Tuesday, November 3, 2015

When Johnny Comes Meandering Home

The Nation, May 25, 1878
In 1861 young Johnny Peace ran away from home to avoid a whipping at the hands of his stepfather. After a few days in the city he became lost and was picked up by police and taken to the Wayne County Poorhouse. There he gave his name as Johnny Fletcher and thus began a long estrangement from his family. Though they searched for him through various avenues the young Fletcher boy had seemingly disappeared. His lost family resigned themselves to believing that he had joined the army and died in the Civil War.

Meanwhile, Fate was turning her twisting gears. A Canadian farmer named James Mitton adopted Fletcher and another girl, passing along Johnny to the Charles McLaren family of Howard, Ontario, where both grew up in comfortable, loving homes. He grew to adulthood and took employment under his new father, though sometimes taking other seasonal work.

In May of 1878 he signed on to work for Fred Atkinson in the nearby town of Oxford. Having a few days between his engagement and fighting off the sickness bug he decided to use the time to recuperate in his hometown of Detroit. Wandering the streets he once again became lost. This time he ended up at the old Bishop schoolhouse he had attended as a boy. His memory stirred to the former life he had abandoned and he made inquiries to the whereabouts of his stepfather's home.

A young girl pointed him to the home where he encountered his sister at the door. Playing the part of a stranger he learned that his stepfather was dead. He inquired about the mother who had once raised him and was granted an audience at her bedside. She, lying sick and grieving for her recently departed husband told the stranger about her life, eventually coming around to the story of her lost son.

Johnny's will could hold out no longer and he informed his mother of her son's sweet return. She soon regained her vitality and he an oft-repeated story to tell friends and family back home. Though his old family welcomed him back with an open offer to live with them in comfort, he, being an honest Canadian farmer, was tied to his commitment back in Oxford.

I've been unable to track down any follow up to the story.

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