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John Johnson Collection

Identifier: mss-704

Scope and Content

The John Johnson Papers consist of seven cartons and eleven oversize folders of papers, which have been divided into the following broad categories: correspondence; business papers; architectural plans and drawings; maps and surveys; bound manuscripts; and miscellaneous papers. The maps and surveys are organized alphabetically by town, with the other sections arranged in chronological order. There is a card index to the correspondence at the end of the Manuscript Catalog in the Special Collections reading room.

The diversity of the materials in the collection reflects the wide range of Johnson's interests and activities. The correspondence (largely incoming) touches on business, family , political and professional matters, and includes letters from many noted Vermonters: Heman Allen; William Czar Bradley; C.P. Van Ness; Ezra Butler; Daniel Chipman; Martin Chittenden; Samuel C. Crafts; Erastus Fairbanks; Silas H. Jenison; Gamaliel Painter; Samuel Prentiss; Horatio Seymour; and James Whitelaw, among others. The business papers consist of bills, receipts, contracts, estate inventories and deeds from the period 1790-1842, while the bound manuscripts include ledgers, land notebooks, expense accounts, letterbooks, survey notes and financial records.

Among the architectural plans and specifications in the Johnson Papers are materials relating to the construction of dozens of mills, bridges, houses and public buildings. Most of these are of Burlington structures, but there are also a number from other Chittenden County towns and additional Vermont, New York and Canada locations. The several hundred maps and surveys in the collection represent every town in Chittenden County, as well as much of the rest of northwestern Vermont. Many of the maps in the oversize folders are finished, handcolored works of considerable beauty.

The John Johnson Papers came to UVM via Miss Elizabeth Allen's gift in 1973 of nine bound manuscripts, and a much larger auction purchase in August, 1978. The volumes donated by Miss Allen, all in carton seven, are marked in the inventory with an asterisk after the description of content.


  • 1790-1842


Language of Materials



Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights:

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Manuscripts.


John Johnson -- surveyor, millwright, master builder, civil engineer -- was born in Canterbury, New Hampshire on December 2, 1771. He moved to north-western Vermont in 1790 and eventually settled in Essex, where he helped build a dam and several mills at Hubbells Falls on the Winooski River. Johnson's practical versatility soon made him the most prominent surveyor and engineer in northern Vermont and Lower Canada, and the growing demand for his services led him to move to Burlington in 1809. He was named Surveyor General of Vermont in 1813, and four years later received the appointment of superintendent of the survey of the United States-Canada border from the Bay of Fundy to the head of the Connecticut River. Although the survey was suspended after two years, Johnson's work along the Maine-New Brunswick line in 1818-19 served as a partial basis for the final settlement of the border under the Webster- Ashburton Treaty in 1842.

Johnson maintained his several careers in the 1820's and 1830's. He designed or constructed many of the finest residences and public buildings in Chittenden County, served as a consultant on engineering projects as far away as North Carolina and Illinois, and continued to run surveys throughout northern Vermont. He also served again as Surveyor General of the state in the 1830's, and worked throughout that decade as an inspector for the Vermont Mutual Fire Insurance Company. John Johnson died of sudden attack of erysipelas fever on April 30, 1842 at the age of seventy.


12 Linear Feet (7 cartons and 11 oversize folders)


John Johnson was a surveyor, millwright, master builder, and civil engineer. The John Johnson Papers consist of seven cartons and eleven oversize folders of papers, which have been divided into the following broad categories: correspondence; business papers; architectural plans and drawings; maps and surveys; bound manuscripts; and miscellaneous papers.

Physical Location

Silver Special Collections, Billings Library.

Acquisition Information

Miss Elizabeth Allen donated nine volumes of bound manuscripts in 1973, and Special Collections purchased the rest, most of them in 1978.

Separated Material

  1. Zadock Thompson, pocket map of Upper and Lower Canada (Sherbrooke, Quebec: Walton and Gaylord, 1836), red leather covers.
  2. Broadside, "'Stop and Think'" reprint of letter to the editor of the Burlington Sentinel, concerning the Canadian Rebellion, from the issue of Dec. 29, 1837; signed "A Workingman."
  3. Broadside, "Connecticut River and Champlain Canal," resolutions of a meeting at Montpelier, July 4, 1825, with manuscript list of subscribers on verso.
  4. Zadock Thompson, "Map of Lower Canada," (Sherbrooke, Quebec: Walton and Gaylord, 1835), almost identical to Lower Canada map in #1 above.
  5. "Map of the Village of Oswego," D. H. Burr, del., G. W. Merchant, engraver (n.p., n.d.).
  6. Broadside, "The Following Letter was Handed to Mr. Stacy for Publication...G. W. Benedict, C. Adams, G. P. Marsh. Burlington, January 19, 1838."; contains a number of letters concerning the Canadian Rebellion.
  7. "Rensselare and Saratoga Insurance Company. Proposals for Insuring Houses, Buildings...;" leaflet, with blank policy form (n.p., n.d.).
  8. "Twelfth Annual Report of the trustees of the Free-School Society of New York," (New York: Collins and Co., 1817), 3 page leaflet.
  9. Group of 12 pieces broadsides, leaflets, etc. relating to the Auburn and Syracuse Railroad Company, all 1835.
  10. Broadside, "Union, Peace, and Commerce...the meeting at Williston, August 27, 1812...Daniel Farrand, Chairman. Attest, Milo Cook, Secretary."; account of Federalist political meeting n.p.,n.d., 1812). [Broadside W1d Un3 c.2]
Guide to the John Johnson Collection, 1790-1842
Processor: John Kevin Graffagnino.
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Vermont Libraries, Special Collections Repository

Silver Special Collections Library
48 University Place, Room B201
Burlington Vermont 05405 U.S.A. US
(802) 656-2138
(802) 656-4038 (Fax)