Mayors Of Brooklyn From 1834 to 1873: #2


He was elected Mayor by the Board of Aldermen May, 1835, and was re-elected the following year, so that he served for two years in succession. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, in 1797, and came to this country in 1818, commenced business as a morocco dresser, and gradually increased in business prosperity until he became a large dealer in, and manufacturer of leather, in which business his sons are still engaged. In 1829 he came to reside in this city, having previously established a factory here. He was first elected Alderman and afterward Mayor. His administration of the office was marked by an honest, straightforward course, and he was a good, courteous man. He was the first President of the Atlantic Bank of this city, and afterward Vice President of the Leather Manufacturers' Bank of New York. In his later years he met with reverses, and lost much that he had gained by years of steady attention to business.

His portrait represents him as about 40 years of age, with brown hair, no beard or whiskers, light build, and a very pleasant, kindly expression, particularly about the mouth. He died April 5, 1865, in New York.

During Mayor Trotter's term he laid the corner stone of the City Hall as originally planned. it was to have been of marble, 269 feet on Fulton street, 250 on Court street and 222 on Joralemon street, with porticos on the three fronts, finished handsomely, just such a building, in fact, as the city now requires; but the scarcity of money at that time, owing to the financial panic which prevailed, prevented the completion of the building as planned.

It is curious to read that at that time forty citizens of Kings County petitioned the Legislature to vacate Mr. (afterward Judge) Dikeman's seat in the Assembly on the ground of his being a clergyman, or otherwise a local preacher of the Methodist Church, but the petitioners were allowed to withdraw their petition.


A descendant of the old Dutch settlers of Brooklyn, and son of Barnet Johnson, a Revolutionary patriot, was elected Mayor by the Board of Aldermen in 1837, and again the next year. He was born January 23, 1766, and was a spectator of many of the events of the Revolution. In the war of 1812, he took an active part, first as captain, and afterward as brigadier general, in the defenses on Fort Greene. As long ago as 1796, he was chosen a trustee of the village, which office he held for twenty years. In 1800, he was elected a supervisor of the town, which position he held until 1840. And was for a long time Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. Sometimes he used to preside at meetings of that board with a long pipe in his mouth, a custom which also prevailed among other members. For four years, 1808-09 and 1840-41, he was a representative in the Assembly for Kings County. At the time of his election as mayor he was seventy-one years of age, but was still hale and hearty. As a public officer, he was faithful in the discharge of his duties, prompt and indefatigable, while his punctuality was proverbial. This last mentioned trait in his character has been indicated by the artist in his portrait, for he is represented with watch in hand pointing to the hour of 3 P.M., at which time the Common Council met. Mayor Johnson always took his seat promptly at the moment, and ordered the roll to be called; if a quorum was present business was preceded with; if not, the Board was declared by him to stand adjourned until the time for the next regular meeting. He was decidedly the foremost man of his time. Strong of body and mind, well educated, upright and straightforward in his dealings, generous and genial in disposition, firm in will and conscientious in the discharge of his duties, he always had the respect, confidence and admiration of his fellow citizens. He died October 20, 1852, having lived six years beyond fourscore, and until within a short time of his death, enjoyed remarkably good health. His portrait in the Common Council Chamber is that of an old time man, and is well worth a study.


He succeeded General Johnson, having been elected by the Board of Aldermen in 1839, and the next two years by the people, this being the first Mayor of Brooklyn chosen by the people. He was born at Hanover, N.H., April 5, 1800, and was one of a farmer's family. Principally by his own efforts he obtained an education, graduated from Dartmouth College, and was admitted to the bar. He came to Brooklyn in 1827, and was six months here before he got a client or a case, but he made many friends, and laid the foundations of a good reputation and a fortune. it was during the Jackson Presidential campaign of 1828 that he came into public notice as an active member of the Whig party. As he got to be known his law practice increased. The first official position held by him was that of Clerk of the village Board of Trustees, which he held from 1833 to 1835. Then he was chosen as Corporation Counsel, which position he held for four years, and until elected Mayor. During his administration he did much to advance the interests of the city and promote its growth. He was also one of the founders of the City Hospital. He always took great interest in the cause of public education, and was a member of the Board of Education for thirty years. In 1856-57 he was a representative in the State Senate from this city, which was the last elective office filled by him. In all matters pertaining to ferry communication between this city and New York he always took a great interest, and has been connected with the Union Ferry Company, the head and front of it, in fact. He is also one of the directors of the Brooklyn City Railroad Company. Mr. Smith has passed three score and ten years, but is still an active man, and probably will be as long as he lives. He is universally admired and respected by all who know him well, although his sometimes blunt manner is apt to unfavorably impress persons not well acquainted with the manly traits of character beneath the rough exterior; but it must not be inferred from this that he is always too blunt in manner or gruff in speech, for, on the contrary, he is often as mild and kindly as the school children who love him so well. His portrait in the Common Council chamber is very like, and yet unlike him now. In depicting a man of large frame and features, with statesmanlike head, and sharp quick eyes, it like him yet, but time has told on the ex-Mayor, as indicated by the wrinkles on his face and forehead, the relaxing of the mouth and sinking of the eyes.

Website: The History
Article Name: Mayors of Brooklyn From 1834 to 1872: #2
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Brooklyn Daily Eagle August 16, 1873
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