So I thought I’d share a snippet from my third novel, the one that delves into the history of the Rogers family. For those of you who don’t know, I have written a series of five novels that interweave my true family history in with the story of my fictional characters. This snippet is from The Purity of Blood Volume III: The Blood that Binds and is available for sale on Amazon.com. I will advise that if you’re interested in reading more, the books are all sequels and just reading the third book will be mighty confusing as you pick right up in the middle of the story.
In this snippet, Sara (my protagonist) is telling her brother about the Rogers family history. For reasons you’ll have to read the book to find out, the current descendants of the family are very much involved in Sara’s brother’s life. His name is Roger (just to confuse you more :-) This part of the book is meant to give the reader the proper perspective on the Rogers family as later on we introduce the story you never knew about the family, the story I make up for the book. Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
When I finished around four, I headed back to the house and as I came up the front steps found Roger sitting on the porch. Sliding down into the chair next to him, I asked if he’d been waiting for me. He laughed and said no, but by the guilty look in his eyes I wasn’t so sure I believed him.
After a minute of watching the cars go by, he said “When I first met Henry, he asked me how I got interested in maritime history so I mentioned our uncles, the Rogers’ brothers who were whalers. I was wondering, what else do you know about that family, the Rogers family.”
I glanced his way with a raised eyebrow. It was an unusual question coming from Roger who’d never shown much interest in my research before.
“Quite a bit. What do you want to know?”
“I don’t know. They lived around here, didn’t they?”
“Yes, for the most part. The Rogers family moved to New London County back about the mid 1600’s when James Rogers came down to work the Old Towne Mill in New London. The mill’s still there, if you’re interested. Believe it or not it’s directly under Interstate 95, just north of the city and south of Connecticut College.”
“It’s still there? That’s a pretty old mill.”
“Well, it’s been rebuilt a time or two, but I’m pretty sure it’s basically about the same. Anyway the more interesting family history comes from his son John. John founded a religious movement in the area that continued for a few generations after him.”
“Like a cult?”
“No, more like a real Bible believing church from what I can tell. Anyway, from what I’ve read John was a gentleman farmer sort of guy with a wife and son. Then one day he saw the light. Like he had this religious revelation or something. I think in today’s terminology we’d say he was saved. I think he realized that God can’t be contained in a building or by rules created by a church established here on earth. He realized God is in His word and that His church on earth should be established as set forth in the Bible.
“The church that people attended back in his day was different. It defined a lot of who you were – your status in society, and it had odd rules that were created by men to control the behaviors of its parishioners. I think when he realized that what was being imposed on them had nothing to do with what God had intended His church to be, he rebelled. He spoke up and tried to make others see what he’d been shown by God.
“I have to say of all our ancestors, he’s probably one of the ones I wish I could have met the most. He must have been a fascinating individual. Anyway, his father-in-law was appalled at what John was doing. He took him to court and had his daughter divorce him on the grounds that he was a heretic. It will tell you something about what John was fighting against that the town granted his wife the divorce and she left him and took their son along with her.
“John had a lot of woes in his life. Lucky for him, he was already a pretty wealthy man when all this was happening. I guess he could afford to support himself on his farm. I think they must have been pretty self-sufficient because I don’t think many of the town’s folk would have associated with him too much after all this.
“So eventually he married for a second time, but it didn’t take long before the town moved against him again. You see, he never stopped organizing little protests against the church. John had a following now and became a continual thorn in their side. He’d send women into the church services to do something radical like knit in the back row. It would cause an up roar and the women were kicked out of the church. People weren’t allowed to do anything on the Sabbath, not even knit. These were some of the man-made rules the church imposed that he would protest against.
“Some time later, the town went to his second wife and told her that she was never legally married to John, that in the eyes of God, he was still married to his first wife, and that if she didn’t admit that they were living in sin and leave him, well, let’s just say there’d be consequences. I’m sorry to say, she caved in to their threats and left him. Poor guy, when he’d married her, he’d taken her into a town meeting, walked up to the front of the assembly and announced in front of the entire town that they’d been married. He threw it out there on day one to make sure something like this would never happen, but it did.
“I think they thought he’d give up eventually, that they could wear him down, but he just kept chugging along. Eventually, they locked him up. Not that it was the first time they’d done that. He’d been locked up and fined who knows how many times. But his son, John Junior, that was his son by the first wife, the one who’d left him, had come back to live with his father when he came of age. Well, John Junior got wind that the town leaders wanted to execute his father. So he went and broke him out of jail in New London and sent him across the Sound in a boat in the dead of night. While hiding out there, he met another woman. They later married and stayed together for the rest of their days.
“Eventually, he came back to New London and died on his farm. He’s buried there in the family burial ground but his stone is gone. His farm was pretty large from what I could tell. Connecticut College sits on most of it now. Take note, don’t start a cemetery so close to a river. It’s on the bank of the Thames and has flooded several times. Most of the stones have washed away over the years. Only a handful remain. The students of Connecticut College did a ground penetrating radar study of the area a few years back and found at least forty burials there, but there’s only like four of five stones left. We know several names of those buried there, but like I said, there’s not much left of it now.
“John Junior kind of picked up where his father left off as the head of the Rogerenes. That’s what they were called. He led the movement until he died. We assume his son Alexander was also a member of their church because his wife Rachel was buried in the Rogerene Cemetery in Ledyard. I’ve been there too. It’s totally cool; it’s in a suburban neighborhood in these people’s back yard. How neat would it be to have an ancient burial ground in your backyard?” When he gave me a look that said only I would think that, I ignored him and continued. “Alexander was our … let’s see … I think fourth great grandfather.”
Humm … the same as Randall.
I looked over to see if he was still listening. We were way past the point where his eyes usually glazed over before he politely turned his attentions elsewhere. But to my great surprise, he was still listening, rather attentively too. Talk about strange. Since he seemed in the mood to listen, I decided to enlighten him a little more.
“Anyway, the beginning of the story actually starts a lot earlier than that. I believe it really starts in the year 1555 in London, England when John Rogers was burned at the stake by Queen Mary, better known as Bloody Mary. He was our twelfth great grandfather. She burned him alive because he wouldn’t convert to Catholicism. He was raised in an affluent catholic family in London and entered the church as a profession. He gets sent to Antwerp by the Catholic Church to be a priest and while living there ends up being converted to Protestantism by William Tyndale. They say he even helped Tyndale translate the Bible into English.
“So years later here he comes back to London and everyone is like, ‘Hey, wasn’t he catholic when he left?’ John set up a protestant church and starts to get a big following. Now there’s nothing wrong with this until Queen Mary takes over and tries to convert the country back to Catholicism. Her father, Henry the Eighth had set up the Church of England. You know, so he could get his divorces and all. So here’s poor John. He sort of stands out like a sore thumb, so Mary has him arrested. He had plenty of opportunities to recant and convert back to Catholicism, but he wouldn’t do it. In the end, she burned him to death in front of his family.
“There are some people who say the paper trail of evidence isn’t there to prove conclusively that this John was our grandfather. They may be right, but I still believe it’s true.”
“Why is that?”
“Because I believe God rewards that kind of faith, a martyr’s faith. If you look at our family line, the one consistent thing about the Rogers family is that they were all deeply religious men and women who refused to turn their backs on God. When you examine the pattern of their lives, I think it’s fairly obvious.”
“That’s an amazing story.”
“Martha Ann Rogers, the Rogers who married into the Wells family was a deeply religious woman. The Wells family was a very prosperous family in the Hopkinton community, but as much as you see them in town records, they’re all secular records. After Martha Ann married into the family, the name Wells fills the church records with a vengeance. I think Martha Ann brought her family’s blessing with her into the Wells family and that blessing continues to this day. I know I believe it’s what continually draws me back to God.”
He leaned back in the chair and looked out at the top of the lighthouse poking up from the roof of the house across the street.
“I think I understand why you’re so into genealogy now. Its history, but with such a personal view point. You can follow a family and see how they were affected by history, and how the forces of that history changed and molded the family for generations. It’s like a God point of view in a way.”
“I suppose so. It’s also being able to stand in that cemetery and know that where I’m standing was the original Rogers farm. That John himself probably stood in the exact same spot almost four hundred years ago. When I stood there myself, I had to wonder did he have any idea that all those centuries later his descendant, me, would be standing in that very spot thinking about him.”
“So you’ve really been there?”
“Sure, it’s on the river bank down by the Connecticut College sports fields. I can take you there some time if you’d like. There are lots of other cool Rogers family places like that around the area as well. Really what I’ve told you is the ancient history of the family, but I’ve got a lot more data on them. They sure were an interesting bunch. – I probably gave you a lot more information than you were looking for. Sorry about that,” I added, realizing I’d been babbling.
“Don’t be. I think it’s fascinating. I had no idea we came from that kind of stock. I wonder what the Wells family was like way back when.”
I kind of snorted and said “An ornery bunch, that’s for sure, but not that much different from us.”
“Sounds like you’ve got stories about them as well.”
“You could say that … You know you’re named after the Rogers family.”
Want to read more? check out this book and my others on Amazon.com. Just put “Jennifer Geoghan” in the search box and they all come up.