Joseph Johnson (1676/77-1739)
Joseph Johnson was born 339 years ago today, on 09 Mar 1676/77¹, in Middletown, Connecticut as the fourth child of Isaac Johnson and Mary Harris. He had eight siblings, namely: Isaac, Daniel, John, Nathaniel, Elizabeth, William, Mary, and Ebenezer.
Joseph Johnson was baptized on 11 Mar 1676/77 in First Church, Middletown, Connecticut. The church had been established just nine years earlier, in 1668.
Joseph was born into a world where there were no lines between church and state. Puritanism was the only permitted faith and it controlled every aspect of citizens’ lives. Unlike the Pilgrims who came to Massachusetts in 1620 who believed that their congregations should be separated from the English state church, the Puritans believed that the Church of England was the true church and that it just needed some major reforms. Each New England Congregational Church was independent from the others. There was no overriding governing Congregational church hierarchy. The Puritans hoped to set up model church communities that England would eventually imitate. Thus, New England towns such as Middletown were tied directly to the church of that town. The town was responsible for building the meeting house and securing the pastor, and citizens were taxed for the preacher’s salary. Everyone was mandated to attend church at the Meeting House, but only about a third of the white males were church members. That is because membership was not open to all and was based on financial and moral standing. Prospective members may also have had to prove that they had undergone a “conversion experience” before being approved for membership. These churches were powerful. The church and its ministers could make accusations that brought people to court. Common infractions included “blasphemy,” “drunkeness,” “abominable wickedness,” “profanity,” “illegal trade with Indians,” “adultery/fornification,” and “intermeddling to the intangling of the affections.”
In 1680 when Joseph was about three years old, the town voted to build a schoolhouse that was 26′ x 18′. It is not certain whether or not he attended.
When he was 20, he married Elizabeth Blake, daughter of John Blake and Sarah Hall, on 25 Jan 1697/98 in Middletown, Connecticut.
Joseph Johnson and Elizabeth Blake had the following children, all born in Middletown, Connecticut:
- Elizabeth Johnson was born on 12 Dec 1699. She married William Harris on 02 Feb 1720/21 in Middletown, Connecticut. She married Ebenezer Doolittle on 15 Oct 1755 in Wallingford, New Haven, Connecticut. She died on 12 Mar 1777 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Joseph Johnson was born on 26 Aug 1702. He married Mehitabell Hamlin on 02 Feb 1724/25 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. He died on 30 Apr 1768 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Richard Johnson was born on 12 Nov 1704. He married Mary Porter on 03 Feb 1724/25 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. He died on 27 Jan 1780 in Connecticut.
- Zipporah Johnson was born on 11 Jan 1706/07. She died on 17 Jul 1734 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. She married Obadiah Brainerd on 16 Sep 1731 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Anna Johnson was born on 11 Jan 1708/09. She died on 15 Oct 1712 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Thankful Johnson was born on 10 Jun 1710. She married Thomas Hubbard on 16 Jul 1729 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Anna Johnson was born on 08 Jun 1715.
- Martha Johnson was born on 27 Apr 1718. She died on 26 Dec 1789 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. She married Eleazer Gilbert on 05 Apr 1738 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
Joseph’s father, Isaac Johnson died on 3 February 1719/20 and Joseph was mentioned in the will which left a sizable estate. A few weeks later, Joseph’s wife, Elizabeth Blake Johnson, died on 24 March 1720. Joseph was left a widower with seven children ranging in age from two to twenty.
When he was 45, after being a widow for two years, he married Elizabeth Partridge, daughter of Samuel Partridge and Mehitable Crow, on 22 Aug 1722 in Middletown, Connecticut. She was the widow of John Hamlin who had died in 1717. She brought her four children, Mehitabell, Elizabeth, Mary and Giles Hamlin with her into the Johnson family.
Joseph Johnson and Elizabeth Partridge had the following children, all born in Middletown, Connecticut:
- Ebenezer Johnson was born on 15 Feb 1722/23. He married Elizabeth Gilbert on 29 Oct 1745 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. He died on 09 Mar 1811 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Samuel Johnson was born on 30 Aug 1724. He married Esther Russell on 09 Apr 1753 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. He died in Oct 1809 in Connecticut.
- Edward Johnson was born on 27 Mar 1726. He married Hannah Clark on 12 Nov 1747 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Oliver Johnson was born on 29 Jan 1728. He died on 01 Apr 1801 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Mary Johnson was born on 21 Mar 1729/30. She died on 04 Apr 1731 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut.
- Jemima Johnson was born on 31 Aug 1732. She married Timothy Boardman on 14 Nov 1751 in Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut. She died on 30 Dec 1798 in Connecticut.
- Mary Johnson was born on 06 Sep 1736.
In the 1730s, towards the end of Joseph’s life, a Protestant religious revival swept through the new England Colonies. Later labeled the First Great Awakening, it promoted individual worship and skepticism toward religious leadership. It is not known if this affected Joseph and his family, but they may have been exposed to European circuit preachers who had traveled across the ocean to deliver dramatic sermons to large crowds gathered in colonial cities. The revival only lasted a generation, but brought the decline of traditional worship and the rise of evangelical faith and the Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist denominations. Staunch Puritans favored ceremony and traditional church hierarchy and rejected the revival’s evangelicalism and emphasis on a personal relationship with God. Those accepting the new thoughts on religion were called New Lights and those who remained tied to Puritanism were called Old Lights.
Joseph Johnson died at age 62 on 12 Nov 1739 in Middletown, Connecticut. He was buried in Old Farm Hill Cemetery, Middletown, Connecticut.
Where is he in the tree?
Joseph Johnson was one of Lona Iona Fawcett’s 5th great-grandfathers. Our Johnson tree gets a little tangled though as Joseph’s older brother Isaac (born 1670) was one of her 6th great-grandfathers.
¹ This is a repeat from a previous post, but included in case you need a refresher on double-dating. His birth year is shown in the form of 1676/77. That is called double-dating. The calendar kind of double-dating. Writing the date this way results from the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar, the one we use today, first came into use about 1582, but it took more than 300 years for everyone to start using it. The calendar was replaced because the Julian calendar had some flaws. And the conversion got complicated with some days being dropped to get the calendar back in sync with astronomical events. So for many years, including the early years in the American colonies, prior to 1752, we have to deal with double-dating. Under the Julian calendar, the year started March 26. Under the Gregorian calendar, the year started January 1. So for dates in January, February, and March (through the 25th), both the Julian and Gregorian years were written.
Hazen, Azel Washburn. A Brief History of the First Church of Christ In Middletown Connecticut. Archive.org edition. (Middletown: Middletown, Connecticut, 1920).
“Pilgrim Fathers.” Wikipedia. Web. 8 March 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilgrim_Fathers.
“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic: Religion in Eighteenth-Century America.” Library of Congress. Web. 8 March 2016. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel02.html
“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic: America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century, Part 1.” Library of Congress. Web. 8 March 2016. https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01.html
“Their Own Stories: Voices from Middletown’s Melting Pot – English.” Middlesex County Historical Society. Web. 8 March 2016. http://www.middlesexhistory.org/exhibits/english.htm.
“The settlement of Middletown, Connecticut, and a brief history of the town & city, 1650-2000.” The Society of Middletown First Settlers Descendants. Web. 8 March 2016. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ctsmfsd/BriefHistory.html.