John Rogers – Rogerene Founder

John Rogers (1653 – 1707), the founder of the Rogerene Quakers spent a cummulative fifteen years in jail for his beliefs, among them celebrating the Sabbath on Saturday and working on Sunday.  He wasn’t our direct ancestor, but his love story with Elizabeth Griswold is unique.  His first wife Elizabeth was forced by her family to divorce him.  There were no grounds for divorce based on religious differences, so its legality is questionable and Rogers believed he was still married to Elizabeth and remained faithful to her for twenty-five years until he married his housemaid.  He still claimed his first marriage was valid and the Bible permitted him two wives,  In 1705, thirty-five years after his marriage, he tried to get Elizabeth back, leading him into a unique conflict with our Matthew BECKWITH family.

John Rogers was born 1 Dec 1648 in Stratford, Fairfield, CT. His parents were James Rogers and Elizabeth Rowland. He first married Elizabeth Griswold  17 Oct 1670.  She was granted a divorce from her husband, John Rogers, 12 Oct 1676.

He next married 6 Jun 1699 in New London, CT to his housemaid, Mary Ransford. This marriage was not sanctioned by the church and John did not renounce his marriage to Elizabeth. His son John Rogers Jr was very angry. John presented himself with Mary before the June 6 session of the County Court in New London, where they take each other, in the sight and hearing of all, as husband and wife; he, furthermore, stating his reason for marrying her outside the form prescribed by the colony, to which form he declares he attaches no value, since it was not sufficient to secure his first wife to him, although no valid cause was presented for the annulment of that approved ceremony. To fully make this a well-authenticated marriage, he gallantly escorts Mary to the house of Governor Fitz-John Winthrop and informs him that he has taken this young woman for his wife. The governor politely wishes him much joy.

Finally, he married 4 Jul 1714 in Block Island, Newport, Rhode Island to Sarah Cole. John died 17 Oct 1721 in New London, New London, CT.

Elizabeth Griswold was born in Milford, CT. Her parents were Matthew Griswold and Anna Wolcott. She first married John Rogers 17 Oct 1670. She was granted a divorce from her husband, John Rogers, 12 Oct 1676. She next married Peter Pratt (1647 in Plymouth, Mass – 24 Mar 1688 in Lyme, New London, CT). Finally she married Matthew Beckwith Jr., son of our ancestor Matthew BECKWITH

Mary Ransford was born 2 Jul 1659 in Boston, Suffolk, Mass. Her parents were Jonathan Rainsford and Mary Sunderland. Mary died in Jul 1714 in Massachesetts

Sarah Cole was born 1693 in Milford, CT.

Children of John Rogers and Elizabeth Griswold:

Name Born Married Departed
1. Elizabeth Rogers 8 Nov 1671
New London, New London, CT
Stephen Prentice
1689 in East Lyme, New London, CT
30 Apr 1737
New London, New London, CT
2. John Rogers Jr. 20 Mar 1674Lyme, CT Bathsheba Smith
2 Jan 1700 in New London, CT
.
Elizabeth Dodge
28 Jan 1723 New London, New London, CT
18 Jun 1753
Mamacock Farm, New London, CT

.
Child of Elizabeth Griswold and Peter Pratt

Name Born Married Departed
1. Peter Pratt Jr. 1680
Lyme, CT
Mehitable Watrous
7 Sep 1709 in Hartford, CT
22 Nov 1730
Hartford, CT

.

Child of Elizabeth Griswold and Matthew Beckwith Jr

Name Born Married Departed
1. Griswold Beckwith. 1691 in Lyme, CT Eliakim Cooley
14 Sep 1706 Springfield, Hampden, Mass
26 Nov 1754
Springfield, Hampden, Mass

.

Child of John Rogers and Mary Ransford

Jon and Mary were not married in the church. Although Mary is fined 40s. by the County Court in June, for the birth of her child, it is not declared illegitimate by the usual form, the authorities being nonplussed by the fact she and John Rogers so publicly took each other as husband and wife. She is not called upon to declare who is the child’s father, nor is the latter charged with its maintenance, as in cases of illegitimacy. Evidently, John Rogers did not expect any court action, in the case of so public a ceremony. He declines to pay a fine so disgraceful to his wife and child, and appeals to the Superior Court. The court decides that, since the fine was not accompanied by other due forms of law, it is invalid, but refers the matter to the future consideration of the County Court, which results in no further action in regard to this child.

In September, 1702, the County Court have a good opportunity to exercise the “after consideration” recommended by the Superior Court in 1700, which they improve by dealing with Mary, after the birth of her second child, exactly as they are accustomed to deal with an unmarried woman. Her presentment is in exactly the same wording, a part of which calls upon her to declare under oath, before the court, the name of the father of her child. To prevent their carrying out this form, John Rogers is there in court, with his six-months-old girl baby in his arms, to save it from this disgrace. He has given Mary directions how to proceed, in order to supplement his plan of breaking up the intended procedure. If she refuse to take the oath and to declare John Rogers to be the father of her child, the court will be baffied.

Being ordered to take the oath, she is silent, as her husband has enjoined, while he declares to the court that this her child in his arms is his own. The court knows, as well as the man before them, that his first marriage has not been annulled for any legal cause; that he had reason to refuse a repetition of the ceremony. But while those who make and administer laws may be allowed to ignore them with impunity, lesser people must abide by them; least of all must this man escape, who has imperilled the ecclesiasticism of the land. They threaten Mary with stripes, if she coninue her refusal to take the oath. She looks from the judge to the man who stands, so earnest and anxious, with the babe in his arms, bidding her not to take the oath, declaring that, if she obey him, he will shield her from harm. She knows he will do all that he can to protect her; but she has seen marks of the stripes upon his own back; she knows how he has sat for hours in the stocks, and been held for weary years in prison. Can he rescue her from the stripes?

He sees her yielding and pleads with her, pleads that she will save their child from this dishonor. The court sternly repeats the threat. Again he promises to defend her, in case she will obey him; but declares that, if she yield, branding his child as base-born, herself as common, and himself a villain, he needs must hesitate, hereafter, to own her as his wife.

She sees the court will not be trifled with. She knows that John Rogers uses no idle words. Yet will it not be safer to brave his displeasure than that of the court? She takes the oath, and declares John Rogers to be the father of her child. The cloud grows dark upon the father’s face. He folds his branded child against his heart and goes his way. All this he risked to hold his first love first, in seeming as in truth; has risked and lost.

The court proceeds as usual in cases of illegitimacy, pronouncing John Rogers the father of the child, and ordering that he pay 2s. 6d. per week towards its maintenance, until it is four years of age. Mary is allowed until the end of the following month to pay the usual fine of 40s., in case of non-payment of which she shall receive ten stripes on the naked body. In the meantime, she is to be detained in prison. Will John Rogers own his child to be illegitimate by paying this fine? By no means.

To now take Mary back (even if so allowed by the authorities – Miss Caulkins states that Mary was threatened by this court with heavy penalties if she returned to John Rogers. Although the evidence of this has escaped our notice, Miss Caulkins doubtless came across such evidence.)  would be to brand any other children in the same manner. To marry her by the prescribed form would be to acknowledge these two children to be illegitimate. Yet there is one thing that can be done, and must be done speedily. Mary must be rescued from the prison and thus saved from the lash. There are but two in all this region who will risk an attempt like that. They are John Rogers and his son. Mary escapes to Block Island.

After a safe period has elapsed, Mary is returned from Block Island to New London. Her children are placed with her, somewhere in the town, to give the more effect to her Petition to the General Court, which is presented early in May. It is a long and pathetic document (still to be seen in ” Book of Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in the State Library, at Hartford), narrating the manner of her marriage to John Rogers; his taking her home and “ordering his servants to be conformable and obedient” to her; the trouble they had, “especially myself,” on account of the displeasure of John, Jr., at the marriage; a description of her presentment at court for her second child; her compliance with the court’s importunity, although her husband stood there “with it in his arms,” and how the result had made their children “base-born,” by which her “husband” says he is “grossly abused;” since “he took me in his heart and declared me so to be his wife before the world, and so owned by all the neighbors.” She beseeches that the sentence of the court be annulled; so that, “we may live together as husband and wife lawful and orderly,” “that the blessing of God be upon us, and your Honor, for making peace and reconciliation between us, may have an everlasting reward.” Dated in “New London, May I2, 1703.”

The court takes no notice of this appeal. Mary is returned to Block Island and the children to Mamacock. Proof will appear, however, that she is not forgotten nor neglected. Even after her marriage to another man, and years after this hopeless separation, she will say nothing but good of him who first called her his wife and acted faithfully towards her a husband’s part.

Name Born Married Departed
1. Gersham Rogers 24 Feb 1700
New London, CT
Sarah Wheeler
8 Apr 1725 in New London, New London, CT
1770
2. Child Rogers Bef. Sep 1702
New London, CT

[Miss. Caulkins states that, some months before this period, John Rogers “made an almost insane attempt” to regain his former wife Elizabeth, wife of Matthew Beckwith. This statement is founded upon a writ against John Rogers on complaint of Matthew Beckwith (Jan. 1702-3), accusing John Rogers of laying hands on Elizabeth, declaring her to be his wife and that he would have her in spite of Matthew Beckwith. The historian should ever look below the mere face of things. For more than twenty-five years, John Rogers has known that Elizabeth, married or unmarried, would not return to him, pledged as he was to his chosen cause. He is, at this particular date, not yet fully separated from Mary, but holding himself ready to take her back, in case a petition to the General Court should by any possibility result favorably. This and another complaint of Matthew Beckwith  the latter in June, 1703  – to the effect that he was “afraid of his life of John Rogers” indicate some dramatic meeting between John Rogers and “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold,” in the presence of Matthew Beckwith, the incidents attendant upon which have displeased the latter and led him to resolve that John Rogers shall be publicly punished for assuming to express any ownership in his, Matthew Beckwith’s, wife.

This “afraid of my life” is a common expression, and was especially so formerly, by way of emphasis. Matthew Beckwith could not have been actually afraid of his life in regard to a man whose principles did not allow of the slightest show of physical force in dealing with an opponent. Although the court record says that John Rogers “used threatening words against Matthew Beckwith,” on presentation by Matthew Beckwith’s complaint, this does not prove any intention of physical injury.

Any meeting between John Rogers and Elizabeth Griswold could not fail of being dramatic. What exact circumstances were here involved is unknown; what attitude was taken by the woman, when these two men were at the same time in her presence, it is impossible to determine. But it is in no way derogatory to the character of John Rogers, that in meeting this wife of his youth, he gives striking proof of his undying affection. Ignoring her marriage to the man before him, forgetful, for the time being, even of Mary, blind to all save the woman he loves above all, he lays his hand upon Elizabeth, and says she is, and shall be, his. Under such circumstances, Matthew Beckwith takes his revenge in legal proceedings. When summoned before the court, John Rogers defends his right to say that Matthew Beckwith’s wife  so-called  is still his own, knowing full well the court will fine him for contempt, which process follows (County Court Record).]

John Rogers is fifty-five years of age at this date, and Matthew Beckwith sixty-six. Elizabeth is about fifty.

In 1724, John Rogers founded a religious sect in New London, Connecticut,  known as the Rogerenes (also known as the Rogerens Quakers or Rogerines) 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.

Lake Rogerene New Jersey

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.

Elizabeth Griswold Rogers Pratt Griswold 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: Part II, History of the Rogerenes. Boston: Stanhope Press, 1904. by Anna B. Williams

In 1637 John’s father, James Rogers,  was a soldier from Saybrook in the Pequot war. He is next at Stratford, where he acquires considerable real estate and marries Elizabeth, daughter of Samuel Rowland, a landed proprietor of that place, who eventually leaves a valuable estate to his grandson, Samuel Rogers, and presumably other property to his daughter, who seems to have been an only child. A few years later, James Rogers appears at Milford. His wife joins the Congregational church there in 1645, and he himself joins this church in 1652.

He has evidently been a baker on a large scale for some time previous to 1655, at which date complaint is made to the General Court in regard to a quantity of biscuit furnished by him, which was exported to Virginia and the Barbadoes, upon which occasion he states that the flour furnished by the miller for this bread was not properly ground. The miller substantially admits that he did not at that time understand the correct manner of grinding.

In the course of ten years, Milford proves too small a port for the operations of this enterprising and energetic man, whose business includes supplies to seamen and troops. Governor Winthrop is holding out inducements for him to settle at New London. In 1656 he is empowered by the General Court to sell his warehouse at Milford, with his other property, provided said building be used only as a warehouse. He now begins to purchase valuable lands and houses at New London, and so continues for many years, frequently adding some choice house-lot, Indian clearing, meadow-land, pasture or woodland to his possessions. In 1659 he sells to Francis Hall, an attorney of Fairfield, “all” his “lands, commons and houses in Stratford, Milford and New Haven.” – (History of Stratford. )

At New London, in addition to his large baking business, he has charge of the town mill, by lease from Governor Winthrop, at the head of an inlet called Winthrop’s Cove and forming Winthrop’s Neck, which neck comprises the home lot of the governor. That James Rogers may build his house near the mill,1 the Governor conveys to him a piece of his own land adjoining, upon which Mr. Rogers builds a stone dwelling. He also builds a stone bakery by the cove and has a wharf at this point.

The long Main street of the town takes a sharp turn around the head of the cove, past the mill and to the house of the Governor, the latter standing on the east side of the cove, within a stone’s throw of the mill.

The native forest is all around, broken here and there by a patch of pasture or planting ground. One of the main roads leading into the neighboring country runs southerly five miles to the Great Neck, a large, level tract of land bordering Long Island Sound. Another principal country road runs northerly from the mill, rises a long hill, and, after the first two or three miles, is scarcely more than an Indian trail, extending five miles to Mohegan, the headquarters of Uncas and his tribe. Upon this road are occasional glimpses, through the trees, of the “Great River” (later the Thames).

James Rogers is soon not only the principal business man of this port, but, next to the Governor, the richest man in the colony. His property in the colony much exceeds that of the Governor. He is prominent in town and church affairs, he and his wife having joined the New London church; also frequently an assistant at the Superior Court and deputy at the General Court. His children are receiving a superior education for the time, as becomes their father’s means and station. Life and activity are all about these growing youth, at the bakery, at the mill, at the wharf. Many are the social comings and goings, not only to and from the Governor’s house, just beside them, but to and from their own house. His extensive business dealings and his attendance at court have brought James Rogers in contact with intelligent and prosperous men all over the colony, among whom he is a peer. His education is good, if not superior, for the time. He numbers among his personal friends some of the principal planters in this colony and neighboring colonies.

1666.

In 1666 James Rogers retires from active business. His sons Samuel and Joseph are capable young men past their majority. Samuel is well fitted to take charge of the bakery. Joseph inclines to the life of a country gentleman. John, an active youth of eighteen, is the scholar of the family. He writes his father’s deeds and other business documents, which indicates some knowledge of the law. Besides being sons of a rich man, these are exceptionally capable young men. That there is no stain upon their reputations is indicated by the favor with which they are regarded by certain parents of marriageable daughters. In this year occurs the marriage of Samuel to the daughter of Thomas Stanton, who is a prominent man in the colony and interpreter between the General Court and the Indians. The parents of each make a handsome settlement upon the young people, James Rogers giving his son the stone dwelling-house and the bakery. This young man has recently sold the farm received from his grandfather, Samuel Rowland. Having also grants from the town and lands from his father (to say nothing of gifts from Owaneco), together with a flourishing business, Samuel Rogers is a rich man at an early age.

Somewhat before the marriage of Samuel, his father, in anticipation of this event, established himself upon the Great Neck, on a farm bought in 1660, of a prominent settler named Obadiah Bruen. This is one of the old Indian planting grounds so valuable in these forest days. Yet James Rogers does not reside long on the beautiful bank of Robin Hood’s Bay (now Jordan Cove), for in this same year his son Joseph, not yet twenty-one years of age, receives this place, “the farm where I now dwell” and also “all my other lands on the Great Neck,” as a gift from his father. All the “other lands” being valuable, this is a large settlement. (It appears to mark the year of Joseph’s marriage, although the exact date and also the name of the bride are unknown. The residence of James Rogers for the next few years is uncertain; it is not unlikely that he takes up his abode in one of his houses in town, or possibly at the Mamacock farm, on the Mohegan road and the “Great River,” which place was formerly granted by the town to the Rev. Mr. Blinman, and, upon the latter’s removal from New London, was purchased by Mr. Rogers.)

1670.

Matthew Griswold is a leading member in the church of Saybrook. He resides close by the Sound, at Lyme, on a broad sweep of low-lying meadows called Blackhall, which is but a small portion of his landed estate. His wife is a daughter of Henry Wolcott, one of the founders and principal men of Windsor, and a prominent man in the colony. Matthew Griswold is, like James Rogers, a frequent assistant and deputy. There are many proofs that he and his wife are persons of much family pride, and not without good reasons for the same. When, in 1670, they enter into an agreement with James Rogers for the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth to his son John, it is doubtless with the knowledge that this is a very promising young man, as well as the son of a wealthy and generous father.

How far from the mind of the young lover, when, on the night before the happy day when he is to call Elizabeth his bride, he pens the writing which is to give her the Mamacock farm, recently presented to him by his father, is a thought of anything that can part them until death itself. To this writing he adds: “I do here farther engage not to carry her out of the colony of Connecticut.” This sentence goes to prove the great fondness of the parents for this daughter, her own loving desire to live always near them, and the ready compliance of the young lover with their wishes. He marries her at Blackhall, October 17, and takes her to the beautiful river farm which upon that day becomes her own. He does not take her to the farmhouse built by Mr. Blinman, but to a new and commodious dwelling, close by the Mohegan road, whose front room is 20 by 20, and whose big fireplaces, in every room, below and above, will rob the wintry blasts of their terror . The marriage settlement upon the young couple, by James Rogers and Matthew Griswold, includes provisions, furniture, horses, sheep, and kine.

1673.

In 1673, James Rogers, Jr., is of age. No large gift of land to this young man is recorded; for which reason it seems probable that his principal portion in the lifetime of his father is the good ship of which he is master. His ability to navigate and command a foreign bound vessel at such an age is sufficient guarantee of the skill and enterprise of this youth. In 1674, the young shipmaster has (according to tradition in that branch of the family  – Caulkins) among his passengers to Connecticut a family emigrating from Ireland, one member of which is an attractive young woman twenty years of age. Before the vessel touches port, the young captain and his fair passenger are betrothed, and the marriage takes place soon after.

1674.

Although John Rogers resides at Mamacock farm, he is by no means wholly occupied in the care of that place; a young man of his means has capable servants. As for years past, he is actively interested in business, both for his father and himself. At Newport, in the year 1674, he meets with members of the little Sabbatarian church of that place, recently started by a few devout and earnest students of the Bible, who having, some years before, perceived that certain customs of the Congregational churches have no precedent or authority in Scripture, resolved to follow these customs no longer, but to be guided solely by the example and precepts of Christ and his apostles. In attempting to carry out this resolve, they renounced and denounced sprinkling and infant baptism and attached themselves to the First Baptist Church of Newport. About 1665, they were led, by the teachings of Stephen Mumford, a Sabbatarian from England, to discern in the first day Sabbath the authority of man and not of God. Under this persuasion, the little company came out of the First Baptist Church, of Newport, and formed the Sabbatarian Church of that place. Mr. Thomas Hiscox is pastor of this little church, and Mr. Samuel Hubbard and his wife (formerly among the founders of the First Congregational Church of Springfield, Mass.) are among its chief members. During this year, under the preaching and teachings of this church, John Rogers is converted.

Hitherto this young man and his wife Elizabeth have been members of the regular church, as ordinary membership is accounted, and their two children have been baptized in that church, at New London. If children of professed Christians, baptized in childhood, lead an outwardly moral life, attend the stated worship and otherwise conform to the various church usages, this is sufficient to constitute them, as young men and young women, members in good and regular standing. The daughter of Elder Matthew Griswold has been as ignorant of the work of regeneration as has been the son of James Rogers.

The conversion of John Rogers was directly preceded by one of those sudden and powerful convictions of sin so frequently exemplified in all ages of the Christian church, and so well agreeing with Scriptural statements regarding the new birth. Although leading a prominently active business life, in a seaport town, from early youth, and thus thrown among all classes of men and subjected to many temptations, this young man has given no outward sign of any lack of entire probity. Whatever his lapses from exact virtue, they have occasioned him no serious thought, until, by the power of this conversion, he perceives himself a sinner. Under this deep conviction the memory of a certain youthful error weighs heavily upon his conscience

He has at this time one confidant, his loving, sympathetic and deeply interested young wife, who cordially welcomes the new light from Newport. In the candid fervor of his soul, he tells her all, even the worst he knows of himself, and that he feels in his heart that, by God’s free grace, through the purifying blood of Jesus Christ, even his greatest sin is washed away and forgiven.

Does this young woman turn, with horror and aversion, from the portrayal of this young man’s secret sin? By no means. she is not only filled with sympathy for his deep sorrow and contrition, but rejoices with him in his change of heart and quickened conscience. More than this, understanding that even one as pure as herself may be thus convicted of sin and thus forgiven and reborn, she joins with him in prayer that such may be her experience also. They study the New Testament together, and she finds, as he has said, that there is here no mention of a change from a seventh to a first day Sabbath, and no apparent warrant for infant baptism, but the contrary; the command being first to believe and then to be baptized. Other things they find quite contrary to the Congregational way. In her ardor, she joins with him to openly declare these errors in the prevailing belief and customs.

Little is the wonder that to Elder Matthew Griswold and his wife the news that their daughter and her husband are openly condemning the usages of the powerful church of which they, and all their relatives, are such prominent members, comes like a thunderbolt. Their own daughter is condemning even the grand Puritan Sabbath and proposes to work hereafter upon that sacred day and to worship upon Saturday. They find that her husband has led Elizabeth into this madness. They accuse and upbraid him, they reason and plead with him. But all in vain. He declares to them his full conviction that this is the call and enlightenment of the Lord himself. Moreover, was it not the leading resolve of the first Puritans to be guided and ruled only by the Word of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ? Did they not warn their followers to maintain a jealous watchfulness against any belief, decree or form of worship not founded upon the Scriptures? Did they not urge each to search these Scriptures for himself? He has searched these Scriptures, and Elizabeth with him, and they have found a most astonishing difference between the precepts and example of Christ and the practice and teachings of the Congregational church.

Elder Matthew Griswold is ready with counter arguments on the Presbyterian side. But “the main instrument” by which Elizabeth is restored to her former church allegiance is her mother, the daughter of Henry Wolcott. This lady is sister of Simon Wolcott, who is considered one of the handsomest, most accomplished and most attractive gentlemen of his day. Although she may have similar charms and be a mother whose judgment a daughter would highly respect, yet she is evidently one of the last from whom could be expected any deviation, in belief or practice, from the teachings and customs of her father’s house. That her daughter has been led to adopt the notions of these erratic Baptists is, to her mind, a disgrace unspeakable. She soon succeeds in convincing Elizabeth that this is no influence of the Holy Spirit, as declared by John Rogers, but a device of the Evil One himself. Under such powerful counter representations, on the part of her relatives and acquaintances, as well as by later consideration of the social disgrace attendant upon her singular course, Elizabeth is finally led to publicly recant her recently avowed belief, despite the pleadings of her husband. At the same time, she passionately beseeches him to recant also, declaring that unless he will renounce the evil spirit by which he has been led, she cannot continue to live with him. He, fully persuaded that he has been influenced by the very Spirit of God, declares that he cannot disobey the divine voice within his soul.

One sad day, after such a scene as imagination can well picture, this young wife prepares herself, her little girl of two years and her baby boy, for the journey to Blackhall, with the friends who have come to accompany her. Even as she rides away, hope must be hers that, after the happy home is left desolate, her husband will yield to her entreaties. Not so with him as he sees depart the light and joy of Mamacock, aye, Mamacock itself which he has given her. He drinks the very dregs of this cup without recoil. He parts with wife and children and lands, for His name’s sake. Well he knows in his heart, that for him can be no turning. And what can he now expect of the Griswolds?

Although his own home is deserted and he will no more go cheerily to Blackhall, there is still a place where dear faces light at his coming. It is his father’s house. Here are appreciative listeners to the story of his recent experiences and convictions; father and mother, brothers and sisters, are for his sake reading the Bible anew. They find exact Scripture warrant for his sudden, deep conviction of sin and for his certainty that God has heard his fervent prayers, forgiven his sins and bestowed upon him a new heart. They find no Scripture warrant for a Sabbath upon the first day of the week, nor for baptism of other than believers, nor for a specially learned and aristocratic ministry. They, moreover, see no authority for the use of civil power to compel persons to religious observances, and such as were unknown to the early church, and no good excuse for the inculcating of doctrines and practices contrary to the teachings of Christ and his apostles. Shortly, James, the young shipmaster, has an experience similar to that of his brother, as has also an Indian by the name of Japhet. This Indian is an intelligent and esteemed servant in the family of James Rogers, Sr.

At this time, the home of James Rogers is upon the Great Neck. By some business agreement, his son Joseph resigned to his father, in 1670, the lands upon this Neck which had been given him in 1666. In this year (1674), his father reconfirms to him the property bought of Obadiah Bruen, by Robin Hood’s Bay. The younger children, Jonathan and Elizabeth, are still at home with their parents. Bathsheba and her family are living near, on the Great Neck, as are also Captain James and his family.

Although John may still lay some claim to Mamacock farm, while awaiting legal action on the part of the Griswolds, it can be no home to him in these days of bitter bereavement. Warm hearts welcome him to his father’s house, by the wide blue Sound, and here he takes up his abode. Never a man of his temperament but loved the sea and the wind, the sun and the storm, the field and the wood. All of these are here. Here, too, is his “boat,” evidently as much a part of the man as his horse. No man but has a horse for these primitive distances, and in this family will be none but the best of steeds and boats in plenty.

Near the close of this eventful year, Mr. James Rogers sends for Mr. John Crandall to visit at his house. Mr. Crandall has, for some time, been elder of the Baptist church at Westerly, an offshoot of the Baptist church of Newport. He has recently gone over with his flock to the Sabbatarian church of Newport. If the subject of possible persecution in Connecticut is brought up, who can better inspire the new converts with courage for such an ordeal than he who has been imprisoned and whipped in Boston for daring to avow his disbelief in infant baptism and his adherence to the primitive mode by immersion? The conference is so satisfactory, that Mr Crandall baptizes John Rogers, his brother James, and the servant Japhet.  (Letter of Mr. Hubbard.)

News of the baptism of these young men into the Anabaptist faith by Mr. Crandall, at their father’s house, increases the comment and excitement already started in the town. The minister, Mr. Simon Bradstreet, expresses a hope that the church will “take a course” with the Rogers family. The Congregational churches at large are greatly alarmed at this startling innovation in Connecticut. The tidings travel fast to Blackhall, dispelling any lingering hope that John Rogers may repent of his erratic course. Immediately after this occurrence, his wife, by the aid of her friends, takes steps towards securing a divorce and the guardianship of her children. From her present standpoint, her feelings and action are simply human, even, in a sense, womanly. He who is to suffer will be the last to upbraid her, his blame will be for those who won her from his view to theirs, from the simple word of Scripture to the iron dictates of popular ecclesiasticism. If John Rogers and his friends know anything as yet of the plot on the part of the Griswolds to make the very depth of his repentance for an error of his unregenerate youth an instrument for his utter disgrace and bereavement, their minds are not absorbed at this time with matters of such worldly moment.

1675.

In March, 1675, James Rogers, Sr., and his family send for Elder Hiscox, Mr. Samuel Hubbard and his son Clarke, of the Sabbatarian church of Newport, to visit them. Before the completion of this visit, Jonathan Rogers (twenty years of age) is baptized. Following this baptism, John, James, Japhet and Jonathan are received as members of the Sabbatarian church of Newport, by prayer and laying on of hands. (Letter of Mr. Hubbard.)

This consummation of John’s resolves brings matters to a hasty issue on the part of the Griswolds, in lines already planned. There is no law by which a divorce can be granted on account of difference in religious views. In some way this young man’s character must be impugned, and so seriously as to afford plausible grounds for divorcement. How fortunate that, at the time of his conversion, he made so entire a confidant of his wife. Fortunate, also, that his confession was a blot that may easily be darkened, with no hindrance to swearing to the blot. At this time, the young woman’s excited imagination can easily magnify that which did not appear so serious in the calm and loving days at Mamacock, even as with tear-wet eyes he told the sorrowful story of his contrition. Thus are laid before the judges of the General Court, representations to the effect that this is no fit man to be the husband of Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold. The judges, lawmakers and magistrates of Connecticut belong to the Congregational order  – the only élite and powerful circle of the time; this, taken in connection with the unfavorable light in which the  Rogers are now regarded in such quarters, is greatly to the Griswold advantage.

Yet, despite aversion and alarm on the part of the ruling dignitaries regarding the new departure and the highly colored petition that has been presented to the court by the daughter of Matthew Griswold, there is such evident proof that the petitioner is indulging an intensity of bitterness bordering upon hatred towards the man who has refused, even for her sake, to conform to popular belief and usages, that the judges hesitate to take her testimony, even under oath. Moreover, the only serious charge in this document rests solely upon the alleged declaration of John Rogers against himself, in a private conference with his wife. This charge, however, being represented in the character of a crime  (under the early laws), is sufficient for his arrest. Very soon after his reception into the Sabbatarian church, the young man is seized and sent to Hartford for imprisonment, pending the decision of the grand jury.

Although John Rogers has been a member of the Sabbatarian church but a few weeks, he is already pastor of a little church on the Great Neck (under the Newport church) of which his father, mother, brothers and sisters are devout attendants, together with servants of the family and neighbors who have become interested in the new departure. Who will preach to this little congregation, while its young pastor is in Hartford awaiting the issue of the Griswold vengeance? Of those who have received baptism, James is upon the “high seas,” in pursuance of his calling, and Jonathan is but a youth of twenty. Yet Mr. James Rogers does not permit the Seventh Day Sabbath of Christ and His disciples to pass unobserved. The little congregation gather at his house, as usual, and sit in reverent silence, as in the presence of the Lord. Perchance the Holy Spirit will inspire some among them to speak or to pray. They are not thus gathered because this is the Quaker custom, for they are not Quakers; they are simply following a distinct command of the Master and awaiting the fulfilment of one of His promises.

William Edmundson, the Quaker preacher, driven by a storm into New London harbor on a Saturday in May, 1675, goes ashore there and endeavors to gather a meeting, but is prevented by the authorities. Hearing there are some Baptists five miles from town, who hold their meetings upon that day, he feels impressed with a desire to visit them. Meeting with two men of friendly inclinations, who are willing to accompany him, he goes to the Great Neck and finds there this little congregation, assembled as described, “with their servants and negroes,” sitting in silence. At first (according to his account) they appear disturbed at the arrival of such unexpected guests; but, upon finding this stranger only a friendly Quaker, they welcome them cordially.

After sitting with them a short time in silence, the Quaker begins to question them in regard to their belief and to expound to them some of the Quaker doctrines. He sees they are desirous of a knowledge of God and finds them very “ready” in the Scriptures. He endeavors to convince them that after the coming of Christ a Sabbath was no longer enjoined, Christ having ended the law and being the rest of His people; also that the ordinance of water baptism should long ago have ended, being superseded by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Although in no way convinced (as is afterwards fully demonstrated), they listen courteously to his arguments and to the prayer that follows. Not only so, but, by his declaration, they are “very tender and loving.” The next day, this zealous Quaker, having obtained leave of a man in New London, who is well inclined towards the Quakers, to hold a meeting at his house, finds among his audience several of the little congregation on the Great Neck. In the midst of this meeting, the constable and other officers appear, and break it up forcibly, with rough handling and abuse, much to the indignation of those who have been anxious to give Mr. Edmundson a fair hearing.

The week after his visit to New London, Mr. Edmundson is at an inn in Hartford, where he improves an opportunity to present certain Quaker doctrines to some of those stopping there, and judges that he has offered unanswerable arguments in proof that every man has a measure of the Spirit of Christ. Suddenly, a young man in the audience rises and argues so ably upon the other side as to destroy the effect of Mr. Edmundson’s discourse. This leads the latter to a private interview’ with his opponent, whose name he finds to be John Rogers, and who proves to be “pastor” of the people whose meeting he had attended at New London, on the Great Neck. He also learns from this pastor that he was summoned to Hartford, to appear before the Assembly, for the reason that, since he became a Baptist, the father of his wife, who is of the ruling church, had been violently set against him and was, endeavoring to secure a divorce for his daughter on plea of a confession made to her by himself regarding “an ill fact” in his past life, “before he was her husband and while he was one of their church,” with which, “under sorrow and trouble of mind,” he “had acquainted her” and “which she had divulged to her father.”

Mr. Edmundson informs the young man that he has been with his people at New London and “found them loving and tender.” -(Journal of Mr. Edmundson.)

Since John Rogers remains at the inn for the night, he is evidently just released from custody. So interwoven were truth and misrepresentation in this case, that either admission or denial of the main charge must have been difficult, if not impossible, on the part of the accused. Moreover, there is for this young man, now and henceforth, no law, precedent or example, save such as he finds in the New Testament, through his Lord and Master. That Master, being asked to declare whether he was or was not the King of the Jews, a question of many possible phases and requiring such answer as his judges neither could nor would comprehend, answered only by silence. Ought this young man to repeat before these judges the exact statement made to his wife, in the sacred precincts of his own home, even if they would take the word of a despised Anabaptist like himself? It is not difficult to see the young man’s position and respect his entire silence, despite all efforts to make him speak out in regard to the accusation made by his wife in her petition.

The case before the grand jury having depended solely upon the word of a woman resolved upon divorce and seeking ground for it, they returned that they “find not the bill,” and John Rogers was discharged from custody. Yet, in view of the representations of Elizabeth in her petition regarding her unwillingness, for the alleged reasons, to remain this young man’s wife, backed by powerful influence in her favor, the court gave her permission to remain with her children at her father’s for the present, “for comfort and preservation” until a decision be rendered regarding the divorce, by the General Court in October. No pains will be spared by the friends of Elizabeth to secure a favorable decision from this court.

The Rev. Mr. Bradstreet, bitter in his prejudice against the young man by whose influence has occurred such a departure from the Congregational church as that of James Rogers and his family and such precedent for the spread of anti-presbyterian views outside of Rhode Island, writes in his journal at this date: “He is now at liberty, but I believe he will not escape God’s judgment, though he has man’s.”

Mr. Bradstreet reveals in his journal knowledge that the charge advanced against this young man related to a period previous to his marriage and conversion, and rested upon a confession that he had made to his wife under conviction of sin and belief in the saving power of Christ, which cleanses the vilest sinner.1 Yet knowing this, he says: “I believe he will not escape God’s judgment.” Truly New England Puritan theology and the theology of the New Testament are strangely at variance in these days.

1684.

A youth is growing up at Lyme, in regard to whom Matthew Griswold and his daughter Elizabeth may well feel some concern, although it afterwards appears that he is one of the brightest and manliest boys in the colony. This is none other than John Rogers, Jr. For five years past, his mother has been the wife of Peter Pratt, of Lyme, who has a son by this marriage. That gentleman is doomed to suffer no little trouble of conscience in regard to his marriage to the wife of John Rogers, having himself come to doubt that any valid reasons for the divorce ever existed.1

In May, 1684, Matthew Griswold and his daughter petition the General Court “for power to order and dispose of John Rogers, Jr., John Rogers still continuing in his evil practises,” which “evil practices” “were set forth, in the previous permission of the court regarding the continuance of the children of John Rogers with their mother, in these words: ” he being so hettridox in his opinion and practice.” Their request is granted, the youth “to be apprenticed by them to some honest man.”

John Rogers, Jr., is now barely ten years of age, and must be a forward youth to be apprenticed so young, unless we suppose this a mere device to put him under stricter control of his mother’s family. He has surely heard nothing in favor of his father from those among whom he has been reared, unless perhaps from his stepfather. Yet neither mother nor grandparents can keep his young heart from turning warmly towards the dauntless nonconformist at New London.

If it has been hoped that, by another attempt at more heroic treatment than the spasmodic onslaughts of the town magistrates, a death-blow may yet be dealt to the Rogerenes, it must soon become evident that such is unlikely to be the case. Not only so, but there is danger that some of the principal members of the New London Congregational church, and those among the most moneyed, may be won over to the new persuasion. Samuel Beebe, Jr., eldest son of one of the most substantial citizens, has recently married Elizabeth, daughter of James Rogers, and is conforming to the faith and usages of that family. Several from the Congregational church have recently been rebaptized by the new sect.

1685.

The prospect of further injury to the New London church, as well as to general church conformity in the colony, becomes such that, in the spring of 1685, another resolute attempt is made by the New London authorities, “by advice of the Governor and Council,” to put a stop to the performance of servile labor on the first day of the week, as also baptism by immersion.

On Sunday, April 12, 1685, several of the leading spirits are imprisoned for working on the first day of the week. The court records show that some of these escape, and enter the meeting-house in time of public service, to denounce such persecution of followers of the Lord, by those who pretend to worship in His name.

Two days after (April 14), John Rogers, Capt. James Rogers, Samuel Beebe, Jr., and Joanna Way are complained of before the County Court for servile work in general upon the first day of the week “and particularly upon the last first day (12th), although they have and may enjoy their persuasion undisturbed” (here is a revelation of the fact that their Saturday meetings have not been .interrupted of late, and possibly not since the institution of the countermove in 1678); also “for coming into town at several times to rebaptize persons” and “for recently disturbing public worship,” and because “they go on still to disturb and give disturbance.”

Upon examination, John Rogers is found guilty of servile work upon that first day and on many others, “by his own confession,” and “will yet go on to do it,” regardless of the law forbidding. The court also finds him guilty of “disturbing God’s people in time of public worship.” For all this, they order that he receive fifteen lashes upon the naked body. He is then complained of for baptizing a person contrary to law, “having no authority so to doe,” for which he is fined £5.

Captain James is complained of for servile work, “by his own confession,” that he worked on the last Sunday, “and would doe it again.” Also he came into the meeting-house, in time of worship, “where he behaved himself in a frantick manner to the amazing of some and causing some women to swounde away,” for which he is to have fifteen lashes on the naked body. He is also fined £5 for baptizing a negro woman.

Samuel Beebe is complained of for work on the first day and for declaring that he will continue in that practice as long as he lives. He also is to receive fifteen lashes on the naked body and to pay a fine of £5, although he is charged neither with disturbance of meeting nor with baptizing. Why this double punishment, unless because this young man has recently left the Congregational church to join the nonconformists? Such punishment may intimidate others who are thus inclined. That “discretion” granted the judges appears very prominent in this case.

Joanna Way, for servile work, for declaring that she will still continue in that practice, and for giving disturbance in the meeting-house, is sentenced to receive fifteen lashes on the naked body.

Here we find four persons, one of them a woman, receiving fifteen lashes each on the naked body for working on the first day, while keeping the seventh day, and for venturing the one sure mode of holding their persecutors in check.

In this disturbance of the meeting, Capt. James Rogers is the only one accounted guilty of “amazing” the congregation and causing women to “swounde.” He is not charged with having attempted any violence in the church, and has before this become a convert to the peaceable doctrines of the Quakers. The court record gives no hint of the words used on this occasion by Captain James, or why the women were induced to “swounde.”

Despite the £5 fine, in less than two months thereafter (June) John Rogers is complained of for baptizing, found guilty, “on his own confession,” and again fined £5.

(Although the Rogerenes continue steadfastly and openly to perform servile labor on the first day of the week, as well as to baptize, there appears no further arraignment before the court for these causes for a good while to come; the entrance into the meeting-house, April 12, 1685, proving, like the entrance of 1678, an effectual check upon their enemies.)

About the first of June of this same year, messengers are sent to New London from the Sabbatarian church at Newport, “to declare against two or more of them that were of us who are declined to Quakerism, of whom be thou aware, for by their principles they will travel by land and by sea to make disciples, yea sorry ones too. Their names are John and James Rogers and one Donham.”<  What have these two young men been doing now ? They have ventured to adopt and to preach the principle of non-resistance, and so, by this long-forward step, have “declined to Quakerism.” This adoption of peace principles appears, in the estimation of the gentle and saintly Mr. Hubbard,  recorder of the above bulletin,  to have completed their downfall. He sufficiently expresses the attitude of the Newport church towards Quakers and their non-resistant principles. John and James Rogers have not been to the Quakers to learn these principles, but have taken them directly from the New Testament, where the Quakers themselves found them.

That John and James have been baptizing persons in the town, and probably at the very mill cove where John, over seven years before, baptized his sister-in-law, is apparent. Captain James is not only baptizing, but also, as shown by Mr. Hubbard’s letter, preaching and proselyting. Mr. Hubbard does not complain of his baptizing or preaching, by which it appears that he did these in Sabbatarian order, but only of his preaching a Quaker doctrine. The names of John and Captain James still remain on the roll of membership of the Newport church. To drop them for preaching the pacific principles of the Gospel is no easier than to drop them for having accepted the principle of healing by prayer and faith as set forth in that Gospel.

In this year, Elizabeth, daughter of John Rogers, now fourteen years of age, is, at her own request, allowed by her mother and the Griswolds to return to her father; she who left him a child of three years. She is still the only daughter of her mother, and, by affirmation of both her brothers, John Rogers, 2d, and Peter Pratt: a most lovable character.

Her free committal of this girl child to the care and training of John Rogers, gives proof conclusive that “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold,” however she may disapprove of her former husband’s religious course, knows well of the uprightness of his character and the kindness of his heart.

1687.

In December, 1687, “Elizabeth, former wife of John Rogers,” resigns her claim to Mamacock, on condition of certain payments, in instalments, signing herself, “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold”   (New London Records.)

1688.

James Rogers, Sr., is in declining health and fast nearing the end. November 17, 1687, he was unable to sign a deed of exchange of land. It was Witnessed as his act by his sons John and James. Administration on his estate commences September, 1688. He leaves a large estate to his children, all of whom have received bountiful gifts from him in his lifetime, and all of whom are intelligent, conscientious, temperate and industrious.

While James Rogers was leading the busy life of a man of varied interests, worldly honor for his children must have been as much a stimulus as the accumulation for their sakes of money and of lands. That honor was relinquished in the cause which he and his espoused.

The esteem in which this man and his wife have been held is shown, among other things, by the failure of the Congregational church to expel them. In fact, where could that church lay a finger upon any violation, on the part of these members, of the teachings of Him in whose name that church was founded? Their names remain on the roll of Congregational church members. Yet by brethren in that church they have been scorned and injured, and their children have been lashed for venturing to follow with exactness New Testament precepts and examples.

In trouble and sorrow, under the despotism that had assumed the very authority of that Lord whom he himself had learned to trust so unreservedly, the mortal life of James Rogers approached its close. Yet, wondrously upheld by faith in God the Father, Christ the Saviour, and the presence of that Comforter which had been promised to all true believers, he was enabled to look far beyond all earthly gain or losses, all worldly disappointment and the injustice and uncharitableness of men, to the eternal blessings and rewards of heaven. Although religious preambles to wills are not unusual at this period, they are generally of a set form, with slight variations; but that which James Rogers dictated, to his son John, was an evident expression of his religious faith couched in his own words: “I do know and ,see that my name is written in the book of life.” 1

A noticeable feature of this will is the evidently anxious intention of the testator that the court shall have as little as possible to do with the settlement of his estate, and that his children shall carefully avoid any litigation concerning it.

Five years elapsed between the writing of the will’ and the decease of the testator, and in the meantime a codicil was attached to it.

It is certainly very lamentable that even one of the children of James Rogers considered it necessary to set aside the last request of so loving and generous a father, by entering upon any suit at law in regard to the settlement of his estate, and this after the first so amicable agreement on the part of each to fully abide by the terms of the will. But it is still more lamentable that, through lack of careful examination into the facts of the case, those children who positively refrained from the slightest action contrary to this request of their father, should be included in the sweeping statement of the New London historian (Miss Caulkins): “his children, notwithstanding, engaged in long and acrimonious contention regarding boundaries, in the course of which earthly judges were often obliged to interfere and enforce settlement.”

[The including of all the children in this statement is not its only error; “earthly judges” being in no way “obliged to interfere” or “enforce,” otherwise than by carrying on in the usual manner the business presented to the court. Because of this erroneous statement, often quoted by other historians, it will be necessary to burden this work with exact note of every case in which any child of James Rogers has any connection with court dealings regarding the settlement of this estate, which settlement, on account of the longevity of the widow, extends over a long period, evidently much longer than was anticipated by the testator, she having been in an impaired condition for some time prior to his decease. This impairment appears to have been more of a mental than physical character, however, and of an intermittent description, indicating whole or partial recovery at intervals. When the intense strain upon mind and heart which this wife and mother must have endured ever since 1674 is considered, one cannot but suspect this to be the cause of an impairment of her mental powers while she still retained so much recuperative vigor even to unusual longevity.]

For some years previous to the date of his death, the home farm of James Rogers was upon that beautiful portion of the shore lands of the Great Neck called Goshen, and here his widow continues to reside. His son Jonathan’s place is adjoining on the south. Captain James lives in the same vicinity, and is now to have the Goshen farm lands, under the will. Although Bathsheba has a farm in this locality, received from her father, she appears to be living – with her children -at her mother’s, and her brother John is there also, with a life right in the house, under the will. Samuel Beebe resides in the same neighborhood, and Joseph at his Bruen place, near by, on Robin Hood’s Bay.

September 15, 1688, the widow executes a deed of trust (New London Probate Records) giving to her son John and daughter Bathsheba the oversight and management of the entire estate of her husband (it having been left subject to her needs for her lifetime), “even my whole interest,” fully agreeing to the complete execution of her husband’s will, as relating to herself, by these two children, according to the terms of the codicil, which gives the entire estate into their hands during the lifetime of the widow. Her son-in-law, Samuel Beebe, appears to be the justice on this occasion. Two persons, not of the family, testify to her “being apparently in her right mind,” and “speaking very reasonably.” All the children have previously entered into an agreement to carry out the plan of their father, as relates to settlement out of court, by executorship of Jolm and his guardianship, with Bathsheba, of their mother.

In this year Peter Pratt, second husband of Elizabeth Griswold, dies at Lyme, leaving her with a son who bears his name.

In this year also, Elizabeth, daughter of John Rogers, now seventeen years of age, is married, at her father’s home, to a young man named Stephen Prentis, the son of a principal planter of New London.

John Rogers, Jr., is permitted by his mother to attend the wedding of his sister. He is now, for the first time, with his father and his father’s family friends. It is an excellent opportunity for the boy of fourteen to make the acquaintance and judge of the characters of these relatives for himself. The result is that he elects to remain with his father, and soon obtains his mother’s permission to do so.  Thus ends the effort to keep the grandchildren of Mr. Matthew Griswold from the contaminating influence of John Rogers.

Account of the year 1688 should not close without mention of the appearance on this scene of a young dignitary well calculated to rekindle any flickering embers on either side of this controversy. Rev. Mr. Bradstreet having died, a new minister has been hired in the person of Gurdon Saltonstall, a young man inheriting the aristocratic and autocratic spirit of a family of rank and wealth without the gentler and more liberal qualities that adorned the character of his ancestor, Sir Richard Saltonstall.

Gurdon Saltonstall (1666-1724) Appointed the Connecticut colony's governor after Winthrop's death in 1707, and then reelected to the office annually until his own death.

Although only twenty-two years of age, he is already a rigid, uncompromising ecclesiastic, holding the authority and prestige of the Congregational church paramount, even beyond the ordinary acceptation of the time. There is such general opposition to church taxation in the community at this very time, that an attempt has recently been made to raise funds for the Congregational church by subscription, but the amount subscribed having proved very inadequate, the old method is continued. – (Caulkins.) This shows that Congregationalism in this town is, at the best, a yoke imposed upon a majority by a powerful minority. The effort, as well as the failure, to raise church money by subscription is ominous. Should such popular indifference continue, what may not befall the true church, with “hettridoxy” let loose in the land and Rhode Islandisms further overrunning the Colony?

It cannot be long before John Rogers and the zealous young advocate of Congregational rule are carefully observing and measuring each other. Fifty years ago, Congregationalist (“Independent”) leaders cropped their hair close to their heads and eschewed fine clothing; now, forsooth, nothing is too good for them, and their curling locks (wigs) are more conspicuous than those of the Cavaliers with whom Cromwell’s Roundheads fought to the death. This young man in fine ministerial garb, and with flowing wig, whom they have called to New London to preach the unworldly Gospel of Jesus Christ, is seemingly so immature that John Rogers, the man of forty, can afford to hold his peace for a space, while he goes his way, working upon the first day of the week and resting and preaching upon the seventh. The young minister, being on trial himself, awaiting ordination, cannot for some time to come venture very conspicuously on the war-path.

1690.

In 1690, extensive improvements are made in the Congregational church meeting-house. The interior is furnished with the approved style of pews, which are, as usual, assigned to the inhabitants of the town, those paying the highest rates having the highest seats. Accordingly, John Rogers and his brothers, and all the other Seventh Day people, have seats assigned them. In addition to the minister’s rates, they are assessed for these church improvements, which include a new bell. that all may be in good style for the ordination of Mr. Saltonstall. Of course, John Rogers and his followers do not pay these “rates”; but their cattle and other goods are seized and sold at auction, none of the extra proceeds being returned to them. As yet, however, there is no disturbance, although, in addition to the new rates, the town magistrates are imposing fines and inflicting punishments, from time to time, on the seventh day observers, “at their discretion.” (The terms of imprisonment of John Rogers aggregated over fifteen years, a very much longer time than the total recorded on court records. This indicates an extraordinary exercise of the delegated power accorded to local officials in his case.)

While the period of calm (upon the court records) since the last (and second) entry into the meeting-house, in 1685, is still continuing, and before the young ecclesiastic is in a position to begin his attack, let us take a general glance at the Rogers family, and first at the enterprising and wealthy Samuel Rogers, allied by marriage to some of the most prominent Congregational church members in the colony, yet himself appearing to cultivate no intimate association with the New London church, the reason for which may well be divined. He is now making active preparations for leaving New London altogether, as soon as his son Samuel is old enough to assume control of the bakery, having chosen for his future home a large tract of land in the romantic wilds of Mohegan (New London “North Parish,” now Montville). He is a great favorite with the Mohegan chief, Owaneco, son of Uncas. The popularity of Samuel Rogers with the Indians is but one of many indications of the amiable and conciliatory character of this man. His simply standing aloof from the church against whose autocratic dictum his father and brothers judged it their duty to so strenuously rebel is characteristic of the man.

On the Great Neck, Jonathan Rogers and his wife, and those of their particular persuasion, are quietly holding their meetings on Saturday, paying their Congregational church rates with regularity, however unwillingly, and working on the first day in no very noticeable manner. There is frequent interchange of visits between them and the many relatives and friends of Naomi in Newport and Westerly.

Although Captain James and wife and Joseph and his wife seem to be adhering faithfully to the radical party, there are growing up in their family several young dissenters from the Seventh Day cause. Samuel Beebe and his wife Elizabeth remain firm in the Sabbatarian faith.

John Rogers, Jr., although brought up in the house of Mr. Matthew Griswold and kept carefully from all Rogers contamination, works on the days upon which his father works, rests on the day when his father rests, and in all other ways follows his father’s lead.

Bathsheba Smith ardently adheres to the religious departure instituted by her father and her brothers. Her son, James Smith, is fifteen years of age at this date. He and his cousin John, Jr., are well agreed to follow on in the faith. Among the children of his aunt Bathsheba there is one dearest of all to John, Jr.; this is Bathsheba Smith the younger.

Others of the third generation of Rogerses are now old enough to begin to observe, reason and choose for themselves. It is not surprising if, by this time, quite a number of Rogers lads, of the James and Joseph families, frequently enter the Congregational church, with other young people, and sit in the pews assigned to their fathers. The principles of John Rogers, Captain James and others of their persuasion would prevent the issue of any command tending to interfere with individual judgment and action in such matters, whatever the anxious attempt to instill strictly scriptural opinions and conduct, by precept and example.

1691.

Preparations for the ordination of the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall being completed, that event transpires, November, 1691. About a month after this ceremony, occurs the first tilt on record between John Rogers and the ecclesiastic. In this instance, the gauntlet is thrown by the dissenter, in the shape of a wig, on the occasion of a “Contribution to the Ministry.”

John Rogers has, apparently, beheld the magisterial headgear of the young minister as long as he feels called upon to do so without some expression of dissent regarding such an unwarrantable sign of Christian ostentation. The unwelcome gift is a peaceable yet significant remonstrance from the leader of a sect determined from the outset to fearlessly express disapproval of any assumption of practices or doctrines in the name of the Christian religion that are foreign to the teachings and example of Christ. One would think that both minister and congregation might be thankful that the additional “rates” (such as cattle and other goods beyond all reason) forcibly taken from the dissenters to fit the Congregational church edifice for its elegant, wigged minister had not brought a delegation of Rogerenes to the meeting-house, to orally complain of being forced to assist in this ordination.

That John Rogers so graciously makes the apology, which is speedily demanded of him for this token of dissent, and assents to its immortalization upon the town records, is explainable in no other way than because it gives him an opportunity of publicly emphasizing the gift and his reasons therefor. The covertly facetious wording of this Apology, amounting in short to a full re-expression of the donor’s sentiments in durable form, is a refreshing relief amid all the tragedy of this man’s life.

After the ordination of Mr. Saltonstall, his influence in this community, as a clergyman of unusual learning and ability, is fully established. He makes many friends both in and out of the colony, as a staunch and talented advocate of Congregational church rule, especially among the clergy, which is an element of great influence in the General Court, and other courts as well. He will soon be in a position to wreak upon John Rogers dire vengeance, not only for the wig, but for that general nonconformity so likely to disturb the ecclesiastical polity which it is his purpose to vigorously and uncompromisingly maintain.

In this year “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold,” marries Matthew Beckwith of Lyme, a man much older than herself, and eleven years the senior of her former husband, John Rogers.

1691.

The children of James Rogers having petitioned the General Court to divide their father’s estate according to his will,  which was entered on record with their agreement thereto, certain persons are now appointed to make this division. At the same time, the court “desire John Rogers and Bathsheba Smith doe take the part doth belong to widow Rogers under their care and dispose that a suitable maintainance for her, etc.”

1692.

In July, 1692, there is copied upon the land records a disposition by the widow of James Rogers of certain alleged rights in her husband’s estate, viz.: such rights as would have been hers by the will had there been no codicil thereto. In this document she claims a certain thirteen acres of land on the Great Neck  to dispose of as she “sees fit,” also all “moveables” left by her husband, with the exception of £10 willed therefrom to her daughter Elizabeth Beebe. She states that she has already sold one-half of this thirteen acres to her son-in-law, Samuel Beebe. By this singular document, she not only completely ignores the codicil to her husband’s will (already acknowledged by herself, by the other heirs and by the probate court), but her recorded deed of trust, by which, in 1688, she placed her entire life interest in the estate in charge of John and Bathsheba, whose guardianship under the will had also, by agreement of all the children, been confirmed by the General Court. In the month previous to this singular act of the widow, the committee appointed by the court, to divide the estate according to the will, announced their division, adding “when John and Bathsheba shall pay out of the moveable estate  to Eliz. Beebe the sum of £10,” “if the widow so order,” the remainder of the estate, real and personal, shall “remain under the care and management of John and Bathsheba during their mother’s life for her honorable maintainance,” also that, after decease of the widow, the real estate and what shall remain of the personal estate be disposed of according to the will of the testator.

There was a distinct blunder in the words “if the widow so order” regarding the payment of the £10; since the will distinctly says that the £10 are to be paid by the widow to Elizabeth (“out of the moveables”) ” if she sees good, with the advice of my son John,” and the codicil makes no change in regard to this clause. The report of the committee omits the advice of John in this matter, which omission probably seemed not very important to any one at the time. (It will later appear that serious results ensue from this apparently slight and inadvertent court error. )

About this time, the widow gives to Elizabeth Beebe (as afterwards appears) the estimate of the £10, in the shape of a little colored girl named Joan, who is classed in the movable estate, and she does this without “the consent of my son John.” In so doing, she not only ignores the will of her husband regarding the advice of John, but also the erroneous wording of the committee’s report that this £10 is to be paid by John and Bathsheba, at her direction. Had she but permitted these guardians and executors to pay the £10, Joan would not have figured in the transaction, it being no part of the intention of John and Bathsheba (as will later appear) that any of their father’s slaves should be sold or given away to remain in lifelong bondage. The two executors and guardians make no complaint to the court of these irregular actions on the part of their mother, or of the wrong wording of the recent report of the committee (nor shall we in any instance find them deviating by a hair’s breadth from the request of their father to make no appeal regarding his estate to earthly judges, although such appeal at this early stage would have saved incalculable trouble hereafter). However, Joan is not given over by them to Elizabeth Beebe.

Another part of the erratic document of the widow is that after her death all the “moveables” shall be divided between her son Jonathan and her daughter Elizabeth, again totally ignoring the codicil of the will, which speaks only of John, Bathsheba and Captain James as being concerned in the division of “the moveables” after her death, except that Elizabeth is to have “three cows.”

Although the widow has evidently the encouragement and assistance of Samuel Beebe in this proceeding, there is no appearance of any complicity on the part of Jonathan, who exactly conforms to the terms of the will and the executorship of John. Captain James makes no complaint to the court of the fact that Samuel Beebe is already claiming, under this procedure of the widow, a piece of land which is a part of the farm given to himself by the will, for which he is paying rent to his mother by order of the executor. He quietly makes a temporary sale of the thirteen acres to an attorney, of which sale Samuel Beebe complains (New London Records), but evidently in vain.

This is but the beginning of annoyances which certain children of James Rogers are to endure, on account of their determination not to disobey their father’s request in regard to any appeal to “earthly judges.” Little could the testator foresee that his attempt to keep his estate out of the court would be the very means of litigation, through the vagaries of his mentally diseased widow, unchecked by appeal to the court on the one hand, and encouraged by interested parties on the other.

1693.

Before the close of the year 1693, John Rogers is fined £4 for entertaining two Quakers at his house “for a month or more.” He has (by the testimony of his son, see above) no fellowship with these men, except as regards his concurrence in the doctrine of non-resistance and some few other particulars. For non-payment of this fine, he is in prison (and remains there well into the next year). This is but the beginning of more stringent measures than have prevailed since the disturbance of the Congregational meeting in 1685, which seems to have won a seven years’ respite from severe persecution.

As yet, the ambitious young minister, Gurdon Saltonstall, appears to have found no good opportunity for attempting to suppress this intractable man. But if John Rogers is to be prevented from continuing to scatter, broadcast, doctrines so subversive to a state church, he should be checked without further delay. In this lapse of severer and more public discipline on the part of the authorities, he has been gathering more converts from the Congregational fold, and has even grown so bold as to come into the very heart of the town to preach his obnoxious doctrines. Prominent citizens, who ought to be above countenancing him, are not only among his hearers, but among his converts.

Samuel Fox, a member of the Congregational church and one of the most prosperous business men of the place, has recently married the widow Bathsheba Smith and adopted her faith. He may be very influential in gaining more such followers, unless deterrent measures are soon taken. How long could the Congregational church be maintained, on its present footing, if such a new birth as this man describes should be required before admission; aye, if any conversion other than turning from, or avoidance of, immoral practices be generally insisted upon? Moreover, this ranting against “hireling ministers” is of itself calculated to weaken and destroy a capable and orderly ministry, to say nothing of baptism by immersion, administering the communion in the evening (after the example of Christ), the nonsensical doctrine of non-resistance, and the rest of this man’s fanatical notions, all of which, strange to say, are attracting favorable attention in intelligent quarters. There is Mr. Thomas Young, for instance, a man of the highest respectability, and allied to some of the best families in the church and the place; it is even understood that John Rogers is to be invited to preach at his house.

But what shall be done with the man? Despite the regular fine of £5, he goes right on with his baptisms and rebaptisms, sometimes on the very day he is released from imprisonment on this account. Fines and imprisonments for other offenses, also, hold him in check only so long as he is in prison. Moreover, the grand jurymen and other officials have become very indulgent regarding his offenses; certain of them appear to connive in leaving him undisturbed in his defiance of ecclesiastical laws. By what means can he be kept in durance long enough to lose his singular and growing popularity; or how can he be put out of sight and hearing altogether?

At least one aspect is encouraging; some of the Rogers young people are inclining towards the Congregational church, in spite of their elders James, Jr., (son of Captain James), is evidently not in sympathy with the family departure. Let us make much of this young man; he seems a right sensible fellow. Joseph’s sons, with the exception of James (the eldest), appear to be well inclined also. In fact, John Rogers himself is the only one of the original dissenters who is causing any very serious disturbance nowadays. Something of this kind is likely enough to be passing in the mind of Mr. Saltonstall.

In this year, 1693, another difficulty occurs regarding the settlement of the James Rogers estate. The persons appointed to divide the land among the children according to the terms of the will have given Jonathan a farm, “with house thereon,” which was included in the lands given to Joseph by his father in 1666. Joseph (as has been shown) resigned all of this gift of land to his father in 1670, but the latter redeeded the most (or supposedly all) of it back to him in 1683. Joseph appears to have understood that this farm was included in the second deed of gift, and it is probable that his father supposed it to have been thus included, by the terms of the deed. Upon examination, however, the committee have decided that this farm remains a part of the estate of the testator, and, by the terms of the will regarding the division of the residue of land between James and Jonathan, it falls to Jonathan. Naturally, Jonathan has nothing to do but to take what is accorded to him by the decision of those to whom the division has been entrusted, who have divided it to the best of their knowledge and ability. Although Joseph is in much the same position, acquiescence in his case is far less easy. He does not find any fault with the will, but simply claims this farm as his own by the deed of gift of his father, and arbiters are appointed to decide the matter. These men appear to labor under no small difficulty in concluding to which of the two the farm should really belong, but finally decide in favor of Jonathan. Joseph is unwilling to abide by this decision, asserting that some of the evidence on the other side has not been of a fair character. Consequently the case is reopened, with considerable favor shown, on the part of the court, to the representations of Joseph. Jonathan’s part in the case is to present evidence in favor of his right to the property awarded to him; so that he cannot be said to have gone to law in the matter.

(This attempt of Joseph to regain a farm he had supposed to be his own, is the sole “contention regarding boundaries,” which was ascribed by Miss Caulkins to the “children.” It in no way concerns the executor, who had no part whatever in designating the boundaries or dividing the land. Joseph appears to have hesitated at first to make any move in the matter; the opening protest was made in 1692 by his wife, in regard to the deed by which her husband returned to his father (in 1670) the first gift of land.)

1694.

The time is now come for the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall to prove what he can do, to stay the progress of this nonconformist movement under the masterly leadership of John Rogers. It is not his intention to confine his efforts to the ineffectual methods heretofore employed, the most public of which have been presentation of leading Rogerenes before the County Court, a procedure that, for some reason (at this date quite obscure), is sure to provoke the dreaded countermove, which has each time accomplished so much for the nonconformists.

The brilliant plan finally matured by Mr. Saltonstall is to capture John Rogers and imprison him at a distance from New London. As in many another contest, the fall of the leader is the death of the cause, or the longer he can be separated from his followers the more will their cause be weakened and the greater the check to his proselyting career, which is just now so alarmingly in the ascendant. There are many dignitaries who share such sentiments with Mr. Saltonstall. A satisfactory plan being matured, it can readily be carried out. Such a plan (which is gradually disclosed in the sequence of events) may be outlined as follows:

For the first part of the program, resort will he had to the old apprehension for servile labor, with arraignment before the County Court. It is presumable, according to precedent, that this will be sufficient to bring out the countermove, which will result in a large fine – with larger bond for good behavior – payment of which being refused, as it undoubtedly will be, the bird will be fully secured in its first cage.

The second part of the plan is, having caught John Rogers in some expression of doctrine or sentiment that will furnish ground for his arrest as a preacher of an unwarrantable sort, to secure his trial before the Superior Court, with adverse verdict and imprisonment in Hartford jail.

According to such a plan; John Rogers will receive a double dose that may prove effectual. The two parts of this plan take place as nearly together as possible, the first standing in abeyance until evidence is secured for the second procedure. This evidence is obtained late in the month of February, 1694, Saturday the 24th.

Upon this date, John Rogers is holding a meeting in town, in the house of Mr. Thomas Young, a gentleman nearly allied, as has been said, to some of the principal members of the Congregational church, and among them to the Christophers family, several of which family (notably Christopher and John) are very intimate friends of Mr. Saltonstall, as well as prominent officials of New London. The large number gathered to listen to this discourse indicates the drawing power of the speaker. Some of his own Society are present, including his son John. It need scarcely be said that the having interested Mr. Thomas Young so seriously is one of the offenses of which John Rogers is now conspicuously guilty.  John Christophers, Daniel Wetherell (another New London official and friend of Mr. Saltonstall) and Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall enter this meeting for a sinister purpose.

The subject selected by John Rogers for his discourse on this occasion is one particularly relating to Rogerene dissent; it is the necessity of a new birth and the wonderful changes wrought in body and soul by that divine miracle.  That only by such an operation of the Holy Spirit can a man become in truth one with Christ, is the burden of the theme. Not only has the speaker wealth of scriptural foundation for this discourse, but by his own conversion, so sudden and so powerful, he has internal evidence of the mysterious change set forth in the New Testament. No subject could better bring out the fervor and eloquence of the man. He declares that the body of an unregenerate person is a body of Satan, Satan having his abode therein, and that the body of a regenerate person is a body of Christ, Christ dwelling in such a body.

It is (and is to be) a conspicuous feature of Mr. Saltonstall’s ministry that no experience of this kind is to be considered necessary to church membership; such a test as this would never allow of that great ingathering to the state church which he desires to see firmly established and maintained.

The Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall and his accomplices do not listen to this discourse in concealment from the speaker, however they may stand apart from the hearers that gather cordially about the remarkable man in their midst. That these three men are his enemies, none know better than the keen-eyed man who beholds them there; but it may well be judged that their presence gives no tremor to his heart or his voice, but, the rather, adds nerve and emphasis.

Mr. Saltonstall, watching his opportunity, and holding the attention of his accomplices, inquires of the speaker:

“Will you say that your body is the body of Christ ?”

The reply of John Rogers shows the quick wit of the man. He evidently perceives the intention to entrap him, and is, moreover, unwilling to allow the expression, which he has been using in a general way, to bear this bald, personal application, with its intended insinuation of irreverence.

“Yes, I do affirm that this human body (bringing his hand against his breast) is Christ’s body; for Christ has purchased it with His precious blood, and I am not my own, for I am bought with a price.”

Even thus ingeniously and reverently the speaker adheres to his affirmation that the body of a man as well as his soul belongs after regeneration to Christ and is animated by Him.

It was a reply that turned the edge of the enemy’s sarcasm and left the speaker free to continue his discourse in no way disconcerted by the trick. He now goes on to picture, with glowing face and words, the brotherhood into which the regenerate man enters; that of Christ, the firstborn of many brethren, and of the disciples and apostles. The light upon his face as he speaks may well border upon a smile, and his voice take on an exultant tone (to be called on the court record “a laughing and a flouting way “).

From this perfectly Scriptural discourse, the spies now manage to construct a charge of blasphemy, which, under good management and by powerful influence, will aid in sending this man to Hartford prison. Red tape, however, is necessary, before this action can be brought. In the meantime, trial will be made of the other portion of the plot, which will imprison him at once in New London jail.

The very next day {Sunday, February 25, 1694), John Rogers is arrested for “carting boards,” and Samuel Fox “for catching eels on that holy day.” Both are arraigned before the County Court now in session. It is the first arraignment of this kind since 1685. During all these nine years, John Rogers and all of his Society have been working upon the first day of the week, as for the ten years previous to 1685. If the countermove now takes place, according to the plan indicated, John Rogers steps directly into the trap that has been set for him. That he does step into it is certain; that he does it without a clear understanding of the situation is by no means to be inferred. While he may not have counted upon so deeply laid a scheme as that which is shortly to develop, yet he is evidently conscious of a situation which renders it necessary that he, on his part, should act as promptly and boldly in this crisis as it appears to be the intention of his enemies to act. (We shall soon come upon proof that the town authorities, instigated undoubtedly by the same leader and his friends, have been, for some time past, attacking  not only the Rogerenes, but the regular Seventh Day Baptists, despite the quiet, compromising attitude of the latter sect; a fact so uncommon heretofore as to amount, in connection with the other appearances, to proof positive that an unusual emergency is confronting all these nonconformists at this time, and that John Rogers not only steps forward to check the advances upon his own Society, but as the champion of the. Seventh Day cause at large.

Not having paid his fine, there is now nearly a week in which John Rogers may meditate in prison before the next Sunday (March 4) arrives, which he appears to do to good purpose. In some way he manages to communicate with his ever devoted and ready sister Bathsheba, and also with his faithful Indian servant, William Wright. Evidently the 20s. fine is sufficient to keep him in prison over this Sunday, and the wait of a week longer would detract from the full force of the countermove. This difficulty must be overcome.

The next Sunday and meeting time arrives. Mr. Saltonstall’s service proceeds, to which of its many heads is uncertain. Despite the fact that his opponent is in prison, does every blast of the March wind seem to rattle the meeting-house door ominously?

Some one ought surely, and at the earliest possible moment, to make the olden move. The lot has fallen upon Bathsheba. She enters the church with (apparently) womanly modesty, simply to announce that she has been doing servile work upon this day and has come purposely to declare it. (County Court Record.) She is placed in the stocks. But the end is not yet.

John Rogers himself enters the meeting-house upon this veritable Sunday, March 4. It is in the “afternoon” (County Court Record), and, as shown by his copy of “Mittemus” (Part I, Chapter II), he has by some means escaped from prison for this purpose.

When he appears, it is in a manner calculated to excite in the preacher whose discourse is interrupted, something besides delight at the success of the latter’s masterly scheme to entrap him. He enters with a wheelbarrow load of merchandise, which he wheels directly to the front of the pulpit, before any in the assembly can sufficiently recover from their astonishment to lay hands upon him. From this commanding position he turns and offers his goods for sale.  The scene that ensues before he is returned to prison must be imagined.

Upon this same Sunday, William Wright, “an Indian servant of John Rogers,” makes a “disturbance,” “outside of the meeting house,” “in time of worship.” Refusing to pay a fine for his misdemeanor, he is whipped ten stripes on the naked body. (County Court Record.)

Mr. Saltonstall has one consolation for this certainly unexpected style of entrance. He can hardly have reckoned upon such a stupendous move to aid in securing the long incarceration of his opponent. The “Proclamation” which John Rogers soon hangs out at his prison window, to keep before the public his steadfast determination to oppose the doctrines and measures of the ruling church, is still further ground for the intended removal to Hartford and trial before that court, which is soon effected through the “Mittemus.”

On the part of John Rogers, his procedure, from beginning to end, indicates his knowledge of an important crisis, as regards the Seventh Day cause, and his judgment that the boldest move possible on his part is the wisest at this time.

[For many a year to come, there will be found no presentment at court of any of the Rogerenes for servile work upon the first day of the week. Nevertheless they do not escape. When it becomes doubtful if juries will punish them, the town authorities may be instigated to the task.

The wheelbarrow episode was an extreme measure adopted at a critical time, when, after so long a cessation of violent measures, the battle was begun anew under the leadership of Mr. Saltonstall.]

1695.

In May, at a special session of the Superior Court, at Hartford, John Rogers is tried upon the following charges: –

1. For that in New London, in Feb. last, thou didst lay thy hand upon thy breast and say: This is the humane body of Christ, which words are presumptuous, absurd and of a blasphemous nature.

2. For saying, concerning a wheelbarrow thou broughtest into the meeting house about a week or fortnight before, that Christ drove the wheelbarrow – an impious belying of Christ, accusing him to be the author of sin and was on the Sabbath day.

3. Thou art presented for disturbing the congregation of New London on the Lord’s day, when they were in the public worship of God.

4. Also for saying in court that thou did’st nothing and had said nothing but what thy Lord and Master sent thee to doe etc. which expressions were spoken in answer to the governor, who reproved thee for disturbing God’s people in his day and worship.

The evidence against the prisoner in regard to these matters is given by. Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, Daniel Wetherell and John Christophers, and by “an old man in New London prison,” who testifies that he heard John Rogers say “that he was in Christ and just and holy, and ministers would carry people to the devil.” Stated in record that John Rogers owned to saying he was in Christ, but denied the rest of the statement by the old man. He also denied that he said Christ drove the wheelbarrow into the church.

Messrs. Saltonstall, Christophers and Wetherell testify that (“at Mr: Thomas Young’s”) they saw John Rogers lay his hand on his breast, and heard him say: “This is the humane body of Christ; “they also heard him say in a “laughing,” or “as they thought in a flouting way,” “brother Jesus and brother Paul.” Owned in court by John Rogers “that he said his body was Christ’s ” , also that he used the term brother in regard to Christ and Paul.

The opinions of four ministers are taken as to the blasphemous nature of said expressions. The names of these ministers are “Samuel Stow, Moses Noyes, Timothy Woodbridge and Caleb Watson.” They judge that the expression, “This is the humane body of Christ,” has a high blasphemous reflection. The saying “brother Jesus is also a presumptuous expression, in the manner of his saying it” (viz., as rendered by Gurdon Saltonstall). “The saying that Christ drove the wheelbarrow is an impious belying of Christ” (regardless of the prisoner’s denial of having made any such statement). “The reflections on our worship are a slanderous charge against the generation of the righteous, and heretical and impious.” They also ” apprehend that in every one of the expressions evidenced against him there is a high and abominable profanation of the name of Christ.”

Verdict, guilty. Sentence: -To be led forth to the place of execution with a rope about his neck, and there to stand upon a ladder leaning against the gallows, with the rope about his neck, for a quarter of an hour. And for his evil speaking against the ordinances of God to pay a fine of £5; for disturbing the congregation to be kept in prison until he gives security to the value of £50 for his peaceable behavior and non-disturbance of the people of God for the future and until he pay to the keeper of the prison his just fees and dues.

Here is set forth a term of imprisonment which can be ended only by some change of policy on the part of the authorities; since it is well known by those who have this matter in charge that John Rogers never gives such security or bonds.

By this time, excitement and sympathy on the part of friends, followers and relatives of the prisoner are undoubtedly at their height, and it is probable that these people give somewhat free expression to their indignation, especially regarding the charge of blasphemy and the consequent ignominious punishment. Neither they nor the prisoner expected other than severe measures regarding the wheelbarrow affair, which was a very bold stroke of countermove in an extraordinary emergency.

In June, close following the trial and punishment inflicted upon John Rogers at Hartford, the New London meeting-house burns to the ground.

But for the excitement among the dissenters, this disaster might be attributed to some other cause; but under the circumstances it is a convenient and plausible charge to lay at their door. About the same time, also, Stonington meeting-house is desecrated by “daubing it with filth.”

Bathsheba Fox, John Rogers, Jr., and William Wright (the Indian servant before referred to) are arraigned before the Superior Court at Hartford, on suspicion of being “concerned in” both of the above occurrences. The only evidence against John, Jr., and his aunt Bathsheba is of a circumstantial character, to the effect that some conversation transpired previous to these occurrences which it is considered may have instigated the burning and desecration on the part of others, notably of William Wright. The latter is convicted of defiling the Stonington meeting-house.

It is probable that, in the height of their excitement over the treatment John Rogers received at Hartford, Bathsheba, John, Jr., and others expressed great indignation against Mr. Saltonstall and the New London church generally. Yet the burning of the meeting-house was probably as much a surprise to them as to anyone, and certainly as great a financial disaster; since upon them more than upon others, by exorbitant seizure of property, must fall the expense of a new edifice. This latter fact, as well as certainty that suspicion and apprehension must surely fall in their quarter, would naturally deter them from any such undertaking. Also, retaliatory measures of this description are contrary to the principles of this sect.

At this same Superior Court session, John Rogers, Jr., and William Wright are charged with having recently assisted in the escape from the Hartford prison of a man, “Matthews,” who was condemned to death. William Wright is charged with assisting Matthews to escape from prison, and John Rogers, Jr., is accused of conveying him out of the colony. He appears to have been soon recaptured, and is again in prison at the time these charges are preferred. This is not the only instance in which John Rogers, Jr., is found running great risk and displaying great courage in a cause which he deems right before God, however criminal in the judgment of men.

For assisting in this escape, William Wright is to pay half the charges incurred in recapturing Matthews. For “abusing” Stonington meeting-house, for not acknowledging to have heard alleged conversations among the Rogerses and their confederates in regard to the burning of New London meeting-house, and for having made his escape from justice (by which he appears to have recently escaped from jail ), he is to be “sorely whipped” and returned to Hartford prison.

John Rogers, Jr., for being “conspicuously guilty of consuming New London meeting house” (although no slightest evidence of such guilt is recorded), “for having been in company with some who held a discourse of burning said meeting house” (although no such discourse has been proven), and “that he did encourage the Indian to fly far enough” (this appears to refer to William Wright’s “escape from justice”), and “for being active in conveying Matthews out of the colony,” is placed under bond for trial. It is shown that his uncle, Samuel Rogers, has appeared and given bail for him. (There is no after record to show that such trial ever took place, and no slightest mention of any further proceeding in the matter.) This act of Samuel Rogers is one of the frequent evidences of cordial friendship between John, Jr., and his uncle.

Bathsheba, for “devising and promoting” the firing of the meeting-house, and the “defiling” of that at Stonington, is to pay a fine of £10 or be severely whipped. This fine is probably paid by Samuel Rogers. It certainly would not be paid by her. The sole evidence against John, Jr., and Bathsheba is in the character of vague rumors of indignant discourse relating to the recent moves against John Rogers, Sr. No proof of any complicity is recorded.

John, Jr., and Bathsheba are freed, but William Wright remains in Hartford jail with his master (and will continue there for three years to come), not for burning the meeting-house, which is not proven against him, nor for defiling that at Stonington (on suspicion of which he has already been punished with the stripes); not (save in part) for the charges incurred by the rescue of Matthews, but (as will be evident three years later) for his averred determination not to submit to the law regarding servile labor on the first day of the week.

In the meantime, Mr. Saltonstall and his friends, who have recently been congratulating themselves on the success of their scheme for keeping John Rogers in Hartford jail, are gravely contemplating the ashes of their meeting-house and the remnants of  its new bell, with still further uneasiness in regard to results like enough to ensue from added distrainments of the nonconformists towards the building of another edifice.

Nor is this all. There are prominent members of this very church who have so long been witnesses of wrongs and provocations on the part of the authorities towards the conscientious non-conformists, and have seen these wrongs and provocations so increased of late, that they are willing to join with representatives of those people in an open remonstrance.

In October of this year, occurs the terrible and mysterious public scourging of John Rogers at Hartford, which is best given in his own words and those of his son, of which act, or cause for it, no slightest mention is to be found on court records. All this is but the beginning of vengeance for his continued refusal to bind himself to what the court terms “good behavior.” Close following any such bonds, would be the institution of such procedures against the Rogerenes as would tend to annihilate their denomination. But so long as the dreaded countermove is to be looked for, in times of extremity, some degree of caution must be exercised, even by the rulers of Connecticut.

The “Remonstrance,” to which reference has been made, appears in January of this year, and is issued by Capt. James Rogers, Richard Steer, Samuel Beebe and Jonathan Rogers. Appended to it are many names. Briefly stated, it is charged that the Congregational church have been so accustomed to persecute those that dissent from them “that they cannot forbear their old trade;” that the design of the Act of Parliament for liberty to Presbyterians, Independents, Quakers and Baptists, to worship according to the dictates of conscience

“is violently opposed by some whose narrow principles, fierce inclinations .and self interest have wedded to a spirit of persecution and an itch for domineering over their neighbors. That the present actions of the authority show that the king has nothing to do with this colony. That the compelling them to pay towards the maintainance of a Congregational Minister is contrary to law and therefore rapine and robbery. That the rights of peaceable dissenters have been of late, by permission of the authorities, violated, and that the authority has illegally oppressed them.”

(Here is proof of recent unusual procedures by the town magistrates, not only against the Rogerenes, but in regard to the quiet dissenters on the Great Neck and elsewhere. This persecution has been going on out of sight of the general public, by action of the town authorities, since no County Court record appears, undoubtedly it was this revival of indignities that stirred John Rogers to his bold move.) The “emitters” of this paper are placed under bonds for appearance at the County Court, where they are fined £5 each “for defamation of their Majesties,” viz.: “the Gov. of Conn. and others in authority,” as well as “breach of His Majesty’s peace and disquietude of his liege people.” The “emitters” appeal to the Superior Court, not because they expect any favor from that quarter, but it keeps the cause before that public in whose sense of justice is all their hope.

1697.

Before May of this year, and while another trial of the case regarding the claim of Joseph to land awarded Jonathan is still in progress, occurs the death of Joseph Rogers. It is not unlikely that had both brothers lived they would have come to an amicable adjustment of the difficulty; since the evident perplexity of those charged with examination into the case, indicates reasonable arguments upon either side, and thus a matter well fitted for compromise.

Our glimpses of Joseph Rogers are meagre. He and his wife appear not to have joined the Newport church, but were evidently members of the church of which John Rogers was pastor. (We have seen the wife’s baptism, Chapter II.) Yet, of late years, Joseph has been scarcely more noticeable than Jonathan, as regards arraignment for labor on the first day of the week, which, as in case of the latter, appears to prove that his labor was not of an ostentatious character. That he was steady, thrifty, industrious and enterprising is very evident. He added largely, by purchase, to the lands given him by his father, and had become proprietor of a saw-mill and corn-mill at Lyme. He died intestate, and his widow, Sarah, administered on his estate. Sarah Rogers now carries forward the suit in which her husband was engaged. The court appears not unfavorable to her presentation of the case; but, on account of a neglect on her part in regard to certain technicalities, the trial comes to a pause, and, through lack of further action on her part, the case is again decided in favor of Jonathan.

In March, 1697, complaint is made to the Governor and Council that John Rogers and William Wright, who were “to be kept close prisoners,” are frequently permitted to walk at liberty, and the complainants (names not stated) declare their extreme dissatisfaction with the jailer and any that connive with him in this matter. It is ordered that said persons be hereafter kept close prisoners, and that the jailer or others who disobey this order be dealt with according to law. Has John Rogers made such friends with the prejudiced and cruel jailer of 1694? Even so (see Part I., Chapter IV ., for testimony of Thomas Hancox, and Part I, Chapter II., for scourging of John Rogers at Hartford and part of same jailer in this abuse).

In 1697, the General Court appoint a committee to revise the laws of the colony and certain “reverent elders” to advise the persons chosen in this affair, and also “to advise this court in what manner they ought to bear testimony against the irregular actions of John Rogers in printing and publishing a book reputed scandalous and heretical.”

John Rogers, Jr., is now twenty-three years of age, a young man of brilliant parts and daring courage. Since he is the printer and circulator of this book, he is probably also its author. In this same month of May, “John Rogers, Jr.,” is “bound in a bond of £40” “to appear at court” (Superior) “to answer what may be objected against him for bringing a printed book or pamphlet into this colony which was not licensed by authority, and for selling the same up and down the colony, as also for other misdemeanors ”  the nature of the latter not indicated. No complaint being presented against him, he is dismissed.

[Could a copy of this pamphlet be found, great light might be thrown upon this stormy period, by revelation of the full circumstances leading up to the desperate entry of John Rogers into the meeting-house in 1694, the plot of Mr. Saltonstall and the “Remonstrance in Behalf of Peaceable Dissenters.”

That this book, sold “up and down the colony” by John Rogers, Jr., was for the enlightenment of the people at large regarding the cause, and lack of cause, for the long imprisonment and cruel treatment of his father, with representation of the case for the non-conformists, can scarcely be doubted. We can picture this talented and manly youth going from place to place, eagerly seeking and finding those who will listen to his eloquent appeal to buy and read this tale of wrong and woe, in the almost single-handed struggle for religious liberty in Connecticut.]

Does the little book create so much sympathy ” up and down the colony,” that it is no longer wise to keep John Rogers incarcerated, or are his ecclesiastical enemies at last sated by his nearly four years of close imprisonment in Hartford jail? However this may be, at the October session of the Superior Court, 1697, John Rogers is brought from prison and “set at liberty in open court,” “in expectation that he will behave himself civilly and peaceably in the future.” The promise of good behavior is not required of him, as formerly, but in its place the “in expectation,” etc., which is not their expectation at all, unless with the proviso that they themselves observe due caution in the handling of him and his followers. They are apparently mindful of public opinion and of the little book.

William Wright is also brought from prison to this court. He stands here, in the presence of this master, who has just been set at liberty, awaiting his own turn to be freed. For more than three years, these men have been comrades in Hartford prison. They dwelt together at the home of James Rogers, Sr., the Indian a servant of the latter, and, since his death, servant of the executor, John Rogers. The master has been kind and trustful, the servant faithful to a remarkable extent. But for signal proof of heroic allegiance to this nonconformist, he had not been in prison at all.

The master is waiting that his servant may go with him from the court-room as a free man. But no! As the ceremony proceeds, the Indian is offered his freedom only on condition that he will promise to “behave himself civilly and peaceably in future,” which would include refraining from servile work upon the first day of the week. They are demanding promises of the despised red man that they dare not exact of the white man, who has no lack of money or of friends.

Well may the warm blood of this master spring crimson to cheek and brow. But not alone the master, the servant himself. They would compel him to desert his master! The blood of the Indian is a match for that of the Saxon.

William Wright, standing in swarthy dignity before this worshipful court, declines his freedom on terms not only unjust to himself but demanding infidelity to that master and that cause for which he has been so ready to venture and to suffer. He declares before this assembly that he will not submit to the law against servile labor on the first day of the week, that said law “is a human invention,” and that he will work upon the first day of the week so long as he lives.

For this admirable fidelity to his religion and his friends, he is sentenced to be returned to prison “until there shall be opportunity to send him out of the colony on some vessel, as a dangerous disturber of the peace,” and in case of his return he shall be whipped and again transported.

The wonder is that John Rogers held his peace until the full completion of this sentence. Had an outburst of indignation and condemnation of this unjust sentence not been forthcoming, as this faithful servant was being returned to the close imprisonment of Hartford jail, then might it be said that John Rogers could, for fear or favor, stand silent in the presence of injustice. For such an outburst as this  John Rogers is immediately fined is. This “contempt of court” is briefly rendered on the records as follows:

“John Rogers upon the above sentence being passed upon William Wright behaved himself disorderly, in speaking without leave and declaring that he did protest against the said sentence.”

Since he never pays such fines (except through execution upon his property) he is probably returned to prison with his faithful servant, there to continue until this fine shall be cancelled.

Before the close of this year, Jonathan Rogers is accidentally drowned in Long Island Sound. Our glimpses of this youngest son of James Rogers have been slight and infrequent. That he possessed firmness and independence, is shown by his resolution to continue fully within the Newport church. The fact that this made no break – other than upon religious points with his Rogerene relatives reveals both tact and an amiable and winning personality. In his inventory are “cooper’s tools,” “carpenter’s tools” and “smith’s tools,” indicating an enterprising man concerned in several occupations, according to the fashion of his time.

1698.

When John Rogers is finally released from prison, the rancor with which he is still pursued by Mr. Saltonstall, with intent to weaken his financial power to continue his bold stand, is proven by the preposterous suit instituted against him almost immediately (Superior Court) for alleged defamation, in saying that he (Saltonstall) agreed to hold a public argument with him (Rogers) on certain points of scripture, which agreement said Saltonstall failed to fulfil.

(Motive for any such alleged statement, unless true, being lacking, and a pamphlet being published not long after by John Rogers, giving a detailed account of the whole cause and proceeding, by which the exorbitant sum of £600 recovery for libel, with costs of court, was levied upon him, it is presumable that enmity and court influence were at the bottom of this suit, if not clearly on the surface. Ecclesiastical power was dominant at this time in all the courts. Ever back of Mr. Saltonstall stood this power, as intent as himself upon the overthrow of this daring nonconformist. Could a copy of the pamphlet by John Rogers, giving details of that remarkable suit, be found, much light would doubtless be cast upon this period in the history of the Rogerenes.)

The death of Elizabeth, widow of James, has recently occurred. John Rogers has changed his home from the Great Neck to Mamacock farm, North Parish. His sister Bathsheba has also removed to the North Parish, to a place called Fox’s Mills, from the mills owned and carried on by her husband, Samuel Fox.

1698.

The long and close imprisonment of John Rogers in Hartford, attended as it was with a bitter sense of wrong, would seem sufficient to undermine the strongest constitution. To this was added anxiety regarding home affairs, including charge of his father’s estate and the care of his mother, which were devolving wholly upon his sister Bathsheba. His mother’s death close following his release, and business neglected during the past four years, must have borne hard on his enfeebled system, to say nothing of annoyance and difficulty on account of Mr. Saltonstall’s recovery of the £600. Although he has gathered his family (son and servants) about him, at Mamacock farm, and resumed the leadership of his Society, he can scarcely as yet be the man he was four years ago.

It must be sweet to breathe again the open air of freedom, and such air as blows over Mamacock; purest breezes from river and from sea, fragrant with the breath of piney woods, of pastures filled with flowers and herbs, and of fields of new-mown hay, mingled with the wholesome odor of seaweed cast by the tide upon Mamacock shore.

Not far from the house, towards the river, in a broad hollow in the greensward, bordered on the north by a wooded cliff and commanding a view of the river and craggy Mamacock peninsula, is a clear, running stream and pool of spring water. Here yet (1698) the Indians come as of old, with free leave of the owner, to eat clams, as also on Mamacock peninsula, at both of which places the powdered white shells in the soil will verify the tradition for more than two hundred years to come. In this river are fish to tempt the palate of an epicure, and trout abound in the neighboring streams. A strong-built, white-sailed boat is a part of this lovely scene, and such a boat will still be found here for many years to come.

1699.

If after the perilous trials, hardships and irritations of the past four years, this man has a mind to enjoy life, as it comes to him at Mamacock, it is not strange.

Nor is it strange that, among his house servants, he soon particularly notices a young woman, lately arrived from the old country, whose services he has bought for so long as will reimburse him for payment of her passage. Perhaps the chief cause of his interest is in the fact that she herself has taken a liking to the half-saddened man who is her master. Surely he who could so attach to himself a native Indian like William Wright, has traits to win even the favor of a young woman. He is evidently genial and indulgent with his servants, rather than haughty and censorious.

For twenty-five years he has been a widower, except that the grave has not covered the wife of his youth. Through all these years, the bitterest of his calumniators have not raised so much as a whisper questioning his perfect fidelity to Elizabeth, who, since the divorce, has been the wife of two other men and yet ever by this man has been considered as rightfully his own. Such being the case, well may his son wonder that he is becoming interested in this young housemaid, Mary Ransford, even to showing some marked attentions, which she receives with favor. She is a comely young woman, no doubt, as well as lively and spirited. Her master will not object to her having a mind of her own, especially when she displays due indignation regarding the wholesale method of gathering the minister’s and church rates. But when she goes so far as to “threaten” to pour scalding water on the head of the collector of rates, as he appears at the front door upon that ever fruitless errand, this master must give her a little lesson in the doctrine of non-resistance, although his eyes may twinkle with covert humor at her zeal. As for the rates, they must be taken out of the pasture.

Evidently this attractive girl, Mary, is willing to assent to anything this indulgent master believes to be right, taking as kindly to his doctrines as to himself. A man of soundest constitution, as proven from first to last, and of great recuperative energy, he is not old at fifty-two, despite imprisonments, stripes and ceaseless confiscations. It soon becomes plain to John the younger that this is no ordinary partiality for an attractive and devoted maid, but that his father will ask this young woman to become his wife. For the first time, there is a marked difference of opinion between father and son. Mary is perfectly willing to pledge herself to this man, even under the conditions desired. As for him, why should he longer remain single, seeing there is no possible hope of reclaiming the wife whom he still tenderly loves. There are arguments enough upon the other side. John, Jr., presents them very forcibly, and especially in regard to the inconsistency of putting any woman in his mother’s place, so long as his father continues to declare that Elizabeth is still, in reality, his wife.

To this latter and chief argument, the father replies that he shall not put Mary in his first wife’s place, since that marriage has never been annulled, by any law of God or of man. Did not God, in the olden times, allow two kinds of wives, both truly wives, yet one higher than the other? Under the singular circumstances of this case, being still bound to Elizabeth by the law of God, yet separated from her by the will of men, he will marry Mary, yet not as he married Elizabeth Griswold. He will openly and honorably marry her, yet put no woman in the place of his first wife. To this Mary agrees.

It is but another outcome of this man’s character. He fears God and God alone. He takes very little thought as to what man may think or do concerning him. Yet not by a hair’s breadth will he, if he knows it, transgress any scriptural law. (In his after treatise “On Divorce,” how well can be read between the lines the meditations and conclusions of this period, and chiefly the fact that, in deciding upon a second marriage, he in no wise admitted that Elizabeth Griswold was not still his wife, although so held from him that he might lawfully take another, although under the circumstances a lesser, wife.1)

1 In this treatise “On Divorce,” he shows that the New Testament admits but one cause for divorce, and does not admit adultery as a cause. Therefore (by inference), although, by her after marriages, his first wife leads an adulterous life, he does not consider that this fact releases him from his marriage bond. But since, by the law of God (“Mosaic” and still prevailing in the time of Christ), a man was allowed another than his first and chiefest wife, in taking Mary Ransford for his wife under the forced separation from his first wife, he breaks no law of God. Not that he so much as mentions himself, Elizabeth or Mary in this treatise; but the above is plainly inferable to those acquainted with his history at this period. Since, in granting the divorce to Elizabeth, the court left him free to marry again, he broke no civil law in taking another wife.

Oppose this unpropitious plan as he may, the son, whose influence has hitherto been paramount, cannot prevail to weaken his father’s resolution. It is the old and frequent glamour that has bound men and women. in a spell from the beginning, making them blind to what others see, and causing them to see that to which others are blind, in the object of their choice. The fact that Mary returns John, Jr.’s, pronounced opposition to the marriage with consequent aversion to the spirited youth, does not necessarily injure her standing with the father. There is but one person for whom favoritism on her part is absolutely necessary. As is usual in such cases, the matter goes on, despite all opposition. He who has so often borne to his mother the tale of his father’s unfaltering fidelity, must now acquaint her with this sudden engagement. To the young, the new loves of older people are foolishness. But, in this case, there is still another reason for John, Jr.’s, opposition to this mid-life romance; it is sadly interfering with a very natural intention of his own.

With his usual habit of unhesitatingly executing a plan as soon as it is fully determined upon, John Rogers improves the opportunity offered by the session of the County Court in New London, to present himself with Mary before that assembly (June 6), where they take each other, in the sight and hearing of all, as husband and wife; he, furthermore, stating his reason for marrying her outside the form prescribed by the colony, to which form he declares he attaches no value, since it was not sufficient to secure his first wife to him, although no valid cause was presented for the annulment of that approved ceremony. To fully make this a well-authenticated marriage, he gallantly escorts Mary to the house of the Governor (Mr. Winthrop) and informs him that he has taken this young woman for his wife. The governor politely wishes him much joy.1.

1 It may be left to legal judgment to decide whether this marriage was not more in accordance with the spirit and letter of the law than was the divorce granted by the General Court of Connecticut, through no testimony save that of a wife, bent on divorce, against her husband, regarding a matter which he had confided to her in marital confidence; said divorce being granted in the very face of the “we find not the bill” rendered by the grand jury in regard to the charge made by the wife.

Much as this second marriage might be lamented, from several points of view, and much trouble as it brought upon both Mary and John, Jr., by their irreconcilable disagreement, to say nothing of the perplexities and sorrows which it inflicted upon John Rogers himself, it is scarcely to be regretted by his biographer; since it brings into bold prominence a striking, and wonderfully rare, characteristic of this remarkable man, viz. : the most reverent and careful deference to every known law of God, combined with total indifference to any law of man not perfectly agreeing with the laws of God.  Evidently, what the most august assembly of men that could be gathered, or the most lofty earthly potentate, might think, say or do, would to him be lighter than a feather, if such thought, speech or act did not accord with the divine laws

1700.

By some agreement the house at Mamacock, cattle on the place, and other farm property, are under the joint ownership of John, Sr., and John, Jr.; the one has as much right to the house and the farm stock as the other. It now appears that the junior partner has himself been intending to furnish a mistress for the house at Mamacock. In January, 1700, seven months after the marriage of his father, he brings home his bride and is forced to place her in the awkward position of one of two mistresses. The young woman who now enters upon this highly romantic and gravely dramatic scene is one with whom John Rogers, Sr., can find no fault, being none other than his niece, Bathsheba, daughter of his faithful and beloved sister of the same name.

In spite of the difficulties sure to ensue, John, Sr., cannot but welcome this favorite niece to Mamacock. Not so with Mary. Whatever estimable and attractive qualities the latter may possess, here is a situation calculated to prove whether or not she is capable of the amount of passion and jealousy that has so often transformed a usually sensible and agreeable woman into the semblance of a Jezebel. The birth of a son to Mary, at this trying period, does not better the situation. Even so courageous a man as John Rogers might well stand appalled at the probable consequences of this venturesome marriage. When he brought Mary home and directed his servants to obey her as their mistress,l he in no wise calculated upon her being thus, even partially, set aside. He stands manfully by her, as best he may, though with the evident intention that she shall refrain from any abuse of his son’s rights in the case.

Although Mary is fined 40s. by the County Court in June, for the birth of her child, it is not declared illegitimate by the usual form, the authorities being nonplussed by the fact she and John Rogers so publicly took each other as husband and wife. She is not called upon to declare who is the child’s father, nor is the latter charged with its maintenance, as in cases of illegitimacy. Evidently, John Rogers did not expect any court action, in the case of so public a ceremony. He declines to pay a fine so disgraceful to his wife and child, and appeals to the Superior Court. The court decides that, since the fine was not accompanied by other due forms of law, it is invalid, but refers the matter to the future consideration of the County Court, which results in no further action in regard to this child.

Mary is also summoned before this same June court and fined 10s., “for her wicked and notorious language to John Rogers, Jr.,” evidently on complaint of the latter. In this crisis, her husband presents himself at the court, partly in her defense and partly in that of his son. He calls attention to a mark upon her face, which he says she declares to have been inflicted by the hand of his son John, during his own absence from home, and that upon this account “she has become so enraged as to threaten the life of somebody, as she” “has done before from time to time,” and he is “fearful that if God or man do not prevent it,” 1 serious consequences may follow. John, Jr., is fined 10s. on this evidence of his father. Although the injury to Mary, as indicated by the fine, is nothing serious as a wound, yet it proves how far the young man lost self-control in this instance. John Rogers, Sr., objects to the fine imposed upon Mary under these circumstances, but his statement before the court is evidently intended not only as a defense of his son, but as a check upon herself.

[There is the evidence of a no more partial witness than Peter Pratt that John Rogers never complained, outside his own home, of the domestic troubles resulting from this marriage. In the above instance, he was compelled, by the action of his son, to testify, both in Mary’s defense and in excuse of his son. Upon this court record and affidavit is founded Miss Caulkins’ statement that appeal was made to the court to “quell domestic broils” arising from this marriage. It is to the advantage of this history that the family affairs of John Rogers were in this instance forced before the public, since we may observe the manner in which the father and husband endeavors to secure an impartial administration of justice, and immunity of anyone from harm.]

However this marriage and its consequences may figure upon the printed page of a less primitive period, they appear not to lessen respect for this remarkable man in the eyes of his followers, although these followers are persons of the highest moral character. His blameless life as a single man for the last twenty-five years, and his avowed reasons for taking another wife in the manner he has, are known to all. Moreover, they find no word of God in condemnation.

In this year, John Rogers publishes, in pamphlet form, an account of the dispute agreed upon between himself and Mr. Saltonstall, telling the particulars of that great extortion. (Would that a copy of this might yet come to the light!)

1702.

In September, 1702, the County Court have a good opportunity to exercise the “after consideration” recommended by the Superior Court in 1700, which they improve by dealing with Mary, after the birth of her second child, exactly as they are accustomed to deal with an unmarried woman. Her presentment is in exactly the same wording, a part of which calls upon her to declare under oath, before the court, the name of the father of her child. To prevent their carrying out this form, John Rogers is there in court, with his six-months-old girl baby in his arms, to save it from this disgrace. He has given Mary directions how to proceed, in order to supplement his plan of breaking up the intended procedure. If she refuse to take the oath and to declare John Rogers to be the father of her child, the court will be baffied.

Being ordered to take the oath, she is silent, as her husband has enjoined, while he declares to the court that this her child in his arms is his own. The court knows, as well as the man before them, that his first marriage has not been annulled for any legal cause; that he had reason to refuse a repetition of the ceremony. But while those who make and administer laws may be allowed to ignore them with impunity, lesser people must abide by them; least of all must this man escape, who has imperilled the ecclesiasticism of the land. They threaten Mary with stripes, if she coninue her refusal to take the oath. She looks from the judge to the man who stands, so earnest and anxious, with the babe in his arms, bidding her not to take the oath, declaring that, if she obey him, he will shield her from harm. She knows he will do all that he can to protect her; but she has seen marks of the stripes upon his own back; she knows how he has sat for hours in the stocks, and been held for weary years in prison. Can he rescue her from the stripes?

He sees her yielding and pleads with her, pleads that she will save their child from this dishonor. The court sternly repeats the threat. Again he promises to defend her, in case she will obey him; but declares that, if she yield, branding his child as base-born, herself as common, and himself a villain, he needs must hesitate, hereafter, to own her as his wife.

She sees the court will not be trifled with. She knows that John Rogers uses no idle words. Yet will it not be safer to brave his displeasure than that of the court? She takes the oath, and declares John Rogers to be the father of her child. The cloud grows dark upon the father’s face. He folds his branded child against his heart and goes his way. All this he risked to hold his first love first, in seeming as in truth; has risked and lost.

The court proceeds as usual in cases of illegitimacy, pronouncing John Rogers the father of the child, and ordering that he pay 2s. 6d. per week towards its maintenance, until it is four years of age. Mary is allowed until the end of the following month to pay the usual fine of 40s., in case of non-payment of which she shall receive ten stripes on the naked body. In the meantime, she is to be detained in prison. Will John Rogers own his child to be illegitimate by paying this fine? By no means.

1703.

To now take Mary back (even if so allowed by the authorities – Miss Caulkins states that Mary was threatened by this court with heavy penalties if she returned to John Rogers. Although the evidence of this has escaped our notice, Miss Caulkins doubtless came across such evidence.)  would be to brand any other children in the same manner. To marry her by the prescribed form would be to acknowledge these two children to be illegitimate. Yet there is one thing that can be done, and must be done speedily. Mary must be rescued from the prison and thus saved from the lash. There are but two in all this region who will risk an attempt like that. They are John Rogers and his son. Mary escapes to Block Island.

After a safe period has elapsed, Mary is returned from Block Island to New London. Her children are placed with her, somewhere in the town, to give the more effect to her Petition to the General Court, which is presented early in May. It is a long and pathetic document (still to be seen in ” Book of Crimes and Misdemeanors,” in the State Library, at Hartford), narrating the manner of her marriage to John Rogers; his taking her home and “ordering his servants to be conformable and obedient” to her; the trouble they had, “especially myself,” on account of the displeasure of John, Jr., at the marriage; a description of her presentment at court for her second child; her compliance with the court’s importunity, although her husband stood there “with it in his arms,” and how the result had made their children “base-born,” by which her “husband” says he is “grossly abused;” since “he took me in his heart and declared me so to be his wife before the world, and so owned by all the neighbors.” She beseeches that the sentence of the court be annulled; so that, “we may live together as husband and wife lawful and orderly,” “that the blessing of God be upon us, and your Honor, for making peace and reconciliation between us, may have an everlasting reward.” Dated in “New London, May I2, 1703.”

The court takes no notice of this appeal. Mary is returned to Block Island and the children to Mamacock. Proof will appear, however, that she is not forgotten nor neglected. Even after her marriage to another man, and years after this hopeless separation, she will say nothing but good of him who first called her his wife and acted faithfully towards her a husband’s part.

[Miss. Caulkins states that, some months before this period, John Rogers “made an almost insane attempt” to regain his former wife Elizabeth, wife of Matthew Beckwith. This statement is founded upon a writ against John Rogers on complaint of Matthew Beckwith (Jan. 1702-3), accusing John Rogers of laying hands on Elizabeth, declaring her to be his wife and that he would have her in spite of Matthew Beckwith. The historian should ever look below the mere face of things. For more than twenty-five years, John Rogers has known that Elizabeth, married or unmarried, would not return to him, pledged as he was to his chosen cause. He is, at this particular date, not yet fully separated from Mary, but holding himself ready to take her back, in case a petition to the General Court should by any possibility result favorably. This and another complaint of Matthew Beckwith  the latter in June, 1703  – to the effect that he was “afraid of his life of John Rogers” indicate some dramatic meeting between John Rogers and “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold,” in the presence of Matthew Beckwith, the incidents attendant upon which have displeased the latter and led him to resolve that John Rogers shall be publicly punished for assuming to express any ownership in his, Matthew Beckwith’s, wife.

This “afraid of my life” is a common expression, and was especially so formerly, by way of emphasis. Matthew Beckwith could not have been actually afraid of his life in regard to a man whose principles did not allow of the slightest show of physical force in dealing with an opponent. Although the court record says that John Rogers “used threatening words against Matthew Beckwith,” on presentation by Matthew Beckwith’s complaint, this does not prove any intention of physical injury.

Any meeting between John Rogers and Elizabeth Griswold could not fail of being dramatic. What exact circumstances were here involved is unknown; what attitude was taken by the woman, when these two men were at the same time in her presence, it is impossible to determine. But it is in no way derogatory to the character of John Rogers, that in meeting this wife of his youth, he gives striking proof of his undying affection. Ignoring her marriage to the man before him, forgetful, for the time being, even of Mary, blind to all save the woman he loves above all, he lays his hand upon Elizabeth, and says she is, and shall be, his. Under such circumstances, Matthew Beckwith takes his revenge in legal proceedings. When summoned before the court, John Rogers defends his right to say that Matthew Beckwith’s wife  so-called  is still his own, knowing full well the court will fine him for contempt, which process follows (County Court Record).]

John Rogers is fifty-five years of age at this date, and Matthew Beckwith sixty-six. Elizabeth is about fifty.

In this year, a fine of 10s. is imposed upon Samuel Beebe (Seventh Day Baptist) for ploughing on the first day of the week (County Court Record). Without doubt the Rogerenes (Seventh Day Baptists also) have done the same thing. At this period John Rogers may do whatever he pleases of this sort on the first day of the week. Nearly four years of imprisonment in Hartford jail, the little book “sold up and down” the colony, and many a tale narrated of his bravery and sufferings in the cause of religious liberty, have won for him such popular sympathy that those who aid and abet ecclesiastical rule in the state councils, are not as yet venturing to resume stringent proceedings against the Rogerenes. The signal failure to secure a promise of “good behavior” from the Rogerene leader is also a prominent factor in the situation. Although there is no sign that Capt. James Rogers and his wife have receded from their nonconformity, their son, James, Jr., has married a member of the Congregational church and taken the half-way covenant. He is prominent in the community and has political ambitions, the attainment of which would be impossible for one of a nonconformist persuasion. To have won this talented young man, must be counted a signal victory by Mr. Saltonstall. Samuel, son of Samuel, has also married a member of the Congregational church. He is continuing the bakery on its old scale, has landed interests in the neighboring country, and is surveyor for the town of New London.

Samuel, son of Joseph, now of Westerly, has become a member of the Congregational church, while his older brother James, an enterprising young man, is of the Baptist persuasion.

James Smith, son of Bathsheba, is a close follower of his uncle John, although his sister Elizabeth (married to William Camp) is a member of the Congregational church, in which her children are baptized.

During the respite from graver cares, John Rogers has enough to busy him at Mamacock, outside of his duties as preacher and pastor, in caring for the place (in unison with John, Jr.) and other business interests, making shoes, writing books, and attending to the welfare and training of his two little children, to whom he must be both father and mother. John and Bathsheba have a third child now. So here are five little ones in the home at Mamacock. And there is Mary at Block Island. She came from across the sea, and is likely to have only the one friend in America.

In this eventful year, John Rogers visits Samuel Bownas, a Quaker who is detained in jail at Hempstead, L.I., on a false accusation.

Through the whole of a long conversation with the Quaker (narrated by the latter in his Journal), he makes no reference to Mary, the prominent figure in this period of his history. It is not his purpose to reveal to outsiders that, although he and Mary are separated, he has not resigned her to her fate.

Mr. Bownas states that John Rogers is “chief elder of that Society called by other people Quaker Baptists, as imagining (though falsely) that both in their principles and doctrines they are one with us; whereas they differed from us in these material particulars, viz.: about the seventh day Sabbath, in use of water in baptism to grown persons, using the ceremony of bread and wine in communion, and also of anointing the sick with oil; nor did they admit of the light of truth or manifestation of the Spirit but only to believers, alleging Scripture for the whole.”

Upon this latter point, Mr. Bownas and his visitor have a long discussion. On any subject but the Quaker doctrines, Mr. Bownas appears not particularly interested, for which reason he does not furnish much information in regard to the part of the conversation relating to John Rogers’ sufferings for conscience’ sake, which he avers to have been a portion of the converse, and which would have been more edifying to many than the doctrinal views of the Quakers so fully expounded to John Rogers, which are presented to the reader through this account of their conversation.

John Rogers is quoted as describing the manner in which the young people in his Society are trained in knowledge and study of the Scriptures, and stating that women “gifted by the Spirit” are encouraged to take part in their meetings.

Of the Rogerenes, Mr. Bownas says: “They bore a noble testimony against fighting, swearing, vain compliments and the superstitious observation of days.”

Although John Rogers, in this narration, is represented as fluent in speech, he is also shown capable of preserving complete silence, allowing a person who is presenting views exactly the opposite of his own to go on uninterrupted, rather than present counter views to no purpose. He is also shown ready to concede much to the Quaker, expresses no annoyance at the other’s very positive stand, and even admits possible mistakes on his own part.

In short, the picture given of John Rogers by the Quaker, although less particular than could be desired, is that of a genial, friendly man, discussing questions with great fairness, and without excitement. When he requests Mr. Bownas, if he ever sees Edmund Edmundson, to convey to him his sincere sorrow for having argued against his views that night at Hartford, the natural gentleman shows plainly in the man. Possibly, his own opinions on the subject of that discussion may have changed.

1705.

There is still a refreshing respite from persecution, beyond the minister’s rates and minor prosecutions carried on by the town magistrates (of which latter there is so seldom any clear view), and no attempt to disturb any of the meetings of the Congregational church.

In this year, John Rogers publishes his book entitled “An Epistle to the Church called Quakers.” This work, while heartily assenting to many of the Quaker doctrines, is an earnest and logical appeal to these people against the setting aside of such express commands of Christ as the ceremony of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In this same year he issues “The Midnight Cry” from the same press (William Bradford, New York).

John Rogers The Midnight Cry" 1705

Midnight Cry 2

At this time, as for some five years previous, a youth by the name of Peter Pratt is a frequent inmate of the family at Mamacock. This is none other than the son of Elizabeth Griswold by her second husband. Elizabeth could not keep her son John from fellowship with his father, and it appears that she cannot keep from the same fellowship her son by Peter Pratt. This is not wholly explainable by the fact that Peter admires and is fond of his half-brother, John. Were not the senior master at Mamacock genial and hospitable, Peter Pratt’s freedom at this house could not be of the character described (by himself), neither would he be likely (as is, by his own account, afterwards the case) to espouse the cause of John Rogers, Sr., so heartily as to receive baptism at his hands, and go so far in that following as to be imprisoned with other Rogerenes.

According to his own statement, this young man was present at the County Court in 1699, when John Rogers appeared there with Mary Ransford and took her for his wife. He seems at that time to have been studying law in New London, and making Mamacock his headquarters. He had every opportunity to know and judge regarding John Rogers at that exact period. To this young man must also have been known the particulars which led to the complaint of Matthew Beckwith, his step-father, concerning John Rogers.  Had Peter Pratt disapproved of either of these occurrences it would have prevented his affiliation with this man. Evidently, nothing known or heard by him concerning John Rogers, Sr., has availed to diminish his respect for him or prevent a readiness to listen to his teachings. (He admits that at this period he “knew no reason why John Rogers was not a good man.”)

We have seen proof, by statement of Mr. Bownas, that in 1703 John Rogers was still a faithful observer of the Seventh Day Sabbath. But in the Introduction to his Epistle to the Seventh Day Baptists, written, according to date of publication, about 1705, he states that by continual study of the New Testament, he has become convinced that Christ Himself is the Sabbath of His church, having nailed to His cross all the former ordinances (Col. xi, 14), that, therefore, adherence to the Jewish Sabbath, or any so-called sacred day, is out of keeping with the new dispensation. “Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat or drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath.”  (Col. xi, 16.) He also states that as soon as he came to this conclusion he gave up the Seventh Day Sabbath and wrote this Epistle to his former brethren of that church.

After the above conclusion on the part of John Rogers and his Society, the Rogerenes begin to hold their meetings on the first day of the week, in conformity with the common custom. Yet, much as they might enjoy making this a day of entire rest, were there not an “idolatrous” law declaring that sacred which was not so declared in the Scriptures, they still consider it their duty to bear sufficient witness against the assumption of its sanctity.

While the Rogerenes were preaching New Testament doctrines antagonistic to the state church, on Saturday, when the rest of the world were busy with secular affairs, not many outsiders would be likely to attend their meetings; but now that these doctrines are preached and taught on Sunday, in public meetings of the Rogerenes, many more are likely to attend these services, and so become interested in this departure, despite the fine that might be risked by such attendance.

Yet there are no indications that any new measures have been adopted, on account of this change on the part of the Rogerenes. They are at least ceasing labor for that portion of the day devoted to religious services, which may possibly appear a hopeful indication, to the view of the ecclesiastical party. At all events, by the silence of the court records and the testimony of John Bolles, the Rogerenes are not now being persecuted as formerly, and we shall find these peaceful conditions existing for some years to come.

1721
A few months later than the events narrated in previous portions of this chapter, occurs the great smallpox pestilence in Boston. At this time, John Rogers is having published in that city his book entitled “A Midnight Cry,” and also his “Answer to R. Wadsworth.” If he has need to go to Boston, on business connected with these publications, it is certain, by the character of the man, that he will not hesitate, but rather hasten, that he may,in the general panic there, render some assistance. Even if he has no business occasion for such a visit, it will not matter, provided he judges the Master’s command to visit the sick calls him to Boston. Since his conversion in 1674, he has made a practice of visiting those afflicted with this contagion so shunned by others, yet has never been attacked by the disease. He believes the promise that God will preserve His faithful children to the
full age of threescore years and ten unless called to offer up their lives in martyrdom, and that when, at last, in His good pleasure. He shall call them, it matters not by what disease or what accident He takes them hence. Surely death could come in no better way than in some especial obedience to His command.

Fast and far is spread the alarm that John Rogers, just returned from his foolhardy visit to Boston, is prostrated at Mamacock with the dread contagion. There are in the house, including himself, thirteen persons. Adding the servants who live in sepaate houses on the place, it is easy to swell the number to “upwards of twenty.” The large farm, spreading upon both sides of the road, is itself a place of isolation. On the east is a broad river, separating it from the uninhabited Groton bank. On the north is wooded, uninhabited, Scotch Cap.* There is possibly a dwelling within half a mile at the northwest. A half-mile to the south is the house of John Bolles. What few other neighbors there may be, are well removed, and there are dweUings enough on the farm to shelter all not required for nursing the sick.

Had this illness occurred in the very heart of a crowded city, greater alarm or more stringent measures could not have ensued. There is a special meeting of Governor and Council at New Haven, October 14, on receipt of the news that John Rogers is ill at Mamacock with the smallpox, and that “on account of the size of the family, upwards of twenty persons, and the great danger of many persons going thither and other managements” (doubtless referring to scriptural methods of restoration and precaution) “there is great Uability of the spread of the infection in that neighborhood.” It is enacted that “effectual care be taken to prevent any intercourse between members of the family and other persons, also that three or four persons be impressed to care for the sick.”

There are a number of meetings of the Governor and Council over this matter (for full accounts of which see the published records of the General Court of Connecticut). Were it not for the court records, coming generations would be at loss to know whether the members of the family themselves, also John Bolles, John Waterhouse, John Culver and their wives, and others of the Rogerenes held firmly to their principles in this crisis, or whether they stood willingly and fearfully aloof, not daring to put their faith and theory to so dangerous and unpopular a test. Fortunately for Rogerene history, the testimony furnished by records of the special sittings of the Governor and Council on this occasion, fully establishes not only the fidelity of the Rogerenes to New Testament teachings, but also their attachment and loyalty to their leader.

Three days after the official order that every relative and friend be banished from his bedside, and so with no one near him but the immunes pressed into the ‘service, John Rogers yields up his life
unto Him whom he has faithfully striven to obey, fearing not what man or any earthly chance might do to him. Thus dies John, the beloved and trusted son of James Rogers, and the last of that
family.

John Rogers departed this Hfe October 17th, the anniversary day of his marriage to Elizabeth Griswold. She cannot fail to note that fact, when the news reaches her. She is less than
woman if, in the hour of that discovery, she does not go aside to weep.

Children

1. Elizabeth Rogers

Elizabeth’s husband Stephen Prentice was born 26 Dec 1666 in New London, New London, CT. His parents were John Prentice and Hester Nichols. Stephen died 1758 in New London, New London, CT.

In 1685, Elizabeth, daughter of John Rogers, now fourteen years of age, is, at her own request, allowed by her mother and the Griswolds to return to her father; she who left him a child of three years. She is still the only daughter of her mother, and, by affirmation of both her brothers, John Rogers, 2d, and Peter Pratt: a most lovable character.

Her free committal of this girl child to the care and training of John Rogers, gives proof conclusive that “Elizabeth, daughter of Matthew Griswold,” however she may disapprove of her former husband’s religious course, knows well of the uprightness of his character and the kindness of his heart.

2. John Rogers Jr.

John’s first wife Bathsheba Smith was born in 1678 in New London, New London, CT. She was John’s first cousin. Her parents were Richard Smith and Bathsheba Rogers. Bathsheba died 13 Nov 1721 in East Lyme, New London, CT..

John’s second wife Elizabeth Dodge was born in 1676 in New London, CT. Her parents were Israel Dodge and [__?__]. Elizabeth died in 28 Jan 1723.

In May, 1684, Matthew Griswold and his daughter petition the General Court “for power to order and dispose of John Rogers, Jr., John Rogers still continuing in his evil practises,” which “evil practices” “were set forth, in the previous permission of the court regarding the continuance of the children of John Rogers with their mother, in these words: ” he being so hettridox in his opinion and practice.” Their request is granted, the youth “to be apprenticed by them to some honest man.”

John Rogers, Jr., is now barely ten years of age, and must be a forward youth to be apprenticed so young, unless we suppose this a mere device to put him under stricter control of his mother’s family. He has surely heard nothing in favor of his father from those among whom he has been reared, unless perhaps from his stepfather. Yet neither mother nor grandparents can keep his young heart from turning warmly towards the dauntless nonconformist at New London.

In 1688 John Rogers, Jr., although brought up in the house of Mr. Matthew Griswold and kept carefully from all Rogers contamination, works on the days upon which his father works, rests on the day when his father rests, and in all other ways follows his father’s lead.

Bathsheba Smith ardently adheres to the religious departure instituted by her father and her brothers. Her son, James Smith, is fifteen years of age at this date. He and his cousin John, Jr., are well agreed to follow on in the faith. Among the children of his aunt Bathsheba there is one dearest of all to John, Jr.; this is Bathsheba Smith the younger.

In 1695 at this same Superior Court session that his father was convicted, John Rogers, Jr., and William Wright are charged with having recently assisted in the escape from the Hartford prison of a man, “Matthews,” who was condemned to death. William Wright is charged with assisting Matthews to escape from prison, and John Rogers, Jr., is accused of conveying him out of the colony. He appears to have been soon recaptured, and is again in prison at the time these charges are preferred. This is not the only instance in which John Rogers, Jr., is found running great risk and displaying great courage in a cause which he deems right before God, however criminal in the judgment of men.

For assisting in this escape, William Wright is to pay half the charges incurred in recapturing Matthews. For “abusing” Stonington meeting-house, for not acknowledging to have heard alleged conversations among the Rogerses and their confederates in regard to the burning of New London meeting-house, and for having made his escape from justice (by which he appears to have recently escaped from jail ), he is to be “sorely whipped” and returned to Hartford prison.

John Rogers, Jr., for being “conspicuously guilty of consuming New London meeting house” (although no slightest evidence of such guilt is recorded), “for having been in company with some who held a discourse of burning said meeting house” (although no such discourse has been proven), and “that he did encourage the Indian to fly far enough” (this appears to refer to William Wright’s “escape from justice”), and “for being active in conveying Matthews out of the colony,” is placed under bond for trial. It is shown that his uncle, Samuel Rogers, has appeared and given bail for him. (There is no after record to show that such trial ever took place, and no slightest mention of any further proceeding in the matter.) This act of Samuel Rogers is one of the frequent evidences of cordial friendship between John, Jr., and his uncle.

Bathsheba, for “devising and promoting” the firing of the meeting-house, and the “defiling” of that at Stonington, is to pay a fine of £10 or be severely whipped. This fine is probably paid by Samuel Rogers. It certainly would not be paid by her. The sole evidence against John, Jr., and Bathsheba is in the character of vague rumors of indignant discourse relating to the recent moves against John Rogers, Sr. No proof of any complicity is recorded.

John, Jr., and Bathsheba are freed, but William Wright remains in Hartford jail with his master (and will continue there for three years to come), not for burning the meeting-house, which is not proven against him, nor for defiling that at Stonington (on suspicion of which he has already been punished with the stripes); not (save in part) for the charges incurred by the rescue of Matthews, but (as will be evident three years later) for his averred determination not to submit to the law regarding servile labor on the first day of the week.

In 1697, the General Court appoint a committee to revise the laws of the colony and certain “reverent elders” to advise the persons chosen in this affair, and also “to advise this court in what manner they ought to bear testimony against the irregular actions of John Rogers in printing and publishing a book reputed scandalous and heretical.”

John Rogers, Jr., is now twenty-three years of age, a young man of brilliant parts and daring courage. Since he is the printer and circulator of this book, he is probably also its author. In this same month of May, “John Rogers, Jr.,” is “bound in a bond of £40” “to appear at court” (Superior) “to answer what may be objected against him for bringing a printed book or pamphlet into this colony which was not licensed by authority, and for selling the same up and down the colony, as also for other misdemeanors ”  the nature of the latter not indicated. No complaint being presented against him, he is dismissed.

[Could a copy of this pamphlet be found, great light might be thrown upon this stormy period, by revelation of the full circumstances leading up to the desperate entry of John Rogers into the meeting-house in 1694, the plot of Mr. Saltonstall and the “Remonstrance in Behalf of Peaceable Dissenters.”

That this book, sold “up and down the colony” by John Rogers, Jr., was for the enlightenment of the people at large regarding the cause, and lack of cause, for the long imprisonment and cruel treatment of his father, with representation of the case for the non-conformists, can scarcely be doubted. We can picture this talented and manly youth going from place to place, eagerly seeking and finding those who will listen to his eloquent appeal to buy and read this tale of wrong and woe, in the almost single-handed struggle for religious liberty in Connecticut.]

1. Peter Pratt Jr.

Around 1705, as for some five years previous, a youth by the name of Peter Pratt is a frequent inmate of the family at Mamacock. This is none other than the son of Elizabeth Griswold by her second husband. Elizabeth could not keep her son John from fellowship with his father, and it appears that she cannot keep from the same fellowship her son by Peter Pratt. This is not wholly explainable by the fact that Peter admires and is fond of his half-brother, John. Were not the senior master at Mamacock genial and hospitable, Peter Pratt’s freedom at this house could not be of the character described (by himself), neither would he be likely (as is, by his own account, afterwards the case) to espouse the cause of John Rogers, Sr., so heartily as to receive baptism at his hands, and go so far in that following as to be imprisoned with other Rogerenes.

According to his own statement, this young man was present at the County Court in 1699, when John Rogers appeared there with Mary Ransford and took her for his wife. He seems at that time to have been studying law in New London, and making Mamacock his headquarters. He had every opportunity to know and judge regarding John Rogers at that exact period. To this young man must also have been known the particulars which led to the complaint of Matthew Beckwith, his step-father, concerning John Rogers.  Had Peter Pratt disapproved of either of these occurrences it would have prevented his affiliation with this man. Evidently, nothing known or heard by him concerning John Rogers, Sr., has availed to diminish his respect for him or prevent a readiness to listen to his teachings. (He admits that at this period he “knew no reason why John Rogers was not a good man.”)

Sources:

http://openlibrary.org/books/OL14039914M/The_Rogerenes

http://wellsgenealogy.wordpress.com/2010/05/

http://www.roxburynewjersey.com/rogerenes.htm

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2 Responses to John Rogers – Rogerene Founder

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