canadian Census of 1871 showed that the family lived on lot 34, concession 12, that John Johnston owned the lot of 100 acres.  There was 1 house; 1 barn; 1 car, wagon or sled; 1 plow or cultivator.  Of the 30 cleared acres, 16 were pasture, 1/2 acre was garden, 6 acres were wheat which produced 30 bushels, 14 acres were hay with 13 tons harvested.  The other crops harvested were: 55 bushels of barley, 100 bushels of oats, 110 bushels of peas for 1/3 acre, 60 bushels of potatoes, 400 bushels of turnips, 100 bushels of carrots and other roots, 2 bushels of grass and clover seed, 2 pounds of hops, 5 bushels of apples and 30 pounds of maple sugar.  In 1871 the family had 6 members, Barbara was not yet born.

The William Kaiser family were neighbors, residing on various rental and purchased properties in Grey Township.

The Johnston family was protestant and at one time attended  Knox Presbyterian Church, Cranbrook.  The Church and its graveyard remain and it is an active congregation today.  Knox Presbyterian is located in Cranbrook, which was surveyed from farm lots 11 to 15, concession 11, Grey Township.

In 1880, the lives of the Johnstons changed course.  Catherine Raper Johnston died 9 June 1880, Ontario death registration number 006430-80, cause of death “change of life”.  We are left to imagine what that may mean.

Maggie died 14 December 1880, Ontario death registration number 006411-80, cause of death was (illegible) & inflammation.

Barbara Winnie died 29 December 1880, Ontario death registration number 006413-80, cause of death, diphtheria. Since diphtheria causes inflammation and swelling of the throat, perhaps Maggie had it also.

Finally, on 19 January 1881, John Johnston died of diphtheria, Ontario death registration number 006979-81.

This left Katie age 23, James age 16, and Jane age 13, alone.

On 20 April 1881 in Grey Township, Catherine “Kate”  Johnston married  William Harbottle, age 23, farmer of Granville, Grey Township, son of John Harbottle and Sarah Chisholm.  The witnesses were Mary Ann Kaiser and Earnest Harbottle, Ontario marriage registration number 004614-81.  Mary Ann Kaiser was the sister of Jane’s future husband, William Kaiser.  Interestingly, the marriage record reports Kate’s birth place as “County Perth Ontario”.

The 1881 Census of Grey Township, district 174, south Grey, page 67 line 18, enumerated the family of James Johnston, age 16, born Ontario, religion Canadian Presbyterian, Scotch origin, farmer.  The family included Jane, age 13, going to school, William Harbottle age 25, born Ontario, religion Canadian Presbyterian, English origin, blacksmith, and Catherine Harbottle, age 23, born Ontario, religion Canadian Presbyterian, Scotch origin.

Then, tragically, 31 October, 1881 Catherine Harbottle died of diphtheria, Ontario death registration number 007011-81.

Sometime between the 1881 census and 10 October 1884, when Jane married William Kaiser, James and Jane immigrated to Cadillac, Michigan where Jane’s marriage took place.

According to the obituary of James Johnston, published 18 December 1944 in the Cadillac Evening News, the year of his immigration was 1883 and he was 18 years old at the time.  It is almost certain that Jane accompanied her brother.

The marriage record of Jennie Johnston was recorded in Liber 2, page 53, record number 682, of Wexford County, Michigan marriages, Jennie Johnston age 17 and William Kaiser age 22, occupation miller, both born Canada, married by Pastor James Lamb in Cadillac on 10 October 1884, witnesses Mary Garvin and James Johnston.  Mary Garvin was the married name of William Kaiser’s sister, Mary Ann.  According to the 1884 Polk’s Directory of the towns and Villages in the west side of the State of Michigan, North of Grand Rapids, James Lamb was a Baptist minister.

That marriage record is one of only three records have found in Michigan for Jennie/Jane Johnston that reveal her name.

The other is the death record for Winnie Alice Kaiser who was my grandmother and  Jane’s daughter, which states that Winnie Alice was born July 19, 1885, in Michigan, the daughter of Wm Kaiser and Jane Johnston.

And,  on her marriage record  Winnie Alice Kaiser  was age 22,  born  in Cadillac, Michigan daughter of Wm. Kaiser and Jane Johnston.

According to the Maple Hill Cemetery (Cadillac) burial logs, on 21 November, 1887, a burial occurred for “Kysor, Wm inf of”, male, age 3 months.  The “male” is indicated by ditto marks from the row above.  Then, on 29 January 1888, Kysor (crossed out and “Kaiser” written), Mrs. Wm was buried.  No cause of death was listed in the logs for either, and no age for Mrs. Wm Kaiser.

There is no death record in Wexford County for either the infant or Jennie.  There is no birth record for my grandmother, Winnie Alice Kaiser, or for the infant in Wexford County records.

A newer stone, possibly purchased upon the death of William Kaiser, on the Kaiser lot in Maple Hill cemetery reads: Kaiser, William 1862-1940, Cecelia 1887, Jennie 1867-1888.  There is a matching stone which marks the grave of Daniel E. Kaiser, William’s uncle.

There are 2 older stones on the lot.  One is  that of George Catlin a nephew of William Kaiser’s uncle Daniel E. Kaiser.

The other marks the grave of Daniel Kaiser, 1878-1883.  That Daniel was the son of William Kaiser’s uncle,  Daniel E. Kaiser, and his wife Amanda VanMeer.

Cecelia is a family name.  William Kaiser’s mother’s surname was Long, and several children in the Long family were named Cecelia. Also, William Kaiser had a sister Cecelia who died quite young in Canada.

My great-grandmother, Jane “Jennie”  Johnston met an untimely death at a young age, and I have so far found no record of that death.  Jane and William  suffered the loss of a child just before her death.  Whether the infant was a girl named Cecelia, or an boy as the cemetery records say cannot be proven.  The reason for the death of Jane and her baby also remain a secret.

Tragically, of the family John and Catherine Johnston, of Grey Township, Huron County Ontario, Canada, and Cadillac, Wexford County, Michigan the only member who survived past youth was James, 1865-1944.

Here is the photo which shows the origin of the curls I’ve fought off all my life, check out my great grandmother, the little girl in the front.  In fact, John, and all his girls have the curls.

Back:  Catherine “Kate”, Margaret “Maggie”.  Seated, John Johnston, Catherine Raper Johnston holding Barbara “Winnie”.  Front: James and Jane  “Jennie”.

Photo in the possession of Ted Servis, Cadillac, Michigan.  On the back, “The family of John and Catherine Johnston”.

*More details on life in rural Grey Township can be found in Grey Township And Its People by Marilyn Engel, ISBN 0-9691293-0-0.

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