Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


    One of the most influential men in Miami county in the early settlement of western Ohio was Colonel John Johnson, of Upper Piqua. For many years he held the then very responsible and important office of Indian agent. In 1818, at the treaty of St. Mary's, he was senior agent in the service and had under his command, to manage, care for and supply, ten thousand Indians. These were the Miamis, Delawares, Shawanese, Wyandottes, Pottawatamies, Chippewas, Ottawas, Senecas, some Kickapoos, Saukees and Kaskaskias. His administration was noted by reason of the integrity of the man, the honesty of his dealings with the Indians, his humane and judicious policy with them and his fidelity to the government.

    Colonel Johnson was born in 1775, in the north of Ireland, and at this point the writer will insert a portion of a narrative written by him, October 10, 1857. "My father, Stephen Johnson, with his brothers, John and Francis, each having large families, emigrated from the north of Ireland at the close of the American Revolution, and settled in Sherman's valley in the then county of Cumberland, now Perry county, Pennsylvania. My paternal ancestors went from Scotland into Ireland with the Protestant King William, and, being officers, were rewarded with estates near Enniskillen, in the county of Fermanagh. My maternal ancestors, named Bernard, were of the Huguenots who fled from France, for conscience' sake, and took refuge in Ireland. I can therefore, with some truth, boast of having descended from good stock.

    "'Several of my blood relations, both by father and mother, fought, bled and died under Washington, in the glorious contest for independence; and I humbly trust as their blood flows in my veins, the spirit which guided them has still an abiding place in my affections, for my rule throughout a long life of more than four score years, in peace or war, has invariably been to go for our country, no matter who may govern it; and this lesson has been evermore instilled into the minds of my children; and so it was with their excellent mother, who trained them up for God and their country.

    "My two gifted and gallant sons who perished in the Mexican war, went forth, fortified by such household words, to battle for their country. My parting adieu to them was 'You are to know nothing of party men; be faithful to your flag, and always remember that the first and last duty of a soldier is to keep a shut mouth and obey orders.'

    "My early years were spent at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the mercantile establishment of Judge John Creigh. That place was the rendezvous for the troops enlisted for the war with the western Indians. General St. Clair had been defeated, and another army had to be recruited and equipped for the field, under the gallant and chivalrous Wayne, in order to chastise the savages and regain the ground that was lost in the campaigns of Harmar and St. Clair. At times there were large bodies of troops in the barracks of Carlisle. These were marched off to the west as soon as they were properly drilled for the service. Colonel Thomas Butler, who was wounded in St. Clair's de-feat, with other officers who survived that sanguinary contest, were there stationed, and it was hearing their descriptions of the boundless prairies, forests and rivers of the great west, that first inspired my mind with an ardent desire to visit the country. An opportunity soon occurred. Samuel Creigh was prepared to go west with a stock of goods for sale to the troops. I agreed at once to accompany him, traveling the whole distance to Pittsburg on foot, in company with wagons loaded with army supplies and private property."

    Colonel Johnson's life was intimately connected with the settlement of the Indian question in Ohio and Indiana, and was so rich in incidents and so interwoven with the early history of Ohio that his biography would have added so much to the meager record of the pioneer history of western Ohio, that it is a source of much regret that it was never written, but from the records of the government and an occasional paper prepared for the Pioneer Association of Ohio, the writer gathers that he was a modest man, a trusted official and had the confidence, as an Indian agent, of Washington, John Adams. Jefferson, Monroe and John Quincy Adams. He heard President Washington deliver his farewell address to congress in 1796, and was the trusted friend of General W. H. Harrison. He personally knew the first settlers of Miami county and was with General Wayne at Greenville, in 1795. He was a personal friend of Daniel Boone and received an invitation from the Governor of Kentucky, which he accepted, to act as one of the pall bearers at the re-interment of Daniel Boone and his wife, when, after lying in the soil of Missouri for thirty years, they were re-interred in the public cemetery at Frankfort, Kentucky, the funeral being conducted under the direction of the state officials of Kentucky and attended by twenty-five thousand people. Colonel Johnson says that Daniel Boone was always poor and did not own an acre of ground at the time of his death, and also justly said that if one-half the money spent in re-interring Boone thirty years after he was dead had been given to him while living it would have done Boone some good.

    As an Indian agent he became intimately acquainted with leading Indian chiefs and has stated that the chiefs distinguished for their oratorical powers were Little Turtle of the Miamis, Black Hoof, of the Shawanese, and Togwane, or John, of the Senecas; but that his opinion was that Little Turtle was by far the most eloquent and the ablest Indian diplomatist and statesman. He was an intimate friend of Little Turtle and often visited him at his home on Eel river, a branch of the Wabash river. He says that Little Turtle received a pension of one hundred guineas a year from the English government, and that high living destroyed the health of this chieftain, who died at Fort Wayne, Indiana, before he was sixty years of age and was buried with military honors. After his death, the Miamis possessed no one of equal abilities, and the tribe degenerated into dissipation and lost its rank and influence in the confederacy of the northwest tribes.

    The influence of Colonel Johnson with the Indians proved to be a wall of protection to the settlers of Miami county and the counties adjoining. In 1812-13 he had under his control about six thousand Indians, whom he induced to remain friendly to the United States and the settlers of western Ohio, notwithstanding the efforts of Tecumseh and his brother, the prophet. So bitter became the hostile Indians and British that various plots for his assassination were made, but fortunately these were frustrated by the vigilance and fidelity of his Indian friends. When peace was declared, and after his retirement from office, he settled on the farm at Upper Piqua, on which his Indian agency was situated, and where, in 1763, was fought a battle between the British and French forces and their Indian allies. It was there, twenty years later, the brave Kentuckians, under the command of General George Rogers Clark, captured the Indian towns on the Miami river and opened up the valley for the brave frontiersmen, who with rifle and ax came from the east in search of homes in the rich Miami valley.

    Colonel Johnson lived to a ripe old age. His body rests on the farm close to the old homestead and near the site of the old Indian agency, where he rendered so much service to his country.

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