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Johnson Family of the Adirondacks

Created Feb-2000

Of the towns of Thurman, Chester, Caldwell (now Lake George) and Queensbury.

The Johnson's were of mixed Indian and white blood related on the Indian side to the Watso or Watsaw families who a century ago, lived in a small community at the east end of 13th Lake shown on the maps of that time as "Indian Village" or "Indian Encampment". In later years, members of the Watso and Johnson families lived in the town of Chester on the east side of the Hudson River opposite the hamlet of North River.

The Johnson's were also related to the Camp family, descendants of John Camp Sr. and members of a band of Abenakis or St. Francis Indians who settled in the village of Caldwell early in the 19th century.

The compiler of these notes was an acquaintance and friend of George Johnson who lived in Lake George Village for many years. He was employed under my supervision at that place during the period 6-1-1936 to 6-1-1940 at various times. He was a quiet, proud man, a gentleman and well thought of in the village. He was moderately tall with the thin nose and features of the Iroquois people. On one occasion while we were talking, he asked me about the locality were I lived and if there were any black ash trees in the vicinity. I replied that there were some on my property but that some of them had been cut by persons unknown to me a few years past. He questioned me about the location where they were cut and then told me that he had cut them for basket splints. He went on to say that he had inquired as to who the owner of the land was but was not able to find out so he had cut the tree he wanted anyhow as he had the right lawfully to do so. He then explained that in colonial times the Crown of Great Britain had made a treaty with the New York Indians (the Mohawks) whereby the Indians deeded their rights to parts of the Adirondacks to the English for a sum of money and trade goods. The Indians reserved the right to hunt, trap, use the products of the forest such as trees, grasses, shrubs, berries, medicinal roots and herbs, etc., etc. The signatories to the treaty were bound forever, or as long as the grass grew and the rivers run to abide by the treaty.

I did not doubt his word, but later, in doing some research at the State Library in Albany, I came across the original copy of the Indian treaty to which he had referred. It was worded substantially as he had stated and was signed, I think, in 1773.

In 1958 or '59, George Johnson came to pay me a visit at the office while I was superintendent of Lake George Beach and Battleground State Parks. He had walked with the aid of his cane for more than a mile and was nearly 'done in' when he arrived. He was about 97 years old if I remember correctly, at that time. We had a long visit and when he was ready to leave, I called a taxi in spite of his assertion that he could walk home, and paid the fare. That was the last time I saw him. He passed on a year or two later.

George had a younger brother who lived on the L.G.-Glen Falls road in the town of Queensbury. He was a basketmaker and was totally blind. It was a familiar sight in the early part of this century to see him traveling the highways and byways of Warren County with his Adirondack pack-basket on his back, led by one of his young sons holding onto one end of a stick while his father held onto the other end and followed behind the boy. What was carried in the basket, I never knew. The house where the family lived has been removed from its site which was located near the present site of the Gourmet Restaurant of Rte. 9, a short distance north of the Farm-to-Market road intersection, and about 4 miles south of Lake George Village. There were others in this family about which I have no information.

Source: J.A. Magee - March 1966

Contributed by: David Benedict

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