The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Johnson, William (superindentent-general)

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JOHNSON, Sir William, British superintendent-general of Indian affairs in North America: b. Smithtown, County Meath, Ireland, 1715; d. near Johnstown, N. Y., 11 July 1774. His uncle, Sir Peter Warren, offered his nephew the management of his entire property in New York, if the latter would undertake its improvement and settlement. Johnson accepted the offer and in 1738 established himself upon a tract of land on the south side of the Mohawk, about 25 miles from Schenectady, which Sir Peter had called Warrensburgh. In addition to the settling and improving of the country, he embarked in trade with the Indians, whom he always treated with perfect honesty and justice. He became a master of their language, speaking many of their dialects as perfectly as they did themselves and was thoroughly acquainted with their beliefs and customs. He was adopted by the Mohawks as one of their own tribe, chosen a sachem and named Wariaghejaghe, or Warraghiaghy, “he who has charge of affairs.” In 1744 he was appointed colonel of the Six Nations, in 1746 commissioner of New York for Indian affairs. In 1750 he became a member ot the provincial council. In 1754 be attended as one of the delegates from New York the congress of Albany and also the great council held with the Indians on that occasion, at which they strongly urged his reappointment as their superintendent. At the council of Alexandria, 14 April 1755, he was sent for by Braddock and commissioned by him “sole superintendent of the affairs of the Six United Nations, their allies and dependents.” He was also, pursuant to the determination of that council, created a major-general and commander-in-chief of the provincial forces destined for the expedition against Crown Point. At the head of these forces, in September 1755, he defeated Baron Dieskau at Lake George. This victory saved the colony from the French and Johnson received the thanks of Parliament for his victory, was voted £5,000 and on 27 Nov. 1755, created a baronet of Great Britain. On his arrival at Lac Saint Sacrament a few days before this battle, he gave to it the name of Lake George, “not only in honor of his majesty, but to assert his undoubted dominion here.” In March 1756 he received from George II a commission as “colonel, agent, and sole superintendent of the affairs of the Six Nations, and other northern Indians.” He held this office for the rest of his life. In 1758 was present with Abercrombie at Ticonderoga. General Prideaux led the expedition against Fort Niagara in 1759. Johnson was second in command and upon the death of Prideaux, before that fort, succeeded to the command in chief. With upward of 1,000 Indian allies he continued the siege with great vigor and cut to pieces the French army. He led the same Indian alliea the following year in the Canadian expedition of Amherst and was present at the capitulation of Montreal and the surrender of Canada to the British arms in 1760. The war was now at an end and the king granted to Sir William for his services a tract of about 100,000 acres of land, north of the Mohawk. In 1764, the country being at peace and the Indians perfectly contented, Sir William erected Johnson Hall, a large wooden edifice still standing. The village of Johnstown, with stores, an inn, a courthouse and an Episcopal church was soon laid out. In 1772 it became the shire town of Tryon County. Johnson lived in the style of an old English baron of former days and exercised a liberal hospitality. In 1768 he concluded the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. He wrote ‘The Language, Customs and Manners of the Six Nations,’ published in Proceedings of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia (1772) and his letters have great historical value. Consult ‘Calendar of the Sir William Johnson Manuscripts,’ compiled by Day (Albany 1909); Buell, ‘Sir William Johnson’ (New York 1903); Griffis, ‘Sir William Johnson and the Six Nations’ (ib. 1891); Stone, ‘Life of Sir William Johnson’ (2 vols., Albany 1865).