Sir William Johnson

Johnson, Sir William, Bart., General, one of the early settlers of New York State, was born in the County of Down in 1715, the younger son of a gentleman of good family. In 1738 he went to America to manage the property of his uncle, Admiral Sir Peter Warren, established himself in the Mohawk Valley, about twenty-four miles from Schenectady, New York, and embarked in trade with the Indians, whom he always treated with perfect honesty and justice. Drake says that, "by acquainting himself with their language, and accommodating himself to their manners and dress, by his easy, dignified, and affable manner, he won their confidence, acquired over them an influence greater than was ever possessed by any other white man, and was adopted by the Mohawks as one of their tribe, and chosen sachem." During the French war of 1743-'48 he acted as sole superintendent of the Indians. In 1750 he was returned a member of the Provincial Council. We are told that three years afterwards he severed his connexion with Indian affairs; yet in 1754 we find him attending a grand council with them, and in 1755 Braddock made him sole superintendent of the Six Nations.

The same year he acted as Commander-in-chief of the expedition against Crown Point. On 8th September 1755 Johnson defeated Baron Dieskau at Lake George, was wounded in the hip, and received the thanks of Parliament, £5,000, and a baronetcy. In 1756 George II. confided to him a permanent care over the Indians, with a salary of £600. He was engaged with his Indians in the abortive attempts to relieve Oswego and Fort William Henry, and was present at the repulse of Abercrombie at Ticonderoga in 1758. Second in Prideaux's expedition against Fort Niagara in 1759, he took the supreme command upon that leader's death. He continued the siege with vigour, cut to pieces the French army sent to its relief, and compelled the garrison to surrender at discretion. With his Indian allies, he took part in Amherst's expedition of 1760, which ended in the surrender of Canada to the British. For his services he received a tract of 100,000 acres north of the Mohawk — long known as Kingsland, or the "Royal Grant." There he fostered agriculture, lived in baronial style, and exercised the most unbounded hospitality. By his wife, who died young, he had a son, John, knighted in 1765, and two daughters, who married military officers; and by a sister of the great Mohawk sachem Brant, with whom he lived happily the rest of his life, he had eight children. Sir William was the author of a paper on The Customs, Manners, and Language of the Indians, published in the Philosophical Transactions for 1772. He died near Johnstown, Fulton County, New York, 11th July 1774, aged about 59.


37a. Biographical Dictionary—American Biography: Francis S. Drake. Boston, 1876.