CAPTAIN EDWARD JOHNSON, OF WOBURN, MASS.,
AND SOME OF HIS DESCENDANTS.
By Hon. EDWARD FRANCIS JOHNSON, LL.B., of Woburn.
1. Capt. Edward Johnson. author of the celebrated history of New Enaland, called the "Wonderworking Providence,"** was baptized in Canterbury, County Kent. England, Sept. 10 or 17, 1598, and died in Woburn, Apr. 23, 1672. His father was William Johnson.t
He was a man of mutch influence in the colony at large, held many offices, and no citizen of Woburn of his time was better known. At the first meeting of the commissioners for the settlement of the new town, He presented a plot or plan of the territory to be included within its limits, and was chosens the first recorder or town clerk,he was also active in founding the first church, and commanded the first military company of Woburn. He was the author of some unique lines at the beginning of the first volume of the Woburn town records. His verse-making, when corn-pared with the work of other writers of his time in this country, was no better, or no worse, than theirs. No fuller account of the origin and settlement of a town of equal age in New England has been given than that by him of Woburn in his "Wonderworking Providence."
He came to Charlestown with the first immigrants, and soon returned to England; and on his second voyage to New England, about 1636 or 1637, brought the members of his family, consisting of a wife, seven children, and three servants. He was famous as a surveyor and an early explorer of the forest territory of New England. and the eminent antiquary, John Farmer, in an article about him, published on June 16, 1819, in the " Columbian Centinel," and reproduced in Farmer and Moore's New Hampshire Collections, in 1822, says, "The fathers of New England are among the first entitled to our grateful recollections. To them belongs the honor of first exploring our country, and preparing it for the abodes of civilized life." Capt. Edward Johnson was appointed, in 1665, by the General Court, to make a map of the Colony, in conjunction with William Stevens. In 1672, after his death, the General Court passed an order regarding a chronicle of the early history of the Colony, which reads substantially as follows: "The Court considering how many ways the providence of God hath mercifully appeared in behalf of his people in these parts, since their coming into this wilderness; and us of this colony in particular, do judge it our duty to endeavor that a register or chronicle be made of tile several passages of God s providence, protecting of and saving from many eminent dangers, as well in transportation, as in our abode here, making provision beyond what could, in reason, have been expected, and preventing our fears many a time; that so our posterity and the generation that shall survive, taking a view of the kindness of God to their fathers, it may remain as an obligation upon them to serve the Lord their God with all their hearts and souls." The Court., therefore, appointed a committee "to make diligent inquiry in the several parts of this jurisdiction concerning anything of moment that has passed, and in particular of what has been collected by Mr. John Winthrop, Sen., Mr. Thomas Dudley. Mr. John Wilson, Sen., Capt. Edward Johnson, or any other; that so, matter being prepared, some meet person may be appointed by this court to put the same into form; that so, after perusal of the same, it may be put to press."* His will, dated the 15th of the 3d month, 1671, names wife Susan; eldest son Edward; sons George, William, Matthew, and John sons-in-law, James Prentice and .John Amee; daughters and daughters-in-law (they were not mentioned by name); the wife of son Edward (her name not given); grandchildren, Edward, son of his son Edward, son Matthew s eldest son (not mentioned by name), George, son of his son George, William and Edward, sons of his son William, John, son of his son .John, William, son of his son John, James Prentice. son of James Prentice, and John Amee, son of John Amee, Katherine, daughter of his son Edward, Katherine, daughter of his son George, Hester (or Esther), daughter of his son William, Rebecca, daughter of his son Matthew, Bethiah, daughter of his son John, Susan, daughter of his son-in-law James Prentice, Hannah, another daughter of James Prentice, and the eldest daughter (not mentioned by name) of his son-in-law John Amee. Tile inventory, returned May 11, 1672, gives as the amount, £706. 05. 06; homestead, £159; debts, £9. 10. 00; rents supposed to be due in England, £132; houses and lands in England, £800.
The will of his wife Susan, or Susanna, dated Dcc. 14, 1639, probated March 2, 1690-1, mentions her son John, her husband Capt. Edward .Johnson, and states that her son John, with whom she dwelt, had taken care of her since her husband was deceased, and was entitled to all, because site judged it was his due. She died March 7, 1689-90.
**Wonderworking Providence of Sion's Savior in New England." first printed in London, 1653 (imprint, 1654); modern edition by W. F. Poole, Andover, Muss, 1867. There have been varous critical estimates of this work. For a list of references and a brief account, see Cutter s ‘ Bibliography of Woburn," 1892.. For an explnuation of the connection of Sir Ferdinando Gorges with this work, See preface of Hon. James Phinney Baxter to his monograph on Gorges (Boston, 189(3), vol. ii., pp. 175, 185.
t There is no doubt of this fact, but whether the persons assigned by various writers are his sons, other than Capt. Edward, seems problematical. The records of Canterbury, England, contain the names of many persons by the name of Johnson other than those apparently connected with the family of this Wiiliam Johnson, and in the absence of better evidence than any yet found it does not seem wise to make any further statements at this time.
*Compare W. R. Cutter, in Hurd's hist, of Middx. County, vol. i, p. 339, etc.; "Winchester Press," April 26, 1901, and many other authorities.
Printed from NEHG Register, Volume 59, January 1905, New England Historic Genealogical Society & Broderbund Software, Inc., Banner Blue Division, March 10,2001