Alexis Johnson Collection

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Alexis Johnson Collection
Photo of Alexis Johnson with Grandsons (1894) - Image Source

Collection Facts


Historical Context

Alexis L. Johnson was born on August 31,1811, the first of eight children of Cephus Johnson and Sophia Haile Lockling in Fairfield, NY. During his youth, he spent the summer months working on his father’s farm and the rest of the year in school at the Eaton’s Bush district school.*

Johnson began his career as an educator at the Myer’s district in the town of Herkimer, NY, in the winter of 1828. During the winter term of 1829, he taught at the Pierce school in the town of Fairfield, NY. Concurrent to these appointments, Johnson attended the Fairfield Academy under the tutelage of David Chassell. In 1830, he attained a position teaching in Dutchtown, NY, where he earned his teaching certificate, and later found work in Little Falls, West Schuyler, and the Sterling districts. He married Mary Finster, daughter of Dutchtown trustee Peter Finster, in 1830 while at West Schuyler. In 1843, Johnson and his family moved to the Dutchtown farm and took up dairy farming. He was a respected figure in his community, serving as executor and arbitrator of local estates, and was a commissioned officer in the militia. Johnson and his wife had seven children. His wife, Mary Finster, died in 1887. Alexis Johnson died on April 5, 1905 at the age of 93.

Johnson left extensive historical accounts on the local history of Schuyler, NY. He detailed this local history through several handwritten manuscripts, containing hand drawn maps, that he willed to his descendants, namely his eldest son Seymour P. Johnson. These manuscripts detail the lives and customs of Schuyler’s inhabitants and provide insight into nineteenth century life in Central New York.

Scope of Collection

This collection contains three photograph albums, a journal that details the local history of Schuyler school district No. 4, and a photograph of Alexis L. Johnson in his later years with his grandsons Ward J. Robinson and John H. Robinson. The photograph albums contain visiting cards from members of Johnson’s family compiled into bound photo books. Some family members’ names are annotated within the albums, while others contain indexes of the names and death dates of the family members. The journal details the development and settlement of Schuyler through its early families, and also documents typical contemporary social customs and farming practices. Johnson compiled this information through personal interviews with the aged descendants of the settler community.

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* Details of Johnson’s life are based on BetteJo Caldwell, “Alexis Johnson, The Grand Old Man of Schuyler-a Sketch of his life” from Edgar Jackson Klock, “Alexis Johnson, The Grand Old Man of Schuyler-a Sketch of his life,” Ilion Citizen, 30 November 1900,

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