Is Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, the First Native American Literary Writer, My Great(x5) Aunt?
I always wondered if we had a writer hiding somewhere up in the family tree. My aunts write. I write. Now I have learned that a great(x5) aunt, Bamewawagezhikaquay, also known as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, was a writer too: “the first Native American literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories” (Robert Dale Parker).
Each time I read Parker’s description of Jane I am in awe. Whether I can prove Jane is my aunt or not, I am thrilled to meet her, to read her works.
How am I connected to Jane Johnston Schoolcraft?
Ezekiel Solomon and Marie Louise Dubois’s son was William Solomon. William had some children with Agibicocona, who I initially thought was my grandmother and Margeurite Solomon’s mother. William and Agibicocona did not marry. When Agibicocona died, William married Margeurite Johnston (sister of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, daughter of John Johnston) and had ten children.
Marriage certificates, birth certificates, and death records are important evidence in family history research. So far Bonnie and I have not found any official record that Margeurite Solomon was the daughter of Agibicocona or Margeurite Johnston. Many online sources suggest that Margeurite Solomon is Margeurite Johnston’s daughter, but there are some (although not as many) that suggest Margeurite Solomon is Agibicocona’s daughter.
In Lawrence Barkwell’s paper on Metis Soldiers in the War of 1812, published by the Louis Riel Institute, Barkwell notes Margeurite Johnston as the sibling of Jane Johnston and the wife of William Solomon.
Bonnie posted on our Ancestry.ca tree that Agibicocona died in 1800. Our research suggests that Margeurite Solomon was born in 1802. I found this PDF online from the Wisconsin Historical Society that details the Solomon family history and denies the Solomon/Johnston connection. Yet other researchers list clear connections between the Johnston and Solomon families. A number of researchers note that Margeurite Solomon’s mother is difficult to identify.
Louie Solomon, my great(x4)-uncle refers to his mother as Miss Johnston in his account of the Drummond Island relocation to Penetanguishene in 1828. (Interesting side note: Louie Solomon states that his mother received a military funeral.) A.C. Osborne adds to the editor’s notes of The Migration of Voyageurs to Penetanguishene in 1828, published by the Ontario Historical Society, a note in Louie’s interview to clarify that Miss Marguerite Johnston-Solomon is related to Jane Johnston Schoolcraft. Did Louie Solomon tell Osborne this during the interview? Why would Osborne add this in 1901 if it were not true?
The Simcoe County Pioneer and Historical Papers, in A.C. Osborne’s notes (48), suggest that Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and Margeurite Johnston Solomon were sisters again. I choose to side with Osborne. The anecdotal evidence is too convincing to ignore.
In Barkwell’s document The People of the Metis Nation: H-L Metis History through Biography, Barkwell lists Margeurite as George Johnston’s sister, John Johnston’s daughter. Barkwell’s research again supports the claim that John and Susan (Ozhaguscodaywayquay) Johnston are my great(x5)-grandparents.
Somehow other geneaologists are making the connection between the famous Johnstons and the famous Solomons. I want to know how. But for now I am putting my trust in the anecdotal evidence and the Louis Riel Institute. I am making the claim that there is a connection between the Solomons and Johnstons, and that Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is indeed my great(x5)-aunt.
FYI: Margeurite Johnston and William Solomon had a daughter named Margeurite Solomon. She married Joseph Normandin, which is my mother’s maiden name. Joseph and Marguerite had a son named Joseph Normandin Jr. who married Scholastique Berger. Joseph Jr. and Scholastique had a son named Louis, who is my great-grandfather.