William Johnson

William Johnson


William Johnson was born near Dublin, Ireland, and came to America around 1740 to manage the estate of his uncle, Commodore Peter Warren. At this estate on the Mohawk River, near Schenectady, New York, Johnson set up a store to handle trade in furs and other items with the natives and settlers.

From the outset, Johnson engaged in the two activities that were to mark his entire life: he established good relations with the Native Americans of the region—the Six Nations of the Iroquois—and he began to acquire large tracts of Native American land.

Johnson’s success in dealing with the Iroquois led the British colonial administration to appoint him superintendent of Indian affairs in upper New York colony in 1744. He also was placed in command of the region’s militia forces that played an active role in two wars between the British colonists’ and the French and their Indian allies for control of North America — King George’s War (1744-48) and the French and Indian War (1754-63).

On September 8, 1755, Johnson’s troops were near Lake George when they were attacked by a force of French and Native Americans. Johnson’s men defeated the French and captured their commander. As a result of this victory, King George II named Johnson a baronet, and he became just the third colonial American to be knighted.


After the war ended in 1763, and the French gave up their North American holdings to the British, Johnson was free to concentrate on relations between the British colonists and the Iroquois. He worked to improve the conditions of life of the Iroquois and to advance peace, negotiating an end to Pontiac’s War, and the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1768).

The terms of the treaty allowed settlers’ to move into Indian territory, and Johnson benefited by increasing his own holdings of native lands.During these years, Johnson built himself several lavish homes. His most well-known location was Johnson Hall, near a settlement that became known as Johnstown, New York.

He lived there for his last 1 2 years like a wealthy landed English aristocrat, with servants and slaves. He also entered into relationships with two Native American women—one of them being Molly Brant, sister of the famous Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. He had 1 1 children with these women.

Johnson was a self-educated man with a wide variety of interests; he published serious articles on agriculture and Native American languages and customs. Throughout his life, he worked hard to establish good relations with the Native Americans—and at the same time never missed an opportunity to increase his personal fortune.