Rev. Jacob Johnson

He was of that stubborn crew
Presbyterian true blue
Who prove their doctrine orthodox
By apostolic blows and knocks.

Jacob Johnson was born April 15, 1713 according to town records at Wallingford, Ct.. He was a son of Jacob and Abigail (Hitchcock) Johnson. He graduated from Yale College in 1740. In 1749 he was installed as pastor of the "First Church of Christ" at Groton, Ct. Rev. Johnson served Groton for twenty-three years; intermittantly going off to try and convert the Indians in New York. It was during this time that he married Mary Giddings, daughter of Nathaniel and Mary (Williams) Giddings.

Rev. Jacob Johnson became consumed with the idea of converting the Native Americans. He worked among the Groton Pequots, later the Iroqouis of the Mohawk Valley of New York. Learning the native tongue of those he ministered to. He was influential with the Indians, speaking their languages fluently. In 1768 he was in New York in the heart of Six Nation country. At the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, the English fixed a boundry between the English colonies and the Indian domain. The Pennsylvania interests saw to it that no Connecticut representatives were invited. This omission was a result of both the Pennsylvania and Connecticut colonies claiming the coveted lands. The Rev. Johnson was there having been sent on a mission to the Oneida by Rev. Wheelock. "Mr. Johnson was an impulsive man in his zeal for the rights of the Indians, and in his fearless utterances of some 'rebel' sentiments, he incurred the displeasure of Sir William Johnson and the Penns". They excluded him from the deliberations. He was invited to break bread with the Baronet and his guests. When it came time for Rev. Johnson to make a toast, his words were taken as an insult:

"I drink the Health of King George III of Great Britain--comprehending New England and all the British Colonies and provinces in North America. And I mean to drink such a Health to his British Majesty, when occasion serves, so long as his Royal Majesty, shall govern his British and American subjects according to Magna Charta, or the great charter of English Liberties, and hears the prayers of his American Subjects, when properly laid before him. But in case his British Majesty (which God in great mercy prevent) should proceed contrary to charter rights and Priveleges and Govern us with a Rod of Iron, and the mouth of Cannons and make his Little Finger thicker than his Father's loyns, and utterly refuse to hear or consider our Humble prayers; then and in that case I should think it my indispensable Duty to seek a retreat elsewhere; or joyn with my Countrymen in Forming a New Empire in America, distinct from, and independent of, the British Empire: agreeable to a project and predicted Plan in a late essay, Intitled 'the Power and Grandure of Great Britain, Founded on the liberties of the Colonies, etc.', which in Substance agrees with my mind in these things, and if I am not mistaken, with every true son of Liberty".

He was too much of a patriot to suit the King's representative, the Baronet, and too concerned with the Indians to suit the Penns. Rev. Johnson was therefore excluded from the council. In a letter of apology to Sir William Johnson, Rev. Johnson explains that he was but a simple man who ministers to the unfortunate. His letter goes on to further lower his opinion of the King. He wrote a letter thanking William Johnson for forbidding alcohol to be given to the 3,000 Indians present at the summitt. He seemed especially concerned about the possible actions of the Seneca, ending his letter with these words, "As I am a seer, I may be knowing to some things your excellency may not, which occasions me thus to write." It is interesting to note that is was the Seneca who would be involved in the battle of Wyoming.

In October 1772, he asked for, and it was approved, his dismissal from the Society at Groton. His purpose was to accept a call to Wyoming. Rev. Jacob Johnson was the first settled minister in Wyoming Valley, nicknamed the "Pioneer Preacher". He was a Congregationalist. His eldest daughter, Lydia, became the second wife of Col. Zebulon Butler. Because of his advanced age, Rev. Jacob was assigned to the fort on the day of the battle of Wyoming. After the Massacre, Jacob drew up the articles of capitulation between the British and Americans. He then took his family back to Wallingford for three years.

He was outspoken in his support of the Connecticut settlers. He denounced the Pennamite outrages with such vehemence that he was in 1784 dragged to court and compelled to give bond for his peaceable behavior.

The good Rev. claimed to have the gift of prophecy. This was not an uncommon claim for ministers of this time. He did predict his date of death. Rev. Johnson dug his own grave on top of Redoubt hill. "He informed his son Jehoiada of what was to be done, gave some directions for the funeral in a cheerful and unconcerned manner, and retired to rest; but ere the morning sun shone into his window the Angel of Death had passed by that peaceful cottage and breathed in the face of the good old man as he slept, and there was mourning in the little hamlet." Rev. Jacob died intestate and his son, Jehoida Pitt Johnson was named executor of his estate with Isaac D. Tripp and Jos. Hitchcock acting as sureties.

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