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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: David Johnston


Thirteenth President
1774-1775; 1784-1785

The history of the Saint Andrew’s Society from 1774 to 1784, the period of the Revolutionary War, remains a blank, and if any record of meetings was made it has been lost or destroyed.

The President just prior and subsequent to the Revolution was David Johnston, and comparatively few facts can be learned concerning him. He is said to have descended from an ancient Scottish family of title, having large landed estates at Annandale in the Mother Country, and was by birth a man of refinement and good condition.

David Johnston was the son of John Johnston, a Major in the British Army, and Elizabeth Jamison, the daughter of David Jamison, one of the so-called Nine Partners in a large tract of land located in the Province of New York. He was born on the 3rd January, 1724, at Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and died on the 12th January, 1809, at his country residence “Annandale" at Lithgow, in the township of Washington, Dutchess County, New York, within two days of his eighty-fifth birthday.

Entering business at an early age, he became a wine merchant, trading with Holland direct in his own ship, and pursued this vocation until he inherited his share in the Nine Partners Tract at the death of his mother. This land had become of immense value, and Mr. Johnston then retired from a mercantile career and devoted his time and attention to caring for his extensive landed interests and estates.

His name first appears on a poll list for the election to the Provincial Assembly in February, 1761, and he was registered a Freeman of the City on the 21st August, 1770, as “David Johnston, Gentleman.’’ He was one of a Committee of Correspondence chosen the 19th May, 1774, and subsequently chosen one of a Committee of Observation elected by a poll held at the City Hall by order of the Committee of Correspondence. He was also one of a Committee of One Hundred selected at the agitation preliminary to the War of Independence, viz.: “New York, May 1st, 1775. This day the following gentlemen were chosen a General Committee for the City and County of New York in the present alarming crisis.”

He had a fine city mansion on the east side of Bowling Green, in New York City, which was burned during the progress of the Revolutionary War. He also owned a farm at Greenwich Village, near the city, and a country residence at Perth Amboy, which was burned by the Hessians when the British Army occupied New Jersey. After the war he withdrew to a large estate called “Annandale” at Lithgow, in the township of Washington, Dutchess County, New York, which he made his permanent residence.

He was at a later period chosen Judge of the Court of Common Pleas for the Town of Washington, and performed the duties of this position to the satisfaction of the entire community.

It is stated by a descendant that in middle life he was called upon f to receive the title and estates of Marquis of Annandale, but declined on the ground that he was an American and unwilling to give up his birthright for a life in England, but later, at the coming of age of his eldest son, regretted his refusal. A box containing the papers recording his right to this title was long in the family, but when opened it was found that mice had made nests of the valuable charts and deeds.

His will is recorded at Poughkeepsie, New York, and disposes of a valuable estate.

He married on the 27th May, 1753, Magdalen Walton, the daughter of William Walton and Mary Beekman, and had issue seven daughters and three sons, viz.: (1) Mary, born 20th March, 1754; (2) Elizabeth, born 16th October, 1755; (3) Cornelia, born 21st September, 1757; (4) John, born 1759; (5) Magdalen, born 1760; (6) John, born 13th June, 1762; (7) Effie; (8) David, born 1766; (9) Johanna, born 1769; (10) Jacob, born 1770; (11) Euphemia, born 1774.

It is much to be regretted that the details of his life are so meagre and that no portrait of him is in existence, though many of his descendants living at the present time have been communicated with.


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