Johnson, Jacob W.

first name (variants): W.
honorific(s): Reverend; Mr.
Birth: April 7, 1713 in Wallingford, CT
Death: March 15, 1797 in Wilkes-Barre, PA

Yale College; New Light


Yale (1740, A.M. 1763)


New Light Congregationalist




Minister, missionary

  • Groton, CT (from 1749 to 1772)
  • Wilkes-Barre, PA (from 1772 to 1778)
  • Wallingford, CT (from 1778 to 1781)
  • Wilkes-Barre, PA (from 1781 to 1797-03-15)

1768: Jacob Johnson represented Wheelock at the very important Fort Stanwix treaty. He did not conduct himself well, and further alienated Sir William Johnson from Wheelock's cause.

Marital status

Married with several children.


After graduating from Yale in 1740, Jacob Johnson studied theology, became a New Light preacher, and undertook some missionary work among the Mohawks. He was a very radical New Light: he believed in visions and dream interpretation, called himself a seer and, later in life, wore a girdle of hair in imitation of John the Baptist. From 1749 until 1772, he served as the minister at Groton, CT, and remained active in Native American missionary efforts. In the fall of 1768, Jacob Johnson went on a brief domestic fundraising tour with Joseph Johnson (perhaps intended to echo Occom and Whitaker’s tour of Britain, 1765-1767). Jacob Johnson is best remembered for his conduct at the Fort Stanwix Treaty of 1768, an enormously important treaty at which the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) sold a large amount of land, most of it belonging to other tribes, to the British, represented by Sir William Johnson. The treaty also resolved a contested boundary between Connecticut and Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania’s favor. Jacob Johnson was not Wheelock’s first choice of delegate. However, after several others declined the post, he was chosen to accompany David Avery, then on a mission at nearby Canajoharie. At the gathering, Jacob Johnson engaged in at least four points of serious contention. First, he strongly urged the Haudenosaunee not to sell their land, in direct contradiction of Sir William Johnson and the British Crown’s wishes. Second, he then urged them to sell their land — but only to Wheelock for the use of the Indian Charity School. Third, he tried to interrupt efforts to settle the PA/CT boundary, because he was involved with the interested CT party (called the Susquehanna Company). Fourth, he refused to drink to the king’s health, and gave a bizarre toast calling into question the justice of the monarchy. In the volatile climate leading up to the Revolution, none of his actions went over well. In the aftermath of the Treaty, Wheelock tried to distance himself from Jacob Johnson’s actions, but Wheelock’s relationship with Sir William Johnson still fell apart. (F.C. Johnson, Jacob Johnson’s great-grandson and biographer, has argued that it is unfair to hold Jacob Johnson wholly responsible for these events, as Wheelock and Sir William Johnson diverged on many important political and religious issues). After the Fort Stanwix Treaty, Jacob Johnson accompanied Kirkland on a mission to the Mohawks and Oneidas that lasted until April 1769. He was relatively proficient in the Mohawk (and, thus, Oneida) language, and made a valuable missionary. Like many other missionaries employed by Wheelock, Native-American and Anglo-American alike, Jacob Johnson disagreed with Wheelock about the financial compensation for his mission, and their relationship seems to have disintegrated at this point. In 1772, Johnson was dismissed from his post at Groton. He then resumed his involvement with Connecticut efforts to settle Pennsylvania territory, and became the first minister of Wilkes-Barre, PA, a Connecticut settlement in the contested region (now Wyoming County, PA). He remained there for the rest of his life, excepting a brief period during the Revolution when he sought refuge in CT (1778-1781).


Chase, Frederick. A history of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire. 1891. Dexter, Franklin Bowditch. Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History October, 1701 — May, 1745 (Vol 1). New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1885. Accessed via 12/3/2013. Harvey, Oscar Jewell and Smith, Ernest Gray. A History of Wilkes-Barré, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, Volume 2. Wilkes-Barre: Raeder Press 1909. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Johnson, Frederick C. Jacob Johnson, M.A. Pioneer Preacher of Wyoming Valley (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.) 1772-1790., First Settled Pastor First Presbyterian Church. Wilkes-Barre: Wilkes-Barre Record Print, 1911. Accessed via Haithi Trust. Johnson, Joseph. To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776. Murray, Laura J, ed.Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1998. Love, Deloss. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Pilgrim Press 1899. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932.