Charles B Knox Gelatine Co. Inc.
Edition of
The Old Mohawk-Turnpike Book

FORT JOHNSON, 1749.
One of America's most important historical buildings and small British
fortress sites. One of two American baronial mansions, the other being
Johnson Hall, at Johnstown. Built by Sir William Johnson, 1749. British
military post, French-Indian war (1754-60), when Johnson was Major
General of Provincial Militia (including Mohawk Valley.) Building and
grounds owned by Montgomery County Historical Society.

   

FORT JOHNSON.

(Montgomery County)

(Over N.Y.C.R.R., N.Y., 178 m., Buff., 261 m. Pop., 1920, 680; 1910, 600; sea elevation, 267 ft.)

  

Fort Johnson Turnpike and New York-Buffalo Mileage Distances.

Eastward: Amsterdam 2 m., Hoffmans Ferry 9 m., Schenectady 18 m., Albany 33 m., New York 182 m.

Westward: Tribes Hill-Fort Hunter 5 m., Auriesville (by detour) 7 m., Fonda-Fultonville 9 m., Johnstown (by detour) 12 m., Gloversville (by detour) 15 m., Yosts (the Noses) 15 m., Canajoharie-Palatine Bridge 21 m., Fort Plain-Nelliston 24 m., Palatine Church 27 m., St. Johnsville 30 m., Gen. Herkimer Homestead (by detour) 38 m., East Creek 33 m., Finks Basin Bridge (Fall Hill) 38 m., Little Falls 40 m., Herkimer 47 m., Mohawk 48 m., Fort Herkimer Church (by detour) 50 m., Ilion 50 m., Frankfort 52 m., Utica 62 m., Whitesboro 66m., Oriskany 69 m., Oriskany Battlefield 71 m., Rome 77 m., Syracuse 112 m., Buffalo 266 m.

  

The next important Turnpike point west is Tribes Hill-Fort Hunter, 3 m. East, Amsterdam, 2 m.

Fort Johnson, on the Mohawk Turnpike, is a postoffice and railway station of the New York Central R.R. (with prepaid freight office). It was known for some years as Akin. Knit goods are made here.

Fort Johnson is a village, which is virtually a western part of the neighboring city of Amsterdam. It takes its name from Fort Johnson, on the north side of the Turnpike near the Central station. It was built in 1749 by Sir William Johnson, who, for a quarter century before the Revolution, was perhaps the most prominent figure in the British province of New York.

  

Sir William Johnson (1715-1774) and Fort Johnson (1749).

Fort Johnson is now the home of the Montgomery County Historical Society and forms an interesting historical museum open free to the public.

Fort Johnson is one of the most important of the historical homes and fortress sites in the United States of America. Here also was a noteworthy Colonial British-American post during the French and Indian war (1754-1760).

Fort Johnson has a sea elevation of about 300 feet, being elevated about 30 feet above the Mohawk.

Here is the Richmond collection, which is the most important exhibit of Mohawk Indian relics in existence.

As a young man Johnson entered the wild Mohawk valley country in 1738, and located at Amsterdam on the south side of the river. Here he undertook to superintend the lands thereabout owned by his uncle, Sir Peter Warren, a British admiral who for a time lived in New York city (at No. 1 Broadway). The young Irishman (a man of intellectual and physical vigor, of great shrewdness and fine appearance) soon branched out for himself, started a general store and became a "trader," as the dealers in Indian furs were called. In this occupation he made a wide acquaintance among the Iroquois and especially among his near neighbors, the Mohawks. In 1742 Johnson moved here and established a store and flour mill.  Here he became a colonel of militia and was adopted as chief into the Mohawk tribe under the name of Warraghegagey. He was successively provincial commissioner of Indian affairs, a member of the governor's council, a major general and Indian commissioner for all the British colonies of North America. His influence among the Iroquois kept them allies of England and in the French and Indian wars Johnson successfully guarded this most important frontier, and was also commander of British-American armies which won signal victories at Lake George (1755) and Fort Niagara (1759). No man of his time, not excepting Washington, was a more powerful influence in preventing French-North American dominance and in securing eventual British supremacy and resultant American democracy. Johnson commanded the 1,300 Iroquois who accompanied Gen. Amherst's army to its conquest of Montreal and Canada in 1760, which was the largest body of red men ever joined to a British colonial force. In 1759 Sir William Johnson founded Johnstown and moved there in 1762 on the completion of Johnson Hall. He died there at a great Indian council held in 1774, his estate consisting in part of 173,000 acres of land descending to his son, Sir John Johnson. Johnson lived at Fort Johnson and at Johnson Hall in truly baronial style. He was a virtual king of the Mohawk valley and his sway constitutes one of the most picturesque chapters in the colorful story of the Mohawk. He was a friend, patron and mentor to his Mohawk, Hollander, German and British neighbors. He colonized numbers of Scotch and Irish about Johnstown, who became Tory soldiers under his son during the Revolution. Sir William Johnson founded schools, built roads, mills, churches, improved agriculture, built up a strong local militia and proved himself an empire builder and world man in every sense. Neither were his activities marrow in their scope - as Indian commissioner he covered a great part of our country and his advice and direction of colonial affairs was constantly requisitioned.

William Johnson was a north of Ireland man, of Protestant faith, having been born in Smithtown, County Meath, Ulster, Ireland, in 1715. He is said to have left a sweetheart in Ireland to whom he promised to return, prior to his great voyage across the Atlantic.

Johnson married a German woman of the valley (Katherine Weisenberg) for his first wife. Following his "Mohawk-Dutch" wife, Katherine, a niece of King Hendrick (the Mohawk chief), was his housekeeper. Then Molly Brant became mistress of his household. By both these Mohawk women Johnson had a number of children and he is said to have had a numerous progeny by other dusky squaws. During the Revolution his son's (Sir John Johnson) estate was confiscated by American authorities.

Sir William's two daughters by his first wife, Katherine Weisenberg, were born at Fort Johnson. They were Anna, who married Col. Daniel Claus, and Mary, who marred Col. Guy Johnson. Here Katherine Weisenberg died in 1745.

In the great French-Indian war (1754-1760) Fort Johnson was valley British army and militia headquarters. Here at one time Col. Johnson had 1,100 Indians (300 of them warriors) camped on his plantation. Johnson kept the Mohawks true to England. At one time, in this war, all the other Iroquois deserted to France, but came back with later English military success.

A brief summary of the Sir William Johnson regime at Fort Johnson follows:

1739. William Johnson buys land at present Fort Johnson.

1742. Johnson moves from Johnson's settlement at present Amsterdam (south side) to the Fort Johnson property, where he had built a wooden house, which was his second valley house.

1749. Present stone house (his third valley house) called Mt. Johnson and in 1750 Johnson moved in it.

1750. Johnson made colonel of the warriors of the Iroquois league or Six Nations and of 14 companies Mohawk Valley Colonial militia and also superintendent of New York State Colonial Indian Affairs.

1754-60. Mt. Johnson palisaded, on outbreak of French-Indian war (1754-60), and henceforth called Fort Johnson. Johnson made major-general New York militia. From Fort Johnson, Gen. Johnson started march to British-American victory at Lake George over French, Sept. 8, 1755, where Johnson was severely wounded. Gen. Johnson created a baronet, Nov. 27, 1755, and given a purse of 5,000 pounds by British Crown. Fort Johnson then became a baronial mansion. Fort Johnson figured in all of Johnson's subsequent French-Indian war activities, including the expedition of 1759, which went up the Mohawk and captured Fort Niagara (under Johnson's command) after a hard battle. Fort Johnson was one of the most important British-American army posts of the period and figured in many of the British-American army movements up the Mohawk valley against Canada.

1759. Plotted Johnstown and planned Johnson Hall.

1760, February. Important council held here with the Six Nations of Iroquois, following which they formed part of Sir William Johnson's army of 1,300 Indian warriors which joined Gen. Amherst in the conquest of Canada.

1760. Gen. Amherst, commanding an army of 10,000 American militia and British regulars, moves west through the Mohawk valley to Fort Oswego and thence by water to Montreal, which he captured Sept. 8, 1760. Visits and confers with Johnson at Fort Johnson, June 22, 1760. In 1760 Johnson built Castle Cumberland, a summer residence in Broadalbin township and Fish House on the Sacandaga, in Northampton township. In this year he received the Royal Grant of 69,000 acres.

Johnson was constantly in the saddle during the French-Indian war, in his dual role as Major-General of New York militia and British Colonial Indian agent. The importance of his activities and the distances he covered were remarkable.

1762. Anna or "Nancy" Johnson (Sir William's daughter) married to Col. Daniel Claus, probably here at Fort Johnson. In 1761-2 Johnson was building Johnson Hall at present Johnstown, to which he removed in 1762.

John Johnson became proprietor of Fort Johnson in 1762, when Sir William removed to Johnson Hall at Johnstown. John Johnson first installed Clara Putnam, a beautiful valley girl, as mistress of the place and by her he had several children. In New York on June 29, 1769, he married Mary ("Polly") Watts, of the wealthy and influential Watts family of New York city. The bridal couple came up the Hudson to Albany on a sloop, rode to Schenectady and from there came up the Mohawk on a boat, poled by six river men.

Great Indian councils gathered at both Fort Johnson and at Johnson Hall; important military expeditions were despatched [sic] from both places. At Fort Johnson and the Hall Johnson held fairs or field days for both his white and red neighbors, both races competing in games of skill and strength for which prizes were offered. The story of Johnson and his days is one of the most important, wonderful and picturesque in American history for he lived in that great formative period - the half century prior to the Revolution. (See Life and Times of Sir William Johnson by Stone. See Old Fort Johnson by W. Max Reid. See Johnstown.)

  

Johnson's Famous "Dream."

Johnson virtually adopted the Mohawk chief, Joseph Brant, brother of Molly Brant, who is mentioned at Johnstown and Indian Castle. There is a famous "dream" story about Johnson. The celebrated Mohawk chief, King Hendrick, coveted a velvet and gold coat belonging to Sir William and told Johnson that "I dreamed that the coat was mine." The foxy Johnson immediately made the red chief a present of the garment. Later Johnson was at King Hendrick's house. One morning Johnson said to the sachem, "Brother, I dreamed last night." "What did my pale-faced brother dream?" asked Hendrick. "I dreamed that this tract of land was mine," said Sir William, naming a huge piece of forest (60,000 acres) to the north of the Mohawk. Hendrick was dumbfounded but was game and replied: "Brother, the land is yours, but you must not dream again." This cession of land was ratified by the British Crown and became known as the Royal Grant. It was seized by the state government after the Revolution. It comprised a large part of Herkimer county north of the Mohawk, near Little Falls.

  

A COLONIAL DAME AND TWO CAVALIERS.
Photo by Morris, from the collections of the Montgomery
Historical Society, by courtesy of Mrs. Fred Remington
Greene,  its president. Picture taken at 1919 Pageant.
Characters are:  Lady Johnson, (Mrs. George K. Morris),
Sir John Johnson, (Dr. James White), Col. Daniel Claus,
(Mr. Robert Metz).  This is at the rear of the fort, looking
through the central hall to the front entrance.

Fort Johnson 1919 Pageant.

In 1919 a beautiful pageant, typical of the Colonial life at Fort Johnson, was here held under the auspices of the Montgomery County Historical Society, of which some illustrations are here given.

Fort Johnson (1749) is one of two baronial mansions now standing in the United States, the other being Johnson Hall (1762) at Johnstown. Both were built by Johnson.

The lead roof originally on Fort Johnson was torn down and used for bullets by American Revolutionary soldiers. The furniture and hangings of the house have been restored as much as possible to their original character.

The creek here entering the Mohawk is known as Old Fort creek or the Kayaderosseros.

In 1905, Fort Johnson was purchased by Gen. J. Watts de Peyster, a relative of Polly Watts, and presented to the Montgomery County Historical Society, the present owners and custodians.

Up to the publication of the Johnson Papers by the University of the State of New York in 1922, the date of the erection of this house was given as 1742. Johnson's own letters prove that Fort Johnson was built in 1749, although he lived here from 1742 until 1762.

See "Fort Johnson and Guy Park," by Charles F. McClumpha and Elma Strong Morris.
See "Sir William Johnson Papers" (3 Vols.). University of the State of New York, 1923.

  

Colonial Mansions, Public Historical Museums 
on the Old Mohawk Turnpike.

Fort Johnson (1749) is one of the colonial mansions utilized as public museums standing directly on the Old Mohawk Turnpike. The other is Guy Park (1766) at Amsterdam. A third reached by a short detour to the south shore highway is the General Herkimer Homestead (1764), near Fall Hill. A fourth is Johnson Hall (1762) at Johnstown, reached by detour from Fonda. At Schenectady is the Schenectady Historical Society, at Herkimer is the Herkimer County Historical society, and at Utica, the Oneida Historical Society, all of whose interesting collections are open free to the public.

The Fort Rensselaer club in the Van Alstyne house at Canajoharie has a fine historical collection.

The tourist should stop at Schenectady, Amsterdam, Fort Johnson, Johnstown, General Herkimer Homestead, Herkimer and Utica to visit all these collections. Others will probably be opened (See Summary of Points of Interest at beginning of this book).

The Antlers club, with golf links, is located at the eastern end of Tribes Hill.

   

  

  

      

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