Extracted marriage date (to Margery)
4026. John Johnson425, born 1590 in Kent, England; died September 30, 1659 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He married 4027. Mary Heath September 21, 1613 in Ware, Hertfordshire, England.
4027. Mary Heath, born in Ware, Hertfordshire, England. She was the daughter of
8054. William Heath and
JOHN JOHNSON'S name was made famous one morning in February, 1645, at Roxbury, Mass., by the seventeen barrels of powder stored in his house blowing it to atoms. He was the "surveyor-general of all ye armyes," and, when Ann Hutchinson was taken into custody because of her religious opinions, the General Court ordered that the arms and ammunition of all her Roxbury adherents should be delivered into the custody of John Johnson. This was in 1637, and Governor Winthrop has described what followed: "John Johnson, having built a fair house in the midst of the town, with divers barns and other out-buildings, it fell on fire (February 6, 1645) in the day-time (no man knowing by what occasion), and there being in it seventeen barrels of the country's powder and many arms, all was suddenly burnt and blown up to the value of 400 or 500. Wherein a special providence of God appeared, for he being from home, the people came together to help and many were in the house, no man thinking of the powder till one of the company put them in mind of it whereupon they all withdrew and soon after the powder took fire and blew up all about it and shook the houses in Boston and Cambridge so as men thought it had been an earthquake and carried great pieces of timber a good way off and some rags and such light things beyond Boston meeting house."
John Johnson came to America in the "Arabella," in 1630, with Governor Winthrop's party, from Groton, Suffolk County, England. He settled at Roxbury, where he was soon appointed constable, and in 1631 was admitted freeman. In 1639, having paid ten shillings to the company, he was "freed from training." In 1640 he was "freed from training without any pay," because of his other services. He kept a tavern on Roxbury street, where many public meetings were held, and was a very industrious and faithful man in his place." He represented Roxbury in the General Court fourteen years, and was a member of the church when it was first organized. He died September 29, 1659, at Roxbury. His wife was Margery ((???)). His homestead was on the southwest corner of Washington and Ball streets, Boston, then Roxbury
The following was taken from the "Johnson Family History" (Prepared by Clarence J. Webster of The Times editorial staff.) JSMB book area 929.273 A1 8599
The Johnsons came to this country during the wave of immigration from England
to the Massachusetts colonies in the 1620s. Charles I came to the throne in 1625.
autocratic, dominating and imbued with the traditional Stuart belief in the divine
right of kings, he placed in the statue books law after law which was severe and
Charles enacted without a vote of parliament of law requiring a new royal
grant which would raise taxes throughout the country sharply. In Lincolnshire
in eastern England's agricultural section the cry of protest was especially
sharp. Here lived such well to do families as the Dudleys, the Winthrops, the
Harrises. Here lived too Isaac Johnson, one of the wealthiest men in all Eng-
land, who a short time before had married Lady Arbella Tyne, daughter of the
Earl of Lincoln. And on a section of Isaac Johnson's expansive estate lived
and worked the youthful John Johnson with his fast growing family. John Johnson
was a distant relative of Isaac Johnson (the existing records do not indicate
the exact relationship).
These Lincolnshire families were deeply aroused. Men met quietly at the
home of John Winthrop and Thomas Dudley and discussed their future course. To
continue to live in an England where an autocratic ruler could exact steadily
increasing tribute seemed unbearable. Talk arose of a journey to America. Al-
ready word had come of men and women who were making their way in this new land
despite the many hardships.. By the spring of 1626 the decision was made. A
ship, the "James", was purchased and made ready. Some 200 persons were to make
the trip. or The Arbella (formerly Eagle), The Talbot(f), The Ambrose, The Jewel left
from Southhampton 3/29/1630 + 7 other vessels later
John Johnson was 26 years of age when he came to america in 1626. With
him was his wife, Margery, and his two sons, Isaac, who was seven, and Humphrey,
who was four. There were three daughters also in the family but they remained
in England. The trip on the "James" took .better than two months and it was mid
summer before the now colonists sighted the Massachusetts coast, On the "James"
with John Johnson and his family were the leaders of the new colony, John Winthrop
and Thomas Dudley. Isaac Johnson, the wealthy land owner, made the trip and it
was he without question who influenced John Johnson to attempt the journey.
These men, workers of the soil and representatives of England‘s rising middle
class, came to America principally because they saw their property and future
threatened by a dominating king, The question of religious freedom which sent
so many of their fellow colonists to Massachusetts both before and after this
time was not apparently a paramount issue with them.
Upon arrival in America there was a difference of opinion as to the best
place to build the colony. The result of this dispute was the development of
two settlements, one at Charlestown and the other at Roxbury. John Winthrop,
Thomas Dudley, Thomas Harris, John Johnson and about ho others chose Roxbury.
Their choice was wise. Roxbury had a spring where fresh water was available
while the drinking supply at Charleston was far from good. Moreover Roxbury
built on one of the hills which now forms a part of the city of Boston was far
easier to protect. In following years the death of scores of Charleston resi-
dents from disease and from Indian attacks proved the wisdom of these settlers
John Johnson, ambitious and energetic, set to work at once to clear land
for a farm. Records show that he grew corn and potatoes on his farm and raised
pigs and goats. The goats probably furnished milk for his family. In October,
1630 he applied for admission as a freeman in the colony and in May of the fol-
lowing year he was accepted. To become a freeman, a candidate must own land and
must be a member in good standing in the Congregational church. All freemen in
the colony could vote and participate in the affairs of the colony. During these
years the colony was growing and by 1635 Roxbury was as large as Charlestown,
Plymouth and the other Massachusetts settlements.
John Johnson during these years was recognized as one of the strong and able
members of the colony. He was young, but these Massachusetts colonies were filled
with youth. John Winthrop, the governor, was only 40. In l634 John Johnson was
named a Roxbury representative to the general court of the colony. This was an
honor which he held for over 20 years. In the early 1633s, too, he became an
important member of the artillery company of the colony. Service in the army
was imperative of every man for danger from Indian attack was great even in
this early year.
In 1638 John Johnson rose to the important post of surveyor general of
arms and ammunition. This office gave him full charge of the colony's store
of army and ammunition. It necessitated the building of a larger home for his
family and the barrels of powder and the hundred or so muskets were kept in the
upper floor of the house. The story is told that in 1644 John Johnson's house
caught fire under mysterious circumstances, The family escaped before the pow-
der exploded totally destroying the home. Contemporary accounts of the happening
say that the cause was never determined but that the best observation was that
colonial officials had not paid for the powder fully. It was the custom of the
day for every colonist to contribute to the store of powder to be used in defense
of the settlement. The assumption is that John Johnson whose duty it was to col-
lect the ammunition and keep it in his house had not been careful enough to see
that all of the colonists had received in exchange for the powder a share of
grain or food from the colony's stores.
The years passed and the Massachusetts settlements grew larger until there
were about 2,000 persons residing in the various towns. Immigration slowed up,
however, in the 1640s and 1650s because various oppressive civil and reJigious
decrees were repealed.
On June 9, 1655 John Johnson's wife, Margery, died. Not long after he
married Grace Tawer, the widow of Barbabas Tawer who had been a neighbor.
John Johnson died on September 30, 1659 at the age of 59 years.
Histories and accounts of his day call him a man of "undaunted spirit".
He was apparently a man of large physical build because his strength and his
fighting prowess are noted.
The following is from Robert Anderson's "The Great Migration Begins: immigrants To New England 1620-1633":
ORIGIN: Ware, Hertfordshire
FIRST RESIDENCE: Roxbury
OCCUPATION: Quartermaster. On 8 September 1642 John Johnson was assigned the duty of distributing the gunpowder to the major towns in the colony "taking into serious consideration the present danger of each plantation by the desperate plots & conspiracies of the heathen" [MBCR 2:26]. On 7 March 1643/4 Richard Davenport, Captain of the Fort of the Massachusetts at Castle Island, was instructed to demand at any time from John Johnson, surveyor general, for every soldier one sufficient musket, sword, rest and pair of bandilers with two fathom of match for each musket [MBCR 2:65]. He signed a report of the committee concerning the rebuilding of the castle and batteries on Castle Island, 20 July 1652 [MA Arch 67:102].
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: "John Johnson" was #9 on Eliot's list among the first comers to the Roxbury Church, without comment [RChR 74].
FREEMAN: Requested 19 October 1630 and admitted 18 May 1631 [MBCR 1:80, 366].
EDUCATION: His inventory included "two Bibles, one psalm book and eight books more, £1 5s.," but he made his mark to his will.
OFFICES: Deputy for Roxbury to General Court, 1634-57 [MBCR 1:117, 135, 145, 164, 173, 178, 185, 192, 194, 204, 220, 227, 235, 319, 2:22, 55, 145, 186, 238, 265, 3:9, 39, 44, 62, 105, 121, 147, 183, 220, 259, 297, 422]. Committee to view ground and set bounds for Charlestown and Newton, 7 November 1632 [MBCR 1:101]. Committee to put a cart bridge over Muddy River, 6 August 1633 [MBCR 1:107]. Committee to purchase lands for the Indians "to live in an orderly way amongst us", 4 November 1646 [MBCR 2:166]. Arbiter in Saltonstall vs. Watertown, 27 October 1647 [MBCR 2:201]. Paymaster for the building of Boston prison, 17 October 1649 [MBCR 2:282, 288]. Committee to properly supply ministers, 6 May 1657 [MBCR 3:423-24]. Committee to settle impotent aged persons or vagrants, 14 May 1645 [MBCR 3:15], and numerous other committee appointments.
Coroner's jury, 28 September 1630 [MBCR 1:77]. Roxbury constable, 19 October 1630 [MBCR 1:79].
Admitted to Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, 1638 [HAHAC 1:66-67]. Surveyor General of Arms and Ammunition, 8 September 1642 [MBCR 2:26, 3:147]. Committee to review colony defenses, 26 May 1647 [MBCR 2:197, 228].
ESTATE: On 1 April 1634 he paid 20s. toward the building of the seafort [MBCR 1:113].
In the earliest list of Roxbury inhabitants, about 1642, John Johnson's valuation of £15 12s. and £6 8s., with six goats and four kids, was one of the highest in the town [RBOP 4-5].
In the Roxbury land inventory in the early 1650s John Johnson held thirteen parcels, six of which had been granted to him by the town: "his house, barn and house lot on the back side of his orchard, together with liberty to enclose the swamp and brook," eight acres; three acres of marsh; twenty acres of mowing ground; ten acres of woodland; four acres by Rocky Swamp; one hundred and ten acres and one quarter in the last division, first and third allotments; fifty-one and a half acres in the thousand acres near Dedham, bought of Edward Porter and John Pettit; six acres bought of James Morgan; sixteen acres and a half bought of Richard Goad; an acre and a quarter lately the land of Thomas Lamb; three acres of woodland lately the land of John Stebbins; four acres of fresh meadow "lately bought of John Parepoynt"; and thirteen acres and twenty rods of land, wood and pasture bought of Thomas Gardner [RBOP 16-17].
He took in a servant, Samuel Hefford, for three years on 1 December 1640 [MBCR 1:311]. He deposed 7 September 1642 that he had sold three acres of meadow to John Sams [SLR 1:37].
John Johnson was granted £40 "for his service done the country diverse years past" on 14 May 1645 [MBCR 2:99, 103]. On 7 October 1646 he petitioned with others for the land formerly granted them between Dedham, Watertown and Sudbury; Johnson was to receive four hundred and thirty-six acres [MBCR 2:163, 184]. On 18 October 1648, John Johnson and others were to receive lands formerly granted between Andover and Redding "in the place whereabouts the bridge should be built" [MBCR 2:256]. He sold one hundred acres to Richard Parker, 24 May 1650 [MA Arch 45:17]. On 22 June 1652, John Johnson received land in Roxbury from Thomas and Dorothy Hawley [MA Arch 67:102].
In May 1656, John Johnson and Eleazer Fawer were instructed by the General Court to divide the estate of Barnabus Fawer equally so that Johnson's third wife, Grace (Negus) Fawer, and her son Eleazer Fawer received half each [MBCR 3:402].
On 6 May 1657, "Mr. John Johnson having been long serviceable to the country in the place of surveyor general, for which he hath never had any satisfaction, which this Court considering of, think meet to grant him three hundred acres in any place where he can find it" [MBCR 3:430]. Within the year, Johnson had sold this land to Mr. William Parks [MBCR 4:1:354].
In his will, dated 30 September 1659 and proved 15 October 1659, "John Johnson of Roxbury" bequeathed to "my beloved wife" my dwelling house and certain lands "I have already given" during her natural life according to a deed, also £60 for her household furniture "which house and lands, after my wife's decease, I give unto my five children to be equally divided, my eldest son having a double portion"; to "my two grandchildren who have lived with me, Elizabeth Johnson and Mehittabel Johnson" £5 each; to "my sons Isaak Johnson & Robert Pepper" confirm the parcel of lands of fifty-five acres in the third division "I have formerly given" them; residue to "my five children equally divided, my eldest son having a double portion"; sons Isaac Johnson & Robert Pepper executors; "my dear brethren Elder Heath and Deacon Park" overseers; "If my children should disagree in any thing I do order them to choose one man more, to these my overseers, & stand to their determination" [SPR Case #218].
The inventory of "John Johnson late of Roxbury" was presented 15 October 1659 and totalled £623 1s. 6d., of which more than £350 was real estate: "20 acres of meadow," £80; "the house and land about it," £190; "one lot near Stoney River let to John Peairepoint for years," £40; "in the Great Lots one pasture of about twenty acres," £40; and "about ten acres of land near the Great Lots and twelve acres bought of Thomas Garner," £[blot]. Among the many domestic luxuries in this inventory were a considerable number of linens, cushions, rugs and blankets. His personal military accoutrements included "two fowling pieces and one cutlass, £2" [SPR Case #218].
In her will, dated 21 December 1671 and proved 29 December 1671, "Grace Jonson" "very weak in body" bequeathed to "my two brothers Jonathan and Benjamin" all my estate equally divided; "my brother Jonathan Negus" executor; "they shall give to them that was helpful to me in my sickness" [SPR 7:175].
BIRTH: By about 1588 based on date of first marriage.
DEATH: Roxbury 30 September 1659 ("John Johnson, Surveyor General of all the arms, died & was buried the day following" [RChR 176].)
MARRIAGE: (1) Ware, Hertfordshire, 21 September 1613, Mary Heath; she was buried at Ware 15 May 1629.
(2) By 1633 Margery _____. "Margery Johnston [sic] the wife of John Johnson" was #90 on Eliot's list and probably came to New England in the spring of 1633 [RChR 79]. "Margery Johnson, the wife of John Johnson," was buried at Roxbury 9 June 1655 [RChR 176].
(3) By 1656 Grace (Negus) Fawer, widow of Barnabas Fawer [MBCR 3:402]; she died after 21 December 1671 (date of will) and before 29 December 1671 (probate of will).
i MARY, bp. Ware 31 July 1614; m. (1) by 1636 ROGER MOWRY; m. (2) Rehoboth 16 March 1673/4 John Kingsley.
ii ISAAC, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 11 February 1615/6; m. Roxbury 20 January 1636/7 Elizabeth Porter [NEHGR 148:45].
iii JOHN, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 8 April 1618; bur. Ware 8 July 1627.
iv ELIZABETH, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 22 August 1619; m. Roxbury 14 March 1642/3 Robert Pepper.
v HUMPHREY, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 5 November 1620; m. (1) Roxbury 20 March 1641/2 Ellen Cheney; m. (2) Roxbury 6 December 1678 Abigail (Stansfield) May, widow of Samuel May.
vi JOSEPH, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 20 April 1622; bur. there [blank] May 1622.
vii SUSAN, bp. Ware End, Great Amwell 16 July 1623; bur. at Ware 16 August 1629.
viii SARAH, bp. Ware 12 November 1624; bp. Ware 12 November 1624; m. (1) by 1647 Hugh Burt (possibly Hannah below was his wife); m. (2) by July 1653 William Bartram (child b. before April 1654).
ix JOSEPH, bp. Ware 6 March 1626/7; bur. Ware 30 March 1627.
x HANNAH, bp. Ware 23 March 1627/8; no further record unless she is the wife of Hugh Burt, above.
ASSOCIATIONS: John Johnson's first wife, Mary Heath, was sister to WILLIAM HEATH and Isaac Heath of Roxbury.
While there is no doubt that one of the five children named by John Johnson in his will was at one time the wife of Hugh Burt, it is not certain which daughter, Sarah or Hannah, she might have been. Sarah is the more likely candidate, and if it was she, then she went on to marry William Bartram. This difficult and unsolved problem has been discussed by Helen S. Ullmann and by Dean Crawford Smith and Melinde Lutz Sanborn [TEG 6:178-84; Angell Anc 390; see also NEHGR 149:230-39].
COMMENTS: John Johnson was the confidant of powerful men, filled an important position in the affairs of the early colony and in the development of its defenses, and was involved as an overseer, attorney, witness and appraiser in the affairs of many of his neighbors [Lechford 60, 207, 255, 294; SPR Case #43, 83, 96, 134, 196; SLR 1:30, 107, 137, 215, 238 327 2:237-38, 341; MA Arch 15B:151]. He owned a considerable estate at his death. With all these advantages, he kept a low profile in his personal life and never achieved a consistent rank of "Mr."
John Johnson was freed from training, paying 10s. a year to the company, 31 October 1639, and the following year was freed entirely, in "regard of other public service without any pay to the company" [MBCR 1:282, 315]. This implied that he was not yet sixty years old in 1640.
A great tragedy to the Johnson family as well as the town of Roxbury, occurred when John Johnson's house, with a substantial supply of the colony's gunpowder therein, caught fire and burned in March of 1645. Many of the major diarists of the time recorded the event:
John Johnson, the surveyor general of ammunition, a very industrious and faithful man in his place, having built a fair house in the midst of the town, with diverse barns and other outhouses, it fell on fire in the daytime, no man knowing by what occasion, and there being in it seventeen barrels of the country's powder, and many arms, all was suddenly burnt and blown up, to the value of four or five hundred pounds, wherein a special providence of God appeared, for he, being from home, the people came together to help and many were in the house, no man thinking of the powder till one of the company put them in mind of it, whereupon they all withdrew, and soon after the powder took fire and blew up all about it, and shook the houses in Boston and Cambridge, so as men thought it had been an earthquake [WJ 2:259].
In this fire were strange preservations of God's providence to the neighbors & town, for the wind at first stood to carry the fire to other houses, but suddenly turned & carried it from all other houses, only carrying it to the barns and outhousing thereby, & it was a fierce wind, & thereby drove the vehement heat from the neighbor houses [RChR 188].
At the General Court 14 May 1645, John Johnson moved that copies be made of important documents that had "very hardly escaped" the fire [MBCR 3:13].
Assistant Governor, Thomas Dudley, was a close associate of John Johnson's, and Dudley bequeathed to "John Johnson, surveyor general of the Arms and one of his beloved friends" £5 if he lived two years after Dudley's death, and asked that Johnson and the others should "do for me and mine as I would have done for them & theirs in the like case" [SPR Case #129].
Pope, for no apparent reason, credited John Johnson with a son John who "came to Roxbury" and was an "efficient citizen."
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE: John Johnson has been frequently treated in print by excellent genealogists. In 1948 Mary Lovering Holman produced an account that would be the standard for many years [Stevens-Miller Anc 318-22]. In 1992 Douglas Richardson and the team of Dean Crawford Smith and Melinde Lutz Sanborn simultaneously and independently discovered the English origin of John Johnson and published useful information on his family and his many connections with other early New England immigrants [NEHGR 146:261-78; Angell Anc 377-91].