muirkirk in the hills of ayrshire - from the muirkirk enterprise group


William Johnston
author and historian

In the 1851 census William Johnston can be found as a 10 year old, living with his father Alexander, his mother Mary (40) and step-brother Robert Porter at Airdsgreen in the Parish of Muirkirk, Ayrshire, Scotland. Alexander is a farmer and Robert is indicated as a teacher.

In 1869 William emigrated to Canada (source - "History of Perth County 1825-1902" by William Johnston) eventually arriving in Perth, Western Ontario where he purchased lot 18 on the west boundary of Blanshard Township. (source London Free Press, Oct 10th 1936). This property he developed into a homestead and on it many years of his life were spent. Farming successfully occupied the greater part of his time, but he also carried on extensive historical research work, in which he was interested. It was through his efforts that a vast amount of information on Perth was gathered. During his life, William devoted much time and effort to aid in the advancement of the district and to record the details of its progress.

In 1936 an Historical Society is being planned for with the proposal that a suitable memorial should be erected and dedicated in his honour of William..

Being an admirer of Perth County and the people who had settled it, Mr. Johnston determined to compile and publish historical books which would tell of the struggles and achievements of pioneers and record the development of the district from the earliest days of settlement. To this he devoted most of his spare time for a number of years. He carefully examined all documents, records and papers, pertaining to the county and traveled through every community talking with elderly people and checking the details. His searchings even took him to England where the records in the head offices of the Canada Land Company were examined.

History of Perth County by William JohnstonIn 1899 "The Pioneers of Blanshard" was published and this book Mr. Johnston devoted mainly to his home township. The story of it settlement, social conditions, municipal life, villages, schools, churches, etc., is told in detail.

In 1903 "The History of Perth County" was published, containing a vast amount of information on everything pertaining to the county between the years 1825 and 1902. In the beginning it gives a general description of pioneer life and of the work of the Canada Land Company. Progress in the political, judicial and educational life of the county is faithfully recorded and a chapter is devoted to each of the Townships of Downie, Fullarton, Blanshard, Hibbert, Ellice, North and South Easthope, Mornington, Logan, Elma and Wallace. Chapters are also devoted to the City of Stratford and to the towns of St Marys, Mitchell and Listowel. The agricultural evolution of the county is traced as well as developments in the religous life. Historical sketches of all the small villages and the names and origin of post offices are given. The book had a large circulation and in 1936 was to be found in nearly every public library in Western Ontario.

Mr. Johnston also gained distinction as a public speaker and took a prominent part in the political campaigns of his day. About 1896 he bought a farm on the Thames River road, near St. Marys, and resided there for a considerable time. Finally he purchased a home in St Mary's and lived retired until his death in January, 1916, at the age of 78 years. At that time two members of his family were still living. Thomas Johnston, in the Canadian West, and Robert Johnston of Blanshard.