Monday, November 19, 2012

On the Trail of Molly Brant

Johnson Hall
We spent a few days last week on the trail of Molly Brant, the subject of my latest research. I always find it helps me get to know someone if I can spend a bit of time poking about in their familiar surroundings.

With Johnstown, NY as our destination we crossed the border and headed south east, following Rte 12, which we later discovered was not the shortest route but certainly the most attractive. We'd left the traffic behind on the interstate and now travelled winding country roads, up and down hills, and round endless curves.

Just as I was thinking that whatever was at the end of the narrow twisting, road wasn't going to be much, there it was — a city, no less!

Where does a retired librarian go to get information? To a library, of course, and we were there almost as soon as it opened the next morning. I wish I'd gotten the name of the woman at the circulation desk, who was so patient with my questions and who went to no end of trouble digging up maps and information for me. Yes, all librarians are supposed to be that helpful. but we know it isn't always true.

Before leaving Johnstown we visited Johnson Hall, the home Sir William Johnson (1715–1774) built for Molly Brant and their family in 1763.
Cobblestone courtyard behind Johnson Hall and east stone house.

The Georgian house, built of wood and clapboard cut to look like stone, was the second manor house Sir William, Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Colonies, had shared with his partner, Molly Brant. It was the centre of Sir William's estate and the scene of many Indian conferences, and here Molly had presided as housekeeper and gracious hostess to a long line of important diplomats and their wives. Many of the original buildings in Johnstown were built under the direction of Sir William, and as activity increased around the Hall the surrounding community grew.

Well-tended grounds at Johnson Hall.

Although Johnson Hall was closed for the season, all locked and shuttered, when we visited, we were able to stroll the grounds that included a cobblestone courtyard behind the house, the two stone blockhouses, and vast surrounding park.

Then it was time to head on to the next stop on our self-guided tour: Fort Johnson and the house where Sir William brought Molly, the young Mohawk maiden, to live as his wife.

Stay tuned!

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