Johanna Ainsworth was two years old in 1860 when the Census of Indian Lands West of Arkansas was taken in October of that year. “Judie” as she was called, lived with her parents, John Garrett Ainsworth and Martha Ann Brashears, and her brothers, Tom “Pete”, “Dime” and baby Joseph. The family farm was in Skullyville County, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. Nine slaves also lived there. Johanna lost the sight of her left eye in a childhood accident involving one of the slave children.
Some of their neighbors were Nathaniel, Edmond, and Peter Folsom, as well as Tandy Walker and Campbell LeFlore, names listed in the Census. Johanna’s brother Joseph and her twin sisters Cebellea and Isabelle, who were born in December of 1862, all died within months of each other in 1864, possibly of a childhood disease for which there was no treatment. When she was 19, Johanna married Elijah Watson Fannin, a Canadian from Ontario. He was the son of Henry W. Fannin, a physician at the New Hope Seminary for girls near Skullyville. Judie and Lige moved to a farm called Krebb’s place. Their first five children were born there. The first was Adaline, who only lived a few months, and is the only one of the family who is buried in the Skullyville Choctaw burying ground. The others were Henry, the only son, who died to TB at age 32, then Pauline, Fredrica and Georgina. After they moved to Skullyville in 1888, Kyle, Madeline, Faye, and Alice were born. Their house in Skullyville was typical of times being built with three rooms on either side of a wide hall that ran the full length of the building; each side of the house had a fireplace for heat. There was a pump in the kitchen and a dug well in the yard near the road. Travelers on their way to and from Fort Smith were permitted to draw water for themselves and their horses at this well.
Johanna and Elijah moved their family into Spiro in 1907. They had a two-story home with silver maple trees in the front yard. The horses were hitched here and the cows slept under the trees at night. The house was lit by oil lamps until 1910 when Spiro got electricity. At night a crock of dough was often left to rise on the tile heath of the dining room fireplace. The bread was baked in a huge iron kitchen stove that burned coal. Between the dining room and the kitchen was a swinging door. The coal bin was located next to the privy in the barn along with the tack room, feed storage and horse stalls for Old Bill and Bissie.
Johanna was a dedicated worker in the Methodist Church. She was easy going and had a dry sense of humor. Lige would often read books to her in the evening. One of the characters in a book was called “Wilberforce”, which she thought was amusing, so she called her husband “Wilber” after that. The Fannins had a series of cooks over the years that Judie always called “Jerush” regardless of what their real names were.
Two years after Elijah died, Johanna passed away at age 62. They are buried side by side in the cemetery in Spiro, OK. Johanna was Original Enrollee #8155 and Elijah’s number was 128 IW.
Compiled by Sarah Daniel Rinehart, granddaughter of Johanna Fannin, from information received from her mother, Alice Fannin Daniel, other family members, census records and other historical sources.