Join me as I visit the sites in the Ohio History Connection network! This month’s trip took me to Johnston Farm & Indian Agency in Piqua.
At Johnston Farm & Indian Agency you can explore 2,000 years of Ohio history, from the ancient American Indians to Ohio’s 19th-century canal era. There are three distinct parts of this site: the Woodland Indian & Canal Museum, the Johnston farmhouse and outbuildings, and the General Harrison of Piqua replica mule-drawn canal boat.
The focal point of the site is John Johnston, a farmer, public official and U.S. Indian Agent for western Ohio from 1812 to 1829. John and his wife Rachel, along with their 15 children, lived in the house and farmed the surrounding land. Visitors can tour the Johnstons’ home and its outbuildings to learn what life was like in 1829.
The museum, constructed to resemble the blockhouse style of Fort Piqua, features exhibits that trace the story of the Eastern Woodland Indians of Ohio and the Pickawillany village site, as well as the history of canals in Ohio. Restrooms and a gift shop are located in the museum. This is also where visitors check in.
And no trip to Johnston Farm would be complete without a ride on the General Harrison of Piqua canal boat. Costumed interpreters direct the mule-drawn boat along a section of the Miami & Eric Canal while regaling guests with stories of Ohio’s canal glory days.
Address: Johnston Farm & Indian Agency is located at 9845 Hardin Road in Piqua.
How much time: Because there is so much to see at this site and there is a bit of a walk between each of the three attractions, I would budget at least four hours to see everything.
This is a site where logistics are important. I would advise checking the house tour and canal boat ride schedules on the site’s website before visiting to ensure that you’re able to fit everything in. Then I would recommend that you arrive about 30 minutes before the first scheduled activity so that you have time to walk from the parking lot to the museum to check in before your first tour. You can visit the museum at any point during your visit, which makes it a nice way to begin or end your day.
Truda’s Tips: As I mentioned, there is a bit of a walk between each of the attractions at Johnston Farm. But the site staff has solutions for visitors with mobility challenges. The paths between each of the attractions are paved, making them stroller and wheelchair friendly. There is also handicapped parking right next to the museum. And the staff has a golf cart that can be used to drive visitors to the canal boat and the farmhouse from the museum. Just ask at the front desk of the museum if you need assistance. The staff is very happy to help.
Kid Friendly? Absolutely!: Kids will LOVE the canal boat ride. When I visited, every other group that day included kids and they were fascinated by the mules, the boat ride and the stories the interpreter was telling. The museum has an area where kids can try on clothing from the era and the exhibits are all bright, colorful and engaging. The farmhouse is not stroller friendly and is set up to look like the Johnston family just stepped away, so it might be challenging for very small children. But I think elementary school aged kids and older would really enjoy learning about the Johnston children. There’s also a lot of space at the site for kids to run around. I would highly recommend either bringing snacks or a picnic lunch. There’s a lot to see at this site and kids might get hungry before you’re able to see everything. There are picnic tables located near the museum and near the farmhouse.
My favorites: As often happens, my favorite thing about Johnston Farm was the staff. Marla was our tour guide in the house. She has worked at the site for more than 20 years and has even written a book about the Johnstons. Suffice it to say, we were in good hands and learned a lot during our tour. Jim, our guide on the canal boat was a great storyteller and kept everyone, including the kids, engaged throughout the ride. Diana at the front desk was incredibly helpful with logistics and pointing out the highlights of the museum. Definitely take the opportunity to interact with the staff while you’re there.
Lunch: We opted to drive to nearby downtown Piqua for lunch at the Scottish Thistle. Located in a beautiful former hotel, the Scottish Thistle features traditional British Isle favorites like Scotch eggs, fish and chips, bangers & mash and shepherd’s pie. I had the Ultimate Cheese Toastie, which was maybe the cheesiest thing I’ve ever eaten. It was amazing. My coworker Christina had the small fish and chips, which she reported was right-sized and delicious. There’s free public parking right outside the restaurant. After lunch you can walk in the cute downtown area.
We stopped for coffee on our way out of town at North Star Coffee Station. It’s a funky little shop that you might miss if you aren’t looking for it. They have a lot of unique options and traditional favorites. I had a lavender iced latte (if you haven’t tried lavender in your coffee, give it a try. It’s my favorite.) and Christina had one of the daily specials. We were both happy and caffeinated on our drive back home.
Want to make a day of it? Discover everything that Miami County has to offer by visiting the Miami County Visitors & Convention Bureau website.
You know what else is a great addition to a road trip? An Ohio History Connection membership! Members get free general admission to our 50+ sites around the state. Get more information and join today at ohiohistory.org/join!