Personalities Of Moore: Thomas William Johnston

This issue's Personalities of Moore column brings together the families of two pioneer settlers featured in previous columns – Thomas Sutherland and Hugh Johnston.

Thomas William Johnston was the eldest son of Hugh and Mary (Bell) Johnston.  Born in Omagh, Ireland, on March 24, 1813, he came to Canada with his parents in 1834.  Just prior to leaving Ireland, he was licensed by the Medical Board of the province of Ulster.

Dr. Johnston and a friend, Dr. Edmund Donnelly, went to New Orleans to assist in dealing with an outbreak of yellow fever.  This experience would later, back in Canada, serve his patients well as he was noted for his skill in treating fevers.  While in New Orleans, Thomas took post-graduate work at the University of Louisiana, obtaining his M.D. on April 5, 1837.

Yellow fever almost took Dr. Johnston's life, but he recovered and returned to Canada.  He served then as surgeon to the 7th Battalion, Kent Militia in the 1837 Rebellion and later to the 3rd Battalion, Kent Militia.

While Dr. Johnston's home was near Mooretown, his practice covered the area from Sarnia to Sombra, as well as up to 25 miles inland.  Certainly this would be arduous work, with only trails for roads.  By 1847, therefore, he moved to Sarnia, giving up the more strenuous country practice.

On November 24, 1847, Dr. Johnston married Grace Sutherland, youngest daughter of Thomas and Grace (Hogg) Sutherland.

In Sarnia, Dr. Johnston became a well-known figure.  He was the first mayor of Sarnia elected by popular vote and in this capacity he had the distinction of welcoming the Prince of Wales on his visit in 1860.

On September 3, 1861, Grace Johnston died at the age of 38 years, shortly after the birth of her eighth child, a son.  She was buried in Sutherland cemetery. 

From November 15, 1865, until his death on March 12, 1876, Dr. T. W. Johnston served as County Registrar.  He, too, was buried at Sutherland cemetery.

One of Thomas and Grace Johnston's children, Thomas G., also became a doctor, practicing in Sarnia.  He also followed in his father's footsteps as a politician, serving as Mayor of Sarnia in 1897/8 and M.P. for West Lambton in 1898 to 1905.

Sources:

Lambton County's Hundred Years, 1849 – 1949 by Victor Lauriston

Lambton Centennial Series, The Johnston Papers by Jacqueline James Johnston