Stephen W. Johnson


According to traditional sources, Stephen W. Johnson is said to have been born in June 1749. Then, he would have been the eldest son of Isaac Johnson and physician's daughter Mary Durkee Johnson of Windham, Connecticut. Isaac died in Massachusetts in 1754 but widow Mary Johnson lived until 1813 raising several children who mostly remained in New England.

Young Samuel is said to have claimed that he was among those who, disguised as "Mohawks," threw imported tea into Boston Harbor in 1773. At the outset, we are more skeptical regarding that connection. We seek more definitive information on his origins and path to Albany.

He is said to have married Martha or Mary Smith of Connecticut in October 1772. Between 1776 and 1798, perhaps that marriage produced nine children. However, children also were christened to Stephen Johnson and "Rebecca" in the Albany Presbyterian and Lutheran churches during the 1780s and 90s. His daughter, Hester, (said to have been born in Lansingburgh in 1776) married Elisha Putnam in Lansingburgh in 1792.

By the 1790s, he had joined the New England exodus that in New York has become known as the Yankee Invasion.

Perhaps, he was the "Stephen Johnston" identified as the head of a first ward household on the census for the city of Albany in 1790. In 1788 and again in 1799, the house and lot in that location, and under the name of Stephen Johnson, were assessed moderately. However, the first ward census for 1800 did enumerate the household of "Stephen Johnston" (no W.) in the same general location. But the only male counted within was the between 26 and 45 years of age. Subsequent censuses seem to account for an older male and also for a nine or ten (boardinghouse?) men. Perhaps, the enumeration in 1800 was recorded in error?

In 1795, the name of Stephen W. Johnson was identified among the incorporators of the Lansingburgh Library.

Beginning with the first edition in 1813, the boarding house of Stephen W. Johnson was listed in the city directory at on what became South Pearl Street and elsewhere - in the North End. Beginning in 1819 and thru 1827, directory entries for SWJ (now identified as the city gauger) were listed on Orange and Van Schaick Streets with an office on lower State Street.

In 1818 and afterwards, the name of bookbinder (a second or perhaps a third SWJ) "Stephen W. Johnson, Jr." also was listed in the directory at addresses in the city's North End.

Martha Johnson died in August 1832 at the age of eighty-six. At the end of June 1834, the newspaper reported that "Captain" Stephen W. Johnson had died at the age of eighty-six.

His name was included on the "Pension Roll" for 1835. At that time, he was identified as a private and "master's mate" in the U. S. Navy and who had been on the pension list since 1832. His pension was set at $135 per year.

At this point we are not at all certain that the information suggested above all belonged to one individual. With so many loose ends, we move on for now.

biography in-progress


the people of colonial Albany Sources: The life of Stephen W. Johnson has not been assigned a CAP biography number. This sketch is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources.

first posted 3/20/12; revised 10/5/16