1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Johnson, Sir William
JOHNSON, SIR WILLIAM (1715-1774), British soldier and American pioneer, was born in Smithtown, County Meath, Ireland, in 171 5, the son of Christopher Johnson, a country gentleman. As a boy he was educated for a commercial career, but in 1738 he removed to America for the purpose of managing a tract of land in the Mohawk Valley, New York, belonging to his uncle, Admiral Sir Peter Warren (1703-1752). He established himself on the south bank of the Mohawk river, about 25 m. W. of Schenectady. Before 1743 he removed 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 he was appointed by Governor George Clinton (d. 1761) superintendent of the affairs of the Six Nations (Iroquois). In 1746 he was made commissary of the province for Indian affairs, and was influential in enlisting and equipping the Six Nations for participation in the warfare with French Canada, two years later (1748) being 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 he 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 he was one of the New York delegates to the inter-colonial convention at Albany, N.Y. In 1 755 General Edward Braddock, the commander of the British forces in America, commissioned him major-general, in which capacity he directed the expedition against Crown Point, and in September defeated the French and Indians under Baron Ludwig A. Dieskau (1791-1767) at the battle of Lake George, where he himself was wounded. For this success he received the thanks of parliament, and was created a baronet (November 1755). From July 1756 until his death he was “ sole superintendent of the Six Nations and other Northern Indians.” He took part in General James Abercrombie's disastrous campaign against Ticonderoga (1758), and in 17 SQ he 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 he was with General Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797) at the capture of Montreal. As a reward for his services the king granted him a tract of 100,000 acres of land north of the Mohawk river. It was due to his influence that the Iroquois refused to join Pontiac in his conspiracy, and he was instrumental in arranging the treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768. After the war Sir William 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. He died at Johnstown, N.Y., on the 11th of July 1774. In I7§ Q Johnson had 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.
His son, Sir John Johnson (1742-1830), who was knighted in 1765 and succeeded to the baronetcy on his father's death, took part in the French and Indian War and in the border warfare during the War of Independence, organizing a loyalist regiment known as the “ Queen's Royal Greens, ” which he led at the battle of Oriskany and in the raids (1778 and 1780) on Cherry Valley and in the Mohawk Valley. He was also one of the officers of the force defeated by General John Sullivan in the engagement at Newtown (Elmira), N.Y., on the 29th of August 1779. He was made brigadier-general of provincial troops in 1782. His estates had been confiscated, and after the war he lived in Canada, where he held from 1791 until his death the office of superintendent general of Indian affairs for British North America. He received £45,000 from the British government for his losses.
Sir William's nephew, Guy Johnson (1740-1788), succeeded his uncle as superintendent of Indian affairs in 1774, and served in the French and Indian War and, on the British side, in the War of Independence.
See W. L. Stone, Life of Sir William Johnson (2 vols., 1865); W. E. Griffis, Sir William Johnson and the Six Nations (1891) in “Makers of America" series; Augustus C. Buell, Sir William Johnson (1903) in “Historic Lives Series ”; and J. Watts De Peyster,“ The Life of Sir John Johnson, Bart, " in The Orderly Book of Sir John Johnson during the Oriskany Campaign, 1776-1777, annotated by William L. Stone (1882).