Saturday, January 31, 2015

Is Anyone Home at Molly's House?

This was Molly Brant's house, her home during her happiest years. I like to think her spirit is still there.

It was here in 1763 that she and her partner, Sir William Johnson, moved their young family, even though construction on the manor house was not fully finished.

Molly and William had two young children at the time — Peter, who was four, and Elizabeth, just two years old. Baby Magdalene would be born that same year; perhaps Molly was pregnant during the move. 

Over the next eleven years more babies would arrive — Margaret, George, Mary, Susanna, and Anne. 

Johnson Hall, closed for the season.

 The family had moved from their former home, Fort Johnson (pictured below), on the Mohawk River, three miles west of Amsterdam, New York.
Fort Johnson

The new house, north and west of Fort Johnson, was nine miles back from the Mohawk. It was bigger and more elegant than Fort Johnson. 

Johnson Hall is a New York State Historic Site, open to the public. Currently, it is having some of its rooms refurbished. I recently saw pictures on the Facebook page of Johnson Hall State Historic Site that showed painting and other restorations being done in the children's room. 

The first children ever to use that room were those of Molly Brant. I love to imagine the halls of the stately home echoing with the sounds of Molly's children.

It was at Johnson Hall that Molly Brant proved her mettle as Mistress of the Manor. She and William hosted elaborate dinner parties and entertained visiting dignitaries, both white and Native. Sir William was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern District and frequently held meetings with the Six Nations, right there on the grounds of Johnson Hall.
View of the back of Johnson Hall, showing one of the two stone blockhouses.

Approaching Johnson Hall from the side, showing first of two stone blockhouses. 

 Molly lived at Johnson Hall until Sir William's death in 1774. After that, she took the children and returned to her Mohawk town of Canajoharie. 

Sir John Johnson, William's principal heir and the son of Catherine Weissenburg, moved his family into the manor house. In 1776, during the American Revolution, Sir John fled to Canada, and Johnson Hall fell into the hands of the Patriots.

For more on this story, Molly Brant, Mohawk Loyalist & Diplomat, available in April, 2015

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