Alright, I’ll admit it. I’ve been a bad genealogist as of late. I’ve been hoping to move soon so I’ve been spending a lot of time quilting. You’re probably wondering how these two things are related. I want to have a little to move as possible, but as a quilter I have a large collection of fabric. I’m finishing off a scrap quilt (a quilt made entirely of fabric I already had) and by doing so reducing the amount of fabric in my large plastic totes. Yes, I’ll have to move the quilt when it’s done, but it’s the principal of the thing. I’m sure you understand 🙂
Deciding I needed to get back to posting interesting family info, I’ve been working on a good transcription of a Rogers’ chapter of Frances Manwaring Caulkins’ History of New London, Connecticut. Specifically chapter XIV, entitled: The Rogers Family and the Sect of Rogerenes. There’s a really bad transcription of it online, but it’s a scan that was never proofed and FULL OF ERRORS. I’ve attempted to fix those errors thereby making it a copy that you can copy and paste into your own genealogy programs.
Below my transcription are some thoughts and questions of mine on the chapter, so keep reading to the end.
If you’re going to reference any of the below, here’s how you can cite the source: History of New London, Connecticut from the first Survey of the Coast in 1612 to by 1860 by Frances Manwaring Caulkins. New London: Published by H.D. Utley, 1895. Chapter XIV: The Rogers Family and the Sect of Rogerenes, Pages 201-221.
Since mine is a transcription, I’ve inserted the citation footnotes into the text in parentheses.
Chapter XIV: The Rogers Family, and the Sect of Rogerenes.
The unity of religious worship in New London, was first interrupted by James Rogers and his sons. A brief account of the family will lead to the history of their religious doctrines.
James Rogers is supposed to be the James Rogers, who came to America, in the Increase, 1635, aged 20. (Gleanings. Mass. Illst. Coll., 2nd series, vol. 8, p. 161.) As James Rogers, he is first known to us at Stratford, where he married Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Rowland, (Samuel Rowland left his farm to Samuel Rogers, his grandson, which leads to the supposition that Elizabeth was his only child.) and is afterward found at Milford, where his wife united with Mr. Prudden’s church in 1645, and himself in 1652. Their children were, Samuel, whose birth has not been found on record, but his will, dated Feb. 12th, 1712-13, states his age to be “72 and upwards,” which will place it in 1640;
- Joseph, baptized in Milford, 1646;
- John, in 1648;
- Bathsheba, in 1650;
- James, not recorded, but next in order:
- Jonathan, born Dec. 31st, 1655;
- Elizabeth, 1658.
Mr. Rogers had dealings in New London in 1656, and between that time and 1660, fixed himself permanently in the plantation. Here he soon acquired property and influence, and was much employed both in civil and ecclesiastical affairs. He was six times representative to the General Court. Mr. Winthrop had encouraged his settlement in the place, and had accommodated him with a portion of his own house lot, next to the mill, on which Rogers built a dwelling-house of stone. (This spot was afterward re-purchased by the Winthrop family, and was the site of the house built by John Still Winthrop, and now owned by C A. Lewis, Esq.) He was a baker on a large scale, often furnishing biscuit for seamen, and for colonial troops, and between 1660 and 1670 had a greater interest in the trade of the port than any other person in the place. His landed possessions were very extensive, consisting of several hundred acres on the Great Neck, the fine tract of land at Mohegan called the Pamechaug farm, several house lots in town, and twenty-four hundred acres east of the river, which he held in partnership with Col. Pyncheon, of Springfield.
Perhaps no one of the early settlers of New London, numbers at the present day so great a throng of descendants as James Rogers. His five sons are the progenitors of as many distinct lines, each tracing to its immediate founder, and seldom cognizant of their common ancestor. His daughters were women of great energy of character. Elizabeth married Samuel Beeby; Bathsheba married first Richard Smith, and second Samuel Fox. She was an early seceder from the church, courting persecution and much persecuted.
Samuel Rogers married, Nov. 17th, 1664, Mary, daughter of Thomas Stanton; the parents of the two parties, entering into a formal contract, and each pledging £200 as a marriage portion to the couple. Mr. Rogers, in fulfillment of his bond, conveyed to his son his stone house and bakery, at the head of Winthrop’s (or Mill) Cove, where the latter commenced his housekeeping and dwelt for fifteen or twenty years. He then removed to the out-lands of the town, near the Mohegan tribe, and became the first English settler within the limits of the present town of Montville.
Joseph, James and Jonathan Rogers, though living at first in the town plot, removed to farms upon the Great Neck, given them by their father. Like most active men of that time, they had a variety of occupations, each and all operating as tradesmen, mechanics, boatmen, seamen and farmers.
James, the fourth son, married, November 5th, 1674, Mary, daughter of Jeffrey Jordan, of Ireland. According to tradition, he commanded a vessel which brought over from Ireland, a number of redemptioners, and among them a family of the name of Jordan. On their arrival he became the purchaser of the oldest daughter, Mary, and married her. In after life he was accustomed to say, sportively, that it was the richest cargo he ever shipped, and the best bargain he ever made. Several of his descendants of the same name in a right line, were sea-captains.
John Rogers, the third son of James, having become conspicuous as the founder of a sect, which, though small in point of numbers, has been of considerable local notoriety, requires a more extended notice. No man in New London county was at one time more noted than he; no one suffered so heavily from the arm of the law, the tongue of rumor, and the pen of contemporary writers. His followers still exist, a handful indeed, but yet a distinct people, venerating the name of their founder, and esteeming him a man eminent for piety and filled with the love of God and his neighbor. His opponents, on the other hand, have left us an image of the man that excites not only indignation and pity, but profound disgust. Ample materials exist on both sides for his history, but the two faces of Janus could not be more unlike. Rogers himself produced tracts and treatises in abundance, which often refer to his own experience; and his followers have been, to a considerable degree, a print-loving people. His son, John Rogers the second, was a ready writer. John Bolles, a noted disciple, was fluent with the pen, and adroit in argument; and the family of Watrous, the more recent leaders of the sect, have issued various pamphlets, to vindicate their course and record their sufferings. This is not therefore a one-sided case, in which the arraigned have had no one to speak for them. It may be said, however, with truth, that the accounts on one side have been but little consulted, and that the statements which have had the widest circulation, come from the opponents of the Rogerenes. This may be regarded as a sufficient reason for entering more at large upon their origin and history.
John Rogers was married, Oct. 17th, 1670, at Black Hall, in Lyme, to Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold. The rite was performed by the father of the bride, and accompanied with the formality of a written contract and dowry; the husband settling his farm at Upper Mamacock, on the wife, in case of his death, or separation from her, during her life. On this farm, two miles north of New London, after their marriage, they dwelt, and had two children:
- Elizabeth, born Nov. 8th, 1671.
- John, born March 20th, 1674.
James Rogers and his wife and children, and those connected with the latter as partners in marriage, with the exception of Samuel Rogers and wife, all became dissenters in some sort from the established Congregational church, which was then the only one recognized by the laws of the land. The origin of this dissent may be traced to an intercourse which began in the way of trade, with the Sabbatarians, or Seventh-day Baptists of Rhode Island. John and James Rogers, Jun., first embraced the Sabbatarian principles, and were baptized in 1674; Jonathan, in 1675: James Rogers, Sen., with his wife and daughter Bathsheba, in 1676, and these were received as members of the Seventh -day church at Newport. Jonathan Rogers still further cemented his union with the Seventh-day community, by marriage with Naomi Burdick, a daughter of one of the elders of the church. Of the baptism of Joseph Rogers we have no account. His wife went down into the water on Sunday, Nov. 24th, 1677, near the house of Samuel Rogers, at the head of Winthrop’s Cove. Elders Hubbard and Hiscox, from Rhode Island, were present, and it was expected that one of them would perform the rite; but the town authorities having interfered and requested them to do it elsewhere, on account of the noise and tumult that might ensue, they acquiesced in the reasonableness of the proposal, and declined acting on the occasion. But John Rogers would assent to no compromise, and assuming on the spot the authority of an elder, and the responsibility of the act, he led the candidate into the water, and performed the baptism. (A more particular account of this affair may be found in Backus’ Church History’ and in Benedict’s History of the Baptists, vol. 2, p. 422.)
From this time forth, John Rogers began to draw off from the Sabbatarians, and to broach certain peculiar notions of his own. He assumed the ministerial offices of baptizing and preaching, and having gained a few disciples, originated a new sect, forming a church or society, which were called Rogerenes, or Rogerene Quakers, and sometimes Rogerene Baptists.
A great and predominant trait of the founder of the sect, and of his immediate followers, was their determination to be persecuted. They were aggressive, and never better pleased than when by shaking the pillars, they had brought down the edifice upon their own heads. They esteemed it a matter of duty, not only to suffer fines, distrainment, degradation, imprisonment and felonious penalties with patience, but to obtrude themselves upon the law, and challenge its power, and in fact to persecute others, by interrupting their worship, and vehemently denouncing what they esteemed sacred. This point the followers of Rogers have abrogated. At the present day they never molest the worship of others, and are themselves unmolested.
In respect to the most important articles of Christianity, Rogers was strenuously orthodox. He held to salvation by faith in Christ, the Trinity, the new birth, the resurrection of the just and unjust, and an eternal judgment. He maintained also obedience to the civil government, except in matters of conscience and religion. A town or country rate the Rogerenes always considered themselves bound to pay, but the minister’s rate they abhorred — denouncing as unscriptural all interference of the civil power in the worship of God. Of their peculiar characteristics a brief summary must here suffice.
In respect to baptism, and the rejection of the first day Sabbath, they agree with the Sabbatarians, but they diverge from them on other points. They consider all days alike in respect to sanctity, and though they meet for religious purposes on the first day of the week, when the exercise is over, they regard themselves as free to labor as on any other day. They have no houses set apart for public worship, and regard a steeple, a pulpit, a cushion, a church, and a salaried minister in a black suit of clothes, as utter abominations. They hold that a public oath is like any other swearing, a profanation of the Holy Name, and plainly forbidden in Scriptures. They make no prayers in public worship or in the family: John Rogers conceived that all prayers should be mental and not vocal, except on special occasions when the Spirit of God moving within, prompted the use of the voice. They use no means for the recovery of health, except care, kindness and attention, considering all resort to drugs, medicines and physicians, as sinful.
The entire rejection of the Sabbath, and of a resident ministry, were opinions exceedingly repugnant to the community at large, and were rendered more so by the violent and obtrusive manner in which they were propagated. Their author went boldly forth, exhorting and testifying in streets, disturbing public worship, and courting persecution with an eagerness that seemed akin to an aspiration after martyrdom. His creed was also exceedingly distasteful to the regular Seventh-day people. It was probably in opposition to them, that having his choice of days, as regarding them equal in point of sanctity, he held his meetings for religious purposes on the first rather than on the seventh day.
In 1676, the fines and imprisonments of James Rogers and his sons, for profanation of the Sabbath, commenced. For this, and for neglect of worship, they and some of their followers were usually arraigned at every session of court, for a long course of years. The fine was at first five shillings, then ten shillings, then fifteen shillings. At the June court in 1677, the following persons were arraigned, and each fined £5.
James Rogers, senior, for high-handed, presumptuous profanation of the Sabbath, by attending to his work; Elizabeth Rogers, his wife, and James and Jonathan Rogers, for the same.
John Rogers, on examination, said he had been hard at work making shoes on the first day of the week, and he would have done the same had the shop stood under the window of Mr. Wetherell’s house; yea, under the window of the meeting-house.
Bathshua Smith, for fixing a scandalous paper on the meeting- house.
Mary, wife of James Rogers, junior, for absence from public worship.
Again in September, 1677, the court ordered that John Rogers should be called to account once a month, and fined £5 each time; others of the family were amerced to the same amount for blasphemy against the Sabbath, calling it an idol, and for stigmatizing the reverend ministers as hirelings. After this, sitting in the stocks and whipping were added.
In May, 1678, (says Backus,) Joseph Clarke wrote to his father Hubbard, from Westerly, that John and James Rogers, with their father, were in prison; having previously excommunicated Jonathan, chiefly because he did not retain their judgment of the unlawfulness of using medicine, nor accuse himself before authority of working on the first day of the week.
Jonathan Rogers now stood alone among the brothers, adhering steadfastly to the Sabbatarian principles, from which he never swerved. His family became the nucleus of a small society of this denomination on the Great Neck, which has ever since existed. From generation to generation they connected themselves with churches of their own faith in Rhode Island, at first with that of Newport:, and afterward with that of Hopkinton and Westerly, until in the year 1784, 109 years after the baptism of their founder, Jonathan Rogers, they were organized into a distinct church and society. A further account of the Seventh-day community on the Neck will be given in the sequel of our history.
In 1680, the magistrates of Connecticut, giving an account of the colony to the Lords of Trade and Plantations, say:
“Our people in this colony arc some strict Congregational men, other more large Congregational men, and some moderate Presbyterians, &c. — there are four or six seventh-day men, and about so many more Quakers.” (Hinman’s Antiquities, p. 142.)
These Quakers and Seventh-day men were probably all in New London, and nearly all in the Rogers family. The elder James Rogers was an upright, circumspect man. There is no account of any dealings with him and his wife on account of their secession from Mr. Bradstreet’s church. No vote of expulsion or censure is recorded. Of his latter years little is known. Elder Hubbard, of Newport, is quoted by Backus as stating that Mr. Rogers had one of his limbs severely bruised by the wheel of a loaded cart that passed over it, and that he himself saw him when he had remained for six weeks in a most deplorable condition, strenuously refusing the use of means to alleviate his sufferings, but patiently waiting in accordance with his principles, to be relieved by faith. Whether he recovered from this injury or not is unknown. His death occurred in February, 1687-8, when the government of Sir Edmund Andross was paramount in New England. His will was therefore proved in Boston. The first settlement of the estate was entirely harmonious. The children in accordance with the earnest request of their father, made an amicable division of the estate, which was sanctioned by the General Court, May 12th, 1692.
The original will of Mr. Rogers is on file in the probate office of New London. It is in the handwriting of his son John, and remarkable for the simple solemnity of its preamble.
“The Last Will and Testament of James Rogers Senr, being in perfect memory and understanding but under the hand of God by sickness: – this I leave with my wife and children, sons and daughters, I being old and knowing that the time of my departure is at hand.
“What I have of this world I leave among you, desiring you not to fall out or contend about it; but let your love one to another appear more than to the estate I leave with you, which is but of this world.
“And for your comfort I signify to you that I have a perfect assurance of an interest in Jesus Christ and an eternal happy state in the world to come, and do know and see that my name is written in the book of life, and therefore mourn not for me, as they that are without hope.”
In a subsequent part of the document he says:
“If any difference should arise, &c, my will is, that there shall be no lawing among my children before earthly Judges, but that the controversy be ended by lot, and so I refer to the judgment of God, and as the lot comes forth, so shall it be.”
In this respect unfortunately the will of the father was never accomplished: his children, notwithstanding their first pacific arrangement, engaged afterward in long and acrimonious contention, respecting boundaries, in the course of which earthly judges were often obliged to interfere and enforce a settlement.
Soon after John Rogers connected himself with the Sabbatarians, his wife left him and returned to her father. In May, 1675, she applied to the legislature for a divorce, grounding her plea not only upon the heterodoxy of her husband, but upon certain alleged immoralities. The court, after the delay of nearly a year and a half, granted her petition.
At a session of the General Court, held at Hartford, October 12th, 1676:
“The Court having considered the petition of Elizabeth Rogers, the wife of John Rogers, for a release from her conjugal bond to her husband, with all the allegations and proofs presented, to clear the righteousness of her desires, do find just cause to grant her desire, and do free her from her conjugal bond to the said John Rogers.”
By a subsequent act of Assembly, (October, 1677,) she was allowed to retain her two children wholly under her own charge; the court giving as a reason the heterodoxy of Rogers, both in opinion and practice, he having declared in open court that he utterly renounced the visible worship of New England, and regarded the Christian Sabbath as a mere invention.
Rogers was incensed at these decisions of the court. The bill of divorce did not specify any offense on his part, as the base upon which it was granted, and he ever afterward maintained that they had taken away his wife without rendering to him, or to the public, any reason why they had done it. He seems to have long cherished the hope that she would repent of her desertion, and return to him; but in less than two years she married again.
“Peter Pratt was married unto Elisabeth Griswold, that was divorced from John Rogers, 5th of August, 1679.” (Recorded in Lyme.)
The children of Rogers remained with their mother during their childhood, but both when they became old enough to act for themselves, preferred to live with their father. Elizabeth was sent to him by her mother, of her own free will, when she was about fourteen years of age, and resided with him till 1689 or 1690, when she was married to Stephen Prentis, of Bruen’s Neck. At her wedding, her brother John, then about fifteen years of age, came also to his father, by permission of his mother, to stay as long as he pleased. She afterward sent a constable forcibly to reclaim him, and he was seized and carried back to Lyme; yet he soon returned to his father, embraced his doctrines, (In the phraseology of the sect, he discipled in with him immediately.) and pursued a similar course of itinerant testimony against the public worship of the land.
An agreement was signed in 1687, by which Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold, senior, engages to relinquish all claim to the Mamacock farm, “provided John Rogers will pay her £30 and never trouble her father about the farm again.” By this arrangement the farm reverted to Rogers, and his son, John Rogers, junior, marrying his cousin, Bathsheba Smith, settled at Mamacock. There, notwithstanding his long testimony and his many weary trials and imprisonments, he reared to maturity a family of eighteen children, most of them like their parents, sturdy Rogerenes. (John Rogers, 2d, by his two wives had twenty children: two died in infancy.) Mamacock, and the neighboring highland over which they spread, has ever since been known as Quaker Hill.
Peter Pratt, the second husband of Elizabeth Griswold, died March 24th, 1688. Shortly afterward she contracted a third marriage with Matthew Beck with, 2d. (By this third marriage she had one daughter, Griswold Bekwith, afterward the wife of Eliakim Cooley, junior, of Springfield.) By the second marriage with Mr. Pratt, she had a son, Peter, who while a young man, studying for the profession of the law, in New London, very naturally renewed his youthful intimacy with his half-brother, John Rogers, junior, of Mamacock. This brought him often into the company of the elder Rogers, to whose exhortations he listened complacently, till at length embracing his dogmas and becoming his disciple, he received baptism at his hands, and endured fines, imprisonment and public abuse, on account of his Quakerism. But after a time, leaving New London, and entering upon other associations, he relinquished the Rogerene cause, and made a public acknowledgment that he had labored under a delusion. Still further to manifest the sincerity of his recantation, he wrote an account of his lapse and recovery, entitled: “The Prey taken from the Strong, or an Historical Account of the Recovery of one from the dangerous errors of Quakerism.”
In this narrative, Rogers is drawn, not only as an obstinate, heterodox enthusiast, but many revolting circumstances are added, which would justify the greatest odium ever cast upon him. It was not published till 1724, three years after the death of Rogers. He could not therefore answer for himself, but the indignation of the son was roused, and in defense of his father, he entered into controversy with his brother, and published a rejoinder, from which portions of the preceding narrative have been taken. He meets the charges against the moral and domestic character of his father, with a bold denial of their truth; but his erratic course in matters of faith and religious practice, he makes no attempt to palliate, these being points in which he himself, and the whole sect, gloried. He denies, however, that his father was properly classed among Quakers, observing:
“In his lifetime he was the only man in Conn, colony, I have ever heard of, that did publicly in print oppose the Quakers in those main principles wherein they differ from other sects.”
But the term Quaker had been firmly fixed upon them by their opponents, and they were customarily confounded with the Ranters, or Ranting Quakers, known in the early days of the colony. Yet they never came under the severe excision of the law enacted against those people in 1656 and 1658; that is, they were never forcibly transported out of the colony, nor were others prohibited from intercourse with them. Yet John Rogers states that under the provisions of this law his books were condemned and burnt as heretical. The law itself was disallowed and made void by an act of the Queen in Council, October 11th, 1705. There were other laws, however, by which the Rogerenes were convicted. By the early code of Connecticut, absence from public worship was to be visited by a penalty of five shillings; labor on the Sabbath, twenty shillings; and the performance of church ordinances by any other person than an approved minister of the colony, or an attendance thereupon, £5.
Though in most of the cases of arrest and punishment, the Rogerenes were the aggressors, and drew down the arm of the law on their own heads, it must be acknowledged that they encountered a vigorous and determined opposition. Offense was promptly met by penalty. Attempts were made to weary them out, and break them up by a series of fines, imposed upon presentments of the grand jury. These fines were many times repeated, and the estates of the offenders melted under the seizures of the constable, as snow melts before the sun. The course was a cruel one, and by no means popular. At length the magistrates could scarcely find an officer willing to perform the irksome task of distraining. And it is probable that all penalties would have been silently dropped, had they not kept up the aggressive system of testifying, as it was called; that is, presenting themselves in the religious assemblies of their neighbors, to utter their testimony against the worship. In this line, John Rogers, and the elder sister, were the principal offenders; often carrying their work into meeting, and interrupting the service with exclamations and protests against what was said or done.
The records of the county court abound with instances to verify these statements. Only a sample will be given:
“April 14th, 1685. Judge’s upon the bench, Fitch, Avery and Wetherell. John Rogers, James Rogers, Jr., Samuel Beebee, Jr., and Joanna Way, are complained of for profaning God’s holy day by servile work, and are grown to the height of impiety as to come at several times into the town to re-baptize several persons; and when God’s people were met together on the Lord’s day to worship God, several of them came and made great disturbance, behaving themselves in such a frantic manner as if possessed with a diabolical spirit, so affrighting and amazing that several women swooned and fainted away. John Rogers to be whipped fifteen lashes, and for unlawfully re-baptizing to pay £5. The others to be whipped.”
One of the most notorious instances of contempt exhibited by Rogers against the religious worship of his fellow- townsmen, was the sending of a wig to a contribution made in aid of the ministry. This was in derision of the full-bottomed wigs then worn by the clergy. It was sent by some one who deposited it in his name in the contribution box that was passed around in meeting. Rogers relished a joke, and was often represented by his opponents as shaking his sides with laughter at the confusion into which they were thrown by his inroads upon them. What course was pursued by the authorities in regard to the wig is not known, but the following candid apology is found on the town book, subscribed by the offender’s own hand.
“Whereas I John Rogers of New London did rashly and unadvisedly send a perewigg to the contribution of New London, which did reflectt dishonor upon that which my neighbours ye inhabitants of New London account the ways and ordinances of God and ministry of the word to the greate offence of them, I doe herebye declare that I am sorry for the sayde action and doe desire all those whom I have offended to accept this my publique acknowledgement as full satisfaction. 27th, 1: 91. John Rogers.” (New London Town Rec, lib. 4, folio 46.)
The regret here expressed must have been but a temporary emotion, as he resumed immediately the same career of offense. In Nov. ,, 1692, besides his customary fines for working on the Sabbath, and for baptizing, he was amerced £4 for entertaining Banks and Case (Itinerant exhorters) for a month or more at his house. In 1693 and 1694, he and others of his family were particularly eager to win the notice of the law. Samuel Fox, presented for catching eels on Sunday, said that he made no difference of days; his wife Bathshua Fox went openly to the meeting-house to proclaim that she had been doing servile work on their Sabbath; John Rogers accompanied her, interrupting the minister, and proclaiming a similar offense. James Rogers and his wife assaulted the constable as he was rolling away a barrel of beef that he had distrained for the minister’s rate, threw scalding water upon him, and recaptured the beef. (Records of County Court.)
To various offenses of this nature, Rogers added the greater one of trundling a wheelbarrow into the porch of the meeting-house during the time of service; for which after being set in the stocks he was put into prison, and there kept for a considerable time. While thus held in durance, he hung out of the window a board with the following proclamation attached:
“I, John Rogers, a servant of Jesus Christ, doth here make an open declaration of war against the great red dragon, and against the beast to which he gives power; and against the false church that rides upon the beast; and against the false prophets who are established by the dragon and the beast; and also a proclamation of derision against the sword of the devil’s spirit, which in prisons, stocks, whips, fines and revilings, all which is to defend the doctrines of devils.” (Rogers himself in one of his pamphlets gives a copy of this writing. It is also in Benedict’s Hist., vol. 2, p. 423.)
On the next Sunday after this writing was hung out, Rogers being allowed the privilege of the prison limits on that day, rushed into the meeting-house during service, and with great noise and vehemence interrupted the minister, and denounced the worship. This led to the issuing of a warrant to remove him to Hartford gaol. The mittimus, dated March 28th, 1694, and signed by James Fitch, assistant, sets forth:
“Whereas John Rodgers of New London hath of late set himself in a furious way in direct opposition to the true worship and pure ordinances, and holy institutions of God, as also on the Lord’s Day passing out of prison in the time of public worship, running into the meeting-house in a railing and raging manner, as being guilty of blasphemy,” &c.
At Hartford he was tried and fined £5, and required to give a bond of £50 not to disturb the churches hereafter, and seated upon the gallows a quarter of an hour with a halter about his neck. Refusing as usual to pay the fine and give the security, he was remanded to prison and kept there from his first commitment three years and eight months.
During this imprisonment, according the account of his son, he was treated with great severity, and at one time taken out and cruelly scourged. (Answer of John Rogers, Jr., to Peter Pratt.)
While Rogers was in prison an attack upon the government and colony appeared, signed by Richard Steer, Samuel Beebe, Jr., Jonathan and James Rogers, accusing them of persecution of dissenters, narrow principles, self-interest, spirit of domineering ; and that to compel people to pay for a Presbyterian minister, is against the laws of England, is rapine, robbery and oppression.
A special court was held at New London, Jan. 24th, 1694-5, to consider this libelous paper. The subscribers were fined £5 each, whereupon they appealed to the Court of Assistants at Hartford, which confirming the first decision, they threatened an appeal to Cesar, that is to the throne of England. In all probability this was never prosecuted.
Rogers had not been long released from prison before he threw himself into the very jaws of the lion, as it were, by provoking a personal collison with Mr. Saltonstall, the minister of the town.
“At a session of the county court held at New London, Sept. 20, 1698. Members of the court, Capt. Daniel Wetherell Esq. and justices William Ely and Nathaniel Lynde. Mr. Gurdon Saltonstall minister of the gospel plf. pr contra John Rogers Senr, deft in an action of the case for defamation. Whereas you the said John Rogers did sometime in the month of June last past, raise a lying, false and scandalous report against him the said Mr. Gurdon Saltonstall and did publish the same in the hearing of diverse persons, that is to say — did in their hearing openly declare that the said Saltonstall having promised to dispute with you publicly on the holy scriptures did contrary to his said engagement shift or wave the said dispute which he had promised you, which said false report he the said Saltonstall complaineth of as to his great scandal and to his damage unto such value as shall to the said court be made to appear. In this action the jury finds for the plaintiff six hundred pounds, and costs of court, £1, 10.” (County Court Records.)
It would be wearisome and useless to enumerate all the instances of collision between Rogers and the authorities of the land, which even at this distance of time might be collected. It is stated by his followers that after his conversion he was near one-third of his lifetime confined in prisons. “I have,” he observes, in writing, in 1706, “been sentenced to pay hundreds of pounds, laid in iron chains, cruelly scourged, endured long imprisonments, set in the stocks many hours together,” &c. John, the younger, states that his father’s sufferings continued for more than forty-five years, and adds, “I suppose the like has not been known in the kingdom of England for some ages past.”
It was certainly a great error in the early planters of New England to endeavor to produce uniformity in doctrine by the strong arm of physical force. Was ever religious dissent subdued either by petty annoyance or actual cruelty? Is it possible ever to make a true convert by persecution? The principle of toleration was, however, then less clearly understood, and the offenses of the Rogerenes were multiplied and exaggerated both by prejudice and rumor. The crime of blasphemy was one that was often hurled against them. Doubtless a sober mind would not now give so harsh a name, to expressions which our ancestors deemed blasphemous.
In reviewing this controversy we cannot avoid acknowledging that there was great blame on both sides, and our sympathies pass alternately from one to the other. The course pursued by the Rogerenes was exceedingly vexatious. The provoking assurance with which they would enter a church, attack a minister, or challenge an argument, is said to have been quite intolerable. Suppose, at the present day, a man like Rogers of a bold spirit, ready tongue, and loud voice, thould rise up in a worshiping assembly, and tell the people they were entangled in the net of Antichrist, and sunk deep in the mire of idolatry; then turning to the preacher, call him a hireling shepherd, making merchandise of his flock, and declaring that the rites he administered, viz., baptism by sprinkling — the baptism of infants — and the celebration of the sacrament at any time but at night — were antichristian fopperies; accompanying all this with violent contortions, coarse expletives and foaming at the mouth: would it not require great forbearance on the part of the congregation not to call a constable, and forcibly remove the offender? Yet the Rogerenes frequently used more aggressive language than this, and went to greater lengths in their testimony against the idol Sabbath. Their own narratives and controversial writings prove this; nor do they offer any palliation of their course in this respect, but regard it as a duty they must perform, a cross they must bear.
Viewing the established order of the colony, only on the dark and frowning side, they considered it a righteous act to treat it with defiance and aggression. The demands of collectors, the brief of the constable, were ever molesting their habitations. It was now a cow, then a few sheep, the oxen at the plow, the standing corn, the stack of hay, the thrashed wheat, and anon, piece after piece of land, all taken from them to uphold a system which they denounced. Yet our sympathy with these sufferers is unavoidably lessened by the fact, that they courted persecution and gloried in it; often informing against themselves, and compelling the violated law to bring down its arm upon them. Says John Bolles:
“God gave me such it cheerful spirit in this warfare, that when I had not the knowledge that the grand-juryman saw me at work on the first day, I would inform against myself before witness, till they gave out, and let me plow and cart and do whatsoever I have occasion to on this day.”
What should a magistrate do? Often in despite of himself he was forced into severity. He had sworn to enforce the laws; he might shut his eyes and ears and refuse to know that such things were done, but here was a race who would not allow of such connivance: they obtruded their violations of the law upon his notice; and he felt obliged to convict and condemn. The authorities were not in the first place inclined to rigor: they were not a persecuting people. New London county more than any other part of Connecticut, perhaps from its vicinity to Rhode Island, has ever been a stage whereon varied opinions might exhibit themselves freely, and a difference of worship was early tolerated. Governor Saltonstall was perhaps more uniformly rigorous than any other magistrate in repressing the Rogerene disturbances. Nevertheless, while sitting as chief judge of the superior court, he used his utmost endeavors, by argument and conciliation, to persuade them to refrain from molesting the worship of their neighbors.
“He gave his word [says John Bolles] that to persuade us to forbear, if we would be quiet, and worship God in our own way according to our consciences, he would punish any of their people that should disturb us in our worship.”
Here was an opportunity for a compact which might have led to a lasting peace. But the principles of the Rogerenes would not allow of compromise.
It is somewhat singular that in the midst of so much obloquy, John Rogers should have continued to take part in public affairs. He was never disfranchised; when out of prison he was always ready with his vote; was a warm partisan and frequently chosen to some inferior town office, such as sealer of leather, surveyor of highways, &c. Crimes, such as the code of the present day would define them, were seldom or never proved against the Rogerenes, but it must be allowed that coarseness, vulgarity, and impertinent obtrusiveness, come near to crimes, in the estimation of pure minds.
In the year 1700 Rogers having lived single, from the desertion of his wife twenty-five years, married himself to Mary Ransford. She is said to have been a maid-servant whom he had bought; probably one of that class of persons called Redemptioners. The spirit and temper of his new wife may be inferred from the fact that she had already been arraigned before the court, for throwing scalding water out of the window upon the head of the constable who came to collect the minister’s rate. As Rogers would not be married by any minister or magistrate of Connecticut, he was in a dilemma how to have the rite solemnized. His mode of proceeding is thus described by his son:
“They agreed to go into the County Court, and there declare their marriage; and accordingly they did so; he leading his bride by the hand into court, where the judges were sitting, and a multitude of spectators present; and then desired the whole assembly to take notice, that he took that woman to be his wife; his bride also assenting to what he said. Whereupon the judge (Wetherell) offered to marry them in their form, which he refused, telling them that he had once been married by their authority and by their authority they had taken away his wife again, and rendered him no reason why they did it. Upon which account he looked upon their form of marriage to be of no value, and therefore he would be married by their form no more. And from the court he went to the governor’s house, (Fitz-John Winthrop’s) with his bride and declared their marriage to the governor, who seemed to like it well enough, and wished them much joy, which is the usual compliment.”
This ceremony thus publicly performed, John Rogers, Jr., supposes “every unprejudiced person will judge as authentic as any marriage that was ever made in Connecticut colony.” The authorities did not look upon it in this light. Rogers herein set at defiance the common law, which in matters of civil concernment, his own principles bound him to obey.
A story has been currently reported that this self-married couple presented themselves also before Mr. Saltonstall, the minister, and that he wittily contrived to make the marriage legal, against their will. Assuming an air of doubt and surprise, he says. Do you really, John, take this your servant-maid, bought with your money, for your wife? Do you, Mary, take this man so much older than yourself for your husband f and receiving from both an affirmative answer, he exclaimed: Then I pronounce you, according to the laws of this colony, man and wife. Upon this Rogers, after a pause, shook his head, and observed. Ah, Gurdon! thou art a cunning creature.
This anecdote, or something like it, may be true of some other Rogerene marriage, but not of this, for then no doubt would have arisen respecting the validity of the union.
The connection was an unhappy one; violent family quarrels ensued, between the reputed wife, and John Rogers the younger and his family, in the course of which the law was several times invoked to preserve peace, and the elder Rogers himself was forced to apply to the court for assistance in quelling these domestic broils.
The complaint of John Rogers against his son, and “the woman which the court calls Mary Ransford, which I have taken for my wife, seeing my lawful wife is kept from me by this government,” is extant in his own handwriting, dated 27th of 4th month, 1700.
In 1703, on the presentment of the grand jury, the county court summoned Mary Ransford, the reputed wife of John Rogers, before them, declared her marriage invalid, sentenced her to pay a fine of 40s. or receive ten stripes, and prohibited her return to Rogers under still heavier penalties. Upon this she came round to the side of the court, acknowledged her marriage illegal, cast off the protection and authority of Rogers, and refused to regard him as her husband.
Soon after this she escaped from confinement and fled to Block Island, leaving her two children with their father. Rogers appears to have renounced her as heartily and as publicly as she did him; so that actually they both married and unmarried themselves. They had never afterward any connection with each other.
About this time Rogers made a rash and almost insane attempt to regain his divorced wife, then united to Matthew Beckwith. A writ was issued against him in January, 1702-3, on complaint of Beckwith, charging him with laying hands on her, declaring she was his wife, and threatening Beckwith that he would have her in spite of him — all which Rogers confessed to be true, but defended, on the plea that she was really his wife.
“In County Court, June, 1703. — Matthew Beckwith Senr appeared in court and swore his Majesty’s peace against John Rogers, for that he was in tear of his life from him.” (County Court Records.)
In 1710, Mary Ransford was married to Robert Jones, of Block Island; and in 1714, Rogers married the widow Sarah Coles, of Oyster Bay, L. I., the ceremony being performed within the jurisdiction of Rhode Island, by a magistrate of that colony. (Narrative of John Rogers, Jr.) With this connection there was never any interference.
The troubles of Rogers did not cease with old age. His sea was never smooth. His bold, aggressive spirit knew not how to keep the peace. In 1711, he was fined and imprisoned for misdemeanor in court, contempt of its authority, and vituperation of the judges. He himself states that his offense consisted in charging the court with injustice for trying a case of life and death without a jury. This was in the case of one John Jackson, for whom Rogers took up the battle-ax. Instead of retracting his words, he defends them and reiterates the charge. Refusing to give bonds for his good behavior until the next term of court, he was imprisoned in New London jail. This was in the winter season, and he thus describes his condition:
“My son was wont in cold nights to come to the grates of the window to see how I did, and contrived privately to help me to some tire, &c. Hut he coming in a very cold night called to me and perceiving that I was not in my right senses, was in a fright, and ran along the street crying, ‘The authority hath killed my father,’ and cried at the Sheriff’s, ‘You have killed my father.’ — upon which the town was raised and forthwith the prison doors were opened and fire brought in and hot stones wrapt in cloth laid at ray feet and about me, and the minister Adams sent me a bottle of spirits and his wife a cordial, whose kindness I must acknowledge.
“But when those of you in authority saw that I recovered, you had up my son and fined him for making a riot in the night, and took for the fine and charge three of the best cows I had.”
His confinement continued until the time was out for which the bond was demanded. He was then released, but the very next day he was arrested on the following warrant:
“By special order of his Majesty’s Superior Court, now holden in New London, you are hereby required in her Majesty’s name, to take John Rogers, Senior, of New London, who to the view of said Court, appears to be under an high degree of distraction, and him secure in her Majesty’s Gaol for the County aforesaid, in some dark room or apartment thereof, that proper means may be used for his cure, and till he be recovered from his madness and you receive order for his release. Signed by order of said Court, March 26, 1712. “Jonathan Law, Clerk. “Test, John Prentis, Sherriff.”
This order was immediately executed. Rogers was removed to an inner prison and all light excluded. But the town was soon in an uproar; the populace interfered and tore away the plank that had been nailed over the window. Some English officers then in town also made application to the authorities to mitigate his treatment, and he was carried to the sheriff’s house and there kept. Two days afterward, he received, he said, a private warning that it was determined to convey him to Hartford, shave his head, and deliver him over to a French doctor to be medically treated for insanity. Whereupon by the aid of his son and the neighbors, he escaped in the night, and was rowed in a boat over to Long Island. Thither he was followed by the constable, and pursued by the “hue and cry,” from town to town, as he traveled with all possible secrecy and dispatch to Now York, where at length arriving safely, he hastened to the fort, and threw himself upon the protection of Governor Hunter, by whom he was kindly received and sheltered. Here he remained three months, and then returned home, where probably he would not have been molested, if he had remained quiet. But no sooner was he recruitod, than he returned to the very position he had taken with so much hazard before his imprisonment, resuming the prosecution of the judges of the inferior court before the general Court, for judging upon life and death without a jury in the aforesaid case of John Jackson. He was nonsuited, had all the charges to pay, and another heavy fine.
The next outbreak, and the last during the life of the elder Rogers, is thus related by the son:
“John Rogers and divers of his Society living as good a right to New London meeting-house as any of the inhabitants of the town, it being built by a public rate, every one paying a proportion according to their estate, (The building of the meeting-house cost me three of the best fat cattle I had that year, and as many shoes as was sold for thirty shillings in silver money.” — John Rogers, Sen.) did propose to hold his meetings there at noon time, between the Presbyterian meetings, so as not to disturb them in either of their meetings. And accordingly, we came to the meeting house and finding their meeting was not finished, we stood without the door till they had ended and were come out; and then John Rogers told the people that our coming was to hold our meeting, between their meetings, and that we had no design to make any disturbance, but would break up our meeting as soon as they wore ready for their afternoon meeting. Whereupon several of the neighbors manifested their freedom in the matter; yet the Constable came in the time of our meeting with an order to break it up, and with his attendants violently laid hands on several of us, hauling men and women out of the meeting, like an Saul did in his unconverted state, and for no other crime than what I have here truly related.
“John Rogers was had to Court and charged with a riot, &c. If myself had been the Judge, as I was not, I should have thought the constable to have been guilty of the riot, and not John Rogers. However, he was fined 10a., for which the officer first took ten sheep, and then complained they were not sufficient to answer the fine and charges, whereupon he came a second time and took a milk-cow out of the pasture, and so we heard no more about it, by which I suppose the cow and ten sheep satisfied the fine and charges. This was the last fine that was laid on him, for he soon after died.”
Joseph Backus, Esq., of Norwich, writing in the year 1726, gives this account of the death of the Rogerene leader:
“John Rogers pretended that he was proof against all infection of body as well as of mind, which the wicked only (he said) were susceptible of, and to put the matter upon trial, daringly ventured into Boston in the time of the Small Pox; but received the infection and dyed of it, with several of his family taking it from him.”
In answer to this statement, John Rogers the second observes:
“It is well known that it had been his practice for more than forty years past, to visit all sick persons as often us he had opportunity, and particularly those who had the Small Pox; when in the height of their distemper he has sat on their bed-side several hours at a time, discoursing of the things of God; so that his going to Boston the last time, was no other than his constant practice had been ever since he made a profession of religion.
“Now let every unprejudiced reader take notice how little cause J. Backus has to reflect John Rogers’s manner of death upon him who lived to the age of seventy-three years, and then died, in his own house, and on his own bed, having his reason continued to the last and manifesting his peace with God, and perfect assurance of a better life.”
“Oct. 17, 1721 died John Rogers Sen.
“Nov. 6, ” ” John Rogers 3d, aged 21 years and 6 days.
“Nov. 13, “ “Bathsheba, wife of John Rogers 2d.
“All of small pox.” (Town Record of New London.)
Rogers was buried directly upon the bank of the Thames, within the bounds of his Mamacock farm. Here he had set aside a place of family sepulture, which his son John, in 1751, secured to his descendants by deed for a burial place. It is still occasionally used for that purpose, and it is supposed that in all, sixty or eighty interments have here been made: but the wearing away of the bank is gradually intruding upon them. As the Rogerenes do not approve of monuments to the memory of the dead, only two or three inscribed stones mark the spot.
Rogers was a prolific writer. In the introduction to his “Midnight Cry,” he observes: “This is the sixth book printed for me in single volumes.” He argued upon theological subjects with considerable skill and perspicuity. The inventory of his estate was £410. Among the articles enumerated are:
Several chests and packages of his own books.
Seven Bibles: Powel’s and Clarke’s Concordances.
Some notes and comments on the above:
Of James Rogers Senior, it says “His landed possessions were very extensive, consisting of several hundred acres on the Great Neck, the fine tract of land at Mohegan called the Pamechaug farm, several house lots in town, and twenty-four hundred acres east of the river, which he held in partnership with Col. Pyncheon, of Springfield.” This got me wondering where Pamechaug farm could be on today’s map of the greater New London area. I did a little digging and found this reference:
The Bostonian, An illustrated monthly magazine of local interest, Vol. 1, October-March 1894-5, Page 380: The Mohegans. “The first grant of land within the Mohegan reservation was made by Uncas in 1658 to Richard Haughton and James Rogers, and consisted of valuable farms on the river and places called Massapeag and Pamechaug. The former place was situated north and west of the cove now called Haughton’s Cove …”
So Pamechaug farm was north and west of Haughton’s Cove. So where’s Haughton’s Cove? Haughton’s Cove is in Uncasville, CT, just north and west of Comstock Cemetery, a cemetery I have visited to take pictures of the graves of many Rogers family members.
The above also says “Mamacock, and the neighboring highland over which they spread, has ever since been known as Quaker Hill.” I wasn’t aware the Mamcock Farm, John Rogers (founder of the Rogerenes) farm of Mamcock had extended as far north as Quaker Hill. I do know that it extended at least as far south as the grounds of Conn College as that’s where the Rogers cemetery is. It would seem that at some point, the Rogers’ family owned the land all the way from Conn College up to Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville.
The point, while reading the above, that I started to laugh … “James Rogers and his wife assaulted the constable as he was rolling away a barrel of beef that he had distrained for the minister’s rate, threw scalding water upon him, and recaptured the beef.” (hence the title of my post today)
The above says John Rogers was cruelly scourged. Curious as the difference between a whipping and a scourging, I googled it. Wikipedia says the following: “A scourge is a whip or lash, especially a multi-thong type, used to inflict severe corporal punishment or self-mortification on the back. Usually made of leather.” Makes you wonder what poor John’s back must have looked like. He’d been scourged and whipped who knows how many times over the years.
I was curious about the story where John Rogers first breaks from the church in the baptism in Winthrop’s Cove. Above, after the story, it says “(A more particular account of this affair may be found in Backus’ Church History’ and in Benedict’s History of the Baptists, vol. 2, p. 422.)” So I googled Benedict’s History of the Baptists and found this:
A general history of the Baptist denomination in America, and other parts of the world by Benedict, page 422:
In September, 1676, the three Rogerses and Japheth, the Indian, went in a boat and brought Messrs. Hiscox and Hubbard to New London again, when the father and mother of one of the sisters of the Rogerses were all baptized by Mr. Hiscox, and were also added to the church with which they had united. These frequent visits and administrations of the Baptists, awakened the jealousies and resentment of the people of the town, and the power of the magistrate was soon exerted in rigorous measures, against this new and obnoxious sect. These few persons, having adopted the Seventh Day of the week for their Sabbith continued to pursue their worldly business on the Firsts a practice very common with people of this belief; for which they soon began to be harassed, imprisoned and beaten. But opposition seemed only to inflame their zeal, and hurried them on to an extravagant and almost unexampled extreme. Hitherto these persons, who afterwards broke over all bounds of order and decency, were not known as a distinct set, but had a regular standing in the Seventh-day Baptist church at Newport. John Rogers, who afterwards became the fantastick leader of this deluded community, on the following occasion, began the wild and heedless career, by which he exposed himself so much to the censure of his friends and the persecuting violence of his enemies. In the year 1677, Messrs. Hiscox and his companion Hubbard visited New London a third time, and proposed to baptize the wife of Joseph Rogers, another brother of the Rogers family. Their meeting was held. It is related by Morgan Edwards that she was afterwards married to a lawyer, b/lbv; liimie of f^ratt (Not having the original book to look at I have no idea what those words were supposed to be) two miles from the town, where it was proposed that baptism should be administered; but John was for no retirement; lie must needs have the company go up to the town, and have the administration in sight and hearing of their enemies. John was finally listened to, and led on the procession. This provoking measure turned out as might have been expected in those days of intolerance and persecution; for while Mr. Hiscox was preaching, he was seized by the constable and immediately carried before the magistrate, where he was detained a short time, and then released. They new repaired to another place, and began to prepare for the administration; when, to the astonishment of the company, John stepped forward and prayed, and then led the woman down into the water, and baptized her. From this time this singular man took it upon him to baptize, and also to administer in other things in a ministerial capacity. His relatives, excepting his brother Jonathan, imbibed his spirit and followed his dictates. The church at Newport attempted to reform and regulate them; but their exertions proved ineffectual, and their connection was soon dissolved.
I find it interesting that the most interesting part in the above was left out of Caulkin’s the entire chapter on Rogerenes, and that is: “This sect took its rise at New London, in Connecticut, about the year 1674; for in that year one John Rogers and James his brother, and an Indian by the name of Japheth, were baptized by a Mr. Crandal.” An Indian? I love it! Say what you want about how crazy John was, he saw all men as equal under God. I wonder why in all her history of the man, Caulkins left that out?
I do believe that John wanted a return to the church as it is explained in the New Testament, but I do find one item a little odd and would love to have the opportunity to sit down with old John for a little chat about he thoughts on medicine. The above states “They use no means for the recovery of health, except care, kindness and attention, considering all resort to drugs, medicines and physicians, as sinful.” Didn’t anyone tell him that the apostle Luke was a doctor?
I’m a little confused by reading this: “A further account of the Seventh-day community on the Neck will be given in the sequel of our history.” Does anyone have any idea where to find the sequel to our history? I can’t seem to figure out where it would be in the book.
I wish I could get my hands on a copy of the mentioned “The Prey taken from the Strong, or an Historical Account of the Recovery of one from the dangerous errors of Quakerism.” I couldn’t find a digital copy or transcription online.
One place I’d like to locate is the home owned by C.A. Lewis, Esq in the year 1895, the year the book was published, as it was the site of James Roger’ first home in New London. “Mr. Winthrop had encouraged his settlement in the place, and had accommodated him with a portion of his own house lot, next to the mill, on which Rogers built a dwelling-house of stone. (This spot was afterward re-purchased by the Winthrop family, and was the site of the house built by John Still Winthrop, and now owned by C A. Lewis, Esq.) Anyone have any idea where that might be?