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Johnson family of Newbury, Vermont papers, 1775-1886.
Johnson family.
Library Call Number Copy Material Location
Vermont Historical Society Library  Doc 574-575  Manuscript  Vault-Manuscript 

Personal Author : Johnson family.
Title : Johnson family of Newbury, Vermont papers, 1775-1886.
Physical Description : 3 linear feet.
General Note : Continued in: MSA 425-426 and MS Size D & C.
Summary :

This collection contains

The first series includes correspondence, journals, and related papers of Thomas Johnson arranged chronologically and covering the period 1777 to 1812. Included in this series are two journals Johnson made while he was a captive of the British in Canada in 1781, accounts of his espionage/intelligence activities, and manuscript copies of letters to George Washington. Many of these items had been bound into one volume labeled "Thomas Johnson's Manuscripts;" the binding has been preserved in MSA 426.

The second series includes muster rolls, account books, or military documents arranged chronologically. This series is comprised of documents created by both Thomas and David Johnson in their various civic roles. Included in this series are several muster rolls, a deposition concerning the forceful entry by militia into Johnson's house and removal of liquor in 1781 while he was in captivity, the "wine account" for the Vermont General Assembly in 1787, postage account books, town and school taxes, and related documents.

The third series contains primarily documents related to financial transactions. Among these are slips of paper containing inventories of livestock and time pieces owned by Newbury residents for the purposes of imposing taxes in the years 1822, 1823, 1824, 1833, 1834, 1844, and 1845. The series includes other town records such as petitions for road construction, 1830-1839 and 1840-1845. The series also contains Newbury post office records, with related items in Series V, Bound Manuscripts, vol. 1, items 66, 67, 71 and vol. 2, items 9 & 59. Other records related to this series, such as school records, 1794-1833; meeting house accounts, 1789-1793; and court house building records, 1801; are also in Series V, Bound Manuscripts.

The fifth series is a varied group of records that did not fit within the three previous categories. Contained in this series are David Johnson's meteorological observations from 1823 until 1864 but also including a small weather journal from 1773-94 that predates David Johnson's birth. David Johnson's history of Newbury, Vermont, is included in this series. The first 93 pages of this volume are copied from the Annals of Newbury written by Rev. Clark Perry. The rest of the volume is assorted items, evidently copied by David Johnson, including a number of letters to George Washington from Gen. Jacob Bayley of Newbury, 1781-1783, the journal kept by Thomas Johnson while a captive in Canada, and many other Thomas Johnson letters that are in series I of this collection.

Also included in this miscellaneous series is an account of work done on the Ryegate Meeting House, a broadside for a political election in Bennington County ca. 1795 written as an analogy to a horse race, and record books for Newbury Tippecanoe Club (1840) and the Sons of Temperance (1849-51). The series includes papers relating to the erection of a monument to "Old Joe," the Indian guide, in Newbury in 1886.

An interesting item in this series is a collection of manuscript copies of Civil War letters written by Evelyn H. Farnham, Jr, of Newbury. Farnham enlisted June 1, 1861, and was discharged due to disability Nov. 4, 1862. He served in the 3rd Vermont Regiment, Company C. His letter of Sept. 11, 1861, tells of William Scott, of Groton, Vermont, about to be shot for sleeping on duty. According to the letter, "...a guard brought Scott on the ground...all we know is that three cheers were given by those nearest them, and word was brought to us that Pres. Lincoln had pardoned him. The poor fellow was dreadfully scared."

The fifth series contains documents collected by Thomas Johnson and bound into two volumes. The subject matter of these records overlap with the previous four series but could not be moved into those series. Most relate to the history of Newbury, but other documents relate to events in Corinth, Peacham, Barnet, Guildhall, and Danville, Vermont, and Haverhill, New Hampshire.

Biographical or historical data :

This collection deals mainly with Thomas Johnson (1742-1819) and his son, David (1778-1865). Thomas Johnson was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, March 22, 1742. He moved to Haverhill, New Hampshire, in 1762 but then settled in Newbury, Vermont, where he built a house on the oxbow of the Connecticut River. Thomas had three wives. The first was Elizabeth Lowell, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who was born June 30, 1741, and died September 19, 1772. Their children were John (1766-1847), Moses (1768-1840), Jessie (twin of Moses, died on day of birth), Betsey (1770-1844), and Lowell (1772-1772). He married his second wife, Abigail Merril, (May 24, 1750-December 2, 1774) on November, 26, 1772. She was the widow of a Mr. Pool. They had one child, Abigail (1773-1796). Thomas Johnson married his third wife, Abigail Carleton (March 30, 1750-March 23, 1833), on November 26, 1775. Their children were Hanes (1776-1783), David (1778-1865), Hannah (1781-1782), Hannah (1783-1783), Hannah (1785-1861), Hanes (1787-1878), Thomas (1790-1792), and Sally (1792-1859).

Thomas Johnson was an innkeeper, farmer, and merchant. He was captain in the militia in 1775. In 1776 he and Frye Bayley of Newbury, and others, helped lay out a hundred-mile military route to St. Johns, Quebec. Johnson was an aide to General Lincoln at Ticonderoga in 1777 and after the battle was made lieutenant colonel and placed in charge of removing the prisoners from that engagement. He was a wealthy and influential member of his community and some thought he might be able to convince his neighbors to throw in their lot with the British or at least remain neutral. Johnson was captured by British agents at Peacham, Vermont, February 18, 1781, and taken to Canada. He spent eight months in captivity, where he was treated with considerable deference, in part because some of his captors had been well treated by him after Ticonderoga. He was given his parole October 5, on the condition that he not bear arms against the British and that he return to Montreal if asked.

Johnson had to defend his reputation in Newbury for many years. The nature of his capture, his lenient treatment in captivity, the nature of his parole, and that his wealth had grown during the war caused suspicion. The fact that his wife, Abigail Carleton, was related to Sir Guy Carleton, Governor General of Canada, and the suspicion that he aided the British in an unsuccessful attempt to capture General Jacob Bayley in 1782 also caused distrust of Johnson. Some said he was a British agent, some said a double agent. After the war Johnson seems to have earned the trust of the people of Newbury. He served as Newbury's first postmaster, 1785-1800, and served as town representative to the Vermont General Assembly for eight years. His business interests and land acquisitions prospered. Thomas Johnson died January 4, 1819 in Newbury, Vermont.

The other Johnson prominently represented in this collection is David, son of Thomas. David was postmaster of Newbury 1800-1812, town clerk in 1837-1838 and 1840-1856, keeper of extensive meteorological records from the 1820s-1860s, and a successful farmer and merchant. He was also a collector of town records and historical documents, especially involving his father. His manuscript "Annals of Newbury, Vermont," and two volumes of documents that he collected are a treasury of family, town, and national history. David Johnson married first, Lucy Town (1785-1820), and second Eliza S. Smith (1796-1883). He had four children: Alexander G. (1813-1879), Harriet (1814-1865), Edward Carleton (1816-1878), and Nancy Cummings (1818-1892).

Personal Subject : Johnson, Thomas, 1742-1819.
Johnson, David, 1778-1865.
Washington, George, 1732-1799.
Bayley, Jacob, 1726-1815.
Indian Joe, 1739-1819.
Farnham, Evelyn H., Jr., 1832-1905
Scott, William, 1839-1862.
Corporate Subject : Tippecanoe Club Newbury, Vt.
Sons of Temperance of North America. Pulaski Division, No. 30 Newbury, Vt.
United States. Army. Vermont Infantry Regiment, 3rd 1861-1865. Company C.
Subject Term : Soldiers Vermont Correspondence.
Postal service Vermont Newbury.
Meteorology Vermont Newbury Observations.
Geographic Term : United States History Revolution, 1775-1783.
United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Military intelligence.
Vermont History Revolution, 1775-1783 Personal narratives.
Vermont History Revolution, 1775-1783 Prisoners and prisons Personal narratives.
Vermont History Civil War, 1861-1865.
Newbury (Vt.) History.
Newbury (Vt.) Archival resources.
Barnet (Vt.) Archival resources.
Corinth (Vt.) Archival resources.
Danville (Vt. : Town) Archival resources.
Guildhall (Vt.) Archival resources.
Peacham (Vt.) Archival resources.
Haverhill (N.H.) Archival resources.
Genre/Form : Diaries.
Letters Correspondence
Muster rolls.
Tax records.
School records.
Account books.
Financial records.
Weather diaries.
Added Author : Johnson, Thomas, 1742-1849.
Johnson, David, 1778-1865.
Bayley, Frye, 1748-1827.
Farnham, Evelyn H., Jr., 1832-1905.
Electronic Resource : Click here for full text of finding aid.