William Johnson (1715-July 17, 1774) was a land speculator and Great Britain's principal treaty negotiator with the indigenous peoples in the northern part of the Thirteen Colonies - particularly the Iroquois. Johnson commanded Iroquois and colonial forces during the French and Indian War as a Major-General, and he served as Superintendent of Indian Affairs; his sons John Johnson and Guy Johnson would follow in his footsteps.
Johnson was born in Ireland, but moved to the Thirteen Colonies in 1738 to look after his Uncle's property on the Mohawk River. However, it was not long before Johnson branched out into business for himself, acquiring property on the opposite side of the river and setting up a sawmill and trading post, which he named "Mount Johnson". In 1743 he moved to an even larger parcel of land which he named "Fort Johnson".
Johnson befriended the indigenous peoples in the area, particularly the Mohawk, whose language he learned. His respect for their customs helped him rise to prominence as liaison between the Iroquois peoples and the British government. Johnson was named Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1756.
In addition to treaty negotiations, Johnson was in charge of recruiting and leading Iroquois fighters during the French and Indian War. He only fought in one battle, but he was rewarded handsomely for his service - 5,000 pounds and a Baronetcy. That was a little above average for most people involved in the Battle of Lake George.
He continued his close ties with the Kanien'keha'ka and in 1760 they gave him land totaling more than 300 square kilometers as a thanks for his work. However, Johnson burned some bridges in 1768 when he negotiated the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. He took much more land than the British had asked for - a windfall for him, since he could then speculate on it - but rather a tough sell to the indigenous nations who lived on the land. The treaty caused a war in Virginia (known as Dunmore's War). In an effort to stop more bloodshed, Johnson called for more negotiations - this time at Johnson Hall, in 1774.
Johnson met with elders from the Mohawk at Johnson Hall in John's Town, where he planned to discuss the purchase of more of their land. However, Mohawk warriors Kanentokon and Ratonhnhaké:ton plotted to kill Johnson so that they could keep their village. Ratonhnhaketon slipped past Johnson's mercenaries and climbed up the roof of Johnson Hall, just as Johnson started to threaten the elders with his mercenaries. Ratonhnhaketon drew a pistol but missed his shot, instead shooting a grenadier, and a Mohawk elder was killed. Ratonhnhaketon jumped off the roof and, as he fell, stabbed both Johnson and a redcoat. Johnson told Ratonhnhaketon that he only wanted peace for the Mohawk, buying the land so that he could protect it, although he admitted that he killed Mohawk who would not listen to him and that he was taking their homes. Ratonhnhaketon prayed that Johnson would have the peace he sought in the afterlife.