William Johnson

William JOHNSON (1559 – 1637) was Alex’s 12th Great Grandfather, one of 4,096 8,192 in this generation of the Shaw line and one of 8,192  in the Miller line.  (See his great grandson Thomas BROWNE for details of the double ancestors)

William Johnson was born 1559 in Canterbury, Kent, England.  His parents were John JOHNSON and Joane HUMFREY. He married Susan PORREDGE 8 May  1587 in Holy Cross, Canterbury, Kent, England. William died before 27 Dec 1637 in Canterbury, Kent, England.

Susan Porredge was born was born bef. 20 Jan 1564/65 in Canterbury, Kent, England. Her parents were John PORREDGE and Katharina DEANE. Susan died 10 Apr 1604 in Canterbury, Kent, England.

Children of William and Susan:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Capt. Edward Johnson (Wiki) 16 Sep 1598
Canterbury, Kent, England
Susan Munter
Abt. 1620
23 Apr 1672
Woburn, Mass
2. John JOHNSON 1609 in Herne Hill, Kent, England, Susanna ASHERST in Herne Hill, Kent, England soon after 12 Sep 1683 in Andover, Essex, Mass.

William’s father John Johnson was born about 1531 in Canterbury, Kent, England, and died May 15, 1598 in Canterbury, Kent, England. He married Joane Humfrey May 23, 1551 in Canterbury, Kent, England. She was born Abt. 1534 in Canterbury, Kent, England, and died Abt. May 15, 1584 in Canterbury, Kent, England.

William’s grandfather William Johnson was born 1500 in Canterbury, Kent, England, and died Bef. Jun 09, 1576 in Canterbury, Kent, England. He first married Alice Forflode Abt. 1528 in St. George, Canterbury, Kent, England, daughter of John Forflode. She was born Abt. 1500 in Canterbury, Kent, England, and died in Canterbury, Kent, England. He next married Elizabeth [__?__]. She died in Canterbury, Kent, England.

William’s great grandfather Gerard Johnson was born Abt. 1466. He married [__?__] Wylmn. She was born Abt. 1474.


1. Edward Johnson

Edward’s wife Susan Munter was born Oct 05, 1597 in St Mary’s, Dover, Kent, England. Her parents ere daughter of Phineas Munter and Katherine [__?__]. Susan died 7 Mar 1690 in Woburn, Middlesex, Mass.

Edward is the author of Wonder Working Providence, a quaint and authentic narrative of events connected with the settlement of Massachusetts Bay. It is acknowledged to be the most important book on the Massachusetts Colony that was printed during the first hundred years after the settlement. The fraudulent use made of this work in the collection known as the Gorges Tracts for a time robbed the author of the credit due him, but the true authorship has beyond a doubt has been established by Dr. Poole, the famous librarian.”

Title Pages Johnson’s Wonder Working Providence

From the Introduction to Johnson’s Wonder Working Providence by John Franklin Jameson 1910

Late in the year 1653, but under date of 1654, Nathaniel Brooke, a London publisher, “at the Angel in Cornhill,” brought out a small octavo book of two hundred and thirty-six pages, entitled A History of New-England, from the English planting in the Yeere 1628 untill the Yeere 1652, etc. The title, inexact in any case, for the book is rather a history of Massachusetts than of all New England, was evidently affixed by the publisher. His advertisements show that at one time he thought of giving the book the title Historicall Relation of the First Planting of the English in New England in the Year 1628 to the Year 1653 and all the Materiall Passages happening there. But many reiterations in the text of the book show that the author’s own title for his production was that which appears in the running headlines of the printed book, and by which it has been generally known, The Wonder-working Providence of Sion’s Saviour in New England. The author’s name nowhere appears in the book.

Five years later the publisher took advantage of this latter fact, since the sale of the work had been so disappointing as to leave many copies on his hands, to utilize the sheets in another of his ventures. He had in hand a book entitled America Painted to the Life. Of the four parts of which he composed it, the first and fourth were apparently written by Ferdinando Gorges, Esquire, grandson of the celebrated patentee Sir Ferdinando Gorges, while the second was by that knight himself. Brooke impudently sandwiched-in the un- sold sheets of Wonder-working Providence as Part iii., “Written by Sir Ferdmando Gorges Knight” (the grandfather), and

“Publisht since his decease by his Grandchild Ferdinando Gorges Esquire, who hath much enlarged it and added severall accurate Descriptions of his owne.”

The reader who has any remembrance of the relations between Sir Ferdinando Gorges and the Massachusetts colony, and of the diametrical difference between his state of mind and that which breathes through every page of the Wonder-working Providence, will say that imposture could hardly be more shameless. The younger Gorges protested publicly. In the newspaper called Mercurius Politicus for September 13, 1660, appeared the following advertisement:

I, Ferdinando Gorges, the entituled Author of a late Book, called America Painted to the Life, am injured in that additional Part, called Sion’s Saviour in New England (as written by Sir Ferdinando Gorges;) that being none of his, and formerly printed in another name, the true owner.

The last statement is erroneous. So far as is known, no copies of the original book were issued with the author’s name. In New England it has been known for more than two hundred years that it was written by Captain Edward Johnson of Woburn, Massachusetts.

The motive for the composition of the book appears from
several passages. The author was convinced in every fibre
that there had been set up in New England an ecclesiastical
and civil polity more closely according with the Word of God
than any other which the world had seen, and that the Lord
had manifested His approval by doing marvellous things in the
wilderness for these His chosen people. Persons disaffected
to this holy experiment, lewd fellows like Morton and Gardiner,
presumptuous heretics like Gorton, had spread in England
reports injurious to the Massachusetts plantation, and these
ought to be combated by any one who cared for the material
and political welfare of the colony, or who valued intelligent
English opinion. What was perhaps still more grievous,
there had been bitter criticism even from a portion of the godly
in England, for in the recent debates, in and out of the West-
minster Assembly, on the reforming of the ecclesiastical polity
of England, the Presbyterian party, dominant in Parliament,
had hotly assailed the “New England Way,” the principles
and practices of Congregationalism. One to whom those
principles were as clear as the sun, those practices invested
with the absolute warrant of Scripture, could not rest easy
without exhibiting to all English readers the marvellous
providences, the gracious and evident mercies, by which
Jehovah had proclaimed to every attentive ear His approval
of New England methods.

So came into existence the first published history of
Massachusetts, a book which, whatever its shortcomings,
represented the honest attempt of a Puritan man of affairs to
set forth to his fellow-Englishmen the first twenty-three
years’ history of the great Puritan colony. A book on that
subject, we may be sure, met a real want in the Puritan England
of 1653 and 1654, although in the changed atmosphere
of 1659 Nathaniel Brooke might find it slow of sale. But,
printed as it was with the author three thousand miles away.

With whatever helps an editor may supply, the Wonder-
working Providence remains hard reading. Though the author
can tell plain facts in a plain way when he chooses to do so, and
gives us many valuable details respecting business matters.
his enthusiasm for the great cause of militant Puritanism
frequently leads him astray into rhetorical flights which,
though often vigorous and imaginative, are turgid, bombastic,
and tedious. Hardest of all to peruse are the
labored verses which, with excellent motives and a pathetic
patience, he has hammered out whenever he has felt that
an eminent leader in the upbuilding of his Zion calls for
especial commemoration. Yet the prose style has picturesque
imagination and a certain manly vigor, and though
the diction of the rhetorical passages is all borrowed from
the one Book the author knew well, a diction borrowed
from that source will never wholly lack beauty and elevation.
Even among the verses, one may discriminate.
There are woree verses than those in the ninth chapter of
the third book, beginning,

“From silent night, true Register of moans.”

Johnson’s habit of “dropping into poetry” has been so
much commented on by those who have in any way written of
him, that it is natural to ask the question what models he followed,
in the three varieties of metre which we see in his work.
On this point the editor has consulted his friend Professor
R. E. Neil Dodge, of the University of Wisconsin, an accomplished
student of Elizabethan verse. Of the metre of which
Johnson’s first two “poems,” those in honor of Cradock and
Endicott, are specimens, he says: “The measure as a whole,
the fourteen-syllable couplet (‘fourtecners’ or, more learnedly,
‘septenars’), would in its general swing be familiar to every
good Puritan in the metrical Psalms of Sternhold and Hopkins,

Biography of Capt. Edward Johnson

In “The Hirtory of Historical Writing in America , 1891, John Franklin Jameson said; “as an average Puritan of the middle class. He was a Kentish farmer, and probably also a shipwright, who came out in the same fleet with Governor Winthrop in 1630. A dozen years later, he was, in company with half a dozen others, one of the founders of the new town of Woburn. The stout Kentishman, having put his hand to the plough, chose to remain in the town he had helped to plant. He had always an important part in the affairs of the town, was chosen selectman nearly every year, was again and again elected to represent the town in the general court or legislature of the colony, acted as town clerk, and was captain of the train-band. He was, therefore, more or less concerned in the public affairs in the colony, but never had a leading part in them. Though he was a more prominent, a wealthier, and perhaps a more intelligent man than most of his fellow citizens, we may well enough take him as in most respects a type of the rank and file of the original settlers”.

“Captain Edward Johnson was born in 1599, and before emigrating to New England, resided at Herne Hill, near Canterbury, County of Kent, England. His Will indicates that he was possessed of a comfortable estate consisting of a farm and two other pieces of property. On embarking from England with his family he is classed as a joiner. This may have been in part of evasion, as no one above the rank of mechanic or serving man was allowed to leave without special permission. As several of his sons and grandsons were shipwrights and carpenters, it is not improbable that he carried on the business of shipbuilding at Herne Bay. However, he did not engage in any mechanical occupation after his arrival in New England.

Early in April, 1630, Capt. Johnson, without his family, embarked in one of the ships of the fleet which brought Governor Winthrop and his company to Massachusetts Bay. The records show him trading on the Merrimac River, and it is probable that he came for traffic and adventure and that he returned to England in the summer of 1631.

He returned with his family, in 1636, a zealous Puritan and in full sympathy with the religious system of the Massachusetts Colony. His ruling motive was no longer business or pleasure but in building up a Puritan Commonwealth in this western world. Embarking this time at Sandwich, the nearest seaport at which there was foreign travel, he settled temporarily at Charleston. From that time to the day of his death the Records of Charlestown, of Woburn, and the Colony are filled with his name and deeds.

He was of the committee of the Charlestown church “for the erecting of a church and town” at Woburn and was the first Recorder (town Clerk). He was generally known as the father of the town. May 10, 1643, he took his seat in the General Court as deputy from the town of Woburn, the first session of the court after the incorporation of the town. For thirty years he was not only town clerk and representative in the general court, but he usually was Chairman of the Selectmen and occupied some prominent place on commission and committees, especially legal and military committees.

Woburn was first settled in 1640 near Horn Pond, a primary source of the Mystic River, and was officially incorporated in 1642. At that time the area included present day towns of Woburn, Winchester, Burlington, and parts of Stoneham and Wilmington.

Woburn Location in Middlesex County, Massachusetts

Woburn got its name from Woburn, Bedfordshire. Woburn played host to the first religious ordination in the Americas on Nov. 22, 1642. Rev. Thomas Carter was sworn in by many of the most prominent men of New England including John Cotton, minister of the First Church of Boston, Richard Mather minister of the First Church of Dorchester, and Capt. Edward Johnson co-founder of the church and town of Woburn. Johnson is regarded as “the father of Woburn.” He served as the first town clerk, represented the town in the Massachusetts General Court, made the first map of Massachusetts, and wrote the first history of the colony.

The first organizational Town Meeting was held on April 13, 1644 and the first town officers were chosen. Town Selectmen were Edward Johnson, Edward Converse, John Mousall, William Learned, Ezekiel Richardson, Samuel RICHARDSON and James Thompson. William Learned was also selected as Constable. Michael Bacon, Ralph Hill, Thomas Richardson were chose for Surveyors of Highways.

Map of Waterfield 1638 Samuel Richardson lot in red –  Edward Johnson lot in blue — This map was constructed by the late George Cooke and George T. Littlefield of Winchester and is designed to show “the approximate location in 1638” of the lots in Woburn and Winchester which had been granted to the inhabitants of Charlestown. The descriptions of the lots, from which the compilers prepared their map, were taken from the Charlestown Book of Possessions. This land is situated in the westerly part of Winchester.

Captain Johnson had evidently given considerable attention to military matters in England, and there acquired the rank by which he has since been know. Soon after his second arrival we find his name in the Charlestown Records with the prefix of Captain, a title of honor which in those days was not given at random. On becoming a deputy to the General Court, he was placed on nearly every military committee. These were intrusted with most extraordinary powers such as inspecting fortifications, levying fines, collecting arrearages, etc. He gathered and drilled a squad of militia at Woburn soon after its settlement, and always held a command in the militia of the Colony. He was often sent out on expeditions to treat with or overawe the Indians and to deal with troublesome neighbors. His name scarcely ever appears in the Massachusetts Records without his military title.

Children of Edward Johnson and Susan Munter are:

i. Edward Johnson, b. Abt. Feb 18, 1621, Canterbury, Kent, England; d. Sep 15, 1692, Charlestown, Suffolk, MA.

ii. William Johnson, b. 1622, Canterbury, Kent, England; d. Jan 26, 1622.

iii. George Johnson, b. Abt. Apr 03, 1625, Canterbury, Kent, England; d. 1681, Somerset, MD.

iv. William Johnson, b. Abt. Mar 22, 1628, England; d. May 22, 1704, Woburn, Middlesex, MA.  He came to this country with his father’s family in the general immigration to New England, became a prominent citizen of Woburn, and was its second recorder, or town clerk.  He attained to high civil office, was one of the assistants of the colony, and a military officer of several ranks, from ensign to major, and was at one time in active command against the Indians.  He was one of the resistants of the aggressive policy pursued by Governor Andros.  He died at Woburn, May 22, 1704.  He married, at Woburn, May 16, 1655, Esther, died December 27, 1707, daughter of Elder Thomas Wiswall, of Dorchester and Newton.  They left a family of children, whose descendants have been for a long period prominent in the civil and military life of Woburn..

v. Susan Johnson, b. Abt. Apr 01, 1627, Canterbury, Kent, England.

vi. Martha Johnson, b. Abt. May 01, 1631, England.

vii. Matthew Johnson, b. Bef. Mar 30, 1633, Canterbury, Kent, England; d. Jul 19, 1696, Woburn, Middlesex Co, MA.

viii. John Johnson, b. Abt. 1635, England; d. Abt. 1721, near Canterbury, Windham Co, CT.

2. John JOHNSON (See his page)




Johnson’s Wonder-working providence, 1628-1651; (1910)


This entry was posted in 14th Generation, Artistic Representation, Line - Miller, Line - Shaw, Wikipedia Famous and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to William Johnson

  1. Pingback: John Johnson | Miner Descent

  2. Pingback: Samuel Richardson | Miner Descent

  3. Pingback: William Reade | Miner Descent

  4. PJinSoCal says:

    Captain Edward Johnson is my nine-times great grandfather. Give me a shout.

  5. C. Johnson says:

    Yoo, Captain Edward Johnson is my grandfather as well. Cjohnson here and who might you be?

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