The children

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.[53]

—–

Footnote 53:

From Reply of John Rogers, 2d, to Peter Pratt, 2d.

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—and rebaptism—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.”[54]

—–

Footnote 54:

The failing health of James Rogers, Sr., is sufficient to account
for his not being arrested for servile work at this time.

—–

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.”[55]

—–

Footnote 55:

It will later be seen that the custom, on such occasions, of
ejecting disturbers of meeting from the church in a violent
manner, was calculated to create a general excitement among the
spectators.

—–

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.”[56] 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.

—–

Footnote 56:

That no actual relapse to Quakerism had occurred at the time
should have been evident from the fact that John Rogers is, even
in this very month of June, baptizing, and undoubtedly as usual
administering the Lord’s Supper, ordinances to which the Quakers
were entirely opposed.

—–

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,[57] a most lovable character.

—–

Footnote 57:

See “Prey Taken from the Strong,” and Reply to same by John
Rogers, 2d.

—–

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.”[58]

—–

Footnote 58:

See Part I, Chap. I. For full preamble, see “James Rogers and His
Descendants,” by J. S. Rogers, Boston.

—–

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. (Part I, Chap. I.)

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.”[59]

—–

Footnote 59:

In point of fact, only one of the children made any complaint
regarding boundaries; but this complaint resulted in a suit that
was carried through several courts. Undoubtedly, by a cursory view
of this frequently appearing suit and also that of Samuel Beebe,
on the records, Miss Caulkins judged that there was a general
“contention.” Rev. Mr. Blake, in his Church History—New London
Congregational—in adopting this error of Miss Caulkins, has
rendered it that “the children” of James Rogers “engaged in bitter
controversies” over his estate.

—–

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
John 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.[60]

—–

Footnote 60:

Stephen Prentis eventually became one of the prominent and wealthy
citizens of the place, a holder of local and colonial offices,
captain of a train band, attorney and also a farmer on a large
scale. He was a member of the Congregational church through life,
as was also his wife. Their home farm was near what is now Mill
Stone Point.

—–

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.[61] Thus ends the effort to keep the grandchildren of Mr.
Matthew Griswold from the contaminating influence of John Rogers.

—–

Footnote 61:

Miss Caulkins states that his mother afterwards attempted to
secure his return to her, but could not succeed in overcoming his
determination to remain with his father. The evidence of this has
escaped our observation.

—–

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. 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.[62])

—–

Footnote 62:

His son states (see Part I) that his imprisonments amounted to
one-third of his life after his conversion, viz.: one-third of the
period between 1674 and 1721.

—–

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.”[63]

—–

Footnote 63:

Contributions of articles, even of clothing, for the poor, for the
minister or for church adornment, and other purposes, were common
in those days; and for such donations there was a large box, quite
stationary, and usually near the pulpit. This appears not to have
been known to Miss Caulkins, who supposes a box to have been
passed around, as the box for money contributions of later times.

—–

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.[64]

—–

Footnote 64:

For Apology, see Part I, Chap. I.

—–

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[65] 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.

—–

Footnote 65:

This thirteen acres is called a “grant to Robert Hempstead” “in
the first division.” It is probably the lot belonging to the house
she occupies, viz.: the home lot of her husband. It is a part of
the land willed to Captain James.

—–

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[66] 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.

—–

Footnote 66:

It afterwards appears that this movable estate included a number
of young slaves, commonly called “servants.”

—–

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. See Chapter VII.)

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.[67]

—–

Footnote 67:

It appears it was the intention of the widow that Joan should not
be transferred to Elizabeth until after her own decease; since we
do not find Samuel Beebe claiming and demanding her until some
time after that event, although it appears evident that this gift
was designated by the widow at about this time, 1692.

—–

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.”[68]

—–

Footnote 68:

By the codicil John and Bathsheba are first to take what they wish
of “the things about the house,” the other movables “whatsoever”
to be divided by John, Bathsheba and James among themselves.

—–

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 Part I) 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 year’s 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 intrusted, 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.[69] 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.

—–

Footnote 69:

This may refer in part to his mother’s deposition, which figured
in the evidence before the arbiters to the effect that Joseph had
“not just cause to molest Jonathan.”

—–

(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.[70])

—–

Footnote 70:

This protest by Joseph’s wife is recorded on the New London land
records, under the deed of gift of 1670.

—–

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 be 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,[71] 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.[71] John
Christophers, Daniel Wetherell (another New London official and
friend of Mr. Saltonstall) and Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall enter this
meeting for a sinister purpose.[72]

—–

Footnote 71:

Mr. Thomas Young must have been an earnest seeker after truth, or
he would not have braved the opposition of his Congregational
friends by opening his house to a meeting of the Rogerenes. He
appears to have been a son, or grandson, of Rev. John Young, of
Southold, L.I., a Puritan of so true a stamp that he was forbidden
to embark for America. Evidently New London did not prove a
satisfactory residence for Mr. Thomas Young, since he eventually
removed to Southold, where his friendship with John Rogers
continued, as also after his later removal to Oyster Bay, L.I.

Footnote 72:

For record evidence, see Chapter V.

—–

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.[73] 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. (See account of his son,
Part I, Chapter II.)

—–

Footnote 73:

Apparently the Scripture expounded on this occasion was Romans
viii.

—–

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.”
(See account of his son, Part I, Chapter II.)

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”). (See Chapter V.)

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
till 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—“oppressing”—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. See “Remonstrance,” Chapter V.)

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 20_s._ 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,[74] 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.[75] The scene that ensues before he is returned to prison must
be imagined.

—–

Footnote 74:

Probably shoes of his own manufacture.

—–

Footnote 75:

It is from the account of Mr. Bownas (conversation with John
Rogers) we gain knowledge that there were “goods” in the
wheelbarrow, which were offered for sale before the pulpit. The
court record mentions only the wheelbarrow. Mr. Bownas had
evidently a mixed recollection of this portion of John Roger’s
conversation (relating to work, etc., upon the first day Sabbath),
since he appears to suppose this was a thing that might have
happened more than once, whereas it was an extraordinary measure
suited to an extraordinary occasion, and one which would surely
receive court notice and record.

In his conversation with Mr. Bownas, John Rogers also said, in
this connection, “that the provocations he met with from the
priests, who stirred up the people and the mob against him, might
sometimes urge him further than he was afterwards easy with in
opposing them, but that when he kept his place he had
inexpressible comfort and peace in what he did;” adding, “the
wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.”

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”[76] 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.” (Part I, Chapter II.)

Footnote 76:

“I John Rogers, a servant of Jesus Christ, here make an open
declaration of war against the great red dragon and against the
beast to which he gives power; and against the false church that
rides upon the beast; and against the false prophets who are
established by the dragon and the beast; and also a proclamation
of derision against the sword of the devil’s spirit, which is
prisons, stocks, whips, fines and revilings, all of which is to
defend the religion of devils.”

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.]

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