Sir John Johnson

2nd Baronet of New York (5 November 1741 – 4 January 1830) was a loyalist leader during the American Revolution. He was the son of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet, who had promoted the British settlement of the Mohawk Valley and founded the community of Johnstown in Tryon County in the Province of New York.

Sir John Johnson, who assumed office in 1771, was the last Provincial Grand Master of Masons in the colonies of Province of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Johnson married Mary Watts (daughter of John Watts of New York) on 30 June 1773. The couple had eight sons, all of whom served in the British army and navy, and three daughters.

In 1774, John Johnson inherited his father’s title and estates, making him a wealthy landowner. In 1775, he was appointed doorkeeper of the New York Provincial Assembly.

American Revolution

In January, 1776, nine months after the outbreak of the American Revolution, Johnson gathered several hundred armed supporters at Johnstown. He sent a letter to Governor William Tryon, through Captain John McDonell, stating that he and his loyalist neighbors had conferred about raising a battalion for the British cause. He also said he could also raise five hundred Indians which when used with his regular troops could retake all of the forts captured by the rebels. On January 20, 1776, General Schuyler, with a force of Continental troops and the Tryon County militia numbering around 3,000, disarmed Johnson and about 300 of his loyalist supporters; Johnson was thereupon paroled.

When Johnson heard of another force being sent to arrest him in May 1776, he decided to flee to Canada. He led about 170 of his tenants and allies among the Iroquois Confederacy to Montreal, Quebec. Sir John’s loyalty to the King cost him his home in Johnstown and extensive property in the Mohawk Valley, all of which was confiscated after the war. Johnson and his followers formed the core of the British military regiment known as the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, which saw substantial action under his command throughout the war. Johnson was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1782. On March 14, 1782 he received the appointment of Superintendent General and Inspector General of Indian affairs. His authority extended over all northern Indians allied with the crown.

After War Years

In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed, establishing the independence of the American Colonies. Johnson and thousands of other loyalists found themselves in permanent exile in Canada. In 1784, Johnson was assigned by the British government to distribute crown lands along the St. Lawrence River and the north shore of Lake Ontario to the loyalists who had come to Canada during the Revolution and to help them settle on these lands. Johnson estimated that he had arranged the settlement of 3,776 loyalists during that year. In 1791, Lord Dorchester recommended him as lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, but London turned this recommendation down.

In 1796, he moved back to Montreal and served in the Legislative Council of Lower Canada and as head of the Indian Department for Lower Canada. He held extensive land holdings in Upper and Lower Canada, including the seigneuries of Monnoir and Argenteuil.

Johnson died in Montreal in 1830 at the age of 88. He was succeeded to the baronetcy by his eldest son, William.