Johnson Looker, Revolutionary War, Mexico, Oswego & Volney, NY  

Henry J. Looker/Lokker, born 24 March 1612 in Bures, St. Mary, Suffolk Co., England, was probably the first Looker/Lokker to America.  He married Hannah Barber from Andover, Essex Co., England.  They settled in Sudbury, MA. where the family stayed for several generations. 
        Near the end of the 17th century the Archives of New Jersey include various land deeds which describe William Looker of Elizabethtown buying land at Woodbridge, NJ. This William Looker, married ca. 1670 Mary Higgins of Barnstable, MA in a ceremony at Elizabethtown.  William was elected to the General Assembly in 1695 as the Elizabethtown delegate.  Considerable detail on his life survives. This William forms the bridge between the Massachusetts and New Jersey portions of the family. 
Johnson Looker may be his great-grandson, but documentation is lacking. Still only a few Lookers came into New Jersey.  Some of them eventually settled in Rockingham Co., VA.  Two veterans after the Revolution went north into Vermont.  These men might have been brothers, if not they were likely cousins.
         Othneil Looker, a private in the New Jersey Militia, was born in 1757. He described himself as from Morristown (which he called Hanover, Morris County). He was the known son of John “The Teamster” Looker, the known grandson of William and Hannah (Higgins) Looker. Othneil always said his father died when he was only two years old or ca. 1759.  If this memory was accurate then he’s probably a cousin, however, he might have been wrong.  Some family members give John “The Teamster” a death date of 1813 based on something in Virginia records where John died.  According to Johnson he was born in Woodbridge, NJ in 1762.  He lived there until he was four years old when he moved with his father to Morristown.  This would be the same town where Othneil lived with his unnamed mother who taught school to support her family. If the men were brothers then John “The Teamster” would be Johnson’s father.  But much more documentation is needed before the antecedents for Johnson can be “proved”. 
       The details on Johnson’s life were included in an application for a Revolutionary War pension dated 18 February 1833 at Addison, Addison Co., VT.  All the New Jersey records for the military service of this Looker involved his being a teamster who served under Captain Martin.  He had enlisted to be in the Continental Line, but was taken to be a teamster.  He moved stores from New Windsor, NY to Sussex Co., NJ.  Then he took them to Morristown.  He also moved the baggage of British prisoners taken with Burgoyne’s Army from Newton, NJ to the Delaware River. 
        All these records refer to him as John Looker.  Later in the Pension Roll of 1835, v. 1 covering Vermont, he was John Looker, teamster. Neither record contained the name of Johnson Looker, yet the pension application made in 1833 in Addison, VT was for a Johnson Looker.  Until 1833 in the remaining records he was John.  After 1833 he became Johnson.  Or so it seems. 
 Othneil also lived for a time in Vermont.  Then he removed to Saratoga Co., NY where he was elected a representative in the New York State Assembly in 1803 and 1804.  Othneil had received a land bounty for his wartime service.  He removed to Ohio to claim it.  There he became Acting Governor of Ohio in 1814.  Hence his life story was officially recorded.  He died years later in Illinois.
       Was the name Johnson a patronymic? John’s son instead of John, Jr. New Jersey was filled with Dutch settlers at the time who routinely used patronymics.  Was the unknown mother Dutch?  Or was her maiden name Johnson?  Using the mother’s family name for son’s first name is still sometimes done especially in English origin families. 
        The pension application continued saying Johnson lived for 9 years or to 1775 at Morristown.  Then the family moved to Hardistown, Sussex Co., NY from whence he enlisted in the Continental Line.
        Johnson offered no document to support his service claim but relied upon the sworn statements of Hestin Bohannon and Jacob Post who served with him.  Needing the two statements, Johnson probably returned to Addison from Mexico, Oswego Co., NY where he was listed in the 1830 census.  (He never appeared in any Vermont census.)   In the 1833 courtroom he swore he was a resident of Addison, VT which seemed doubtful. 
        Johnson returned to Mexico where his second wife Elizabeth (Betsey) Goble, born in 1774, lived with his son Justus P. Looker, born during 1802 in Vermont.  Johnson’s first wife had been the mother of another son John Looker,  born 11 March 1786 in New Jersey.  This son traveled with his father to Vermont  where he married on 4 September 1808 Cylinda Hanks, daughter of Levi and Mercy (Waterman) Hanks, the same Hanks family whose Nancy Hanks was the mother of Abraham Lincoln.  Levi Hanks was prominent in the Revolutionary War at Addison.  About 1827 the John Looker family removed to Burke, Franklin Co., NY.
        John and Cylinda had nine children, several of whom were buried at the Burke Center Cemetery, Burke, NY.  John, too, was buried there on 28 October 1850.  His wife died 21 April 1868 and was laid to rest near her husband.  Most of their children went west to Michigan, Seattle and/or Tacoma, WA.  One son, Thomas Jefferson Looker, died in the Civil War and was buried in Washington, D.C. 
        One of John’s sons, Oliver Looker, born 31 March 1826 in Vermont, moved to Volney, NY.  He married Martha Morse.  They had two children about whom more later.
        After Johnson/John returned to Mexico he did not live for long.  He died in 1840 at age 78.  He was buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery.  He had wed Betsey Goble 25 September 1799 while living at Sparta, NJ.  She died in 1851 at age 77.  She was buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery.
        Johnson and Betsey Looker’s sons Justus P. Looker, born 1806 in New Jersey according to the 1860 census.  Justus married Betsey White born in Vermont.  Their children as given in the Mexico 1860 census were Carolina [sic], age 20; John, age 19; Manville, age 17; and Francis, age 11.  All the children were born in NY.  Francis likely died young as the census was the only citation for her.    Carolina actually meant Carrie E.  When the Civil War began Justus and his sons John and Manville tried to enlist.  The boys joined Co. B 81st NY Infantry.  Justus, being 55 years old, lied about his age, saying he was 45.  They took him in Co. G, 81st NY Inf.  But two months later while they were still training at Oswego, he was mustered out on 20 December 1861. Manville , a private, was killed in battle on 31 May 1862 in Fair Oaks, VA where 136 of his comrades were wounded.  He was the only enlisted man killed outright in battle during the unit’s three-year existence. Justus died in 1864 and was buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery.
         In the 1870 Ward 4 Oswego census Betsey (White) Looker, age 57, was listed as head of household.   With her were Carrie and Johnson, age 35, the children of Justus.  His other known surviving children were John W. and Eliza E., born ca. 1832/36 in NY who married Benjamin Vaughn.  She died in 1908, age 72, according to her tombstone in Arthur Cemetery at Mexico.  She had been childless.
       Betsey apparently lived on the Civil War Pension #116257 she drew from the death of Manville.  By 1880 Betsey resided in Ward 3, Oswego.  She was 67.  She lived with her unmarried daughter Carrie E., age 40, a dressmaker.  It is believed that both mother and daughter were buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery under markers which said only: “Mother” and “Sister” respectively. 
Her son Johnson married Jane, age 21, in the 1860 Mexico census.  His occupation was a cooper.  They lived next door to the Vaughn family, Benjamin and Eliza (Looker) Vaughn and Benjamin’s parents and sister. 
       After the death of Justus, Johnson and his family may have moved into the household of his mother Betsey then in Ward 4 at Oswego.  His wife Jane was deceased.  He had married again to Francis, age 29 in 1870.  How long the families resided together is unclear, but when the census in Ward 6 was taken Johnson, 35, Francis, 29, and their children Carrie, 9, and Ida May, 6, lived separately with another child, Florence Morse, 8.  Strangely John, Francis and Ida May were listed twice in the 1870 census, once with Betsey and Carrie and again in their own residence.  In 1877 Johnson and Francis’ daughter Viola, age 4, was buried in the Mexico Village Cemetery.
       Justus’ son John W. Looker, born 23 March 1839 in Mexico, married Mary Amy Hall, born in December 1849 according to descendants, but was called Betsey, age 29 in the 1880 New Haven census. Their children were Martha, 13; Betsy [sic], 10; Rosa, 3, and Manville, 6 months old.  John W. had fought for the Union in the Civil War as a private in Co. B, 81st NY Infantry.  He applied for a pension #194601 in 1862 probably because of disability.  Yet he lived to 27 October 1922 when he died at Amboy, NY.  In the 1920 Amboy census John was 78 but still farming with the aid of his unmarried son Manville, 38.  John’s wife had died 29 August 1915. 
       His daughters all married.  Martha wed ______ Spoon.  Rosa May married _____ Suits.  While Bessie wed Adelbert Joslin in Parish, NY.  This couple owned the Panther Lake Inn.  Bessie, born in 1870, was listed as Betsy [sic] in the 1880 census.  She died in 1967 and was buried in Mt. Adnah Cemetery in Fulton, NY.    She became the mother of three daughters.  Her sister Rosa had at least one child Leonard J. Suits, born 16 October 1907.
       Meantime in Volney Oliver Looker’s son Fred Austin Looker, born 11 March 1852 on Burke, NY, married on 5 July 1877 Ella Ives, daughter of Andrus Ives of Volney.  In 1886 he bought a farm at Mt. Pleasant on which he continued to work even after 1895 when Historian John Churchill mentioned him as a prosperous local farmer.  The couple had two children, Grace, born March 1879, and Floyd Austin, born 15 September 1888.  Fred Austin was known locally as Austin which is how he appeared in the 1880 census. 
       Austin died in 1910.  His widow Ella removed to Fulton, NY.  In the 1920 Fulton census she was age 66 living as a boarder working as a chocolate moulder at the Nestle plant.
Austin and Ella’s daughter Grace married on 27 June 1906 William A. Ebblie.  Grace died 18 October 1876.  She was buried in Mt. Pleasant Western Cemetery at Volney.  Her brother Floyd Austin Looker wed ca. 1913 Maud Bartlett.  He died 3 September 1876 and was buried at Mt. Pleasant Western Cemetery.
        Fred Austin Looker’s brother Franklin Looker, born 14 March 1848, lived in Orwell.  He married Marietta (Nettie) Gay born in Orwell, daughter of Amos Gay.  In the 1880 Orwell census this family was enumerated thusly:
Looker Frank             29 farmer NY
         Mary Etta [sic] 28          NY
         Alonzo            12           NY
         Ida                  8           NY
         William              6           NY
         Mary                3           NY

       Franklin was called Frank usually.  He died 25 June 1920.  He was buried in an unmarked grave at the North Volney Cemetery. His wife Marietta died 19 September 1917 and was buried at North Volney also in an unmarked site where records reveal another unmarked grave with the body of Leal Looker, born 28 May 1892.   The child of Frank and Marietta, Leal married Mary M. Ouderkirk on 25 September 1912.  Leal had at least one son, Leal Harrison Looker who died young.  The name of the child’s mother was given in the Volney records as Ivo Temple.
       In the 1920 Volney census only Alonzo Looker remained listed.  He was 53, living with his children, Gertrude, 19, and Horace, 11.  Alonzo was buried at North Volney with a stone marked 1869-1949.  His wife’s grave was also there.  She was Cora Ann (King) Looker 1874-1938.  She was the daughter of Samuel King.  Both children, Gertrude and Horace, were also buried at North Volney,  Horace’s marker said 1902-1955.  His sister Gertrude married a Gamble. 
William Looker, Frank’s son, married Beatrice Allen on 25 December 1899.  He died at age 37.  His stone was marked 1875-1910.
       The descendants of John and Cylinda Looker left at Burke, NY were also very few by the 1880 census.  Three heads of household were Levi Looker, age 60, born in VT: Waterman Looker, age 67, also born in VT; and Betsey M. Looker, age 59, born in NY.  Betsey was Betsey Morse, the widow of Thomas Jefferson Looker who died in the Civil War.  Their daughter Francis (Fanny) still lived in the home at age 28.
       In 1980 Earl L. Looker, a grandson of Levi’s was buried in the Burke Center Cemetery.  His tombstone said 1901-1980.  This grave was the most recent internment of a member of the Looker family.  His parents were Burton and Hattie (Parks) Looker, also buried in the Burke Center Cemetery.  In the 1920 Burke census their children still at home were Earl, 18; Gladys, 17; and Gerald, 12. By 1930 Earl lived at Malone, NY in the home of his sister Gladys Cook and her two sons, Donald and Gerald. 

•Special thanks are due to the contributed genealogical work of Dee Looker and Larry Seid which form the framework of this biography.


Archives of the State of New Jersey.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994.
Burke Center Cemetery, Burke, Franklin County, New York.  Available [online] [25 November 2003].
Carpenter, Kenneth Gene.  Benjamin Hanks, Sr. of Pembroke, MA & His Descendants.  Available [online] [27 November 2003]
Cemetery Census of the Town of Mexico, Oswego County, New York.  Mexico: Mexico Historical Society, 1984.
Civil War Soldiers.  Available [online] [3 December 2003].
Civil War Pension Index.  Available [online] [28 November 2003]
Churchill, John C.  Landmarks of Oswego County, New York.  Syracuse: Mason, 1895.
E-mail dated 5 February 2001 from R. Dumond, Jr.
E-mail dated 2 March 200 from Ann Leuenberger. 
Hough, Franklin B. History of St. Lawrence & Franklin Co., NY.  Baltimore: Regional, 1970.
Looker Family Bible made by Cylinda Looker.
Looker Family Genealogy Forum.  Available [online]  [26 November 2003].
Mt. Pleasant Western, Volney, NY.  Available [online] [28 November 2003].
North Volney Cemetery, Town of Volney, Oswego Co., NY.  Available [online] [29 November 2003].
Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War.  Trenton: Nicholson, 1872.
 Stawnaker, Bernice McKee.  Little Grandmother.  Richmond, IN: 1962.
 U.S. Census, Burke, Franklin Co., NY 1850, 1880 & 1920.
 U.S. Census, Chateaugay, Franklin Co., NY 1840.
 U.S. Census, Malone, Franklin co., NY 1930.
 U.S. Census, Amboy, Oswego Co., NY 1920.
 U.S. Census, Fulton, Oswego Co., NY 1920.
 U.S. Census, Mexico, Oswego Co., NY 1830, 1860 & 1880.
 U.S. Census, New Haven, Oswego Co., NY 1880.
 U.S. Census, Orwell, Oswego Co., NY 1880.
 U.S. Census, Ward 3, Oswego, Oswego Co., NY 1880.
 U.S. Census, Ward 4, Oswego, Oswego Co., NY 1870.
 U.S. Census, Ward 6, Oswego, Oswego Co., NY 1870.
 U.S. Census, Volney, Oswego Co., NY 1880 & 1920.
 U.S. National Archives.  Pension Roll of 1835.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968.
 U.S. Record and Pension Office. Complied Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War.  Washington: National Archives, 1972.
 Vt. Addison Co.  Addison Town Records and Deeds, 1761-1858.  (LDS microfilm #0027776).
 WorldConnect Project.  Available [online] [27 November 2003].

6/7/2005 Contributed by Dee Looker

I have enjoyed your biography of Johnson Looker, Mexico, Oswego, New York. I also appreciate your source list along with credit to Larry Seid and myself for our work on the Looker family.

I began researching genealogy in 1969 and I still remain fascinated with the history surrounding this family.

Of course we know not all our ancestors were fine upstanding citizens, but because you cast some doubt on Johnson Looker’s integrity, I felt a duty to respond to a few statements in your biography.

You stated, “In the 1833 courtroom he (Johnson Looker) swore he was a resident of Addison VT, which seems doubtful.” Your comment is puzzling since Johnson’s oldest son, John and family were probably still living in Addison county VT at the time of the pension application. Certainly it was not unusual then to live with or nearby grown children or even grandchildren. Perhaps they were just visiting their other son Justus in Mexico NY at the time of the 1830 NY census or maybe they just moved back to VT. How can one be sure?

You also stated that John and Cylinda Looker moved to Burke NY around 1827. I have no data to support that statement and I surmise John and Cylinda stayed in VT until 1850 since he is listed in the 1850 Orwell VT census. You gave a death date for John Looker of 1850--Cylinda’s bible reads Oct 28 1858 as well as John’s grave marker.

Cylinda also had many relatives living in VT which may have been another reason for residing there.

I also believe there is not enough credible documentation to prove a direct link between Cylinda Hanks and Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln.

You also stated that “most of John and Cylinda’s children went west”. In my research, only one child ventured west to Michigan and then came back again to New York and this was Erastus H. Looker who died in Franklin County New York in 1846. Actually all of their children stayed in New York and Vermont. It was a grandchild of John and Cylinda, George Jefferson Looker, son of Thomas Jefferson Looker, who traveled west to Michigan, Illinois, Arkansas and finally Washington state.

I also wondered why you made no mention of the DAR member record of Sarah Alice Looker, great granddaughter of Johnson Looker.

DAR ID No.43135, Vol.44, pg. 52

Johnson Looker

       John Looker

            Levi Johnson Looker

                      Sarah Alice Looker(1864-1913)

In examining the copied documents of Johnson Looker’s Application for pension, I find both names, John and Johnson listed on the papers.

I continue to search for Johnson Looker’s first wife and his parents--it is more difficult since I am on the west coast. Our parents traveled to Burke NY years ago and met Earl Looker and his nephew Donald Cook. It was Donald who gave us the copy of John and Cylinda’s Bible. We traveled there in 1994 and took some wonderful photos of the Burke Center Cemetery. We are also grateful to Michael and Joyce Raineri for all her work in transcribing cemeteries in Franklin County NY. We regularly correspond with Roger and Marion Looker, sixth cousins, from Oswego NY.   Best regards, Dee Looker 

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