Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Chapter 50 - Our Johnson Ancestors

First Generation: John Johnson and his wife Mary Heath: John Johnson, my 10th great grandfather, was born in England around the year 1590. Unfortunately we were unable to uncover the exact year and location of his birth nor the names of his parents although it is apparent from the numerous articles found online that there has been no lack of effort on the part of family historians over the years to uncover these facts. Many family historians believe that he was born in County Kent, England to John and Hannah Throckmorton Johnson, however there have been no baptismal records uncovered that would substantiate this belief. In reality, the fact that he married my 10th great grandmother, Mary Heath, on 21 September 1613 in Ware, County Hertfordshire, England located about 30 miles north of London, plus the fact that all ten of his children were born in or near the Village of Ware, would strongly suggest that John Johnson may have been born somewhere in County Hertfordshire.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Ware, Hertfordshire, England
We know very little about John Johnson's life in England. What we do know is that between 1613, the year that he married, and 1630, the year that he emigrated to America, he and his growing family lived somewhere between Ware and Great Amwell in Hertfordshire. Both of these ancient villages are less than two miles apart and sit on the banks of the River Lea which flows southward down to the River Thames and London. We also know that of the ten children born to John and Mary only six survived to adulthood including my 9th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson,who was born in 1616. We have no way of knowing at what point in his life in England that John Johnson became a Puritan and a member of the group of English Protestants who both regarded the Reformation of the Church of England as incomplete but also openly sought to simplify and regulate the forms of worship. The major problem they believed was that the Church of England continued to operate in the same manner as the Roman Catholic Church which years earlier under the reign of King Henry VIII, had been thrown out of England. Unlike the Pilgrims however, who were so opposed to the Church of England that they moved to Holland, the Puritans and John Johnson continued to attend the local church services but openly they did their best to advocate changes.  One of the early Pilgrims in this area who moved to Holland and then later to Plymouth Colony was a man named Richard Warren, my 10th great grandfather, who married his wife Elizabeth Walker, my great grandmother, in 1610 in Great Amwell. It is very possible considering the small population in this area at the time, that the Walker family and John Johnson and his future wife Mary Health and her family may have known one another. 

Another interesting individual during this time period was my 9th great grandfather, the Rev Charles Chauncy, who was the Vicar of the St Mary the Virgin Church in Ware between the years 1627 and 1633. This is the same church where John Johnson and Mary Health were married and where their children were baptized and where in a few cases some of their young children were buried. They undoubtedly were very familiar with Rev Chauncy and unquestionably when Mary Heath Johnson died at the young age of 35 in the year 1629, the Rev Charles Chauncy must have overseen her funeral service.  What is interesting here is that Rev Charles Chauncy was then and later a Puritan who openly advocated changes to the Church of England, a fact which eventually led to his being fired by the church in 1633 and subsequently arrested and thrown in jail in 1634. In 1638 Charles Chauncy emigrated to America where he later became the second President of Harvard. The point of all of this is that we should not be surprised that our great grandfather John Johnson soon took on the beliefs of the many other Puritans who were living in the Hertfordshire area during this time period. In one of the historical records that we read it was noted that Hertfordshire "was a hotbed of Puritanism in the early 17th century."  We have to believe that our great grandfather soon became an outspoken advocate of change with respect to the Church of England and that eventually he became a strong supporter of leaving England when the opportunity arose to form a new colony in America.

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
In March of 1629 a group of prominent Puritans were granted a Royal Charter by King Charles 1 to form a colony in Massachusetts. The group named the Massachusetts Bay Company went on to elect John Winthrop as their new governor of the colony and Thomas Dudley as the Deputy Governor. For the record we need to mention that John Winthrop is my 1st cousin, 13x removed. His grandfather Adam Winthrop was my 13th great grandfather and his first cousin, Anne Winthrop, who arrived in America in 1631, is my 11th great grandmother. Even more interesting is that Deputy Governor Thomas Dudley (and later Governor) is my 11th great grandfather.

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.

Many of the writings also list John Johnson as a passenger on the ship Arbella which was not only the lead ship that departed on 29 March 1630 but was also the ship on which Governor John Winthrop travelled as well as a few of the other highly prominent organizers of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Again, we believe that there is no factual basis to believe that he was on this ship and as reported in other documents many of the early Puritan leaders were distributed among the seven lead ships that primarily carried passengers as opposed to livestock and supplies. On whatever ship the Johnson family travelled, the voyage was long and hard especially for the young children who spent the majority of their time below deck in the small, crowded, and very dirty cabins. There were of course, no warm showers or bathrooms onboard and considering
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.

John Johnson and his family arrived in the New World sometime in June of 1630. Their ship landed in the recently settled community of Salem although the Johnson family and others soon relocated to a new community later named Roxbury that was located about three miles south of Boston. In 1630, Boston was located out on a peninsula in the Boston Harbor and Roxbury was constructed on the mainland at the foot of the narrow section of land leading out into Boston.(Note that now because of the all of the dirt dumped into the Boston Harbor over the years, Boston has been greatly enlarged and Roxbury has been absorbed into the City of Boston.)  It was here in Roxbury that many of the early prominent and wealthier settlers located who had emigrated to America in 1630 with the Winthrop Fleet. It is not hard to imagine why 20% of the original emigrants on the Winthrop Fleet died during the winter of 1630/31 considering how difficult it must have been for a large number of families to all build homes/shelters before the onset of the awful winter approached. Fortunately all of the Johnson family survived this first winter and we are certain that all of them participated in the construction of their new home.

Eliot Burying Ground
John Johnson soon became a prominent citizen in Roxbury and in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. As early as July of 1630 he served on a Coroner's jury which must have been a time consuming role considering the frequency of deaths. In October of the same year he applied to be a Freeman which he was granted in May of 1631. In October of 1630 he was appointed a Constable. John was considered by 1631 as one of the "first comers" in the founding of the first church in Roxbury and his name is mentioned frequently in the book "History of the First Church in Roxbury" by Walter Eliot Thwing published in 1908. Both he and his son Isaac Johnson, my 9th great grandfather, are listed as early donors and founders of the first public school in Roxbury. We read with interest that the Johnson home and a tavern he owned and managed was located on a main street in Roxbury and that the tavern was occasionally used as the site of public meetings (not surprisingly). His home site today is actually in Boston located at the corner of Washington Street and Ball Street.  In 1642, he was appointed as the Surveyor General of the Arms and Ammunition responsible for the care and storage of all of the guns and ammunition of the Colony. Apparently he was responsible for the distribution of the arms when the colony was threatened. Unfortunately in 1645, his home caught fire and shortly thereafter the gunpowder exploded completely destroyed his home. We are certain at that point, that John Johnson's name became well known to everyone living in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was also noted in one of the historical writings about the destruction of his home, that his home was also the storage location of many of the local public records, all of which were obviously lost. John Johnson is known to be a court deputy for a period of 20 years, in 1632 he was chosen as the Roxbury delegate to help advise the Governor, and he frequently served as his town's Town Clerk.  Throughout his life John Johnson's primary role was that of a farmer although by the time of his death much of the land he owned was granted to him because of his numerous public services. Governor John Winthrop wrote when describing John's services that "He was an industrious man and faithful at any assignment given to him." 

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.

The first major Indian revolt in New England is known as the King Philip's War which took place between 1675 and 1676. King Philip was actually the English name given to the Indian chief known as Metacomet or Metacom who assumed control over the Wampanoag Indian tribe in 1662. At first Metacom tried to accommodate the colonial leaders by surrendering armaments and ammunition and agreeing to follow English laws. But then with the colonists constantly asking for more, this finally led to an open bloody uprising with the Indians' hopelessly attempting to drive out the ever growing English settlers. One of the ironies of this short war was that Metacom's father, Massasoit, was one of the Indian chief's who first helped the Pilgrim settlers and he may very well have attended the first Thanksgiving. Before we continue, it should be mentioned that there is strong evidence to suggest that Metacom was my 8th great grandfather and his father my 9th great grandfather. A brief description of Metacom and his relationship to our family can be found in Chapter 36 of this family history blog.

King Philip's War 1675-1676
The war actually began in June of 1675 when three Wampanoag warriors were executed in Plymouth for an alleged murder. Throughout the summer and fall, the coalition of Indian tribes held together under the leadership of Metacom attacked various villages in both Massachusetts and Connecticut. Ironically, the battle in which our grandfather Isaac Johnson fought and died, The Great Swamp Fight, which took place on the 15th day of December 1675, did not involve Metacom nor the coalition of tribes under his loose command. Typically perhaps of the English, they were worried that another Indian tribe, the Narragansett tribe, might join with the Metacom forces so that elected to attack this otherwise neutral tribe. The Narragansett Indians were located in present day Rhode Island and because of their neutrality and perhaps because Metacom hoped that they might soon join up with his forces, Metacom had purposely not attacked any of the English villages in Rhode Island. The battle which took place on a freezing cold winter day has been described as "one of the most brutal and lopsided military encounters in all of New England's history" and we are certain that our Isaac Johnson would agree. Around 70 of the 1,000 or so English troops were killed but in contrast around 97 Indian warriors were killed plus between 300 to 1,000 Indian woman, children, and elders were, for all intensive purposes, murdered in the ongoing enthusiasm. The Indian homes were burned and their food supplies destroyed. Fortunately for the Narragansett Indians, many of them were able to escape in the surrounding frozen swamps and were soon to join up alongside the forces of Metacom. Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately for the Indians, the war was soon over following subsequent loses and the ultimate death of Chief Metacom on August 12, 1676.

The death of Isaac Johnson during attack at Great Swamp Fight
Not surprisingly, many of my distant ancestors fought in the King Philip's War and at the Great Swamp Fight. The commanding officer at the Great Swamp Fight, General Josiah Winslow, was my 1st cousin x11 removed. Second in command, Captain Benjamin Church, was my 9th great uncle. The commander of the Massachusetts Regiment, Major Samuel Appleton, was my 9th great grandfather. The commander of the Plymouth Regiment, Major William Bradford, Jr. was also my 9th great grandfather and the commander of the Connecticut Regiment, Major Robert Treat, was the brother-in-law of my 10th great uncle. The leader of the 4th Company of the Connecticut Regiment, Captain Nathaniel Seely, was my 9th great uncle. Captain Isaac Johnson, the subject of this story and my 9th great grandfather, was the head of the 4th Company of the Massachusetts Regiment.  Unfortunately as we have previously mentioned, Isaac Johnson was killed at the Great Swamp Fight. Apparently, the major access to the entrance to the Indian Fort was down a large log that crossed over a swamp area and it is written than Isaac was killed as he led his troops down the log. The sketch above is said to show Captain Isaac Johnson leading the attack towards the fort.

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)
As best we could determine, Isaac Johnson (Jr) did not play an active role in his community at least not to the extent as had his father and grandfather.  He was primarily a farmer and based on the amount of land that he owned as mentioned in his last will and testament, he apparently was a large and fairly successful farmer. Mary and Isaac had in total around nine children who survived to adulthood including their oldest son and my 7th great grandfather, Isaac Johnson (3rd) who was born on 19 December 1670. Isaac died at the age of 75 on 3 February 1720 and he was buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Middletown. My great grandmother Mary died almost ten years after the death of her husband and she is buried in Old Farm Hill Cemetery also in Middletown.

Isaac Johnson's gravestone (1670-1744)
Fourth Generation: Isaac Johnson (3rd) (1670-1744) married my 7th great grandmother, Margaret Miller (1676-1764), in Middletown on the 12th day of September in 1695 and together they had twelve children including my 6th great grandfather Isaac Johnson (4th) who was born in 1703. Isaac and Margaret lived their entire lives in Middletown most likely seeing the population more than double in size over this period. Here again, Isaac Johnson's life was not remarkable although he was a successful farmer based on what he left his family in his last will and testament. He died at the age of 73 in the year 1744. Margaret outlived her husband by 20 years. They are both buried in the Old Farm Hill Cemetery in Middletown.

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.  

Fifth Generation: Isaac Johnson (4th) (1703-1786)  and his wife Thankful Cowles (1700-1785): Twenty-three year old Isaac Johnson (4th) married 26 year old Thankful Cowles in Middletown, Connecticut on 26 October 1726. Thankful, my 6th great grandmother, was born and grew up in Farmington, Connecticut located about 20 miles north of Middletown. It is unclear how and when she met her future husband although the families must have gotten to know each other fairly well as Thankful's younger brother Timothy Cowles (1704-1733) only four years later married Isaac's younger sister, Content Johnson (1709-1733) in Middletown. Isaac and Thankful over the next 16 years were to have eight children including my 5th great grandfather, Asa Johnson, who was born in Middletown in 1735. As with most of the rural communities during this historical period, at least 80% of the families were farmers and despite the fact that many of these farmers owned a few slaves even in Middletown, Connecticut in the early 1700s, the large number of children in the typical family provided the needed labor to run the farm. Children as young as ten years old were typically put to work.  The consequence of course, of these large families was that as the children grew older and married, available farm land became in short supply, and families began to move westward in search of new and inexpensive farmlands. This was the case with all of our early ancestors including the Isaac and Thankful Johnson family who in 1747 left the Middletown area and moved westward, finally settling in the new community of Canaan, located in the northwest corner of Connecticut, a distance of a little over 50 miles from Middletown. Their decision to move to Canaan may have been influenced by Thankful's younger brother, Benjamin Cowles (1713-1802), having moved to Canaan a few years earlier around 1742. We know that Benjamin and his sister Thankful must have been close, as Benjamin and his wife Hannah Boardman (1715-1756) named their first daughter Thankful Cowles (1737- ?) after his sister. One thing needs to be mentioned at this point is that Benjamin and Hannah Boardman are also my 6th great grandparents. As it turned out their daughter Thankful Cowles married her first cousin, Asa Johnson, son of Isaac and Thankful Johnson and both are therefore my 5th great grandparents.

Thankful Cowles Johnson (1700-1785)
Isaac Johnson was around 52 years old at the start of the French and Indian War which began in the year 1755. Since only those male individuals 45 years old and younger were mandated to join the militia it would seem unlikely that Isaac participated in this war. That is not to say however, that he was not involved and perhaps the wages paid for the militia service might have encouraged him to enlist.  We mention this because we found the Isaac Johnson name mentioned a number of times in the rolls of the Connecticut militia men engaged during the French and Indian War. It should be noted however, that his name was fairly common so it may not have been our Isaac Johnson plus he had a son named Isaac Johnson who was 22 years old at the start of the fighting and he would likely have been involved. Fortunately, perhaps, whether our great grandfather was engaged or not in the French and Indian War which took place between 1755 and 1762, none of the fighting took place in Connecticut. That said, historical records still note that as many as 16,000 Connecticut troops were enlisted during the war and that almost 1,500 Connecticut troops died in battle, or from disease, or other causes during the war years.  Most of the actions of the Connecticut troops involved efforts to expel the French troops from various forts on or south of Lake Champlain.  The largest battles during the war however, took place further west in what is today Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Great Lakes region. In many cases the British were under the command of a young man named George Washington. In the end, the French and their Indian supporters were greatly outnumbered and ultimately the French were forced out of America including what is today the country of Canada. According to one of the websites online, the French and Indian troops numbered around 14,000 as compared to the English troops including the local militias which numbered around 50,000. Both sides are believed to have lost around 11,000 soldiers including those killed, wounded, or captured. If our Isaac Johnson was involved, he was likely part of the militia troops send up to the "Relief of Fort William Henry" that had been captured by the French in early August of 1757. Fort William Henry was located at the southern end of Lake George about 120 miles north of Isaac Johnson's home in Canaan. An Isaac Johnson is listed in a militia under the command of a Captain Uriah Stevens who just happened to be from Isaac's hometown of Canaan. Their service at the fort was only a matter of a few days as the French and their Indian allies had already captured and burned to the ground Fort William Henry. Following the surrender of the fort by the British, the Indians had killed many of the surrendered British troops. This notorious atrocity committed by the Indians following the battle was portrayed in James Fenimore Cooper's famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans, first published in 1826 and later made into movies including the well known 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans. One of the side effects of the French and Indian War was that it left the America Colony and the British deeply in debt. The British government in an effort to pay down the debt introduced heavy tariffs on sugar, coffee, wine, and other imported commodities from the American colonies followed in 1765 by the notorious Stamp Act. The American strong opposition to these taxes and tariffs eventually led to the American Revolution and the British loss over the control of America with the exception of Canada. Isaac Johnson died in 1886, three years following the official end of the American War for Independence. Thankful Cowles Johnson, his wife and my great grandmother, died a year before her husband at the age of 85 in 1785.

Sixth Generation: Asa Johnson (1735-1791) and his wife Thankful Cowles (1737- ?): Asa and Thankful married in Canaan on the 28th day of April in the year 1757.  As cousins they had probably known each for almost a decade before they married. Asa was only 21; his new wife was only 20 years old when they married. As we previously mentioned, Thankful Cowles was named after Asa's mother. They were to have six children together during their long marriage including their last child, a daughter named Anna Johnson, my 4th great grandmother, who was born in 1775.  Asa Johnson was his parents third son and considering the condition of the country at the time of his father's death in 1786 shortly following the close of the Revolutionary War, he probably did not inherit much. Furthermore, since their marriage occurred during the French and Indian War, he and his new wife were probably not richly gifted at their wedding by either of their families. What is known about Asa and his wife and their only daughter at that point, Hannah, is that in 1762 they moved to Williamstown in the northwest corner of Massachusetts about 65 miles north of Canaan. Why they moved there is anyone's guess particularly since they had no known relatives in the area and Asa Johnson is not known to have had employment in the Williamstown area.  The history of Asa Johnson in his few years in Williamstown is told in the book "Origins in Williamstown" written by Arthur Latham Perry in 1894. Apparently while in Williamstown, Asa spent much of his time buying and selling property and most of the time losing money in his many trades.  By 1770 it is reported in the book that Asa had sold all of his property including "his dwelling-house and out-buildings" and moved north again to Rutland, Vermont, a distance of around 70 miles. In 1770, the Johnson family was among the original founding families in Rutland. The following paragraph which further describes my ancestor Asa Johnson and his family is copied from Chapter 22 of this blog which describes our Revolutionary War ancestors, one of whom was obviously Asa Johnson.

Fort Rutland, Vermont, constructed 1775
"Asa Johnson moved his wife and three children to Rutland, Vermont from Massachusetts in the summer of 1770. He was 35 years old. The small farming community of Rutland had been settled in 1767 only a few years before the arrival of the Johnson family. Asa's wife, Thankful Cowles Johnson, had in fact been pregnant when they moved to Rutland and their fourth child, a daughter named Chloe Johnson, was born only a few months after their arrival. Chloe was the third child and the first female child born in Rutland. Only one payroll record with Asa Johnson's name exists in the federal archives, however it confirms that Asa Johnson can be claimed as a Revolutionary War Patriot. This payroll record covers the time period of October 21st through October 30th of 1781 when Asa served as a private at Castleton, Vermont in Capt Nathaniel Blanchard's Company of Militia in Col Thomas Lee's regiment. Asa's son Benjamin, age 23, is also listed as having served during this time period.  Castleton is located about nine miles west of Rutland. While it is likely that Asa Johnson served more than these few days in October of 1781, there is no evidence to suggest that he was involved in the capture of nearby Fort Ticonderoga on May 10, 1775 with Nathan Hale and the Green Mountain Boys, or involved in any of the other activities of the Green Mountain Boys such as the ill-fated attempt to invade Canada. It is very possible however, that Asa Johnson fought at the only battle that took place in Vermont during the war, the Battle of Hubbardton, that occurred on July 7, 1777. Nearby Rutland where Asa Johnson lived was the headquarters of the "Republic of Vermont" during a part of the Revolutionary War and it is probable that Asa was involved in the construction and then later in guard duties at the local forts including Fort Rutland constructed in 1775 and Fort Ranger near Rutland constructed in 1778. A sketch of Fort Rutland as it appeared during the Revolutionary War is shown above. Asa Johnson died at the relatively young age of 55 in January of 1791. We could not find the date of the death of his wife Thankful."  

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 . . . .



No comments: