Thursday, August 28, 2014

Remains of Sir John Johnson Return Home

Sir John Johnson, Molly Brant's stepson, a champion of Native causes, and Molly's life-long friend.

Sir John Johnson, 1742–1830

 (Click on the link above to view a video clip from CTV Montreal on the return of Sir John's remains to his beloved home.)

In 1791 Lord Dorchester, Governor of the two Canadas, recommended Sir John Johnson as first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. Because Sir John had supervised the crucial settlements of Loyalists on the upper St. Lawrence and the Bay of Quinte, everyone expected that post would be his. In fact, Sir John had already named to his Executive Council two of Molly Brant's sons-in-law, Captain George Farley and Dr. Robert Kerr.

But instead of the obvious favourite of the people, Sir John was passed over and John Graves Simcoe was chosen as Upper Canada's first Lieutenant-Governor. Deeply disappointed, Sir John took his family away to England where they stayed for four years.

When he returned to this country Sir John was appointed to the Legislative Council of Lower Canada (Quebec), and he took back his position as head of the Indian Department.

One of Johnson's many residences was on the south shore of the St. Lawrence at Mont Saint Gregoire. (It was here the his remains were recently interred, see news clip above.) Sir John named his home "Mount Johnson," after the Mohawk Valley house near Amsterdam, NY where he was born. He and his wife Polly Watts, daughter of  wealthy New York parents, raised a large family.

Interestingly, before marrying Polly, he'd had a common-law relationship with Clarissa Putnam, a farmer's daughter who had been deemed by Sir John's father, Sir William, not suitable to bear his grandchildren. The couple had two children however, and Sir John and Clarissa maintained a fondness for each other for the rest of their lives. Their daughter Peggy came to live with Sir John after the death of Polly, looking after him till his own death in 1830.  

You'll find more stories about Sir John and Clarissa in Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat to be released by Dundurn in April, 2015.

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