From: Anna B. Williams. The Rogerenes: Part II, History of the Rogerenes. Boston: Stanhope Press, 1904.
MR. J. R. BOLLES has aptly compared the falsehoods sown by the author of "The Prey Taken from the Strong," to dragon's teeth constantly springing up anew (Part I, Chapter I). When Peter Pratt wrote the book thus entitled, he was evidently stimulated and encouraged by the ecclesiastical demand for such a publication, and trusted that lack of correct information on the part of the general public would secure credence for it. The falsities evident in the work, through its contradictions in one part of statements made in another, must have been due either to lack of careful observation on the part of the writer or to his confidence of such lack on the part of the public to whom it was addressed.
There was an evident personal object in this deliberate attempt to malign the character of John Rogers three years after his death, by statements which Peter Pratt of all men knew to be false; he having himself been a Rogerene, closely allied and attached to one of the leaders of that Society. Having since become a prominent member of the ruling church, and intimate with leading ecclesiastics of that church, in what better way could he prove to his influential friends his regret at having been associated with the hated nonconformist than by lending himself to the ruling order in their endeavors to stamp out whatever respect for and interest in the Rogerenes and their cause had found lodgement in the minds of the public?
On the ecclesiastical side, who could address the public with better chance of being heard and credited than a popular lawyer, known to have had intimate acquaintance with the obnoxious sect? For despite the blunder in regard to computation of longitude (Part I, Chapter IV), Peter Pratt was a man of considerable note in Connecticut, both as a lawyer and speaker, at the
time he wrote this singular book. Joshua Hempstead says in his Diary: "Nov. 25, 1730. Melancholy news of the death of Mr. Peter Pratt of ys Town,1 Attorney at Law, is confirmed, who died at Hartford on Saturday last, the finest Orator in the Colony of his Profession."
The literary ability of this man is shown to be far below that ascribed to his oratory, the style of this sole book of his authorship being very ordinary; while the reply of his half-brother John Rogers, 2d, as well as other works of that author, will bear comparison with some of the best works of his time, for clear, vigorous logic and expression, enlivened by sparkles of wit and acumen, which qualities are not observable in the literary effort of this other son of his mother.
The principal point to be secured being an impeachment of the character of John Rogers, free use is made by Peter Pratt of the accusation presented by the Griswolds in the petition for divorce, by way of declaring that the separation of John Rogers from his wife and children was on account of certain immoralities charged against him, which pretended immoralities Peter Pratt names, on no other authority than the entirely ambiguous statements of the records of the General Court regarding the Petition of Elizabeth in 1675, which Petition (according to said records) distinctly stated that the chief reason of her plea did not relate to breach of the marriage covenant, of which she admitted that she had small reason to complain.
The exact charges manufactured by the Griswolds under the head of "Breach of Covenant" may be found in the bill of damages still to be seen in the Connecticut State Library (see Chapter II), which bill was brought against John Rogers by Matthew Griswold during the trial for divorce, and in which is no imputation regarding the moral character of John Rogers. Peter Pratt, although avowing familiarity with these records, declares a serious breach of the marriage covenant to be one of the chief causes for this separation; while he does not in any sort intimate to the reader that
1 Peter Pratt appears to have lived in East Lyme, then a part of New London.
the charge brought forward for the divorce related as he well knew to a period before marriage, and to some fault known only to John Rogers himself, until he divulged the same to his wife.
Peter Pratt also states that John Rogers owned out of court to the charge against him, and that the person intrusted with that confidence gave this evidence against him, for proof of which statement the reader is referred to files of the General Court. Evidently Peter Pratt did not expect any of his readers to consult said files; for although it is to this day on the files of that court that John Rogers was said to have owned out of court to the charge against him, it is stated in the same connection that the man who avowed this confidence on the part of John Rogers, upon being asked the time and place of the confession, gave such reply that John Rogers was able to prove an alibi.
The one other opportunity improved by Peter Pratt for an attack upon the moral character of John Rogers, is in regard to his marriage with Mary Ransford, twenty-five years after the charge made for the purpose of obtaining the divorce. In his account of this marriage, he not only falsifies and vulgarizes the circumstances in a very singular manner, but, while in one place he represents the marriage to Mary to have been less of choice than necessity, in another place he avers that he himself was, at the very time of this marriage, on friendly and intimate terms with John Rogers, and so continued, to the extreme of actual discipleship, for years after that marriage.
It would seem that any careful and intelligent reader of "The Prey Taken from the Strong," however prejudiced, could but note this singular inconsistency, that Peter Pratt, while knowing to any such irregularity as he claims on the part of John Rogers, should, at that very time, have taken him as a spiritual guide, and continued, for years after, under his leadership. The readers of that day, in that locality, must have known that Peter Pratt's connection with the Rogerene Society was at a date following the marriage to Mary Ransford, which latter occurred in 1699, while his own declaration that when he was imprisoned with other Roger-
enes in that cause he had a young wife at home, fixes the date of this imprisonment as late as I709, which was the year of his marriage.
In order to appear to substantiate his calumnious intimations, Peter Pratt states that, to the best of his recollection, the first child of Mary Ransford was born "three or four months" after the ceremony before the County Court. He also states that she was complained of by the court on the birth of this child. As a lawyer in this town, he dwelt, so to speak, among the court records, and could easily have found the date of this child's birth, had he intended to make a truthful statement. The County Court record still remains distinct and easily to be found, which says that this child was born in January, 1700, exactly seven months after the marriage of John Rogers to Mary Ransford, and, as stated by John Rogers, 2d, "within the time allowed by law." It was born at the date at which John Rogers, 2d, brought his bride to Mamacock, to the great annoyance and irritation of Mary. It is well known that less disturbances than this have often hastened the birth of a child. Proof is evident that neither John Bolles, nor any other of the highly honorable friends and neighbors of John Rogers, who had the very best opportunity of knowing the facts of the case, showed the slightest diminution of allegiance to him at this date, and quite as evident that Peter Pratt himself continued right on to full discipleship.
The two chief calumnies in this work of Peter Pratt having been presented, attention is now called to two of a different character.
I saw him once brought into court, he had contrived the matter so as to be just without the door when he was called to answer. His features and gestures expressed more fury than I ever saw in a distracted person of any sort, and I soberly think that if a legion of devils had pushed him in headlong, his entrance had not been more horrid and ghastly, nor have seemed more preternatural.
John Rogers' declaration that the indictment was a lie is brought out in similar style, also the exclamations of other Rogerenes present in the court-room.
This plainly refers to the trial before the County Court in November, 1719, when John Rogers is said (by court records) to have come into court "in a violent manner," etc., and, when the indictment was read, to have exclaimed that it was "a devilish ly" (see Chapter IX), for which contempt of court he was fined only twenty shillings, which nominal sum was never collected. Taking into consideration the evident sympathy of the jury on this occasion of "violent entrance," etc., and the great ease with which Peter Pratt is proven capable of misstating and exaggerating facts, the reader will admit the probability that this entrance of John Rogers into the court-room, and his words there spoken, together with those of his followers, were neither more nor less than impassioned expressions of indignation and protest regarding the terrible cruelty to which the wife of John Bolles was then being subjected. She was, as will be remembered, at that moment lying in a critical condition in New London prison, where the death of her child had just occurred. Peter Pratt, then present in that court-room, by his own avowal, knew all of these facts, and knew also that the life of this woman was saved only by such determined efforts at full publicity on the part of the Rogerenes and their sympathizers. Yet he utterly conceals these circumstances from the reader, while he exaggerates the Rogerene protests, and represents them as being simply senseless and grotesque.
It is from this description by Peter Pratt that historians have borrowed their statements regarding the loud voice of John Rogers, and that Rogerenes were accustomed to charge dignitaries with 1ying, etc.1
1 To this statement of Peter Pratt is traceable the following from Miss Caulkins: "Suppose at the present day a man like Rogers should enter, etc., accompanying all this with violent contortions, coarse expletives, and foaming at the mouth, would it not require great forbearance," etc.
Nothing was more foreign to the teachings of John Rogers and his followers, or more abhorred by Rogerenes in general as will be readily attested by those familiar with their principles than any vulgarity, or even ordinary coarseness, of speech or manner.
Miss Caulkins also states ("History of Norwich") that John Rogers accosted Dr. Lord (over one hundred years before) in a very loud voice, asking him if they wore wigs in heaven, giving her story from "tradition." This is evidently a mixture of the Peter Pratt court scene, and the contribution of the wig to Mr. Saltonstall.
The singularly false and indecent statements made by Peter Pratt in regard to the divorce of John Rogers and the marriage to Mary Ransford and his exaggerated description of the scene in the court-room, form almost the entire portion of the account of the Rogerenes contained in Trumbull's "History of Connecticut," which is the standard history (first published, 1818) from which, as has been said, later historians have derived their ideas and representations in regard to this sect.
Of the many lesser aspersions cast by Peter Pratt upon the character and teachings of John Rogers, one of the most astonishing (seeing that Peter Pratt himself refutes it) is to the effect that John Rogers held that "a man dies even as a dog." In another place he says John Rogers "held both to the resurrection and the day of judgment, although doubted whether the body to be raised would be the same that fell, yet owned it would have the same consciousness."
The author guilty of the above (and many another) self-contradiction, says of the writings of John Rogers: "For that they are so perplexed and ambiguous, that he that will attend the rules of reason and speech can prove scarcely anything of the chief articles of his faith by his books."
Careful perusal of the many extant writings of John Rogers will prove to any candid person that they are written in the clearest manner, having in them nothing which cannot be understood by the most ordinary reader. Peter Pratt, being unable to quote from these writings anything that could substantiate his statements concerning them, had need to manufacture some excuse for such omission of evidence.
It would be exceedingly difficult, if not wholly impossible, to find another book from which historians have condescended to quote which contains so many contradictions in itself, so many utterly and needlessly vulgar expressions, and so many easily
proven falsehoods, as does this calumnious work of Peter Pratt. The favor it received in ecclesiastical quarters is proof that there was almost no device, however underhanded, of which the enemies of the Rogerenes would not stoop to avail themselves in branding this daring opponent of ecclesiastical rule.
Yet Peter Pratt's baldly dishonest account is not the only source of Rogerene calumny.
Backus, among others, in his "History of the Baptists," makes the statement that the Rogerenes were a sect whose practice it was to take work into meeting-houses. The Rogerenes were a sect nearly a century before 1764, when they first took work into a meeting-house, and have been a sect more than one hundred years since 1766, when they ceased to take work into a meeting-house, making in reality less than two years, of their more than two hundred years of existence, in which they (their women), in defence of their Society, took work into a meeting-house.
The same historian asserts that it was their regular practice to enter the churches and interrupt the ministers, although it would have been evident, upon careful examination of the case, that they never entered any church in this manner except under stress of bitter persecution, and. that, as a non-resistant people, they had in such emergencies no other efficient means of defence.
Historians have generally stated that the Rogerenes imitated the Quakers in dress and speech, apparently on no further evidence than that the name of Quakers had become attached to them.
That the Rogerenes did not imitate the Quakers in speech is shown by the testimony of those of their descendants most likely to be well informed in regard to the early customs of their people. That they did not imitate the Quakers in dress is proven by their inventories, which show the usual style of dress, wherever the wardrobe is itemized.
In the countermove of 1764-66, the men kept on their hats in the Congregational meeting-house. John Crandall and other early members of the First Baptist church in Newport had no affinity or sympathy with the Quakers; yet, when attending service in a
Congregational church, they kept on their hats, in token of dissent.
Historians inform us that the Rogerenes did not employ physicians, surgeons, or midwives, or make use of remedies in sickness, depending wholly, upon the prayer of faith. As has been fully shown, the Rogerenes did not feel authorized to neglect any New Testament injunction; they undoubtedly believed in healing by the prayer of faith; yet, being a logical and discriminating people, they perceived that the prayer of faith is often. a remedy most difficult to procure at a moment's notice, and that other modes of relief obtainable, in absence of this superior agency, are not to be despised. As opposed to statements that the Rogerenes had nothing to do with remedies, we have evidence that they were very attentive to the sick, which presumes aid of various kinds. They appear not to have disapproved of natural, ordinary means of restoration and alleviation. A striking proof is furnished in the description given by John Rogers of his illness, through cold and neglect, in the inner prison. On this occasion, we do not find his son standing by the prison window praying, though this son is a Rogerene of the Rogerenes; but we find him running out into the streets, crying loudly for help, and when help comes, in the form of hot stones, wine and cordial, as well as speedy removal to warm quarters, there is no indication of any lack of ready acceptance of these means of restoration. We find afterwards a grateful acknowledgment by John Rogers himself to Mr. Adams and wife for the wine and cordial.
Remarkable cases of divine healing appear to have occurred in this Society at an early date. The account given of the healing of a later day Rogerene in Quakertown (Chapter XIII) indicates that this was a result of faith, through teachings and experiences that had been in operation long before this man's day, descending from the first leaders through intervening generations. The bringing of their sick, by the Rogerenes of New Jersey , to the "holy men" from Ephrata, to be healed, is also indicative of former experiences that had strengthened their faith even to a point like this.
As for surgery, there is no reason to suppose that the Rogerenes did not use the ordinary methods for a cut finger and for more serious wounds. These people must have had broken bones, yet we hear of none lame among them, except one who was "born lame." They had no New Testament directions regarding surgical cases. As for midwives, the size of their families of children by one mother prove that, whatever their mode, mothers and babes thrived to a very uncommon degree. We hear nothing of the prayer of faith in such cases, except in unauthenticated statements of "historians." There is abundance of traditional evidence that the Rogerenes were trained in the care of the sick, not only that they need not call for aid from without, but that they might assist in ministering to others.
The fact that it is appointed to an men once to die, of itself precludes the possibility of continual and invariable healing, even by the prayer of faith. But to suppose that such prayer is not as efficient as human remedies, is to declare incredible certain passages of Scripture which are as authentic as any other portion of the New Testament. Thus reasoned the Rogerenes.
While referring to Backus, we will note a statement made by him to the effect that some of the Rogerene youth having put an end to their own lives, this was a cause of the decline of their Society. Here is a curious dragon's tooth, and it is difficult to see how it was manufactured. Suffice it to say that, in extensive historical and genealogical researches for the purposes of this history (and in researches by the authors of the Rogers and the Bolles Genealogies, both of which works largely include allied families), there has been found but one instance of suicide among the Rogerenes, and this was that of a young man who took his own life while under the influence of melancholia, which came upon him during a period of religious revival. This young man was not of Rogers descent. There was, however, in New London, at a somewhat later date, a young man of Rogers and Rogerene descent, who became hopelessly insane. Because of the devotion of his mother to a church in New London he was brought up in that
church. It is said that he was a very bright and promising youth, and that no cause could be assigned to his derangement other than excitement induced by a revival in that church. This is mentioned to show that such instances are not confined to any denomination.
Backus also says that "as late as 1763" some Rogerenes "clapped shingles and pieces of wood together around the meeting-house" in Norwich. Since he gives no authority for this statement, it is likely to be one of the many fabrications imposed upon the public as "history." If any such thing occurred, it was doubtless a Rogerene warning to that church to desist certain meddling or persecutions. It will not only be remembered that the date given is during the height of the persecution that induced the great countermove, but that from the Norwich church had issued those who apprehended and scourged the party of Rogerenes on their way to Lebanon.1 Mr. Backus, with the real or assumed lack of perception common to ecclesiastical historians when treating upon the Rogerenes, adds that "the rulers having learned so much wisdom as only to remove these people from disturbing others, without fines or corporeal punishment," they had ceased from such things in a great measure. It would have been contrary to the inclination of such writers to perceive that the Rogerenes disturbed no one but in defense of the truth for which they stood, and that when persecution on account of their own religion ceased, they had no further need to disturb the religious observances of others.
Barber, in his "Historical Collections of New Jersey," states that there is a tradition to the effect that, about eighty years before the date of the writing (which would give us the date of the great countermove at New London), some of the Rogerenes of Schooley's Mountain came into a neighboring meeting-house, bringing work and interrupting the minister. The latter statement is couched in the very words used by Miss Caulkins concerning the New London countermove of 1764-66, indicating the ex-
1 J. Backus, the justice who apprehended and scourged the Lebanon party in 1725, appears to have been grandfather of the historian of the Baptists.
act origin of this New Jersey "tradition," which is simply in line with the erroneous accounts of historians in general derived from repetitions and alterations of statements concerning the New London movement which represent the Rogerenes as always and everywhere taking work into meeting-houses and interrupting the ministers.
Could any such disturbance be proven in regard to the Rogerenes of New Jersey, it would show as a known effect of a certain cause that they had been subjected to unbearable annoyances from members of that church, on account of their own religious persuasion, and took that method to check their enemies. But no proof of any such New Jersey molestation or defense has been presented.
Rev. Mr. Field, in his "Bicentennial Discourse," says the Rogerenes did not believe in the Sabbath "nor in public worship," whereas, from the first they held as regular public meetings as any of their neighbors. Their meetings were open to friends and enemies alike, even to Mr. Saltonstall and his fellow-conspirators. They had, moreover, a regular organization with record books and clerk, proof of which is still extant in Quakertown, by a book of records written by said clerk. This erroneous statement regarding public meetings is doubtless derived from the fact that the Rogerenes, in opposition to the ecclesiastical law against meetings in private houses, persisted in holding meetings in such houses, and also to the fact that the Rogerenes held evening meetings for prayer, praise, and testimony, which were particularly for believers.1
There remain but two more principal fangs to be dealt with. One of these is a fossil which was recently revived by Mr. Blake, minister of the "First Church of Christ, of New London;" while the other is quite a new production, which the same estimable gentleman himself manufactured and circulated, through a natural desire not to be behind other ministers and historians of that church, in endeavoring to perpetuate the odium cast upon those
1 At that date the Congregationalists did not hold prayer-meetings, or any evening services. They had, however, a religious "lecture" on Friday afternoons.
who are reputed to have suffered strange things from some of its members in times past.
The first of these statements is that it was the custom of the Rogerenes to marry without a lawful ceremony, upon which Mr. Blake undertakes to give a description of their manner of marrying, which description is modelled after a familiar anecdote, combined with a current statement founded on the same anecdote, to the effect that the marriage of John Rogers to Mary Ransford was a ceremony invented for the Rogerene sect by its leader, regardless of the known fact ("History of New London") that upon his third marriage the intentions were regularly published in New London and the ceremony performed by a justice in Rhode Island. It may be seen by New London records that his son John, two years after the death of his father, was married by the Rev. Mr . Woodbridge, pastor of the Congregational church of Groton. Mr. John Bolles, the noted Rogerene leader, was married to his second wife, in 1736, by Mr. Joshua Hempstead, justice of the peace, John Rogers, 2d, taking Mr. Hempstead and Mr. Bolles over the river for that purpose. ("Hempstead Diary.")
The New London town and church records and the "Hempstead Diary" bear full evidence that the Rogerenes of New London were married by the regular ministers or by justices of the peace, after a regular publication.
At a comparatively late date it appears that some of the Rogerenes prefer to have their marriages solemnized in their own public religious meetings on Sunday, in Quaker fashion, a form allowable by law, under condition that the marriage intentions be regularly published. The first marriage of this kind which has been discovered was recorded in 1764, by Joseph Bolles, clerk of the Rogerene Society, in a church book.
By the will of Joseph Bolles (1785), it is shown that he left a chest of Rogerene books and papers to Timothy Waterhouse of Groton. The latter probably succeeded Joseph Bolles as clerk of the Society; hence a remnant of this church book is in the Watrous family, and from it was copied the following:
At our public meeting in New London the 17th of the 6th month, 1764, Joseph Bolles was appointed clerk for our Society, to write, etc.
This may certify all persons whom it may concern, that I, Timothy Walterhouse, do take thee, Content Whipple, to be my lawful, wedded wife, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and I promise to perform to thee all the duties of a husband according to the Scriptures, while death shall separate us.
And I, Content Whipple, do take thee, Timothy Walterhouse, to be my lawful, wedded husband, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, and I promise to perform to thee all the duties of a wife according to the Scriptures, while death shall separate us.
The above named couple have been lawfully published, and now at our public meeting in New London, the seventeenth day of the sixth month, 1764, they both acknowledged and signed this paper, after they heard it read. Thus they are man and wife, married, according to the laws of God, in our presence.
JOHN ROGERS (3d).
Among the various marriages in this church book are two well-known New London Rogerenes, Thomas Turner and Enoch Bolles (son of John). Both of these are second marriages and the brides of Quakertown affinity, one of them (bride of Thomas Turner) being widow of John Waterhouse, 2d. John Waterhouse, 2d, lived in New London at, or near, Quaker Hill.
By 1811, we find the paper to be signed reading as follows:
GROTON, August 4, 1811.
These lines certify all people whom they may concern that I, William Waterous, and I, Clarissa Cushman, both of said Groton, are joined
1 The original name appears to have been Walterhouse, contracted first to Waterhouse and then to Watrous.
together in a lawful covenant of marriage, not to be separated until God who hath joined us together shall separate us by death, and furthermore it is enjoined on us that we perform the duty due to each other as the Scripture doth teach.
In presence of
Copies of these and other records were furnished us by Mr. Jabez Watrous of Quakertown.
These marriages were, with the exceptions noted, of Rogerenes on the Groton side, although the public meetings in which the earlier ones were solemnized were held in New London, and most of the witnesses were of New London. The New London Rogerenes continued to be married by regular ministers or justices of the peace. Thus early, we find an exclusiveness on the part of the Groton Rogerenes not discoverable among those of New London. Yet all of the Rogerenes considered marriage a strictly religious ceremony, consisting of vows taken before God and not to be annulled save for the one cause stated in the New Testament, while all know for how comparatively slight causes marriages in other denominations have been set aside. By the Quakertown method, the parties took each other for husband and wife in the presence of their "elder" and the assembled congregation; the elder did not pronounce them man and wife, they having taken each other before God; but the marriage was recorded in the church book, with names of several witnesses attached. We find certificates of these marriages both on the New London and Groton town records, further showing their legal character. Among them the following:
GROTON, July 29, 1821.
Personally appeared John Crouch and Rachel Watrous, both of Groton, and were married in presence of me
Where the antique marriage anecdote to which reference has been made originated, or to what persons it was first applied, is a matter of uncertainty; but, as it has frequently been attached to others besides Rogerenes, it is likely to have originated in quite different quarters. It appears to have become attached to the Rogerenes through the fallacious notions previously mentioned. Even the talented and scholarly author of the Bolles Genealogy (Gen. J. A. Bolles) was misled by this anecdote, together with the current statement in regard to lack of marriage ceremony among the Rogerenes, and also by his failure to find a record of the marriage of Joseph Bolles.1
Marriage publications were not entered upon New London records; but the publication of Joseph Bolles and Martha Lewis, in the Congregational church, in 1731, is plainly recorded in the "Hempstead Diary." Mr. J. A. Bolles had no knowledge of the existence of this Diary.
The anecdote which Mr. J. A. Bolles judged too good to be spoiled for the sake of relationship, yet of which he said: "The story has been told of so many that I doubt its authenticity," has had so many versions, even as attached to the Rogerenes, that it cannot well be presented in this connection without laying be-
1 Mr. Bolles also said that he could not find a record of the birth or marriage of Joseph Bolles, Jr., on the town records, but we had no difficulty in finding both of the latter upon those records; and by close study of the New London records, we can affirm that no families of New London were better represented by careful entry of family records than were the Rogerenes, especially the Rogers and Bolles families.
The following clause in the deed by which John Rogers, 2d, set apart a burying-place for his descendants of itself sufficiently indicates the attitude of the Rogerenes regarding the sanctity and legal form of marriage:
"I do give, grant, convey and confirm unto them my aforesd Sons and to all the Children that are or may be born unto my aforesd Sons or either of them in Wedlock lawfully begotten," etc.
The most careful research and inquiry have failed to discover a single child born out of wedlock in this Society during the hundred years of its distinct existence. Joseph Bolles shows that there were some candid people among their enemies in his day, when he says: "Also the observers of this pretended Sabbath do allow that there is more immorality amongst themselves than there is among us who do not observe it."
fore the reader several of the Rogerene versions that have become current. Space is given for these the more readily, because this is a good illustration of the scurrilous stories that have been told regarding this greatly abused sect.
Version No. I. (From the Half-Century Sermon of Rev. Abel M . McEwen, 1857.)
Among the idols which it was the mission of these fanatics to demolish, was the Congregational ceremony of marriage. One of their sturdy zealots, a widower of middle age, announced his intention to take for his wife, without any formality of marriage, a widow in the neighborhood. Mr. Saltonstall remonstrated against the design of the man, but he stoutly maintained and declared his purpose. The clergyman, seeing him enter the house of his intended, also went in that he might see them together. "You, sir," said he to the man, "will not disgrace yourself and the neighborhood by taking this woman for your wife without marriage?" "Yes," he replied, "I will." "But you, madam," said the wily watchman, "will not consent to become his wife in this improper manner?" "Yes," said she, "I do." "Then," said he," I pronounce you husband and wife; and I shall record your marriage in the records of the church."
The marriage records of the Congregational church, all of which are extant, give no record of any such Rogerene widower and widow. Any marriage of an irregular nature in those times, and to a much later date, would have been proven until this day by record of presentment at the County Court of the woman upon the birth of every child, with attendant fine or whipping. Since not a single such presentment in the case of a Rogerene (with the exception of Mary Ransford) is to be found on the court records, the opening statement of Mr. McEwen is even by that one evidence disproved.
Version No. II. (From Bi-Centennial Discourse (1870) by Rev. Mr. Field, successor to Mr. McEwen.)
Mr. Field tells above story in substantially the same manner,
but causes the Rogerene to say, at the close: "Ah, Gurdon, thou art a cunning creature!" Mr. Field adds, in a footnote to the printed Discourse, that "there can be no authority for the story except tradition," but that it bears "so many marks of probability that there can be no reason to doubt its correctness." Doubtless it was such "marks of probability" that induced Mr. Field to credit the story that the Rogerenes entered the churches unclothed, which he incorporated among the various erroneous statements relating to these people contained in this Discourse, although he had abundant means of knowing of its absence from all New London history or tradition.
Version No. III. (From Bolles Genealogy, 1865 concerning Joseph Bolles, son of John Bolles, proof of whose marriage has been given. )
There is a tradition in the family that Governor Saltonsta1l, who had a high regard for Mr. and Mrs. Bolles, contrived to marry them without their suspecting it. It is said that after Mr. and Mrs. Bolles had had one or two children, and been threatened by "some rude fellows of the baser sort" with prosecution, the Governor one day invited himself to dine with friends Joseph and Martha. As the dinner went on, friend Gurdon, in easy conversation, very adroitly led both Mr. and Mrs. Bolles severally to declare that they had taken each other as man and wife in a lifelong union, and regarded themselves bound by the marriage covenant before God and man. As Mrs. Bolles assented to her husband's declaration, with her smiling "yea, yea," the Governor rose to his feet and spreading out his hands exclaimed: "By virtue of my office as civil magistrate, and as a minister of God, I declare you lawful husband and wife." "Ah, Gurdon," said Joseph, "thou art a cunning creature!"
It is strange that so intellectual and scholarly a man as Mr. John A. Bolles did not perceive that the best part of this joke was in the extreme friendship displayed between the ardent Rogerene leader, Joseph Bolles, and Governor Saltonstall, as well as in the fact that
the governor must have risen from the dead to marry Joseph Bolles, the marriage of the latter having occurred seven years after the death of Governor Saltonstall; also that had there been a child born to such a couple in those days, no "fellows of the baser sort" of any less consequence than the regular town authorities would have needed to take them in hand.
Version No. IV. (From an article regarding the Rogerenes, by a talented historian of New London of the present date, which was published several years since in a New York paper.)
There was incessant war between John Rogers and the town because his wife had been divorced from him. Though she was twice married, he attempted to capture her by force, but finally married himself to his bond-servant Mary Ransford. This scandalized the community, and the pair were hauled before the several courts. No persuasion would induce them to be legally united, and almost in despair Gurdon Saltonstall, then minister, sent for the pair. "Do you really, John," said he, "take this woman, your bond-servant, bought with your money, for your wife?"
"Yes," said Rogers defiantly, "I do."
"Is it possible, Mary, that you take this man, so much older than yourself, for your husband?"
"Yes," said she doggedly, " I do."
"Then," said the minister solemnly, "I pronounce you, according to the law of this colony, man and wife."
"Ah, Gurdon," said Rogers, "thou art a cunning creature!"
Had this historian never read the famous history of the place in which she dwells, written by Miss Caulkins, wherein is proof absolute that John Rogers and Mary Ransford had not the honor of being married by Governor Saltonstall? Although Miss Caulkins herself gives a version of this story (History of New London), she calls attention to the fact that it could not be true, as proven by court records.
Version No. V. (In one of the editions of Barber's "Historical Collections of Connecticut.")
It is here stated that "one day as Gov. Saltonstall was sitting in his room, smoking his pipe," a man by the name of Gorton came in with a woman, and announced that he had taken her for his wife without any ceremony, upon which the governor, "taking his pipe from his mouth," went through the usual form in these anecdotes, whereupon Gorton exclaimed: "Thou art a cunning creature!" Barber gives this anecdote among his various false statements regarding the Rogerenes.
Version No. VI. (A solitary anecdote found in the Chicago Tribune of April, 1897, showing how dragon's teeth will spring up again and again, in one form or another.)
Alexander Bolles, one of the early itinerant preachers, who preached in three States among the Alleghany Mountains, says the Argonaut, was much tormented by the influence of one John Rogers, a Jerseyman, who openly taught atheism and the abolishment of marriage. On one occasion, while holding a meeting in the woods of Virginia, a young man and woman pushed their way up to the stump which served as a pulpit. The man, interrupting the sermon [of course], said defiantly:
"I'd like you to know that we are Rogerenes." The old man looked at him over his spectacles and waited. "We don't believe in God, nor in marriage. This is my wife because I choose her to be; but I'll have no preacher nor squire meddling with us."
"Do you mean to tell me," thundered Father Bolles, "that you have taken this girl home as your wife?"
"Yes, I do," said the fellow doggedly.
"And have you gone willingly to live with him as your husband ? "
"Yes," said the frightened girl.
"Then I pronounce you man and wife, and whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder. Be off with you. You are married now according to the law and the gospel."
This rehash of several aspersions, spiced by newspaper humor, has, as is perceived, for the best part of its joke (to those better
informed than its writer) several amusing paradoxes; viz., that the opposing preacher should bear the name of Bolles; that John Rogers, instead of dying in New London a so-called religious fanatic, had a Rip Van Winkle sleep in New Jersey where he awoke an atheist and at the same time a Rogerene.
The dragon's tooth which Mr. Blake appears to have manufactured himself, with no assistance whatever, for his "History of the First Church of Christ, of New London," is of a more serious character than even such anecdotes as these. This new production is to the effect that the General Court (1684) granted Matthew Griswold and his daughter Elizabeth further guardianship of John Rogers, Jr., "on account of the continuance of his father in immoral practices."
The manner in which Mr. Blake so easily manufactured a statement never before made by any historian in regard to John Rogers, is by having (doubtless inadvertently) placed together as contexts two court records which have no relation to each other. The continuance of John Rogers, Jr., in the custody of Matthew Griswold and Elizabeth, granted in 184, because John Rogers was "continuing in his evil practices," etc., referred, as observed by previous historians, to the giving the two children into the mother's charge in 1677, on account (as distinctly stated in the records) of John Rogers "being so hettridox in his opinion and practice," even to breaking the holy Sabbath, etc. Mr. Blake went back of this the true context, to the alleged cause of the divorce suit in 1675, which cause was not so much as referred to by the court when the children were assigned to the care of the mother and grandfather, which assignment was wholly on the ground of the father's "hettridoxy." To have given the children to the care of the mother and grandfather on account of a charge against John Rogers of which he had been acquitted by the grand jury, would have been an impossible proceeding. His transgression of the ecclesiastical laws and usages were "evil practices" to the view of Matthew Griswold, Elizabeth, and the General Court.
There has now been demonstrated the unreliable character of
the main charges that have been brought against John Rogers and the Rogerenes, to be repeated by succeeding "historians" and added to not infrequently, through prejudice, humor, or lack of examination into the facts. It is trusted that the evidence given in this present work will sufficiently prove it the result of painstaking research and studious investigation, with no worse bias than that in favor of the undoing of falsehood and misapprehension and the righting of grievous wrongs.
Is it too much to ask that every person who presents so-called history to the public shall be expected to present as clear evidence in support of his statements and assertions, as is demanded of a witness in a court-room, or forfeit the reputation of a reliable author? Only by such reasonable demand, on the part of readers, can past history be sifted of its chaff and future history deserve the name.
Times have changed since John Rogers, Jr., went "up and down the colony" selling his little book; but a public at large, to which this youth trusted for a fair hearing and for sympathy, still exists, a public which, as a whole, is never deaf to a call for justice. In the hands of this court, of highest as of safest appeal, is left the "HISTORY OF THE ROGERENES."
Return to QUAKERTOWN Online