George Johnson was the younger son of two extraordinary people. His father was Sir William Johnson, one of the richest, most powerful men in colonial New York. His mother was Molly Brant, stepdaughter of a Mohawk chief and older sister of Iroquois leader Joseph Brant. George spent his childhood in comfort and privilege, along with his older brother and six sisters at Johnson Hall, a place where Native American culture mingled easily with European customs.

But the looming Revolutionary War turned this life upsidedown. After Sir William's death in 1774, Molly and Joseph Brant urge the Iroquois nations to support the Loyalists. George's older brother Peter went off to fight the rebel Americans, becoming an instant hero by accepting the capture of Ethan Allen.

As rebel forces took over the Mohawk Valley, George and his family had to flee for their lives. After weeks of walking, they reached the safety of Fort Niagara. George was sent away to school in Montreal, where he spent three miserable years. Finally, he persuaded his mother to allow him to join in a last raid on the valley where he had spent his early years. There he experienced first-hand the inglorious brutality of war, and struggled with what it meant to be half Mohawk. There too he at last learned the truth about his beloved older brother.


At thirteen, George convinced his mother to let him join the King’s forces and fight to reclaim the valley where he had grown up. Discovering that this war pitted neighbor against neighbor, George also faced an inner struggle with his half-Mohawk heritage.

I run two black fingers down my cheeks and smear the red in a band over my forehead. It’s bear grease and powder. It feels gummy, like blood
, he muses. His captain pulls him back into reality, saying, "You swore your oath to the King!"

Based on actual historical people and events, this book brings to life the reality of Revolutionary times. Taking the viewpoint of young George, young readers will sympathize with the plight of the Indians as their land is seized little by little. The story flows smoothly and the crisp dialogue makes the characters real.

The authors have provided, at the back of the book, historical notes, a timeline, descriptions of the real people, and suggestions for further reading. Teen readers who enjoy learning about America’s early history will love this book (review by Linda Cooley, ForeWord).

Sir William Johnson, George Johnson's famous father

Handsome Sir William
William Johnson came to the Mohawk Valley around 1738 to act as an agent for his uncle, Peter Warren. His uncle directed the ambitious young man, newly arrived from Ireland, to establish a settlement there, to be known as Warrensburgh. Young William Johnson and 12 Irish Protestant families  started clearing land for farming.
Johnson's uncle wanted him also to involve himself in trading with Six Nations. He relocated  from the south side of the river to the north, where he established a small farm, store, and a sawmill and began trading in furs. He associated closely with the Mohawk people in the valley, the easternmost nation of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League. He studied the languages of the confederacy and sometimes wore Mohawk clothing. 

Johnson's Mohawk friends and neighbours saw in the tall Irishman someone who could advocate their interests with the British. They adopted him as a civil chief and gave him the name Warraghiyagey, meaning "Man who undertakes great things." In time he became British Superintendent of the North American colonies and a successful military leader. He believed that with good will, good communication, and good faith, the native peoples of North America and the European settlers could flourish side by side.

Johnson also had a great scientific curiosity. Like Ben Franklin, he conducted experiments with electricity, although largely for the amusement of guests at parties at Johnson Hall particularly the ladies.  A small book that he published on his experiments is in the John Carter Brown library.

Johnson Street

If you're visiting Kingston, Ontario, you will likely encounter Johnson Street, running all the way from the waterfront to Sir John A. Macdonald Blvd. The street is named for Sir John Johnson, George's older stepbrother, who owned a large piece of property in this colonial town, though he rarely (if ever) stayed there. The reason that Sydenham Street is interrupted for a block because Sir John's estate used to be in the middle it.

Molly Brant, George's famous mother

"The Three Faces of Molly Brant" (Iroquois, European, Loyalist).
 1986 design, Canada Post commemorative postage stamp.
Mary Brant, better known as Molly, was born around 1736, possibly in the Mohawk village of Canajoharie or further west in the Iroquois hunting grounds in Ohio Country. Her parents were Christian Mohawks. Most historians believe that her father was named Peter. Her brother Joseph Brant was born in 1743. In September 1753, Molly's mother married Brant Kanagaradunkwa, a prominent Mohawk sachem of the Turtle clan, and Molly and Joseph took their stepfather's name as a surname.

One of Molly's Mohawk names was Konwatsi'tsiaienni, which means "Someone Lends Her a Flower.” Her other Mohawk name, given to her at adulthood, was Degonwadonti, meaning "Two Against One.”

In Canajoharie, the Brants lived in a colonial-style frame house and used many European household goods. The family attended the Church of England. Molly was fluent in Mohawk and English. It is unclear whether she could read and write. Several letters signed "Mary Brant" may have been dictated by her and written by someone else.

Around 1758 she became was the consort of Sir William Johnson, the influential British superintendent of Indian Affairs, and together they had eight children. After Johnson's death in 1774, Molly and her children returned to her native village of Canajoharie across the Mohawk River. As the American Revolutionary War intensified, she fled to Canada, where she worked as an intermediary between British officials and the Iroquois warriors.

After the war, Molly settled with several of her children and their families in what is now Kingston, Ontario. For her service to the Crown, the British government granted her a pension and compensated her with land and money for her wartime losses.

Fort Johnson, on the Mohawk River

Fort Johnson on the Mohawk River
This is Fort Johnson, where the children of Sir William Johnson and Molly Brant were born.

George was their fifth child. His brother, Peter, was the eldest. They had six sisters: Elizabeth, Magdalene, Peggy, Mary, Susannah, and Anne

Some Things about the Brants

Molly (Mary) Brant and her younger brother, Joseph, were in their teens when they first came to know William Johnson. The brilliant young Irishman saw qualities in them both that intrigued them. The family lived in the best house in the village of Canajoharie on the Mohawk River, and both children had some education.

Molly was both beautiful and clever. Early on, she took a role in Six Nations negotiations with the European colonists. In 1754, when Molly was 19, she accompanied her stepfather and a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia, where the men were to discuss fraudulent land sales with colonial leaders. Along the way in Albany, an English officer named Captain Morris, the nephew of the governor of Pennsylvania, declared himself to be in love with Molly. However, nothing came of this romantic meeting. Five years later Molly became the partner of William Johnson, now Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the northern colonies. They remained together until William's death in 1771.

Molly's brother Joseph, younger by eight years, was sent by William to Connecticut to be educated at Eleazar Wheelock's school, the  forerunner of Dartmouth College. Joseph was to have continued his studies at King's College in New York City, but the Pontiac Rebellion upset those plans and Joseph returned home to the Valley.

Joseph became an important military leader. When he was little more than a boy, he fought alongside William Johnson at the Battle of Lake George. Later he took part, again with William, in significant military ventures at Fort Niagara and Montreal. For his bravery, the British awarded him a silver medal. He held the rank of Captain of the British superintendent's Mohawk warriors throughout the Revolutionary War. At the war's end, he led a large group of Iroquois exiles and loyalists to settle on the banks of the Grand River to the north of Lake Ontario in Canada. 

All about George

This website is about George Johnson, part Mohawk, part white, and for a brief time, barely in his teens, a Mohawk warrior in the American War of Independence.