Vermont Obituaries

Dr. Ernest Fenwick Johnstone

Born in Waterville, Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada on 12 April 1867 to John William and Mary Ann (Best) Johnstone. Later he moved to the states living in Michigan, Massachusetts, Connectecut and Vermont.

He was a published poet, having written the poem "No Vermonter's in Heaven". A poem that seems to be known by Vermonters. His two publications on poetry were "Book of Original Poems", 1893; and "Selections from Johnstone Poems", 1915. The 1915 publication contains his Vermont poem.

He was listed as a lawyer on his marriage certificate to his first wife Edna (Gray) of Boston in 1894.

A later search showed he received his masters in law from the University of Michigan in the early 1890's. But it seems the trade he applied most was as an "Extraction Dentist". He traveled around with horse and buggy in Orwell, Bristol, and a few other small towns in Vermont, pulling teeth. In later years it is said he drove around in his Model T, with a tool box full of teeth and extracting tools, applying his trade.

He and Edna had one child, Mildred Sylvia. Ernest and Edna divorced at some point and Edna and their daughter Sylvia moved on to Covina, California. Ernest married again in 1909 to Jessie (Mossman) Phelps. They also had one daughter named Gwenyth. Ernest died in Bristol, Vermont on 7 April 1938. He is buried next to second wife Jessie in Greenwood Cemetery, Bristol, Vermont. His obituary states that he died of a heart attack at the Park Filling Station, where he had stopped for a few minutes while on his way home from the post office.

Source for below: "A History of the Town of Orwell, Vermont, Dedicated to all

citizens - Past & Present"; Compiled and organized by the Orwell Historical

Society, 1988., page 59, Heading of "DENTISTS":

"Dr. E. F. JOHNSTONE was a native of Nova Scotia. He practiced his

profession in Brandon, Orwell, Shoreham, and Bristol. He died in the last

named town in 1938 and his widow and daughter, Gwenyth, then resided in

Burlington. While in Orwell he lived at the old Phelps homestead north of

Orwell depot which is still known to many as the "Johnstone place." He was

accustomed to drive around the countryside with a horse and buggy, stopping

at various places to ply his trade, especially tooth pulling! He wrote

poetry on the side, a sample of which is printed elsewhere in this book."


And page 159, (one of his poems):


"NO VERMONTERS IN HEAVEN"

I dreamed that I went to the city of gold,
To Heaven resplendent and fair;
And, after I entered that beautiful fold,
By one in authority there I was told
That not a Vermonter was there!
"Impossible," said I. "A host from my town
Have sought this delectable place,
And each must be here with a harp and a crown,
A conqueror's palm and clean linen gown
Received through merited grace."
The angel replied, "All Vermonters come here
When first they depart from the earth,
But after a day or a month or a year
They restless and lonesome and homesick appear
And sigh for the land of their birth.
"They tell of its many and beautiful hills
Where forest majestic appear;
Its rivers and lakes and its streams and its rills
Where nature the purest of water distills,
And they soon get dissatisfied here."
"They tell of ravines, wild, secluded and deep,
Of clover-decked landscapes serene,
Of towering mountains, imposing and steep
Adown which the torrents exulting leap
Through forests perennially green."
"We give them the best that the Kingdom provides,
They have everything here that they want;
But not a Vermonter in Heaven abides,
A very short time period here he resides,
Then hikes his way back to Vermont!"
[E. F. Johnstone]"

"This poem has wandered widely through the American newspaper press and into other publications, into libraries, and business advertising, and it is usually credited to "Anonymous." The poem was copyrighted in 1915 by the author. Doctor Johnstone was born in Waterville, Nova Scotia, in 1867. He earned degrees at the University of Michigan in law and later in dentistry, which he practiced in Brandon, Orwell, Shoreham, and Bristol, where he died on April 8, 1938. The poem appeared in the Rutland Daily Herald and was written in 1914. Mrs. Johnstone explains the circumstances of the writing of the poem thus: "He was driving over Rochester Mountain in the fall of the year. It was in horse and buggy days, and he had ample opportunity to review the beauty about him as his horse eased his way down the mountain. Dr. Johnstone was always a lover of nature, and his great regard for it often overflowed in spontaneous verse as was the case with 'No Vermonters in Heaven'." So there are "no Vermonters in Heaven" for obvious reasons..."

Contributed by Kathy Stauffer