Northern Marches: Johnstown
John, the son of poor farmers, was offered a full share with a group of prosperous people. He was promised a very good living. He was not told he would have to risk his life to earn this living.
John’s family lived under a harsh noble. The noble lived quite well as his holding were established and the land was well taken care of. But John, when offered a chance to better his family took the chance. He was in fact successful in his adventures. When he accumulated a total of 80 gold pieces he offered to buy his families release. The noble, thinking he could dismiss this bumpkin easily asked for a gold coin to release the family from servitude. John was happy to find he could do this for a single gold coin. But having 80 of these freedom coins, he offered to buy eighty of his extended family and many of the friends of his family. The Count, seeing all that gold lost his senses eagerly took the offer. Eighty families left the Counts land that year and headed north. North was where there was freedom. North was the Marches. John was sure they could find a place to live there.
Johnstown was founded that year after traveling all the way through the Marches. They left behind civilization, but traded it for freedom. But John, worldly as he had become in a short two years he was gone organized them to build shelter and prepare food to last over the winter he knew would be harsh. Winter was harsh. Maybe not for any who lived in nearby settlement. But for farmers who had lived many hundreds of miles farther south, this was horrendous. Snow drifted ten feet in places. The simple huts they had erected were in some cases completely buried.
John assured the people they would be ok, to stay inside and work for the Spring thaw. Some thought this young one had doomed them all. Had they given up lives in relative safety, even though they did have to toil under harsh conditions, for a frozen death? There was some grumbling among many that first winter.
Eventually the thaw did come. The people were quite despondent for being inside all that time. They were accustomed to short and mild winters, and none had seen snow such as this place had. Still they came out of their huts that Spring and did what they knew how to do. They planted their crops, a good variety of crops. John had picked his people wisely. They had the bare essentials to get going when they started and they were organized by John. The fields were plowed while the permanent location for the town was being laid out. While the crops grew through the Summer, homes were built. Nice homes. Homes with windows, doors and space for gardens. The kind of homes most had never even dreamed of living in.
The harvest was successful, abundant even, and not having to give it to a noble was a wonderful feeling. The town now had surplus food and homes for over half the families there. Some families would double up and friends would share a house that next winter. The attitude in Johnstown that winter was almost jovial. People were seen on clear days to be out visiting neighbors and children would be playing in the vast amounts of snow. Prosperity was starting to peer out from the stark poverty the people had known.
The following year the town built a mill and more storehouses. A lumber yard and warehouse were put up. The first pub was built and a town meeting house was built. And again, the crops were abundant. The third winter in Johnstown was mild compared to the two past years. Snow didn’t even reach the top of the ten foot outer wall that had been erected around a small part of the town. That year, John was nominated as the mayor. Some wanted to call him lord, but he said he was just like them and that he would be happy to be their mayor. It was that winter they fact that he had paid a gold coin for each family came out. Now people started to feel a debt of gratitude towards him. Everyone knew they could not pay him back and those thoughts would be put in the back of peoples minds, not to be talked about.
By now, other settlements and a couple villages were known about. None were as large as Johnstown, so Johnstown became the center of trade. People would come there to trade goods and in many cases to buy things they could not make for themselves. Johnstown prospered.
It was the fifth year that the Duke came to visit. Even though Johnstown was outside of his lands, even the lands the King claimed. The Duke wanted to see this Johnstown. The relationship between John and the Duke would over the years become a friendship. It was also in the fifth year a small group of very short stocky people arrived. They had gifts of gold and things to trade of exquisite craftsmanship. They also had stories of woe to warn these people new to this land of dangers not yet know to them. John took this advice to heart and began to make preparations.
The next year John began to teach the people how to use a bow, and then how to make them and the arrows they would need. They also started on a tower, a circular stone tower they didn’t finish for another two summers. The house he had built was done in the next two years. The walls around that took four years to build.