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William J. Johnson
[[Image:200px|center|200px|border]]William J. Johnson
Personal Information
Born: December 8, 1821(1821-12-08)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: October 11, 1875 (aged 53)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Army
Union Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Colonel
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Commands: 148th Regiment.
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

William J. Johnson (December 8, 1821 - October 10, 1875) was a New York State businessman and politician.

Early life and entry into politics[]

William Johnson was born on December 8, 1821 in Williamstown, Massachusetts, to David Johnson and Olive Stodard Johnson. The family relocated to Frankfort, New York, where David died in 1825. At 14, William began studies in mechanics, and without completing a degree he began work as a contractor on public works projects.

It was his work on the New York State Canal System from 1849 through 1856 that brought him to Seneca Falls, New York, where he would take up residence. There he met his wife, Angelina Chamberlin, whom he wed in the summer of 1855. The couple had five sons, the last surviving of whom was Charles Chamberlain Johnson. The Johnson residence still stands on Cayuga Street in Seneca Falls, and is being developed into condominiums after years as a home for women [1].

In 1859, Johnson entered into the manufacture of knit goods. In 1860, he was elected to the New York State Assembly as a Democrat, where he was a member of the Canals Committee and the Commerce and Navigation Committee.

Civil War[]

When the American Civil War began, he was appointed by Governor Edwin D. Morgan as Seneca County representative to the War Committee, responsible for procuring troops and supplies. in 1862, he assembled 1200 men at Camp Swift in Geneva, New York. He was appointed Colonel and led the 148th Regiment into the war. He would resign his commission and return to New York in late 1863, citing health difficulties, where he continued to support the Union cause.

In the years following his Army service, Johnson entered into the railroad industry as a contractor.

New York State Senator (1872-1875)[]

Johnson was elected to the New York State Senate in the fall of 1871, as a Democrat representing the 26th District, then comprising Ontario, Seneca, and Yates counties. He was elected with a vote majority cited between 950 and 1500 in a primarily Republican district. He became a member of the standing committees on Canals, Manufactures, and Grievances.

Boss Tweed investigation[]

During this first senate term, then-State Senator William M. Tweed was embroiled in his corruption and embezzlement scandal. As Chairman of the Special Committee investigating Tweed in the State Senate, Johnson went to meet with Tweed, who declared himself too sick to speak with the Senator. Being charged with only 30 days in which to act on the matter, Johnson used what he viewed as Republican attempts at interference as leverage to aid in the passage of his bill for the creation of an investigatory panel[1]. "Boss Tweed" was convicted in 1873.

Second term[]

Johnson was reelected to the State Senate by a margin of less than 200 votes. In his second term as a State Senator, he was a member of the committees on Canals, Manufactures, and Militia.


On October 11, 1875, Johnson returned to Seneca Falls after having been in New York City. He fell ill that afternoon and died hours later of unreported causes.


Johnson was remembered as being kind, personable, and frank. As a State Senator he was regarded as being well-versed in many subjects as well as a deft conversationalist. He was known as a jovial man, with a sharp wit and strong sense of irony.


  • "The State Legislature: Debate on the Tweed Investigation" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
    • McElroy, W.H. and Alex McBride. (1875) William Johnson. Life Sketches of Government Officers and Members of the Legislature of the State of New York for 1875. (pp. 65–7) Albany, NY; Weed, Parsons and Company. [2]
    • The Political Graveyard: Index To Politicians, Johnson U to Z. (n.d.) Retrieved March 17, 2008, from [3].
    • Welch, Edgar L. (1904) William Johnson. "Grip's" Historical Souvenir No. 17: Seneca Falls, N.Y and Vicinity. (pp. 134–5) Syracuse, NY; Grip.