19. Joseph Johnston (1814-1892), Congregational clergyman
Joseph Johnston was born in Lincolnshire. As a young man he worked as a schoolmaster and became a member of the Congregational Church in Manchester.
He was 24 when the London Missionary Society invited him to work in the Pacific Islands. There he met and married Harriett Platt, the daughter of a senior missionary.
In 1853, after a spell back in the UK, Johnston was sent to Fremantle. Initially he worked from a small rented cottage and travelled between Fremantle and Bunbury on horseback. The Reverend Johnston was dubbed “one of the most learned men in the colony”. His advocacy of “good works performed with generosity” drew the major merchants to support his social concerns, even though most were not Congregationalists.
He also lectured on intellectual topics to members of the Fremantle Mechanics Institute. However, when he thought the Institute was becoming a “gentlemen’s club”, he helped form the Fremantle Workingmen’s Association. The Reverend Johnston then instigated the amalgamation of the two bodies into a new organisation, the Fremantle Literary Institute. The Institute was a self-improvement group offering training in subjects such as mathematics and literature.
The Reverend Johnston’s Fremantle Congregation Church, completed in 1877, was renamed the Johnston Memorial Church. It was demolished in the 1960s and replaced by a large apartment block, Johnston Court.