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Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs:
Johnson

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 1291-1293 of Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, edited by Cuyler Reynolds (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 929.1 R45. Some of the formatting of the original, especially in lists of descendants, may have been altered slightly for ease of reading.]

The origin of this branch of the Johnson family in America is thus set forth in a memorial published by the New York State Agricultural Society, 1869-70.

"About the middle of the last century (1750), a Scotch surgeon of eminence in his profession emigrated to this country and settled in the province of Massachusetts Bay not far from its western border. His name was William Johnstone, but as there was another physician of the same name in the vicinity, our Scotch doctor dropped the letters 't' and 'e' and ever thereafter signing his name William 'Johnson'."

(II) William (2), son of Dr. William (1) Johnson, the founder, studied medicine under his father with whom he was in practice during the revolution. He was a surgeon in the revolutionary army, and after the war settled at Canaan, Columbia county, New York, where he had an extensive medical practice. He also owned and operated a large farm and was in prosperous circumstances. He became associated with others in the establishment of a cotton factory at Lebanon, which involved him in serious financial difficulty. He was obliged to sell his Columbia county realty and other property to meet his obligations. He finally gave up his home and practice, removing to Rome, New York, about 1816. He purchased a small farm there on which he settled with his family. He married Dolly Ainsworth, who died at Rome, New York, January 24, 1832. Dr. William (2) died in the same town, May 18, 1821.

(III) Benjamin Pierce, son of Dr. William (2) and Dolly (Ainsworth) Johnson, was born at Canaan, Columbia county, New York, October 30, 1793, died at Albany, New York, April 12, 1869. He prepared for college in a school at Lenox, Massachusetts, and entered Union College, Schenectady, New York, in 1810, where he was graduated, class of 1813. He prepared for the practice of law at Hamilton and Hudson, New York, was admitted to the bar in 1817, and became a well-known and prominent lawyer and public official of Rome, New York. He received the degree of A. M. from Hamilton College in 1820. He was elected to the New York state legislature from Rome in 1827, and was re-elected 1828-29. In Albany he found himself among old friends. De Witt Clinton, his warm personal friend, was in the governor's chair, Elisha Williams (regarded as the most prominent jury lawyer in the state), under whom he studied law a few years before, was in the assembly, Erastus Root was speaker, Millard Filmore, Benjamin F. Butler, John Van Buren and other giants were also in the house, while in the senate were Silas Wright, Peter R. Livingston, Ambrose L. Jordan, John C. Spencer and others whose names are not forgotten in New York history — with such men "Colonel" Johnson was personally popular, his genial manners, freedom from party rancor, accurate memory, abundant anecdote and ready humor making always a desirable associate whether on legislative committees, or in the social gatherings then so frequent in Albany during legislative sessions. After the close of his political career in 1829, lie returned to Rome and resumed his professional career. He began to be interested in agriculture, and purchased a farm, operating it more for experimental than money-making purposes. As he became more interested in farming and farmers, he saw that great good would come from an active, progressive agriculture association. In 1841 he was chosen vice-president of the reorganized and rejuvenated State Agricultural Society. He became deeply interested, and during 1842 wrote a great deal for the columns of the Central New York Farmer, also the Albany Cultivator. In 1844 he was correponding secretary, and in 1845 president of the society. He was now a very busy man. His legal practice in the various courts was large, he did a large collecting business, was school commissioner, receiving and disbursing public money, was a farmer and breeder of fine "Short Horns," editor and agricultural writer, and was much in demand as a public speaker on politics, temperance and other topics of the day. In 1846 he became involved in financial difficulty. In 1847 he was appointed secretary of the State Agricultural Society, and took up his residence in Albany. He gave up all other business and devoted himself solely to the development of the agricultural interests of his state, and "Colonel" Johnson became an oracle to the great mass of farmers of the state, with whom he came in contact. The society's office became the depository of every fact, suggestion, product or invention connected in any way with agriculture or the domestic arts. He traveled and spoke constantly. The management of state fairs was reduced to a perfect system, becoming a model for other states. He was an organizer of the United States Agricultural Society in 1852, and one of its vice-presidents for many years. In 1850 he was chosen secretary of the committee appointed to represent the United States at the Crystal Palace World's Exhibition held in London, England, 1851. It was at this exhibition that American agricultural and harvesting machinery first came into world notice and carried away all honors in their class, and the Yankee yacht "America" captured the "Blue Ribbon of the Seas." "Colonel" Johnson, who had been appointed by Governor Hunt "to represent the interests and honor of the State of New York," was on the ground and rendered invaluable aid to American exhibitors, returning home in September, 1851, after a visit to France, where he was presented with the medal of membership in the French Agricultural Society. From 1851 to 1861 he was indefatigable in the work of the society. In 1853 he took a large share in the national exhibition at the New York Crystal Palace. In the same year he became a trustee of the State Agricultural College. He was appointed by President Lincoln, in 1862, commissioner from the United States to the international exhibition again held in London. The civil war being in progress there were but ninety-five American exhibitors, eighty-three of them being awarded prizes. "Colonel" Johnson soon after his return from abroad lost his wife, which with other family bereavements and old age, which was creeping on, broke down his health. He was gradually relieved from the more arduous duties of secretary. In 1868 he attended his last meeting with the society, and on April 12, 1869, he passed quietly away. Says a contemporary: "He was the state's best servant. Never man served the people to higher results of value and received so little for it." When in his thirty-second year, "Colonel" Johnson experienced a change of heart on religious matters under the preaching of the evangelist, Charles G. Finney, and soon afterward made a public profession of his faith and joined the Presbyterian church in Rome. He became a prominent speaker at religious gatherings, took an active part in the establishment of Sunday schools and temperance societies, and was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Oneida. For some time he supplied the pulpit of the Second Presbyterian Church of Rome until a regular minister could be installed. He never again regularly occupied a pulpit, but was always a most efficient layman. He was a strong anti-slavery man and loyally supported the Union. He gained his military title of colonel during the war of 1812, but never saw active service. He was fond of telling his military experiences, relating them with great gusto and humor. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity, belonging to Rome Lodge.

He married (first) December 11, 1820, Ann McKinstry, of Rome, who died January 28, 1837. They were the parents of seven children; two sons, Alexander and Kirk, and a daughter Rose, who married Henry B. Woodbridge, reached maturity. Mr. Woodbridge was a paymaster in the United States navy and died in the service during the civil war. Alexander died in Chicago, February 24, 1867. Kirk died at home, April 18, 1867. He married (second) at Sherburne, New York, March 1, 1838, Mary, born February 15, 1808, died December 1, 1862, daughter of Joseph and Mary (Foote) Adams. Joseph Adams was a teacher, later a farmer. He married Mary Foote, and had Isaac Foote, Hiram, Mary and Minerva Foote. Children of Colonel and Mary (Adams) Johnson: A child died in infancy, and a son, Benjamin W., mentioned below.

(IV) Benjamin W., son of Colonel Benjamin Pierce and Mary (Adams) Johnson, was born at Rome, Oneida county, New York, June 16, 1844. He was educated in the experimental school, an adjunct to the State Normal, and the Albany Academy. He entered Hamilton College, where he was graduated A. B. 1865. In 1866 he entered the employ of the National Commercial Bank of Albany as bookkeeper, where he remained six years. He associated with the Albany Savings Bank in 1872, as accountant. In 1883 he was promoted assistant treasurer. In 1905 he was elected treasurer, the position he now (1910) holds. He is now nearing the half century mark of continuous connection with Albany's banking affairs, nearly forty of which have been passed with one institution. The Albany Savings Bank is the second oldest savings bank in the state, the first president being Stephen Van Rensselaer. John W. Yates was the first treasurer. The act of incorporation was passed March 25, 1820. The first meeting of the board of directors was held May 16, 1820, when Sylvanus P. Jermain was appointed secretary.

Mr. Johnson is a member of the Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, and in politics is a Republican. He belongs to the University and Fort Orange clubs of Albany, and the University of New York City. He married, November 11, 1868, Mary H., daughter of Lorenzo and Almira (Stone) Bennett, of Homer, Cortland county, New York; she died February 3, 1907. Children:

  1. Harriet B.
  2. Florence B., married George F. Stone, of Washington, District of Columbia, and has Philip J. and Benjamin J.
  3. Benjamin R., graduated from Hamilton College, 1897, then entered the patent office in Washington, and while there took up the study of law at the Georgetown University, from which he graduated and is now a practicing attorney of Washington, D. C. He is unmarried.

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