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George Washington Jonson diaries

 Collection — Box: 1-2
Identifier: MS-0038

Scope and Contents

Diaries kept by George Washington [William?] Jonson [Johnson] (1801-1880), a Buffalo, New York, lawyer, associate of Millard Fillmore, land agent and abolitionist.


  • 1848-1857


Language of Materials

Collection material in English.

Terms of Access

The George Washington Jonson Diaries, 1848, 1857, are open for research.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Biographical Note

George Washington [William?] Jonson (also spelled Johnson) (1801-1880), a Buffalo, New York, lawyer, land agent and abolitionist, kept detailed diaries for most of his adult life. A prominent attorney in Buffalo he was an associate of Millard Fillmore. In his will, he designated that his diaries and other personal papers and effects, be placed in the hands of Hon. Justin Smith Morrill (1810-1898), to be given to one of his nephews or grand nephews "then living as shall have in point of merit and scholarship be, in his opinion the most suitable to receive and have charge of the same, taking from a written promise to keep them together and preserve them. And although I have no legal is my wish that such nephew or grand nephew should transmit them in the family line, so that they may continue as heirloom in the line for all future time."

Jonson was born in Enfield, New Hampshire and attended Dartmouth College. He came to the Buffalo area around 1832. He read law with Millard Fillmore in East Aurora and ran a school there. He later became an agent for the Holland Land Company in Buffalo. He was a member of the Liberty Party, later the Free Soil Party. A wealthy man with unorthodox views, he maintained a rather low profile as a public figure. However, his citizen activism included work with the Underground Railroad, opposition to debtor's prisons, and participation in the movement to impeach President Andrew Johnson. He retired to the town of Royalton in Niagara County where he died in 1880.

Several of the diaries were presented by Dr. C. S. Swan to the Historian of Enfield, New Hampshire, who in turn presented them to Dartmouth College. Dartmouth also acquired a volume from the estate of Justin Smith Morrill. The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society acquired several volumes by purchase from a rare book dealer in Middleborough, Massachusetts.


1.75 Linear Feet (2 flat boxes)


Diaries kept by George Washington [William?] Jonson [Johnson](1801-1880), a Buffalo, New York, lawyer, associate of Millard Fillmore, land agent and abolitionist.


This collection is arranged by date.

Acquisition Information

Professor James Swan, Department of English, State University of New York at Buffalo, acquired the diaries through his family. In 1975 he loaned the 1848 volume to the University Archives for microfilming. On December 18, 1980, Prof. Swan donated the original volumes to the University Archives.

Accruals and Additions

No further accruals are expected to this collection.

Alternate Forms

Microfilm copy available of 1848 diary Mf 23. Note: At some point before coming into Prof. Swan's possession, the 1848 Jonson diary was mutilated in part through removal of pages, and cutting or scratching out of passages. Missing sections are noted by means of targets on the microfilm. An index which appears at the end of the original volume was filmed at the beginning of the microfilm for convenience.

Related Resources

Heintzman, Nelson Terry,"Not a Scintilla of Abolition in Buffalo:" The Rise of a Liberty Man As Revealed in the Journals of George Washington Jonson, 1990. University Archives Thesis Collection: Thesis S65 1990 H44
Donald, Aida DiPace, ed., "The Diary of an Abolitionist: George W. Johnson," Niagara Frontier, IV (Summer 1957), pp. 45-52
Winner, Julia Hull, ed., "George Washington Johnson, Lawyer and the Holland Land Company Office in Buffalo," Niagara Frontier, X (Summer 1963), pp. 56-71
Winner, Julia Hull, ed., "A Journey Across New York State in 1833," New York History, 46 (1965), pp. 60-78
Papers of The Johnson Family of Enfield, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College Library
Journals of George Washington Johnson may be found at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, Buffalo, New York

Processing Information

Processed by Archives staff.


Finding Aid for the George Washington Jonson diaries
Finding aid prepared by Archives staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • October 2014: Finding aid migrated to ArchivesSpace by Danielle White.

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)