John Johnson was born ca 1588 at Ware, Hertfordshire, England, to John and Hannah (Throckmorton) Johnson. He is my 12th great-grandfather on my grandmother Milly (Booth) Rollins’ side of the family.
John married, first, Mary Heath at Ware, Hertfordshire, on 21 September 1613. Mary was born ca 1594, the daughter of William and Agnes (Cheney) Heath.
|St. Mary's Church, Ware, Herts (credit: www.achurchnearyou.com)|
John and Mary had 10 children born Ware: Mary, Isaac, John who died young, Elizabeth, Humphrey, Joseph who died as a newborn, Susan who died as a child, Sarah, Joseph who died as a newborn, and Hannah. I descend from Elizabeth who married Robert Pepper.
Mary Heath Johnson died 15 May1629 at Ware.
John Johnson migrated to Massachusetts with the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 where he became an influential citizen of Roxbury, a Boston neighborhood. He was among the list of first comers to the Roxbury Church. He was made a freeman in May 1631 which was requested in October 1630. He was Deputy for Roxbury to the General Court from 1634 to 1637.
He was a Captain, quartermaster, and surveyor general in the military. In 1642, he was assigned the duty of distributing gunpowder to the major towns in the colony because of threats from Native Americans. In 1644 he was to give each soldier a musket, sword, and pair of bandoliers and match for the muskets. In 1652 he signed a report concerning the building of a castle and batteries on Castle Island. He was paymaster for the building of Boston prison in 1649, was Roxbury constable in 1630, and on a committee to review colony defenses in 1647.
There is a long list of other service John Johnson performed. He was on many committees from setting bounds for Charlestown and Newton to purchasing lands for the Indians to live in an “orderly way” amongst the white settlers. John Johnson was admitted to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in 1638, its first year of existence.
John married, second, Margaret (her maiden name is sometimes seen as Scudder but no proof for this found) in the early 1630s. She died before 9 June 1655 when she was buried at Roxbury. John married, third Grace Negus, the widow of Barnabas Fawer.
On the earliest list of Roxbury inhabitants made ca 1642, John Johnson’s valuation of 15 pounds, 12 shillings and 6 pounds, 8 shillings with six goats and four kids, was one of the highest in town.
In the Roxbury land inventory of the early 1650s, John Johnson held 13 parcels, six of which were granted by the town. His house sat on 8 acres that included an orchard and he also owned 3 acres of marsh, 20 acres of mowing ground, 10 acres of woodland, four acres by Rocky Swamp, 110 acres and one quarter from the last division, 51.5 acres in the thousand acres near Dedham, six acres, 16.5 acres, 1.25 acre, 3 acres of woodland, 4 acres of fresh meadow, 13 acres and 20 rods of land, wood and pasture.
In 1640 he took in a servant, Samuel Hefford, for three years. There are records of his various land transactions and payments for his military and civic service.
In March 1645, John Johnson’s house caught fire, an event that was recorded in various people’s diaries. He stored gunpowder on the property and the explosion when it caught fire was thought to be an earthquake when it shook houses as far as Cambridge.
John Johnson of Roxbury wrote his will 30 Sept 1659, which was proved 15 October 1659. To his loving wife he left his dwelling house, certain lands he’d already given her and 60 pounds. After her decease, the house and lands as well as any residue of his estate, were to go equally divided to his five children, with his eldest son to have a double portion. He left five pounds each to his grandchildren who had lived with him, Elizabeth and Mehitabel Johnson. He mentioned 55 acres he received in the third division that he had formerly given to sons Isaac Johnson and Robert Pepper (Robert would be his son-in-law).
John Johnson died 30 September 1659 at Roxbury, Massachusetts, aged about 71 years. Roxbury Church Records record his death as “John Johnson, Surveyor General of all the arms, died & was buried the day following.”
His inventory was presented 15 October 1659 and totaled over 623 pounds of which more than 350 was in real estate. Also in his inventory were two fowling pieces and one cutlass worth 2 pounds. Not surprisingly, his inventory included two Bibles, one psalm book and eight additional books, so he was a man who could read with some education. However, he signed his will with his mark, but perhaps that was due to age or infirmity.
Grace Negrus Johnson wrote her will 21 December 1671, proved 29 Dec 1671. She left her estate to her brothers Jonathan and Benjamin Negrus.
Charles Edward Banks, The Planters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1620-1640, Boston, 1930, Reprint c. 2006, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, MD
Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700
Robert Charles Anderson, The Great Migration Begins, 1995
Ray G. Hulburt, “Capt. John Johnson and Wife Margery of Roxbury—Who Were They?” The American Genealogist, Vol. 22, 1945, p, 47-49
Paul Franklin Johnson, editor, Genealogy of Captain John Johnson of Roxbury, Massachusetts, Generations I to XIV, 1945