|St Mary the Virgin Church, Ware, Hertfordshire, England|
King Charles 1 assumed control of the British crown upon the death of his father, King James, in March of 1625. Charles had already displayed his disfavor of the Puritans and his recent marriage to a Roman Catholic French Princess was a clear reflection that he was not about to let the Puritans gain greater strength in England in both church affairs as well as in politics. At the time of his coronation the English Parliament was composed largely of Puritans and while King Charles' initial battle with Parliament was over an issue of money and the funding of a war against the Spanish, his temporary dismissal of Parliament in 1626 followed in March of 1629 by his complete dissolving of Parliament, left the Puritans largely in agreement that they too like the Pilgrims before them, had no choice but to leave England. King Charles undoubtedly agreed.
|Great Grandpa Gov Thomas Dudley|
What role that John Johnson played in the organization of the Massachusetts Bay Company is unknown but unquestionably he was part of the large group of Puritan settlers who departed England in April and May of 1630 on a fleet of eleven ships now known as the Winthrop Fleet. It is estimated that between 700 and 1,000 new settlers were onboard these ships including men, woman, children, and servants. On one of the websites describing the settlers on the Winthrop Fleet, it described the background of the typical settler. These descriptions undoubtedly give us a good profile of our great grandfather John Johnson. The typical settler it reads, left England for spiritual reasons and not economic reasons, they were for the most part financially well-off, they travelled in a family group with children, there were an equal number of men and women, they were generally all highly literate, they were mostly middle class as opposed to rich or poor, and only around 17% of the travelers were servants. We know that John Johnson traveled with his six surviving children who ranged in age from 3 to 16 years old including my great grandfather Isaac Johnson who was then 15 years old. We believe that the list of passengers who traveled with the Winthrop Fleet, a list that included the name John Johnson, is a calculated list based solely on the names of the early Massachusetts Bay settlers, and not on a passenger list prepared at the time of their departure. Included in this list is the name of John Johnson's second wife Margery. If she did travel with John and his children then they must have married sometime between his first wife's death in May of 1629 and the departure of the fleet in April of 1630. While this is very much possible, the reality we believe is that she arrived in Massachusetts at a later date and they met and married sometime in or just before 1633. Not that it really matters but obviously John badly needed a mother for his children and Margery surely filled the role.
that beer was used as a substitute for water which quickly spoiled on the long voyage, it is surprising that more young children did not die. Although, who knows, maybe beer helped comfort them during their long and miserable and boring days at sea. In reality, it was not the voyage that was the greatest curse upon the Puritans, for as Great Grandfather Thomas Dudley reported in a letter written about six months after their landing in Massachusetts, over two hundred of the original passengers had died after their arrival. Life in the new world was not easy.
|Eliot Burying Ground|
John Johnson's second wife Margery died in June of 1655. As was very common during this period of history, John married for a third time in October of 1656 to a widow woman named Grace Negus but their marriage lasted less than a year as John himself died on 19 September 1659. He is buried in the old Burying Ground in Boston (formerly Roxbury) at the corner of Washington and Eustis Streets not far from his original home site. Also buried in this same cemetery is John's second wife Margery. The exact location of their burials within the cemetery is unknown. We believe that one of the greatest pieces of evidences of John Johnson's stature in his community is the fact that when Governor Thomas Dudley wrote his final will in 1653 he named his friend John Johnson as one of the executors of his estate. Thomas Dudley is my ancestor on my father's side of my family and John Johnson is my ancestor on my mother's side of my family. What a small world.
Second Generation: Isaac Johnson and his wife Elizabeth Porter: My 9th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson, is perhaps best known for his military activities that ultimately resulted in his death in 1675, but we will discuss that in subsequent paragraphs. As we previously stated, Isaac came over to America at the age of 15 with his parents and brothers and sisters in 1630. Unfortunately, we know very little about the early life of Isaac as many of the early Roxbury records were lost in the fire that destroyed his parent's home in 1645. What we do know is that when he turned twenty on 4 March 1635 he was made a Freeman in Roxbury and a few years later on 20 January 1737 he married my 9th great grandmother, Elizabeth Porter, who was at the time 20-years old. Elizabeth was raised in Ware, England and we have to wonder if she might have known Isaac in England before he departed for America although at the time of his departure she would have been only 13 years old. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, both of her parents had died young and she was living with her brother Edward Porter and his family in England when they elected to sail to America and the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636. Isaac and Elizabeth were married less than a year after her arrival. They were to have around twelve children during their lifetimes including my 8th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (Jr) who was born in 1644.
It is not entirely clear what Isaac did for a living although he was undoubtedly a farmer on land that he received from his father when he married Elizabeth. The other records that we read, outlined his military service. He was first appointed as a captain of the Roxbury Militia in 1635 when he was only twenty which shows that his contemporaries must have respected him. He later became a member of the colony's Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company beginning in 1645, then appointed a Lieutenant in 1666 and in 1667 he was elevated to the position of Captain. As we will describe, it was unfortunately his position as a military leader that eventually led to his death.
I clearly remember when I was young being taught American History in school. The history lessons always seemed to portray the American Indian as the evil enemy of the new British and European immigrants beginning with the colonization of Jamestown in 1607 and followed by the colonization of New York (New Amsterdam) and Massachusetts in the 1620s. The evilness of the Indians was also well displayed in many of the early motion pictures. What was ignored was that peaceful Indians helped the early Plymouth Colony settlers survive and that in the spring of 1621 the Pilgrims shared a "Thanksgiving" dinner with the Indians to celebrate their survival. Such celebrations were quickly a thing of the past. Isaac Johnson's almost continuous military service in the early years of New England was the result of the need to control the local Indians whose land was being absorbed by the colonists on almost a daily basis. One has to love the myth story about Dutchman Peter Minuit purchasing Manhattan Island from the Indians in 1626 for $24 worth of trade goods. If this even did occur we feel confident that the Indians had no idea that they were selling their land. These were the types of fables and trickery that have been passed along through the generations to help explain how the new settlers were able to gradually move westward (often killing the evil Indians as they absorbed their land.) One other observation worth mentioning is that many of the Indians were killed by diseases such as smallpox which were obviously introduced into America by the thousands of new immigrants.
|King Philip's War 1675-1676|
|The death of Isaac Johnson during attack at Great Swamp Fight|
Isaac Johnson was 60 years old when he was unexpectedly killed. The location of his burial is not known for certain although it is believed that the dead bodies were carried around 10 miles north near to what is today the village of Wickford, Rhode Island where they were buried in a mass gravesite, now a National Historic Landmark in what is now called Smith's Castle. It must have been an awful day for Elizabeth Johnson and her children when they learned of their Isaac's death and his burial at an unmarked gravesite many miles away. Isaac's son, my 8th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (Jr), was thirty years old when his father was killed. Undoubtedly both he and his entire family would have hated the Indians and blamed them for the unnecessary death of their father. Elizabeth Porter Johnson outlived her husband by eight years finally dying on 13 August 1683.
Third Generation: Isaac Johnson (Jr) and his wife Mary Harris: My 8th great grandfather, the fourth child of his parents Isaac and Elizabeth, was born in Roxbury on the 7th day of January in the year 1644. While there are some conflicting historical records as to where and when Isaac married his wife, Mary Harris, it is generally accepted that they married in Middletown, Connecticut on 26 December 1669 shortly after he had moved there. Mary Harris was born in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1651 only a year before her parents and my 9th great grandparents, Daniel and Mary Weld Harris, moved to Middletown in 1652. Middletown had only been settled two years earlier in 1650 and its location on the Connecticut River made it a popular spot for new settlers considering that it's location quickly made it a busy sailing port. During the 18th century, Middletown became the largest and most prosperous settlement in Connecticut. Fortunately for Isaac and Mary and their three young children alive at the time of the King Philip's War and the nearby Great Swamp Fight, the local Wanqunk Indian tribe in their area had remained neutral or at least under the control of the local colonists and thus the small village of Middletown had escaped being attacked. We could not find any records showing that Isaac Johnson (Jr) participated in the King Philip's War although it is hard to imagine that he did not in some manner especially considering that his father-in-law, Daniel Harris, was made a lieutenant in the militia in 1661 and later commissioned a captain.
|Isaac Johnson's gravestone (1644-1720)|
|Isaac Johnson's gravestone (1670-1744)|
Perhaps more interesting than the life of Isaac and Margaret is the life of Margaret's father, Thomas Miller, and his marriage to Margaret's mother, Sarah Nettleton, both of whom are my 8th great grandparents. Thomas Miller was born in England around 1609 and it was here that he married his first wife Isabel around 1630. Shortly thereafter they immigrated to America and soon settled in Roxbury, Massachusetts where they had several children before eventually moving to Middletown around the year 1652. Thomas is credited with building the first grist mill in Middletown in the year 1655 and at that point he was probably a respected citizen. Thomas Miller would probably have been a forgotten figure in American history were it not for what he did in late 1665. Apparently his wife Isabel may have been sick for she died in mid-May 1666, but that fact does not excuse then 56-year old Thomas from getting their family's young 22-year old maid, Sarah Nettleton, pregnant who shortly before Isabel's death, gave birth to Thomas' son who was born on 6 May 1666. In this period of history such an action was severely punishable and while he quickly married his young maid after his wife died, Thomas was thrown in prison and threatened with a whipping as was his new wife. Fortunately, Thomas was later released from prison and perhaps because of his position in the community and the fact that he had quickly married my 8th great grandmother, no further punishments followed his brief prison stay. Thomas and Sarah Nettleton Miller went on to have a total of eight children including their sixth child and my great grandmother, Margaret Miller, who was born in 1676 when her father was 66 years old and her mother only 34 years old. Great Grandpa Thomas died at the age of 70 years old in August of 1680 (perhaps with a smile on his face.) His youngest daughter, Mehitable Miller, was born seven months following her father's death. My great grandmother Sarah not unexpected, soon remarried and then outlived her first husband by 48 years.
|Thankful Cowles Johnson (1700-1785)|
|Fort Rutland, Vermont, constructed 1775|
Subsequent Generations: Anna Johnson, the youngest daughter of Asa and Thankful Johnson was born in Rutland, Vermont in 1775. She married Elijah Starkweather in Rutland around 1807 and sometime before 1830 they moved to Cayuga County, New York in New York's Finger Lakes region where four more generations of our family were born. The following is a listing if this line of my family ancestors down to the present time:
Anna Johnson (1775- ?) married Elijah Starkweather ( 1756-1847)
Adaline Starkweather (1818-1849) married John J. Yawger (1817-1895)
Elsie Ann Yawger (1844-1918) married David S. Coapman ( 1844-1910)
Marian E. Coapman (1867-1895) married Eugene Hutchinson Ferree (1866-1952)
Florence Adaline Ferree (1891-1938) married Douglas Ross Patterson (1888-1979)
Marian Coapman Patterson (1916-1973) married Charles Asbury Baker (1916-2000)
Charles Asbury Baker Jr (1942- )
Anne Rappleye Baker (1943- )
Joan Patterson Baker (1950- )
Until the next chapter . . . .