The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Friday, Oct. 21, 1870

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Bill Johnston . - Who has not heard of Bill Johnston, the "Pirate of the St. Lawrence," as he was styled by his countrymen in Canada, but who was better known on this side of the line as a dashing, genial, good fellow, with a genuine love for liberty. Many of our old citizens were personally acquainted with the famous individual.

He died recently at Clayton, at the age of 90 years, and we find in an exchange the following mention of him: "This daring adventurer among the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence, and who was famous in the Patriot War of 1838, died at Clayton. Three of his sons reside here, and one daughter; she who carried provisions to her father when the Canadians sought him among the one thousand isles in vain. One son keeps a hotel at Clayton, and one owns and runs a small steamer daily to Cape Vincent and back, and both are men of intelligence and property.

After the Canadian rebellion was over, about 1838, Bill Johnston (who was born at Three Rivers, in Canada), was appointed lighthouse keeper on the St. Lawrence, a few miles below Clayton, and kept it for eight years.* A new administration coning in displeased him. His son remarked that he was the "smartest man" he ever knew. in the War of 1812 it is said that General Scott regarded his services as equal to a thousand men.

He was a daring man and feared nothing human. At the age of eighty he could jump from a wharf on to the ice, two feet down, and preserve his equilibrium. He was never sick; and but for an accident he would probably have attained the age at which his father died (104). One of his brothers reached the age of 103. Strangest of all we were told that he had an inveterate hatred for tobacco, and never drank spirituous liquors. This man, with a West Point education, would probably have made his mark high up."

Media Type:
Item Type:
*Rock Island lighthouse.
Date of Original:
Friday, Oct. 21, 1870
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Richard Palmer
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Oswego Advertiser & Times (Oswego, NY), Friday, Oct. 21, 1870