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Rev. Samuel Johnson, D.D.

Rev. Samuel Johnson, D.D.

Male 1696 - 1772  (75 years)

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  • Name Samuel Johnson 
    Relationshipwith Robert Alan Roy
    Birth 14 Oct 1696  Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    History Samuel Johnson, philosopher, colonial Connecticut's first Anglican priest and the first president of King's College in New York, was born in Guilford, Connecticut, to Mary Sage and Samuel Johnson, a prosperous fuller and farmer, October 14, 1696. Young Samuel showed an early aptitude for learning, and by age fourteen he entered the Collegiate School at Saybrook, Connecticut. Shortly before his 1714 graduation, Johnson began teaching school in Guilford, a position he held until moving to New Haven, Connecticut in 1716. In New Haven, Samuel Johnson tutored at his newly relocated and renamed alma mater, Yale College, teaching introductory courses in the philosophies of Isaac Newton and John Locke. When students singled out Johnson in a 1719 protest against tutors, he resigned his post at Yale and accepted a ministerial calling to the Congregational parish in nearby West Haven, where he was ordained March 20, 1720.

    During his tenure at West Haven, Samuel Johnson remained close to friends and colleagues at Yale, and he made considerable use of the college's growing library. Much of his study during this time led him to question his professed Calvinist tenets, which he discussed with Anglican missionary George Pigot, then stationed nearby. With college president Timothy Cutler and tutor Daniel Browne, Samuel Johnson professed his Anglican bent at the Yale commencement of 1722, after which official debates ensued in the college library. Cutler, Brown, Johnson and fellow Congregational minister James Wetmore sailed from Boston in late 1722, to seek Holy Orders in the Church of England. Samuel Johnson received conditional baptism and confirmation and ordination by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1723; he then returned to Connecticut under the auspices of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.

    As missionary to Stratford, Connecticut, Samuel Johnson took over a small congregation in that town and set about extending the Anglican Church's reaches in New England. His congregation opened Connecticut's first Anglican Church on December 25, 1724, and under Johnson's direction for the next three decades it flourished.

    In 1725, Samuel Johnson married Charity Floyd, a young widow from New York. With her, Johnson raised Floyd's two sons and her daughter by her first husband, and two sons of their own. Johnson's wife brought him into contact with many prominent New Yorkers who shared his Anglican beliefs.

    Throughout the 1720s and 1730s, Samuel Johnson remained one of few Anglican priests in New England. To educate the children of his congregants, he opened a rectory school, to which families from New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island sent their children. With no seminary in the colonies, Johnson personally prepared men - many converts like himself - for Holy Orders, allowing him to maintain and expand the number of Anglican ministers in his growing demesne. To his critics, Samuel Johnson addressed several epistles, which he published as A Letter from a Minister of the Church of England to His Dissenting Parishioners in 1733, A Second Letter . . . in 1734 and A Third Letter . . . in 1737. Samuel Johnson formed a notable friendship with the Anglican philosopher, then-Dean George Berkeley, who served as both spiritual and intellectual mentor to the minister.

    Johnson would become a proponent of Berkeley's philosophies and would incorporate them into his own writings. Johnson's academic works, usually philosophical in nature, gained the attention of European contemporaries, and in 1743 Samuel Johnson received a Doctorate in Divinity from Oxford University. He published in New London, Connecticut that year An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy; a London publisher released a second edition in 1744. Several influential American thinkers found Johnson's works compelling. Proponents of Johnson's work at home included Benjamin Franklin, who published a second edition of the minister's 1746 Ethices Elementa. Or the First Principles of Moral Philosophy. And Especially that Part of It Which Is Called Ethics ..., expanding and revising it in 1752 as Elementa Philosophica: containing Chiefly Noetica, or things relating to the Mind or Understanding and Ethica, or Things Relating to the Moral Behavior. In developing a college plan for Philadelphia, Franklin and his colleagues solicited Samuel Johnson for the school's presidency; however, Johnson declined the offer in favor of continuing his ministry in Stratford. When developers of a college in New York sought Johnson's assistance in 1753, he resigned from his Connecticut post, and moved to New York City in April 1754 to direct King's College ? which in time would develop into Columbia University.

    Johnson's tenure at King's College lasted until 1763. As president, Samuel Johnson educated the institution's first three classes of graduates, and he helped the school grow beyond its initial eight students, whom he and his son educated. He published some sermons, A Short Catechism for Young Children and began work on a grammar text. In controversy with the school's trustees over the spiritual direction of the students, Johnson compromised on a liberal acceptance of professions and church attendance, with the stipulation that the school's president would always remain an Anglican minister. During this time, Samuel Johnson lost two children and his wife to smallpox. He married Sarah Hull Beach of Stratford, mother-in-law to his son, William Samuel Johnson, in the summer of 1761; following her death from smallpox two years later, Johnson left New York City, retiring to Stratford, where he continued to minister his former congregation, in varied capacities, until his 1772 death.

    Following his resignation from King's College, Samuel Johnson continued both academic and ministerial endeavors. His text The First Easy Rudiments of Grammar, Applied to the English Tongue appeared in 1765, and Johnson followed it with An English and Hebrew Grammar. Being the First Short Rudiments of Those Two Languages. Taught Together, which first went to print in 1767. In addition to The Christian: Explained, In Two Sermons, of Humility and Charity, printed in 1768, Samuel Johnson collected and prepared manuscripts of Prayers and Meditaions, which George Strahan published in 1785. Samuel Johnson agitated for Anglican bishops in America - a lack of which he considered a major source of discontent between England and the colonies - and he continued to correspond with influential American and English church leaders.

    Samuel Johnson died in Stratford, Connecticut, on January 7, 1772.

    From Early Encounters in North America Biography  [2
    Religion say 1725 (Age 29)  [1
    Married 1726 (Age 30)  [1
    Offices Held 1754 to 1763 (Age 58)  [1
    Death 7 Jan 1772  Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 3, 4
    Burial Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, U.S.A. Find all individuals with events at this location  [3, 5
    Johnson Burial Site
    Johnson Burial Site
    Siblings 10 Siblings 
    Person ID I13738 
    Last Modified 29 Dec 2017 

    Father Deacon Samuel Johnson,   b. 5 Jun 1670, Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 8 May 1727, Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 56 years) 
    Mother Mary Sage,   b. 15 Nov 1672, Middletown, Middlesex County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this locationd. 13 Mar 1726, Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location (Age 53 years) 
    Marriage 7 Nov 1694  Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Age at Marriage He : 24 years and 5 months - She : 22 years. 
    Family ID F7071  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBirth - 14 Oct 1696 - Guilford, New Haven County, Connecticut Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDeath - 7 Jan 1772 - Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBurial - - Christ Episcopal Church Cemetery, Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, U.S.A. Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 
    Pin Legend  : Address       : Location       : City/Town       : County/Shire       : State/Province       : Country       : Not Set

  • Photos
    The Rev Samuel Johnson DD
    Erected in his honor in the church that he served

  • Sources 
    1. [S775] Sage, Harold Kenneth. David Sage of Middletown, Conn., and His Children, and Grandchildren, (Boston: The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, volume 106, July 1952 ).

    2. [S771] Early Encounters in North America Biography, (

    3. [S194] Connecticut, Deaths and Burials Index, 1650-1934, (Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2011).

    4. [S770] Rhode Island, Vital Extracts, 1636-1899, (Provo, Utah: Operations, Inc., 2014.).

    5. [S14] Find-a-Grave website, (
      Memorial ID 12001634