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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Sir William Johnson’s Baronial Hall

By Thomas Jones (1731–1792)

[From History of New York. First published from the MS., edited by E. F. de Lancey, 1879.]

AFTER Sir William built Johnson Hall he lived in the style of an old English baron of former days, with the utmost ease, and the most unbounded hospitality. The Hall was open to all strangers, to all travellers. Strangers and travellers were ever at home when under his roof. Though a tenant of his kept an excellent inn at Johnstown, no strangers nor travellers were suffered to put up there; all were desired to repair to the Hall, and all were equally and hospitably entertained. As he was Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and had the improvement, the settlement, and cultivation of his estate so much at heart, a part of his time was naturally taken up with business. The mornings he devoted to this service. The Hall was always full Travellers from all parts of America, from Europe, and from the West Indies, daily resorted to his house, in their respective tours through the country. All met with the same kind of treatment, the most unbounded hospitality. The Hall was a kind of open house. The gentlemen and ladies breakfasted in their respective rooms, and, at their option, had either tea, coffee, or chocolate, or if an old rugged veteran wanted a beefsteak, a mug of ale, a glass of brandy, or some grog, he called for it, and it always was at his service. The freer people made, the more happy was Sir William. After breakfast, while Sir William was about his business, his guests entertained themselves as they pleased. Some rode out, some went out with guns, some with fishing-tackle, some sauntered about the town, some played cards, some back-gammon, some billiards, some pennies, and some even at ninepins. Thus was each day spent until the hour of four, when the bell punctually rang for dinner, and all assembled. He had, besides his own family, seldom less than ten, sometimes thirty. All were welcome. All sat down together. All was good cheer, mirth and festivity. Sometimes seven, eight, or ten, of the Indian Sachems joined the festive board. His dinners were plentiful. They consisted, however, of the produce of his estate, or what was procured from the woods and rivers, such as venison, bear, and fish of every kind, with wild turkeys, partridges, grouse, and quails in abundance. No jellies, creams, ragouts, or syllabubs graced his table. His liquors were Madeira, ale, strong beer, cider, and punch. Each guest chose what he liked, and drank as he pleased. The company, or at least a part of them, seldom broke up before three in the morning. Every one, however, Sir William included, retired when he pleased. There was no restraint.