Posted by: Jim Bell | February 5, 2011

John Johnston: “The Father of Tile Drainage in the United States”

John Johnston was born in Knockknolling [Knocknalling], Dalrys [Dalry], Dumfrieshire [Kirkcudbrightshire], Scotland, on April 11, 1791. He immigrated to the United States, landing at New York City in April of 1821. The following year he purchased 112 acres of farmland in Seneca County and built a house there, which he called “Viewfields.” Later he added several more parcels to the farm, bringing the total size to 320 acres.

Due to abundant underground springs in the area, Johnston’s farmland retained a great deal of moisture. Although imperceptible on the surface, the excessive water damaged crops over the growing season. Familiar with the use of tile drainage in Scotland, Johnston knew of its ability to increase the yield of heavy, wet soils like his. He sent to Scotland for two pattern tiles in 1835, which he took to Benjamin F. Whartenby, a maker of crockery, in Waterloo, N.Y. Whartenby made 3,000 tiles that Johnston laid down on his farm in 1838. The process was so successful that by the time he retired from farming he had 72 miles of tile drains on his 320-acre farm. Whartenby continued making tiles, producing 840,000 in 1849, and Waterloo was home to ten tile drainage factories by 1871. [..more..]

The Johnston Farm Web Page
John Johnston and the First Use of Drainage Tile (PDF)
Wikipedia Entry


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