Lewis Johnston, Underground Railroad Conductor


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Lewis Johnston was born in 1805 just over the Conemaugh River from Blairsville in Derry Twp., Westmoreland County.  His mother, Rachel, was a slave-for-life of the celebrated “hero” of Barr and Wallace Forts, Maj. James Wilson.  By circumstance of his birth, Lewis was bound to Wilson until his 28th birthday.

Lewis Johnston and his wife Jane Bronson Johnston were UGRR conductors in Blairsville and Allegheny City (North Pittsburgh), PA.  It is believed that Mr. Johnston transported freedom seekers as he hauled iron blooms over the mountains between Blairsville and Hollidaysburg.  Freedom seeker Richard Newman was living with the Johnston family on W. Campbell St., Blairsville when his attempted kidnapping occurred on April 1, 1858.

Lewis Johnston and his wife Jane Bronson raised 6 children. Daughter Elizabeth Johnston Massey, upon her death, was known to be the wealthiest African American woman in Allegheny City. Son Lewis Johnston, Jr. became the first black Presbyterian preacher in Pennsylvania. Lewis, Jr. was also an author and boarding school principal. Sadly, four of Lewis Johnston Jr.'s sons were killed during the Elaine Race Riots of 1919. All four were highly educated and professionally employed.


In 1856, the wife of Lewis Johnston, Jane Bronson Johnston, sewed the quilt pictured above. Very interesting embroidery is found on this quilt. Some have noted the map-like quality of some of the embroidery.