BiographyJohnson was born in Ireland, but moved to the Thirteen Colonies in 1738 to look after his Uncle's property on the Mohawk River. However, it was not long before Johnson branched out into business for himself, acquiring property on the opposite side of the river and setting up a sawmill and trading post, which he named "Mount Johnson". In 1743 he moved to an even larger parcel of land which he named "Fort Johnson".
Johnson befriended the indigenous peoples in the area, particularly the Mohawk, whose language he learned. His respect for their customs helped him rise to prominence as liaison between the Iroquois peoples and the British government. Johnson was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756.
In addition to treaty negotiations, Johnson was in charge of recruiting and leading Iroquois fighters during the French and Indian War. He only fought in one battle, but he was rewarded handsomely for his service - 5,000 pounds and a Baronetcy. That was a little above average for most people involved in the Battle of Lake George.
He continued his close ties with the Kanien'keha'ka and in 1760 they gave him land totaling more than 300 square kilometers as a thanks for his work. However, Johnson burned some bridges in 1768 when he negotiated the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. He took much more land than the British had asked for - a windfall for him, since he could then speculate on it - but rather a tough sell to the indigenous nations who lived on the land. The treaty caused a war in Virginia (known as Dunmore's War). In an effort to stop more bloodshed, Johnson called for more negotiations - this time at Johnson Hall, in 1774.