Johnson, Sir William

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Johnson, William

British superintendent of Indian Affairs (1755-74)

born 1715, Smithtown, County Meath, Ireland

died July 11 1774, Johnstown, NY, New England


William Johnson was the son of Christopher Johnson, a country gentleman. As a boy he was educated for a commercial career.

In 1738, William Johnson emigrated to New England to manage a tract of land in the Mohawk Valley, New York, belonging to his uncle, Admiral Sir Peter Warren. He established himself on the south bank of the Mohawk River, about 40 km west of Schenectady.

In 1739, Johnson married Catherine Wisenberg, by whom he had three children. After her death, he had various mistresses, including a niece of the Indian Chief Hendrick, and Molly Brant, a sister of the famous, Chief Joseph Brant.

Before 1743, Johnson moved to the north side of the river. The new settlement prospered from the start, and a valuable trade was built up with the Indians, over whom Johnson exercised an immense influence. The Mohawks adopted him and elected him a sachem.

In 1744, Johnson was appointed superintendent of the affairs of the Six Nations (Iroquois) by Governor George Clinton.

In 1746, Johnson was made commissary of the province for Indian affairs.

In 1748, Johnson was influential in enlisting and equipping the Six Nations for participation in the warfare with French Canada. He was placed in command of a line of outposts on the New York frontier. The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle put a stop to offensive operations, which he had begun.

In May 1750, by royal appointment, Johnson became a member for life of the governor's council, and in the same year he resigned the post of superintendent of Indian affairs.

In 1754, Johnson was one of the New York delegates to the inter-colonial convention at Albany, NY.

In 1755, General Edward Braddock, the commander of the British forces in America, commissioned Johnson major-general, in which capacity he directed the expedition against Fort Saint-Frédéric (present-day Crown Point), and in September defeated the French and Indians under Baron Ludwig A. Dieskau in the Combat of Lake George, where he himself was wounded. For this success he received the thanks of parliament, and was created a baronet in November.

From July 1756 until his death, Johnson was "sole superintendent of the Six Nations and other Northern Indians."

In 1758, Johnson took part in General James Abercrombie's disastrous campaign against Fort Carillon (present-day Ticonderoga).

In 1759, Johnson was second in command in General John Prideaux's expedition against Fort Niagara, succeeding to the chief command on that officer's death, and capturing the fort.

In 1760, Johnson was with General Jeffrey Amherst at the capture of Montréal. As a reward for his services the king granted him a tract of 100,000 acres of land north of the Mohawk River.

In 1763, Johnson influenced the Iroquois in their refusal to join Pontiac in his upheaval

In 1768, Johnson was instrumental in arranging the Treaty of Fort Stanwix.

After the Seven Year's War, Johnson retired to his estates, where, on the site of the present Johnstown, he built his residence, Johnson Hall, and lived in all the style of an English baron. He devoted himself to colonizing his extensive lands, and is said to have been the first to introduce sheep and blood horses into the province.

On July 11 1774, Johnson died at Johnstown, NY.


This article incorporates texts from an article from the following encyclopaedia which is now in the public domain:

  • Encyclopaedia Britannica 1911 – Johnson, Sir William

Other sources

Wikipedia - Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet