John Smoke Johnson, G. H. M. Johnson, Barton Farr

Squire Tehawennihárhos Davis and Skunny Wundy have a problem with the stone giants, which is best expressed in the frustration of Skunny Wundy: “For the rest of his life Skunny Wundy told anybody who would listen the story of his encounter with the Stone Giant(s), but nobody ever believed him.” Arthur Caswell Parker, Collected Stories of Skunny Wundy. Literally and figuratively, some enemies simply will break your back. The Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Confederacy or Iroquois League) call their back-breaking enemies stone giants.

On his life journey, lower Mohawk Squire Davis, Tehawennihárhos, faces off with stone giants – as, one supposes, do we all – but most of us cherish the hope that when we raise our voices in protest we will be heard, and, better, believed.


There are amazing women in Squire’s story.

I state it unequivocally. We must believe Jennet Ferguson. And Sarah Maria Farr. We must believe Velma Farr. And Addie Farr. Their voices, beckoning to us from the past, have only a wee audience. Recently, the women and the Mohawk have caught the attention of a few of their family members, who, through years of research, have managed to recall them from oblivion. Each one of our antecedents, Jennet, Sarah Maria, Velma, Addie, and, of course our Squire, faces a stone giant, and overcomes. Canadians should know about their courage, and be proud. The stories of the lives and times of individuals are the historical vertebrae holding together the spine of our enormous, diverse, 21st-century Canadian nation, a mare usque ad mari. Or, if you prefer, a mari usque ad maria. One hopes, someday, the Farr women, Jennet Ferguson, and Squire himself, will add their stories to the national conversation. To have a successful community of citizens with common purpose, a nation needs to acknowledge its history – even the painful bits. 

Squire and the law

Circumstances hint Squire Davis does not always stand on the sunny side of the law. To be fair, we want to place Squire within the context of his tribulations. His defence rests on two severe and mitigating factors: waxing bigotry against the Indigenous; and the unexpected but excruciating poverty on the Six Nations Reserve.

Poverty is like the wolf, beating, night and day, on the Davis door. Al Swearengen advises the weebles of the world to stand up and give some back. The Davis family does that.

Poaching and smuggling are commonplace on the reserve, justified, one notes, because the Six Nations strenuously object to their lack of sovereignty within the ‘host’ country of Canada. Justified, because the people have no food. One cannot say for certain Squire is a smuggler or poacher. One can only say one would not be surprised to hear it. Squire may smuggle. Tobacco? Liquor? He may poach. Sycamores?

Johnsons accuse him of cutting down trees to sell for profit. Perhaps. But no evidence exists of more serious offences, say, crimping. Squire does not sell inebriated souls to the Union Army. A certain H. H. (Hilton Hill?) reports gossip, repeated in John A. Noon’s book, that Squire is a racketeer – and suspected of crimping. Researcher Stephen Heeney does not find evidence to support the rumour. But there is ample evidence of powerful and resentful cliques, willing, always, to defame their adversaries. What Squire is, is poor. A successful crimper (c 1861-64), or so one imagines, would be wealthy.

Speaking of which, in the time after Thayendanegea’s death (1807), the Haudenosaunee are wealthy. As a member of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Squire should have enough money to allow him to live comfortably. Horrifying to the people, then, is the outcome of the Grand River Navigation Company’s wholesale swindle. The company steals their money, land and, in effect, the river itself.

The theft of the people’s funds and property drives the Indigenous (c 1832-1860) to levels of subsistence and despair previously unknown (see Bruce E. Hill). Chiefswood, the Johnson’s elegant home, is constructed in 1856. Ruthven Hall, David Thompson’s villa, is built in 1845-46. In the 1830s and going forward, the reserve has enough frightful elements to rival the romance of Robin Hood and yet both Thompson and Johnson find the resources to build homes large enough to astound the struggling neighbourhood.

Squire and Jennet in Uxbridge and Onondaga

At 37, from first-hand experience, Squire Davis understands two worlds: the settler world and the rez world. One is a world of opportunity. One is not.

For over a dozen years, Squire and Jennet reside in Uxbridge – in the settler world. Squire does not make his mark in Uxbridge but he is smart. He sees things. He sees the settlers’ freedoms – colossal freedoms compared to reserve restrictions. Settler freedom means a family can grow more crops and raise more stock than the family can consume, with the freedom to sell the excess at market. Settler freedom means a family can cut down trees either to sell or to make farm “improvements.” Settler freedom means farmers can grow tobacco and wheat and corn and sell their products internationally. Settler freedom allows a person to trade farm produce outside the community. Settler freedom means family members can sell unentailed land to whomsoever they please. Settler freedom means the white man’s law (most often) will adjudicate in favour of the settler’s improvements over Indigenous stewardship – let alone sovereignty. Settler freedom means persons can speak about politics and religion and history and speak their piece in the language of the mothers.

Settler freedoms do not extend to the robbed and devastated Haudenosaunee at the Grand River. Squire knows it. The resistance has begun. Outlaws, both Indigenous and settler, operate on the reserve. Families sink to devious means to eat and survive. The Davises live among the merrie folk of the Carolinian forest at Onondaga, and, like their Nottingham compatriots in the 12th century, they don’t want to go down without a fight. If smuggling goods out of and in to the rez adds to the coffers, Squire sounds like the kind of man who would take such action.

Whatever Squire does to circumvent the Indigenous establishment’s legal conventions (does he smuggle? poach?), he is a dedicated father, shrewdly ready to appeal to whatever jurisdiction he believes will favour him with a decent outcome. For the most part his twelve children do well and are grateful for the ways and means Squire and Jennet find to shelter and clothe and educate them. Plus. Presbyterian Jennet and her insistence on the value of higher education mark the family for generations.

Johnsons, who hate the Davises,  misbehave

The class-conscious Johnsons have the ear of a Scottish snob, Jasper Tough Gilkison – son of William Gilkison, and a relative of the ambitious colonizer, John Galt. (Galt founds the Canada Company.) In turn, the young Jasper Gilkison, being Superintendent of the Six Nations of the Grand River, has the ear of the Indian department, and the colonial government. Superintendent Gilkison does not think well of the people, the Johnson family’s being one notable exception. (See L.K. Quirk). After G. H. M. Johnson’s untimely death, the Johnson family is left with limited means. Some valuable Haudenosaunee treasures find themselves on the block. Ironically, Gilkison’s daughter testifies for their return. A strange twist of fate points a larcenous finger at Smoke Johnson and his granddaughter, the famous Pauline. They sell the people’s traditional artefacts, which don’t belong to them (and they know it), and keep the money for themselves. 

On the return of the wampum belts Pauline Johnson sold to George Heye for $500: “It is therefore recommended that the National Museum of the American Indian repatriate NMAI 008386.000 to the Haudenosaunee Standing Committee on Burial Rules and Regulations on behalf of the Six Nations of the Grand River.”

from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Copy of James N. Edy photograph of Chiefs of the Six Nations explaining their wampum belts, 1871 Photo Lot 86-58 The collection consists of a copy of a studio portrait of Onondaga, Mohawk, and Seneca Indians with wampum belts, [photo] made on September 14, 1871, for Horatio Hale. Includes Joseph Snow (Hahriron), Onondaga Chief; George H. M. Johnson (Deyonhehgon), Mohawk chief, government interpreter and son of John Smoke Johnson; John Buck (Skanawatih), Onondaga chief and hereditary keeper of the wampum; John Smoke Johnson (Sakayenkwaraton), Mohawk chief and speaker of the council; Isaac Hill (Kawenenseronton), Onondaga chief and fire keeper; John Seneca Johnson (Kanonkeredawih), Seneca chief.


Although Gilkison’s record of the reading of NMAI 008683.000 does not provide enough definitive information to link it to any particular treaty or event, it can be reasonably argued that it records a political agreement between the British Crown and the Haudenosaunee at Grand River. The belt is particularly relevant to the people of the Six Nations at the Grand River, descendants of Loyalist Haudenosaunee, because it represents a promise made by the British Crown to their ancestors that “the government would never force the Indians to change their customs” (Gilkison 1928:50). Before Pauline Johnson’s acquisition of the belt between 1893 and 1905, Chief John Buck, Sr. was its custodian in his role as wampum keeper of the Confederacy belts of the Six Nations at the Grand River, and used it in a number of documented readings and ceremonies. As such the wampum belt (NMAI 008386.000) is culturally affiliated to the Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River.


The evidence presented in this report indicates this wampum belt is a Confederacy belt of the Haudenosaunee that records a political agreement between the Haudenosaunee of Grand River and the British Crown. As such, the belt has ongoing historical, traditional, and cultural importance central to the present-day Haudenosaunee of the Six Nations of the Grand River. The belt was inappropriately alienated from the Haudenosaunee of Six Nations Reserve (now referred to as the Six Nations of the Grand River), first by one of the sons of the former wampum keeper, John Buck, Sr., and then again by E. Pauline Johnson who purchased the belt from Buck’s son and then sold it to George G. Heye for $500. A preponderance of the evidence suggests that NMAI 008386.000 meets the definition for the repatriation category “Object of Cultural Patrimony” as defined in the NMAI Act Amendments of 1996 (Public Law 104–278, Section 11A(b)), and reaffirmed in the NMAI Repatriation Policy Statement, Section III.C.4 (August 2010). It is therefore recommended that the National Museum of the American Indian repatriate NMAI 008386.000 to the Haudenosaunee Standing Committee on Burial Rules and Regulations on behalf of the Six Nations of the Grand River.”

Squire’s stone giants are three: Pine Tree Chief John Smoke Sakayengwaraton Johnson, Chief George Henry Martin Onwanonsyshon Johnson (Smoke Johnson’s son and the father of actor/poet E. Pauline Johnson), and last and by far the most vile a certain Captain Barton Farr.

WHO ARE THE STONE GIANTS? Legends involving a race of Giants that lived on Earth – usually malevolent – is a universal archetype. The Legends that follow are from the Iroquois as recorded by Erminnie A. Smith [the same woman who buys from Smoke Johnson the precious and rare Book of Condolence], published by the Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology “Myths of the Iroquois.” Related by Mr. O’BEILLE BEILLE, grandson of Cornplanter.

  • “The stone giants, who principally inhabited the far West, resolved to come East and exterminate the Indians. A party of Senecas [keepers of the western door of the Haudenosaunee Longhouse], just starting out on the war-path, were warned of their impending danger and were bidden to accept the challenge to fight the stone giants and appoint a time and place. This they did. At the appointed time the giants appeared at the place, which was near a great gulf. Then there came a mighty wind from the west which precipitated the whole race of giants down into the abyss, from which they were never able to extricate themselves, and the God of the West Wind was ever after held in reverence by the Senecas.”

The West Wind does not blow the stone giants who are tormenting the Davises into the abyss. But records can fly in one’s face. Reputations are at stake. Vital statistics record both Johnson and Farr’s deeds. Damning paper trails can float from the abyss into the light of day – for all to see. 

 Alleged theft and assault and misappropriation

Stone Giant Pine Tree Chief John Smoke Sakayengwaraton Johnson


Chief George Henry Martin Johnson

The proximity of the Davis-Johnson farms on the Oxbow and the cholera epidemic of 1832  – and the ensuing deaths of the Davis men, Peter Davis and Peter the Runner – these reasons give John “Smoke” Sakayengwaraton Johnson the excuse he needs to remove, forcibly, the grieving Davis family from the property of their fathers.

  • Back in 1832 Margaret Riley Davis and Peter Davis have seven-year-old Squire and his older brother, John, and his younger brother, Charles, baptized at St. Paul’s Anglican Chapel of the Mohawk. The transcriber mistakenly writes John Esq.

  • In her deposition of 1845 set before Magistrate Nathan Gage, intended for Special Commissioner David Thorburn, Margaret Riley Davis asserts she was married to Peter Davis “about twenty years ago.” Perhaps Margaret David(s) and Peter Davis marry in 1828. See record below. In 1832 Margaret’s then husband, Peter Davis, and her father-in-law, Peter the Runner, die in a devastating and far-flung cholera epidemic.

  •  In the fall of the same tragic year (1832) a knife- and gun-wielding John Smoke Johnson (backed by several armed cohorts) chases the Davis family off the farm when the family members return to claim their goods.

  • Johnson takes over the Davis property. In 1845 – no doubt rubbing salt in Squire’s open wound – a certain William Johnson, possibly the son of Smoke Johnson, holds the Davis property on the Oxbow, adjacent to the property of Smoke Johnson.

  • George Johnson wants nothing more than to toss Squire Davis into the jailhouse and throw away the key. On more than one occasion, he succeeds. Yet Johnson is not successful in keeping Squire contained, and Squire and George carry on their feud over decades. The feud cannot have been much of a secret, nor very much of an unusual occurrence. The Six Nations is rife with feuds, then and now (See Sally Weaver and John A Noon). After George Johnson’s untimely death and the death of the ancient Smoke Johnson, the council appoints Squire to the post of path-master. The honour is short-lived. Squire dies the same year of typhoid fever.
  • Scholars dig out stories. In Scratchings, Across Cultures: a memoir of denial and discovery, Stephen Heeney, digs deep into the lives of Squire Davis and Jennet Ferguson. In so doing, he unearths not only Squire’s legal troubles but also a charge against George Johnson. Heeney writes, “In 1888 [George dies in 1884], the Council of Chiefs heard a statement of claim against Johnson’s estate from the Rev. A. Anthony, who accused Johnson of having misappropriated, as Executor, the funds and other property of a certain George Anthony, the proceeds from which Johnson used in the construction of Chiefswood and the purchase of its lands.” Heeney adds, “This is getting far from the objective of my memoir, but it is a story that some scholar might well want to follow up” (pgs 90-91). 
  •  In the Sky Walker novels (historical fiction), the frightening eviction of the Davises by Smoke Johnson, thirteen years past, leaves an imprint on the boy. Smoke Johnson causes Squire’s ever-after traumatic moment. The Johnsons are his enemies. The first stone giant’s cruelty lives on in a young man’s obsession with owning land on the Grand River. In his dreams, Squire wants to find a replacement for the lost farm of his childhood. 

Stone Giant Captain Barton Farr

Image found in Grand Heritage: A history of Dunnville, Canborough, Dunn, Moulton, Sherbrooke and South Cayuga. Ed. Cheryl MacDonald. Dunnville: Dunnville District Heritage Assoc, 1992

“Histoire de ma vie”

Let us now think of Casanova, who fathers his own grandchild, and let us duly transfer the crown of depravity to Barton Farr, who not only fathers his own grandchild, Sarah Maria Farr, but also his own great-grandchild, Addie Farr.

  • William Davis out-lives his wife, Sarah Maria (Mariah) Farr. William fills out her death-certificate form. William and Sarah Maria’s foster son, Dr. Walter Davis, signs it. Sarah Maria’s death certificate, declared and submitted by husband and son, names her parents – father is Bart Farr and her mother is Elizabeth (Betsy) Lymburner. But! Bart Farr is also Sarah Maria’s grandfather because Sarah Maria’s mother, Elizabeth Lymburner, marries Harley H. Farr, the natural son of Barton and Maria (Burnham) Farr. 

  • Addie Farr, born 1869, is the daughter of sixty-nine year-old Bart Farr and Farr’s granddaughter, sixteen-year-old Velma Catherine Farr. Velma Catherine Farr marries Squire and Jennet’s second son, David Davis, in 1871. Two-year-old Addie moves in with the newlyweds. (See census records, 1871)

  • Via public records, voices from the past echo with anguish. Velma Davis’s voice. Addie Farr’s voice. As a young woman Addie Farr marries the Davis boys’ good friend, Frank Miller, and on the marriage certificate, there it is. Plain as day. Addie’s mother is Velma C. Farr and her father is Bark (Bart) Farr.

  • Bart Farr is a wealthy landowner, a church-goer, a reeve and a magistrate and a grade-A asshole. An hypocritical, sexual predator.

For the Indigenous in British North America, the white man’s law is an unavoidable ass (Sidney L. Harring, White Man’s Law: Native People in Nineteenth-Century Canadian Jurisprudence).  In later life, Squire takes Barton Farr’s estate to court on behalf of Squire and Jennet’s daughter-in-law Sarah Maria Farr, now Davis. Sarah Maria has married William Davis, Squire and Jennet’s oldest son. Farr family members are obstructive in executing Bart Farr’s will. The Farr family doesn’t want to hand over to Sarah Maria her rightful inheritance, some prime land left to her by her father/grandfather, that old devil Bart Farr. For remedy, Squire registers Sarah Maria’s case with the white man’s court. 



John Davids Esq.






Mohawk Chapel, Brantford




Indian Baptisms at the Mohawk Chapel 1827-1840’s, publication #187, Ontario Genealogical Society, Brant County Branch, Brantford.






Margaret Davids






Mohawk Chapel, Brantford




Marriage Records at the Mohawk Chapel 1827-1877, publication #189, Ontario Genealogical Society, Brant County Branch, Brantford.







1 Death certificate of Sara Maria Farr Davis, parents, Bart Farr and Betsy (Elizabeth) Lymburner.


2 Marriage certificate of David Davis, 22, and Catherine Velma Farr, 18. His parents are Squire Davis and Janet Davis. 

Her parents are Harley Hamilton Farr and Elizabeth Betsy Lymburner.


3 1871 census, the year of their marriage, showing David Davis, Velma “Catharine”  Farr, and two-year-old “Ada” – Addie .

According to the 1871 census, the Davis newlyweds live next door to Velma’s mother, Elizabeth (Lymburner) Farr, who resides with young Harley Hamilton Farr Jr (6). (Harley Hamilton Farr Sr marries Elizabeth Lymburner Farr in 1849. Harley Farr Sr dies in 1865.) Before her marriage to Harley Farr, Elizabeth/Betsy Lymburner has a child by Harley’s father, Bart Farr (Sarah Maria b. 1848). One cannot imagine how bad the poor Lymburner woman feels about her daughter Velma’s also having a child with Bart Farr.

The Davis boys are William and David. They identify as Indigenous. Each marries a daughter of Bart Farr. Craziness makes the women, aunt and niece, or half-sisters. William marries Sarah Maria. David marries Velma Catherine. Two brothers marry two “sisters,” who hail from the strangest tale of depravity.




4 Marriage certificate of Addie Farr and Frank Miller, showing Addie’s parents as Bart Farr and Velma Farr

Marker of Velma C Farr Davis (mother of Addie and wife of David Davis) and Velma’s sister, Gracey Farr

Stories that feature John Smoke Johnson, G. H. M. Johnson, Barton Farr

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The Canadian Horse

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The Markham Gang, 1845-46

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Bella Davis – daughter of Jennet and Squire Davis, and wife of William G Burr

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Pleasant Hill Cemetery: “ our lack of ghosts we’re haunted”

Since we had always sky about, when we had eagles they flew out leaving no shadow bigger then wrens’ to trouble our most aeromantic hens. Too busy bridging loneliness to be alone we hacked in ties what Emily etched in bone. We French, we English, never lost our civil war, Endure it still, a bloodless civil bore; No wounded lying about, no... Read more …