Johnson, Samuel

honorific(s): Reverend
Birth: October 14, 1696 in Guilford, CT
Death: January 6, 1772 in Stratford, CT

Yale College; Episcopalian Church; Society for Propagating the Gospel


College at Saybrook (proto-Yale) (1714), Honorary D.D. from Oxford (1743)






Minister, President of King's College

  • New Haven, CT (from 1716 to 1720)
  • West Haven, CT (from 1720 to 1722)
  • Stratford, CT (from 1723 to 1753)
  • New York, New York (from 1753 to 1763)
  • Stratford, CT (from 1763 to 1772-01-06)
Marital status

Samuel Johnson was married twice and had several children. Both of his wives died of small-pox.


The Reverend Samuel Johnson was a prominent Episcopalian (the American branch of the Anglican church) clergyman and scholar who spent much of his career as the pastor in Stratford, Connecticut. After a Congregationalist upbringing and a stint as Yale’s first tutor, he was ordained in 1720 and served as pastor to the Congregationalist church at West Haven, a few miles from New Haven. He continued pursuing scholarship and, in the course of his studies, concluded that Anglicanism was the most preferable Christian sect. Together with several other Yale-affiliated Congregationalists, Johnson declared himself an Anglican and traveled to England for Anglican ordination, which he received in 1723. Upon his return to America, Johnson took the Episcopalian pulpit at Stratford, Connecticut. In the course of his lifetime, he partook in a significant expansion of the Episcopalian Church in Connecticut. Johnson had close ties to the Society for Propagating the Gospel (SPG, the primary Anglican missionary society in the colonies) and was precisely the sort of Episcopalian that most frustrated Reformed Protestants like Wheelock: in addition to working to convert Native Americans, several of whom attended his Stratford church, Johnson also strove to convert Anglo-American Congregationalists to Episcopalian worship. In 1753, Johnson was named as the first president of King’s College (renamed Columbia after the Revolution). He retired in 1763, and returned to his congregation at Stratford. In 1766, he participated in the collection authorized by the Connecticut Assembly for Moor’s Indian Charity School. Although he firmly believed that Anglicanism was the best approach to Christianity, he did support Wheelock’s efforts to convert Native Americans. Johnson was an eminent scholar. He published extensively in the field of moral philosophy and also wrote a catechism and English and Hebrew grammars. He should not be confused with Samuel Johnson, an Anglo-American Yale student employed by Wheelock, or William Samuel Johnson, this Samuel Johnson's son, who was Great Britain’s agent in the Mason Land Case between the Mohegan tribe and the Colony of Connecticut.


Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People. New Haven: Yale University Press 2004. Accessed via GoogleBooks. Beardsley, E. Edwards. Life And Correspondence Of Samuel Johnson, D.D. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1874. Accessed via Project Canterbury. McCallum, James. The Letters of Eleazar Wheelock’s Indians. Dartmouth College Press 1932. Sprague, William Buell. “Samuel Johnson, D.D.” In Annals of the American Pulpit. Volume V: Episcopalian. New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1859, pp. 52-61. Accessed via GoogleBooks.