Susannah Willard Johnson
Captured by Abenakis on August 30, 1754, at Fort No. 4, in Charlestown, New Hampshire. In 1796, published "A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson: Containing an Account of her Sufferings During Four Years With the Indians and French."
Date of Birth1729
Date of Death1810
Among the first Anglo women to travel through Vermont, Susannah Willard Johnson was captured by Abenakis at Fort No. 4, in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Her narrative about the captivity documents her war experience and early relations between white settlers and Abenakis in the region.
Susannah was one of twelve children of Moses and Susanna Willard, who had migrated from Massachusetts to the frontier settlement at Charlestown, probably in the 1740s. Susannah married James Johnson and had three children by 1754. During the Seven Years' War, the settlement of about 180 people was vulnerable to attack by Abenakis, who lived in the region and were allied with the French. The Johnson family was planning to seek refuge further south at Northfield, Massachusetts, when Abenakis raided the town on August 30, 1754, capturing the family and several others.
Johnson's narrative describes the movement of the captives north through Vermont, to St. Francis, and later to prison in Quebec. On the second day of their trip, she gave birth to her fourth child, Elizabeth Captive Johnson in Reading, Vermont. When the captives reached Montreal, they were turned over to the French to be ransomed or sold. In 1757, Susanna Johnson, her sister, and two daughters were sent to England in exchange for French prisoners. Subsequently, the Johnson family was reunited in Lancaster, Massachusetts, but James Johnshon was later killed during the war. Susanna returned to Charlestown, married John Hastings in 1762, and had seven more children.
In 1796 Susanna Johnson's "A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson: Containing an Account of her Sufferings During Four Years With the Indians and French" was published, partly from her oral testimony and from notes she and her husband made during their captivity. By that time, captivity narratives were a common literary genre designed to show the bravery of frontier settlers. Johnson's story provides insights into Abenaki culture at the time and reveals her feelings about the ordeal from a woman's perspective. A memorial to Johnson and her fellow captives was erected on Route 106 in Reading, Vermont.