|Managed by:||Michael Reid Delahunt, art teacher & lexicographer|
About William Johnston, Jr.
The following is from the Delaware County, NY Genealogy and History Site, and is from a book, "Centennial History of Delaware County, New York : 1797-1897" edited by David Murray, LL.D., and transcribed by Tamara Sanford.
SECTION III.- EARLY SETTLEMENTS.
The first settlements in both Sidney and Harpersfield took place about the year 1770; and both in like manner were interrupted by the disturbances of the Revolutionary war, which shortly followed. The pioneer of the former of these settlements was Rev. William Johnston a Presbyterian clergyman born in Ireland, and who had resided several years previous to his removal to the Susquehanna valley in the neighborhood of Albany. Mr. Johnston and his son Witter Johnston journeyed by Otsego lake and thence down the Susquehanna, stopping finally at the beautiful flats which are now called Sidney. Here they found a few scattered but friendly Indians, belonging to the Housatonick tribe, which at this time were subject and tributary to the Six Nations. They selected a farm of 520 acres bordering on the river, which was a part of a land patent belonging to Banyar and Wallace, of which they bought the fee simple. In the Revolutionary troubles which soon came on Wallace took the tory side, and his property which the Johnstons had bought, but had not paid for, was confiscated and became the property of the State. On the recommendation of the governor, however, the Johnstons on payment of the balance still due were confirmed in the title to the land they had bought.
The Johnston family occupied their now home in the year 1773, and were followed by other families who soon made a thriving and attractive neighborhood. They were named Sliter, Carr, Woodcock and Dingman. The Sliters intermarried with the Johnstons and in the troubles of the Revolutionary war took with them the patriotic side. But the others became tories and are lost sight of, except that Carr afterward is said to have erected the first gristmill in this vicinity, upon Carr's brook which empties into the Susquehanna a few miles above the Johnston settlement.
In 1777 during the Revolutionary war the Johnston settlement received a visit from Brant and a band of Iroquois Indians. The Susquehanna valley was a frequent resort of these fierce warriors; and all the scattered Indians of other tribes which wandered through the region between the Susquehanna and the Hudson were tributary to the Iroquois. Brant and all the Six Nations had made a treaty with the British through Sir William Johnson and had embraced the tory side in the pending controversy. He came with a band of about eighty men. The white settlers held a conference with the redoubtable chief, who announced to them his ultimatum. He gave them eight days in which to leave their homes after which everything would be at the mercy of his followers. If any of the families chose to declare themselves British partisans, he promised them protection and permission to remain in their homes. Under this urgent alternative Mr. Johnston and the other whig families took leave of their little possessions and hurried to Cherry Valley. They were there when the little village was burnt by the Indians in 1778; but the family escaped in time from the massacre, and one of the sons was in the fort which withstood the efforts of the savages to burn or take it.
After the war was over the fugitive families returned in 1784 to their homes at Sidney, and resumed the peaceful and prosperous life which has made Sidney one of the most attractive of all the towns in the county.
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Reverend William Johnston Jr. was born in 1710, in Mellon Vale, Northern Ireland. Katharine Newbury Manierre wrote (1905-06) that, "William Johnston Jr. was educated at Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a Protestant clergyman, called a Calvinist. He emigrated to America at the age of 31 ."
Emigrating to the New World, Reverend Johnston was the first settler in what is now Sidney, NY, when he built his home there in the early 1770s. The location of Johnson's house is on the current site of the Sidney Airport. The area was for many years referred to as the Johnston Settlement or Sidney Plains and was geographically part of the Otsego County and the township of Unadilla.
Sidney is located on approximately two square miles in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains at the junction of the Susquehanna and Unadilla Rivers. It is situated in the northwest corner of Delaware County, abutting both Chenango and Otsego counties. Sidney is located at the junction of Interstate 88 and State Route 8, making the cities of Oneonta, Binghamton, and Utica readily accessible. (This description came from the town's web site in 2009: <http://www.sidneychamber.org/history.htm>)
During the American Revolution Reverend Johnston and most of the non-loyalist population of the area fled to Cherry Valley for protection from the pro-British Native Americans and the Tory claim-jumpers. In July 1778, in order to scatter Native Americans, New York's Governor Clinton ordered Colonel William Butler to burn their villages along the Susquehanna River. Soon after Reverend Johnston and the other white settlers returned to the area.
Reverend William Johnston (Jr.) died on May 10, 1792, in a location that Katharine Newbury Manierre noted as "Curry's Beach, New York." (I am unable to find a location known by this name. — Michael Delahunt) Several of Rev. Johnston's descendants remained in Sidney for years following his death.
In 1796 the state legislature subdivided Otsego County. Delaware County was created from this subdivision. Later the Town of Sidney was subdivided to create the Town of Masonville.
During its formative years, Sidney's economic base consisted of farming, timber, potash harvest, and services catering to farming needs.