Johnson, Sir William

Johnson, Sir William,

1715–74, British colonial leader in America, b. Co. Meath, Ireland. He settled (1738) in the Mohawk valley, became a merchant, and gained great power among the Mohawk and other Iroquois. He acquired large landed properties, founded (1762) Johnstown, N.Y., and lived in baronial splendor at Johnson Hall. Because of his influence with the indigenous population (he was made a Mohawk sachem in the 1740s), he was a key figure in the French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
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, first becoming prominent in King George's War. At the Albany Congress (1754) he helped formulate British policy toward native peoples, and he was made (1755) superintendent of Iroquois affairs. In the French and Indian War, although his expedition against Crown Point did not capture that fort, he soundly defeated (1755) the French under Baron Dieskau at Lake George and built Fort William Henry. Johnson was rewarded with a baronetcy.

In 1759 he captured Fort Niagara, and in 1760 he served with Gen. Jeffery Amherst in the capture of Montreal. He had been appointed general superintendent of Indian affairs north of the Ohio in 1756, and after the Peace of Paris (1763) his office was of great significance in the vast new areas gained from France. His chief lieutenants were George CroghanCroghan, George
, d. 1782, American Indian agent, b. Ireland. He migrated to North America in 1741 and became (1756) deputy superintendent of Indian affairs under Sir William Johnson.
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; Johnson's son-in-law, Guy JohnsonJohnson, Guy,
c.1740–1788, Loyalist leader in colonial New York, b. Ireland. He emigrated to America as a boy and married (1763) a daughter of Sir William Johnson, whom he succeeded as superintendent of Indian affairs in 1774.
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; his son, Sir John JohnsonJohnson, Sir John,
1742–1830, Loyalist leader in the American Revolution, b. Mohawk valley, N.Y.; son of Sir William Johnson. He fought against the Native Americans in Pontiac's Conspiracy and was one of his father's chief lieutenants.
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; and Daniel Claus. Although Pontiac's RebellionPontiac's Rebellion,
 Pontiac's Conspiracy,
or Pontiac's War,
1763–66, Native American uprising against the British just after the close of the French and Indian Wars, so called after one of its leaders, Pontiac.
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 and British economy measures prevented him from establishing the centralized control over natives and fur traders that he desired, he did much to further British rule in the formerly French territories. He presided at the council of Fort StanwixFort Stanwix,
colonial outpost on the site of Rome, N.Y., controlling a principal route from the Hudson River to Lake Ontario. Originally a French trading center, it was rebuilt by the English general John Stanwix in 1758.
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 (1768). His papers have been edited by the New York State Division of Archives (13 vol., 1921–62).


See biographies by A. Pound and R. Day (1930, repr. 1971), J. T. Flexner (1959), and F. O'Toole (2005).

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Johnson, Sir William

(1715–74) colonial baron, Indian agent; born in Smithtown, Ireland. He gained the full confidence of the Iroquois tribes, especially Mohawks. He became their agent in 1754 and led militiamen and Iroquois in a victory over the French at Lake George in 1755 (for which he was knighted). He retained his influence with Indian tribes until his death.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
(1.) Julian Gwyn, "Johnson, Sir William," of Canadian Biography Online, 1771-1800 (Volume IV), URL: e.php?&id_nbr=1974&interval=20&&PH PSESSID=997adnb4cq44pmls5hns15o0f3.
The next stop will be Fort Johnson, Sir William Johnson's second home.