Biography of Abolitionist,  Hosea Johnson, Mexico, NY

Many thanks to Esther Rancier for researching and sharing her information on the Johnson family.   I try with all the families to include more than just begats.  People need to be viewed in the context of their world.  My goal is to really tell the many aspects of Oswego County history.  Eventually if one reads all my bios, a person will also learn the local history and cultural story of the area.  - Esther

Esther, is researching in Richland and Mexico the Soul/Soule, Brace and Daniel P. Smith families, and would appreciate hearing from anyone researching these surnames.   Esther Rancier at:

Nineteenth century America had its heroes, many of whom were abolitionists.  Few of these persons are remembered today.  Yet each and every voice raised against slavery, changed the over-all dynamics of public thinking.

When the United States was formed slavery interests were so strong even John Adams and the other Founding Fathers at Philadelphia had to back down from their wish to free the slaves.  Slavery persisted held in place by the power of a some greedy and immoral landowners in the South.

But the slavery issue did not vanish.  The churches gradually took up the cause.  Yet slavery forces needed to expand slave territory.  The economic needs of a slave driven society were no longer effective, but slave agriculture on the Plains and in Texas, would keep the rich in power.  There was severe opposition to this growth, yet no formal opposition to slavery per se, had developed.  Many including William Lloyd Garrison, were opposed to political action.  Garrison’s group saw political action as futile and sinful. 

But Gerrit Smith advocated a third party, to use political action.  Gerrit Smith, a resident of Utica, NY, owned considerable property in Oswego, Oswego Co., NY, and in nearby Mexico Township.  Gerrit was a well-known and respected local figure with a national reputation. Mexico resident Hosea Johnson, must surely have met Gerrit  Smith.  The two men would have had considerable views in common.

Hosea was a descendant of Elkanah Johnson, born 1673  either in England or America.  Elkanah’s original tombstone was destroyed.  In 1908 a replacement stone with dates 1673-1798 was placed on his grave in Coventry Historical Cemetery, Coventry, RI. 

Linda L. Mathew has written several articles tracing Elkanah and his descendants.  This material with its rich detail can be located in Rhode Island Roots, v. 28, no.4, p. 157-172; v. 29, no. l, p. 113-117 and v. 29, no. 4, p. 169-181.  Mary Bartholomew wed Elkanah and became the mother of John Johnson, born ca. 1699 in Warwick, RI.  This son, John, wed 12 October 1721 at Warwick, Sarah Phillips of Warwick.  One of their children was Obadiah Johnson, born ca. 1723 at Warwick. 

Before 1772 this family removed to Coventry, RI.  John, a yeoman, left a will dated 14 July 1772.  It was proved by the court on 2 September 1782.  He mentioned his wife, Sarah, five sons and two daughters. 

Obadiah, on 16 January 1743/44 at Coventry wed Sarah Nichols of Coventry.  One of their sons was Hosea, born 5 June 1760.  He married Barbara Greene.  They had six children including a namesake Hosea Johnson, born 14 June 1792 at Coventry.  Hosea and Barbara were enumerated in the 1790 Kent County, RI census as 1-2-3.  In 1800 this family was again, counted at Coventry. 

About 1806 after selling his land in Coventry, Hosea, Barbara and his children, except for daughter, Lois, left for Burlington, Otsego Co., NY.  There he purchased 100 acres of lot #3 of the Colden Patent.  In 1816, he sold 80 acres of his land to his sons, John and Hosea, Jr.

Young Hosea wed Lodicia -----.  She became the mother of seven children according to Linda Mathew:
1. Lois b. 24 July 1812; m. ca. 1836 Daniel Horace Green; d. probably at Linn, Walworth Co., WI.
2. Weltha b. 16 February 1814; m. 31 March 1837, Charles O. Curtiss; d. 6 October 1876.  Buried in Ridgeway Twp. Cemetery, Ridgeway, Lenawee Co., MI. 
3. Obadiah b. 29 January 1817; m. (1) Lydia who d. 19 September 1872; (2) Mary; d. 1 November 1884.  Buried in Colosse Cemetery, Mexico, NY.  Resided in Parish, NY.
4. Barbara b. 23 March 1819.  Nothing further known.

The other children of Lodicia, were Celinda, Harvey and John who were included in Mexico census records and described in more detail below.  Lodicia died 19 November 1835.  She was buried in the Village Cemetery, Burlington Flats, NY.  At the New York State Historical Association Library in Cooperstown, NY there’s a copy of John L. Colburn Family Record dated 13 August 1865.  This item refers to Lodicia as born in January 1796.  At the Mexico Historical Museum there is a Johnson Family Bible which called her Lavinea and Laviny born 20 January 1796. 

On 20 May 1839, Hosea wed Rachel Thurston.  The date of this marriage came from the Colburn and Johnson Family Bibles Rachel’s maiden name was also given.  She appeared to be the daughter of David and Rachel (Chapin) Thurston who resided in New Lisbon, Otsego Co., NY in the 1820 census.  Rachel Chapin was born 21 May 1771 in Massachusetts; while David, was born during 1770 at New Lisbon.  David Thurston died in 1853; his wife in 1860.  They were both buried in Wellwood Cemetery. 

By the 1850 Mexico census, Hosea and his family were listed as follows:
Johnson, Hosea -58-farmer-RI-$200
Johnson, Rachel -39-wife-NY
Johnson, Selinda [sic] -27-daughter-NY
Johnson, Harvey -25-son-NY
Johnson, John -28-son-NY
Johnson, Sarah M. -9-daughter-NY

The oldest son, John, worked as a cooper.  Rachel was the stepmother of all of the children, except of Sarah M.

The family continued to grow.  The 1860 Mexico census included:
Johnson, Hosea -69-farmer-NH-$3000
Johnson, Rachel -49-wife-NY
Johnson, Celinda -38-daughter-NY
Johnson, Sarah -19-daughter-NY
Johnson, Esther L. -9-daughter-NY

Living next door:
Johnson, H H -34-farmer-NH-$2000
Johnson, Elvira -24-wife-NH
Johnson, Roselia [sic] -6-daughter-NY
Johnson, Chas -4-son-NY

This household was headed by son, Harvey.  He was not born in NH, only Elvira was.

Rachel (Thurston) Johnson was also the mother of Esther L., called in various records, Etta L./Ettie/Hester.  This child seemed to have been named for Rachel’s sister, Esther who died young and was buried at New Lisbon.

Hosea, like many others in Mexico, during the 1830's had listened Sunday after Sunday to sermons from the pulpit about the immorality of owning another human being.  Gerrit Smith, headed the Underground Railroad in Mexico/Oswego area.  There is no list of the persons who assisted with the railroad, but Hosea was likely to have been involved.  Participants kept their roles very secret.  They rarely told even their families.  They did not want wives and children subject to arrest by the federal authorities.  The government sought out and arrested anyone who aided runaway slaves.  The southern forces in Congress were insistent that the Fugitive Slave Law be enforced.  Yet all in Mexico knew that Hosea was a vocal anti-slavery advocate.  That was true of a number of others.  None of whom seemed to have been reported.

When the Liberty Party, whose only platform was anti-slavery,  was formed in 1840, only 7,000 people in the entire United States voted for them.  By 1844 James K. Birney, a Kentuckian, was the presidential candidate for the party.  Birney made a strong, attractive candidate.  Party members felt poised to be an important influence.

But everyone else “knew” that a vote for the Liberty Party would be wasted.  If Henry Clay, the Whig, was to be elected he would need every vote.  The role of the Liberty Party block in New York State would be critical.

The people of Mexico wanted Clay elected.  They begged and cajoled the abolitionists to abandon Birney and vote for Clay. There was a similar situation with Ross Perot in 1992 and Ralph Nader in 2000.  In each of these elections with an attractive third party candidate, people were urged to not “waste their vote.”  But the true believers persisted.  Hosea Johnson was a true believer in Birney.  He became the only soul in his election district, to cast a Liberty Party vote. 

Birney received enough votes to cause the defeat of Clay.  James K. Polk became the next president.  The expansionist view of the US to the Pacific including Texas, won the day.  Anti-slavery lost.  The most anti-slavery votes in Oswego County, came from the Town of Volney.

Hosea’s firm stand, was the pride of his life.  It was his persona!  His fame!  During his final illness, he requested that his obituary should say that he was true to the principles of the Liberty Party.  The following is a copy of his obituary from the Mexico Independent newspaper published on 20 June 1861 as furnished by Linda Mathew:

“In this town June 10th, Hosea Johnson, in the 70th year of his age.  Mr. Johnson was born in Coventry, Kent Co., R.I. January 14th, 1792.  At the age of 13, he came to this state and settled in Otsego County, and came to this town in 1836.  He attached himself to the anti-slavery cause in the early days of the abolition party when it was despised by a large majority of the people.  In 1844 when the first abolition candidate for the Presidency was nominated, he voted for the said candidate, he being the only person who voted that ticket in this election district.  But he lived to see the party that was once despised, become a powerful party - a party that has lived since its organization, yea, and will live invulnerable against all opposition till the last slave is set at liberty.  Mr. J. desired to have an obituary written, telling his anti-slavery brethren that he died, a friend of Freedom.  Thus he lived and died a true devotee of the anti-slavery cause.”

Hosea was buried in Wellwood Cemetery, Mexico.  Later his wife, Rachel, who died in 1876, age 65, was also buried there.  Today her stone is broken and the top has fallen.  It was recorded in the Cemetery Census that her maiden name Thurston, was on this stone, but now it is impossible to tell, reports Linda Mathews, who inspected the stone recently on a trip to the cemetery. 

In the 1865 New York State Census for Mexico the widow, Rachel, was listed as living in Mexico on a forty-acre farm with her step-daughter, Celinda, a tailoress; her daughter, Sarah, a teacher, and her daughter, Etta.  Before 1870 daughter Sarah wed Sidney Blanchard.  In the 1870 Mexico census Rachel and her daughter Hester/Etta resided with the Blanchards and their one-year old daughter, Viola. 

Hosea’s son, John, wed Harriet E. Howard.  In the 1880 Mexico census this family was enumerated thusly: 
Johnson, John -52-farmer-NY
Johnson, Harriet -45-wife-NY
Johnson, Elbert -15-son-NY
Johnson, Lettie M -12-daughter-NY

As of 1865 they lived on a 100 acre farm.  A complete list of their children as supplied by Colburn Family Record included the following: 1. Arelia b. 1 April 1854; 2. Howard b. 24 August 1856; 3. Elbert b. 28 August 1865; and  4. Lettie b. 28 November 1868.  John died in 1895.  He was buried in the Maple View Cemetery, Mexico.  Also   in the same location are the graves of his wife, Harriet who died in 1899 plus his daughter, Lettie who wed Chauncey Jennings Lettie died in 1893. 

Also in the 1880 Mexico census, Sarah Blanchard’s family had grown.  It was listed in this manner:
Blanchard, Sidney -38-farmer-NY
Blanchard, Sarah -39-wife-NY
Blanchard, Viola -11-daughter-NY
Blanchard, Elton -4-son-NY
Johnson, Ettie -29-sister-in-law-NY
One hired hand

Etta L., wed Elbridge W. Jones, who died in 1914.  Etta passed away in 1919.  They were both laid to rest in the Mexico Village Cemetery. 

By 1880 Sarah’s brother, Harvey was living in Cicero, Onondaga Co., NY. 
Johnson, Harvy [sic] -54-farmer-NY
Johnson, Ehiraa [sic] -44-wife-NH
Johnson, Charles -24-son-NY
Johnson, Nettie -13–daughter-NY

Harvey H., died in 1896.  He was buried at Stone Arabia Cemetery, Cicero, NY. 

Sarah Mariah (Johnson) Blanchard, born 4 October 1840, died 18 February 1914.  She was buried in the Primitive Cemetery, Mexico

Half-sister, Celinda, born 29 July 1821, married in the late 1860's as a second wife to Joseph Smedley, who died before 18 July 1890, when his will was probated.  Joseph had been a Methodist Episcopal minister in Palermo, NY.  Celinda died before 13 February 1892.  Her will was presented for probate by her sister, Ettie Jones.   Her brother, Harvey, was named Celinda’s executor.  Since her husband was already deceased, her possessions went to her siblings. 

By the 1930 Mexico census, Ethel M. (Johnson) Anderson, age 42, and her husband, Stanley B. Anderson, age 43, were both enumerated.  Ethel was a great grandchild of Hosea, according to Historian, Elizabeth Simpson.  Stanley, died in 1970 and Ethel in 1976.  They were both buried in Wellwood Cemetery According to the 1920 Mexico census, Ethel and Stanley lived with Carrie A. Johnson, listed as a mother-in-law.   In the Mexico 1880 census, Carrie was the wife of Howard Johnson, son of John Johnson and grandson of Hosea Johnson.   Howard died in 1918, while Carrie lived to 1928.  They were both buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery. 

Historian Simpson also stated John Antes, who was once on the Mexico Academy faculty, was another great grandson of Hosea.  The exact connection has yet to be established. 

Linda Mathews <> graciously contributed aid for this sketch.  She is interested in more data on the descendants of Elkanah Johnson and on his origins in England. 


Cemetery Census of the Town of Mexico, Oswego County, New York.  Mexico: Mexico Historical Society, 1984.
Election of 1844.  Available [online] [12 August 2004].
“I Will Be Heard”.  Available [online] [10 August 2004].
Liberty Party.  Available [online] history/micro/348/27html [10 August 2004]. 
The Liberty Party.  Available [online]  [10 August 2004].
Mathew, Linda L. “The Family of Bartholomew2 Johnson (Elkanah1): Coventry to New York,” Rhode Island Roots, v. 28 (2002), no.4 (157-172).
Mathew, Linda L. “A Line of Descent from Elkanah Johnson of Coventry Through His Son John and Grandson Obadiah,” Rhode Island Roots, v. 29 (2003), no. 1 (113-117) & v. 29 (2003), no. 4 (164-181). 
N.Y. State Census Oswego Co., 1865 Mexico.  (LDS microfilm #0857438).
R.I. Coventry.  Probate Ct. Probate Records, v. 1, p. 94-97 (LDS microfilm #0925617).
Rhode Island Births 1636-1930.  Available [online] [10 August 2004].
Simpson, Elizabeth M. Mexico: Mother of Towns.  Buffalo: Clement, 1949.
Stone Arabia Center, a/k/a Cicero Center Cemetery.  Available [online] [14 August 2004].
U.S. Census Cicero, Onondaga Co., NY 1880.
U.S. Census Mexico, Oswego Co., NY 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1920 & 1930.
U.S. Census Palermo, Oswego Co., NY 1880.
U.S. Census Burlington, Otsego Co., NY 1830.
U.S. Census New Lisbon, Otsego Co., NY 1820.
U.S. Census Coventry, Kent Co., RI 1790 & 1800.
World Connect Project.  Available [online] [10 August 2004].

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