|Arrival of Winthrop's Company in Boston Harbor (1630) by William Formby Halsall (painted ca. 1880)|
Humphrey's father John was very active in the new Massachusetts Bay Colony community at Roxbury. He was made a freeman there on 18 May 1631 and served on many juries and committees, acted as Surveyor laying out the bounds of towns around Boston. He was the first clerk of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Roxbury. He was chosen for 22 years to be Roxbury's Deputy to the House of Deputies. Later in life, John was awarded 1000 acres of land as thanks for his community service. His position as Surveyor General included taking care of the arms and ammunition of the community; at one point his house burned down with the Colony's stock of gun powder. That must have created much excitement and consternation for the family!
Captain John's fine community service should have provided an excellent role model for his sons.
Elder son Isaac became a military man, serving as Captain in the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and also as Captain of the Roxbury Company in the Narragansett Expedition. Isaac was killed, as head of his company, at the Great Swamp Fight on 19 December 1675. We may not necessarily be comfortable with colonialism and such military actions today but it is a part of our history. Isaac's younger brother Sergeant Humphrey was a member of his brother's Company in the Narragansett Expedition. Fortunately for my family, Humphrey returned home to his wife Eleanor (Chaney) Johnson and their 10 children, the youngest of whom was my 8X great grandfather another Isaac Johnson (1668-1738)
By the time Humphrey was in his early 30's he had moved from Roxbury to Scituate, MA. Samuel Deane in his History of Scituate, p. 296, says of him: "Serj. Johnson was a capable man in pulbick affairs, and often employed in Town business, in the early part of his life: but he had an uncommon inclination to law suits, and few men have left on the records of the Court, so many evidences of his litigious disposition."
Deane goes on (pages 296-297) to describe some details.
First, Humphrey was fined 5 pounds in 1673 for removing a land mark and "for the boldness and insolency in coming into this Government to do this act."
That same year, he was ordered to remove his dwelling and cottage erected within the town of Scituate within a month or an order would be given for removing it. This was the result of his coming into the Government without leave of the Governor and two Assistants (contrary to law).
No record could be found that would indicate why Humphrey was so upset with the Town in the first place.
Although an obviously-aggrieved Humphrey had moved his residence from Scituate to Hingham about 1673 (probably in the month following the above order!), he commenced an action in 1683 against the Town of Scituate for three shares in the common lands. Although the Town considered his change of residence to have cancelled any such right, Humphrey won and lands were set off to satisfy the execution.
Still not satisfied, he complained in 1687 that he hadn't had all his rights in Scituate. The Town felt his rights had all been satisfied (although they still felt he should not have won that 1683 suit). Nevertheless, Humphrey won again and Governor Andros furnished him with a warrant so that Humphrey could take a surveyor and lay out an additional 100 acres at the head of Dudley's lot, 100 acres at Burnt Plain and 100 acres at Halifax cedar swamp. The Town protested to the Governor that much of this land had already been claimed by others and that "Johnson had already been accommodated with thrice sixty-five acres to the full amount of his claim as principal and successor to two others." It seems Humphrey never got these lands after Governor Andros was tossed from office. There was an area thereafter known as "Johnson's swamp" which was in remembrance of Humphrey's trespass on part of those lands and for which the Town eventually recovered damages from him.
Humphrey must have finally felt revenged for whatever slight had started the whole fiasco. In Hingham, the only records for him involve his community work on committees. His first wife Eleanor had died in 1678 amid his legal battles and he married Abigail Stansfall and had a couple more children with her.
Humphrey died 24 July 1692 in Hingham, MA at the age of 71.
Deane, Samuel, History of Scituate, Massachusetts, From its First Settlement to 1831 (Boston: James Loring 1831), pp. 296-297
Johnson, Paul Franklin and Johnson, Frank Leonard, "Genealogy of Captain John Johnson of Roxbury, Massachusetts", compiled 1932-1945 located online at Ancestry.com