Try to imagine George Washington Johnson as he whispered to his beloved future wife in the autumn months of 1864 near the village of Mount Hope:
"The green grove is gone from the hill, Maggie,
Where first the daisies sprung
The old rusty mill is still, Maggie
Since you and I were young..."
During the 1860s George Johnson was a schoolteacher in Glanford Township near Hamilton. It was there he fell in love with one of his students, Maggie Clark, who was just three years younger than himself. Later, after they became engaged to be married in 1864, George wrote his world famous tribute, "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," to his bride-to-be, while walking in the meadows near his home in Mount Hope during a period when Maggie was ill.
George Johnson and Maggie Clark were married on October 21, 1864. Seven months later, May 12, 1865,
Maggie died from tuberculosis. She was interred in the Clark family plot in Whitechurch Cemetery, Glanford. Some of the graves in the cemetery date back to the late 1600s.
The inscription on her gravestone tells that in her brief life, Maggie had known just twenty-three summers.
"MARGARET, WIFE OF G. W. JOHNSON, DIED MAY 12, 1865,
AGED 23 YEARS."
Glanford Township is now called Glanbrook. Whitechurch Cemetery is located just a few kilometers outside the town of Mount Hope on Whitechurch Road, the first road south from Airport Road on Highway 6. The cemetery is several hundred feet west from the Highway. Maggie's final resting place is not difficult to find. Her grave is near the middle of the cemetery. The Clark gravestone is gray granite, tall and slightly tilted.
Standing at the graveside of Margaret Johnson your mind will journey back to the time her husband
wrote his immortal lyrics to his frail Maggie before she was stolen from him. A feeling of sadness will come over you knowing that Maggie's time on this earth was unfairly brief. In 1866, George Johnson and a friend J. C. Butterfield slightly revised and joined the lyrics written for Maggie to the music that is now famous throughout the world.
George died on January 2, 1917. He was interred in Hamilton Cemetery.
Twenty years later, October 30, 1937, the Hamilton Chapter of the Sons of Canada dedicated a millstone-shaped monument to George Washington Johnson. Two of Maggie's sisters were present at the dedication.
The millstone is positioned at the entrance of Rock Garden, Hamilton, just north of Old Guelph Road on York Boulevard. Rock Garden is one of the many appealing recreational parks lined along York Boulevard.
The cottage where Maggie lived still stands near Mount Hope. It's an unmarked, single story home located on Nebo Road; the second house south from Airport Road on the west side. Nebo Road is two road concessions along Airport Road east from Highway 6.
The Government of Ontario erected a plaque designating Maggie's home as an historical site on July 24, 1963. Maggie's niece, Blanche Padgham, unveiled the plaque. Because of the large numbers of visitors who came to this private home where Maggie once lived, the plaque was removed to provide seclusion for the current residents.
The wrought iron pipe construction that supported the plaque still stands near the road at the front of the cottage. We can only hope that sometime in the future the plaque honouring George and Margaret Johnson will be remounted.