There’s a kind of sucker punch in many presentations of American history, wherein we are told that the Puritans left England for America because they had suffered religious persecution—and then the Puritans persecuted other religions here! We’re given the impression that they were looking for freedom of religion and then denied it to others.
In the 1650’s several of our ancestors became Quakers and enduried escalating fines, prison, banishment, whipping and ear cutting. Some of these ancestors were closely involved when four Quakers were condemned to death and executed by public hanging for their religious beliefs in Boston in 1659, 1660 and 1661. Richard SCOTT’s daughter Patience, in June, 1659, a girl of about eleven years, having gone to Boston as a witness against ‘the persecution of the Quakers, was sent to prison; others older being banished. Today we ask, “What kind of people put an 11 year old girl in jail? ”
In our 2011 imagination, the Quakers are the conscientious objector good guys while the Puritans are the hypocritical tyrants. Almost any book you read about the Massachusetts Bay Colony gives you the feeling that the moment those people set foot on shore in America they started betraying their own values. Objectivity is hard to come by when you’re reading about the Puritans. Is our modern perspective accurate?
The executions of Mary Dyer in 1660 and William Leddra in 1661, both in Boston, caused an amazing addition to the number of converts to Quakerism. The same year monthly meetings were established in several places in New England, and not long afterwards quarterly meetings were organized.
On hearing of the death of Leddra, Charles II. sent an order to Endicott to stop the persecutions and to send all accused persons to England for trial. In 1684 England revoked the Massachusetts charter, sent over a royal governor to enforce English laws in 1686, and in 1689 passed a broad Toleration act.
King Charles’ order was sent by the hand of Samuel Shattuck, a banished Quaker, who appeared before Governor Endicott with his hat on. The incensed governor was about to take the usual brutal steps to send him to prison, after ordering an officer to remove Shattuck’s hat, when the latter handed the magistrate the order from the throne. Endicott was thunderstruck. He handed back Shattuck’s hat and removed his own in deference to the presence of the King’s messenger. He read the papers, and, directing Shattuck to withdraw, simply remarked, ” We shall obey his Majesty’s commands.” A hurried conference was held with the other magistrates and ministers. They dared not send the accused persons to England, for they would be swift witnesses against the authorities of Massachusetts; so they ordered William Sutton, keeper of the Boston jail, to set all the Quakers free. So ended their severe persecution in New England; but the magistrates continued for some time to whip Quaker men and women, half naked, through the streets of Boston and Salem, until peremptorily forbidden to do so by the King.
After Massachusetts had suspended its laws against Quakers, Parliament made a law (1662) which provided that every five Quakers, meeting for religious worship, should be fined, for the first offence, $25; for the second offence, $50; and for the third offence to abjure the realm on oath, or be transported to the American colonies. Many refused to take the oath, and were transported. By an act of the Virginia legislature, passed in 1662, every master of a vessel who should import a Quaker, unless such as had been shipped from England under the above act, was subjected to a fine of 5,000 lbs. of tobacco for the first offence. Severe laws against other sectaries were passed in Virginia, and many of the Non-conformists in that colony, while Berkeley ruled, fled deep into the wilderness to avoid persecution.
By 1671 Quaker founder George Fox had recovered from his prison ordeals and Margaret had been released by order of the King. Fox resolved to visit the English settlements in America and the West Indies, remaining there for two years, possibly to counter any remnants of Perrot’s teaching there. After a voyage of seven weeks, during which dolphins were caught and eaten, the party arrived in Barbados on 3 October 1671. From there, Fox sent an epistle to Friends spelling out the role of women’s meetings in the Quaker marriage ceremony, a point of controversy when he returned home. One of his proposals suggested that the prospective couple should be interviewed by an all-female meeting prior to the marriage to determine whether there were any financial or other impediments. Though women’s meetings had been held in London for the last ten years, this was an innovation in Bristol and the north-west of England, which many there felt went too far.
Fox wrote a letter to the governor and assembly of the island in which he refuted charges that Quakers were stirring up the slaves to revolt and tried to affirm the orthodoxy of Quaker beliefs. After a stay in Jamaica, Fox’s first landfall on the North American continent was at Maryland, where he participated in a four-day meeting of local Quakers. He remained there while various of his English companions travelled to the other colonies, because he wished to meet some Native Americans who were interested in Quaker ways—though he relates that they had “a great dispute” among themselves about whether to participate in the meeting. Fox was impressed by their general demeanour, which he said was “courteous and loving”. He resented the suggestion (from a man in North Carolina) that “the Light and Spirit of God … was not in the Indians”, a proposition which Fox refuted. Fox left no record of encountering slaves on the mainland. [Our Quaker ancestor Edward WANTON owned a slave]
Elsewhere in the colonies, Fox helped to establish organizational systems for the Friends, along the same lines as he had done in Britain. He also preached to many non-Quakers, some but not all of whom were converted.
Fenwick, one of the purchasers of west Jersey, made the first settlement of members of his sect at Salem. Liberal offers were made to Friends in England if they would settle in New Jersey, where they would be free from persecution, and in 1677 several hundred came over. In March a company of 230 came in the ship Kent. Before they sailed King Charles gave them his blessing. The Kent reached New York in August, with commissioners to manage public affairs in New Jersey. The arrival was reported to Andros, who was governor of New York, and claimed political jurisdiction over the Jerseys. Fenwick, who denied the jurisdiction of the Duke of York in the collection of customs duties, was then in custody at New York, but was allowed to depart with the other Friends, on his own recognizance to answer in the autumn. On Aug. 16 the Kent arrived at New Castle, but it was three months before a permanent place was settled upon. That place was on the Delaware River, and was first named Beverly. Afterwards it was called Bridlington, after a parish in Yorkshire, England, whence many of the emigrants had come. The name was corrupted to Burlington, which it still bears. There the passengers of the Kent settled, and were soon joined by many others. The village prospered, and other settlements were made in its vicinity. Nearly all the settlers in west Jersey were members of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. One of the earliest erected buildings for the public worship of Friends in New Jersey was at Crosswicks, about half-way between Allentown and the Delaware River.
In 1690 Roger PARK lived in a Quaker settlement on Crosswick’s Creek, but he traveled so often to Wissamonson [Woodbridge] to study medicine under old Indian squaws and medicine men that his path was called “Roger’s Road.”
1660 – While Richard SCOTT was the first Quaker resident of Providence. His wife seems to have changed her views after a time. Roger Williams said, September 8, 1660, in a letter to Governor John Winthrop, of Connecticut:
“What whipping at Boston could not do, conversation with friends in England and their arguments have in great measure drawn her from the Quakers and wholly from their meetings.” .
Scott was a deputy to the general assembly in 1666. He was an earnest Quaker. In a letter published in 1678 in George Fox’s book, A New hugland Firebrand Quenched,” in answer to Roger Williams’ “George Fox Digged Out ot His Burrow,” Scott arraigns the petty vanities of Williams.
1665 – Edmund PERRY’s son Edward’s legal troubles didn’t end with King Charles’ legal protections. In 1665, he was fined for writing a “railing letter to the Court of Plymouth.” In 1658 -60, his fines amounted to 89 pounds, 18 shillings and several head of cattle – at the time five pounds was considered a fortune. Edward’s fines were the heaviest imposed in the colony.
Edward published religious writings between 1767 and 1690, with titles such as “A Warning to New England,” “To the Court of Plymouth, this is the Word of the Lord,” “A Testimony Concerning the Light,” “Concerning True Repentance,” etc. The “Warning to
New England” was a series of visions and prophecies against the sins of the day. The Court fined him £50 for such words as “The Voice that called unto me: Blood
toucheth Blood, and Blood for Blood. The Word spoken: O, what lamentation shall be taken up for New England to Countervail or equalize Abominations in drunkenness, swearing, lying, stealing, whoredoms, adultery and fornication, with many other Abominations, but above all Blood, Blood, even the Blood of My Children, and servants which my cruelty and cruel hands have been shed in the midst of her.
As a teacher of Quakerism Edward WANTON was quite successful, and soon gathered a large congregation, and won many followers from the prominent families of the town. He had nothing to fear now, except the minor persecutions, as corporal punishment, in this connection, was forbidden by King Charles. In 1676, the Society became so numerous as to necessitate the building of a house of public worship, and a small piece of land was purchased that year, of Henry Ewclly and a house erected. This was located on the site of the garden of the late Judge William Gushing. Later, another house of worship was erected on the Wanton estate. This house is now in Pembroke, part of it having been removed, and now occupied as a residence by Charles Collamorc. The remainder is still used by the Society of Friends, who worship there, having at the present day between twenty and thirty mcmbers. Tradition says the house was moved from the old Wanton estate to its present location, via North Rivcr, on “gundalows.”
The Pembroke Friends Meetinghouse is an historic Quaker church at Washington Street and Schoosett Street in Pembroke, Massachusetts. The meeting house was built in 1706 by Robert Barker with later 19th-century additions. It is the oldest Quaker meetinghouse in Massachusetts and the third oldest in the United States. This meetinghouse was used by local Quakers from 1706 until 1874 when the meetinghouse was closed and the Quaker meeting was moved to the Sandwich Meeting. Today the Meetinghouse is owned by the Pembroke Historical Society and is used during the summer months by area Quakers.
One of the many persecutions Wanton and his followers were subjected to, was, in ” 1678 Edward Wanton (of Scituate) for disorderly joining himself to his now wife in marriage in a way contrary to the order of Government is fined £10;”
1671 – Westbury, NY Meeting House
Robert TITUS’s son Edmond came to Nassau Co., NY in 1650 and became prominent in the Quaker movement. He settled in Hempstead, Nassau Co., NY by 1658 when he was given 10 acres on a list compiled on Nov. before moving to Westbury, Nassau Co., NY. As described in the book, Adam and Anne Mott, Their Ancestors and Descendants,
“A meeting had been established at Westbury, when the place was still called Plainedge, on the 25d of 3d month, 1671. The meeting was to begin on the 25th of 4th month, and so every fifth First day, and was held at Westbury or ‘Plainedge,’ at the house of Edmond Titus. Other meetings were held on the intervening First days at other Friends’ houses in other neighbourhoods at Jericho, Bethpage, &c. After the coming of Henry Willis in 1677, the meetings were sometimes held at his house instead of the house of Edmond Titus in Westbury. In 1697, the Monthly Meeting revised the rule, and it was directed that ‘a meeting shall be held every five weeks, on the First day, to begin at Edmond Titus’, the next First day at Jerusalem, the next at Bethpage, next at Jericho, and next at Hempstead. Traveling ministers, when they reached Westbury, usually stopped at the house of Edmond Titus, and after the coming of Henry Willis they sometimes stopped with him
John Rogers – founder of the Rogerine Quakers
Matthew BECKWITH’s son Mathew Jr. had a rather interesting marital history. Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of Mathew Griswold, was the widow of Peter Pratt. She remarried to John Rogers, the founder of the Rogerine Quakers on 17 Oct 1670. She was granted a divorce from her husband, John Rogers, 12 Oct 1676. In 1691 she married Mathew Beckwith Jr. She had children by each husband. In 1703, Rogers made a rash attempt to regain his divorced wife, then married to Beckwith; Beckwith complained that he laid hands on her, declaring she was his wife, threatened Beckwith that he would have her in spite of him , all of which Rogers confessed to be true. But he defended on the plea that she was really his wife. In June, 1703, Mathew Beckwith, Sr appeared in court and swore that he was in fear of his life of him.
The Rogerenes (also known as the Rogerens Quakers or Rogerines) were a religious sect founded in 1674 by John Rogers (1648–1721) in New London, Connecticut. Rogers was imprisoned and spent some years there. He was influenced by the Seventh Day Baptists and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and opposed the Established Puritan church. Rogerenes initially held to a Seventh Day (Saturday) Sabbath, but over the years began to regard each day as equally holy. Their disdain for Sunday worship often brought them into sharp conflict with their neighbors. Increasingly they adopted a Pacifist stance, including war tax resistance, which further brought them the ridicule of the larger community. Some of the Rogerenes left Connecticut and migrated to New Jersey settling in parts of present-day Morris County. One such group settled in what is presently the Landing section of Roxbury Township, New Jersey near Lake Rogerine, then known as Mountain Pond in about 1700. Another smaller group of Rogerenes in about 1734 settled on the eastern side of Schooley’s Mountain near present-day Hackettstown, New Jersey. Rogerene worship services continued through the early 20th Century in Connecticut.