In 1881, Sarah Thomason married James Maxwell Johnstone in a tiny church in the beautiful Welsh village of Betws Garmon. The couple moved to Keswick in the Lake District and had two children before moving to Muirkirk in the Scottish Borders and having another child. In 1886, Sarah and James and the three children moved to Hoar Oak Cottage where they lived for nearly 20 years had ten more children. In 1904, when the last child was just ten months old, James died and Sarah was left on Exmoor with her thirteen children – a long way from parents and family in Wales and Scotland. Sarah died in 1945 after a long widowhood spent living and working in Lynton before going to live with her daughter Agnes Sedgbeer in Gunn and finally with her daughter Jane Johnstone in Porlock. You can read Sarah and James story and find out more about their 13 children on this link.
Looking for Sarah
The search for Sarah and her story and the hope to find a photograph of this amazing and courageous woman was, in many ways, what started two of her descendants – Bette Baldwin and Will Bowden – on the search into Hoar Oak Cottage and the setting up of The Friends. Now after many years it is time to return to that simple, original aim – of looking for Sarah.
Might there be a photograph out there somewhere? Might there be a photograph of Sarah and James out there somewhere? When James died in 1904 photography wasn’t all that common – certainly not for poor people. But when Sarah died in 1945 it would have been much more common. The hope is there may be a photo of her somewhere and we can track it down. We know so much about her life but we do not know what she looked like. How nice that would be.
If you think you may be able to help or need more information please get in touch by contacting Bette Baldwin on: