We had not intended to make further reply to Mr.
McEwen’s Half-Century Sermon; but lest our silence should be
construed by some as implying an inability to do so, we turn to it
“The elder Gov. Griswold,” he says, “acted at one time as
prosecuting attorney against the Rogerenes.” If this was so, he was
prosecuting his somewhat near relatives, so far as the descendants
of John Rogers, 2d, were concerned, Henry Wolcott and Matthew
Griswold, Sr., being their common ancestors.
Is it not strange that ministers of religion should delight in
showing the powers of this world to be their support, as if to add
honor and respectability to the church? “Who is she that”—without
secular pomp—“looketh forth as the morning; fair as the moon, clear
as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?”
Mr. McEwen proceeds, “I have not yet spoken of scourging, nor of the
effect of it; which, in the consummation of judgments, actually
befell these crusaders against idolatry,” referring to the
“outbreak” of 1764-6.
Neither does Mr. McEwen speak of fines, imprisonments, setting in
stocks, and other barbarous cruelties practised upon John Rogers and
his followers; but he adds: “What the law could not do, in that it
was weak, lynching did.” We wonder that Mr. McEwen should have made
this admission; but we honor him for it, although he gives away his
cause. “Lynching did.” Here is an acknowledgment that the church and
government of that day, regardless even of their own laws, resolved
themselves into a mob.
Says Mr. McEwen:—
Historical fidelity constrains me, though with reluctance and
sadness, to say that our forefathers of this congregation, in the
extremity of their embarrassment, took the disturbers of public
worship out, tied them to trees, and permitted the boys to give
them a severe whipping with switches taken from the prim bush.
This treatment was made more disgraceful from the fact, admitted by
Mr. McEwen, that the Rogerenes, “in common with Quakers, held the
doctrine of non-resistance to violence from men,” as an example of
which, he says:—
A constable often took out a lusty man and with a twine tied him
to a tree. He was studious not to break the ligature; but stood,
conscientiously, until the close of divine service, when he was
The affirmation of the Rogerenes is that the shrub has never
vegetated in this town since that irreligious and cruel use of
it. It is to be feared that the moral effect upon the boys was
worse than the blasting effect upon the prim bush.
The fact that prim still grows abundantly upon the farm once owned
and occupied by John Rogers, may be an exception worthy of note.
Mr. McEwen goes on to say, as palliating their conduct: “But our
fathers had not the Sabbath School.”
Was the preaching of the gospel a less potent influence than the
Sabbath School? They had Moses and the prophets and the teachings of
Christ. The persecutors of the Christians in all former ages had not
the Sabbath School; but who ever before offered this excuse in their
behalf? And even this apology he does not extend to the Rogerenes;
but holds them to the strictest account, notwithstanding that they
also had not the Sabbath School.
“The Rogerenes,” he adds, “have dwindled to insignificance.”
Should he not know that the work of these reformers is accomplished?
The principles for which they contended have become universal; their
distinctive existence is no longer needed. The citadel of religious
bigotry which they assailed has been demolished. While the dark
night of superstition and intolerance overspread the land, the
Rogerenes, like stars and constellations, pierced the gloom. Leo and
the Great Bear shone in the heavens; but when the sun arose they
made obeisance and retired. The trumpet of Luther is not now blown
in Protestant churches. The Anti-Slavery Society, once potent, has
ceased to exist; slavery is abolished. Would Mr. McEwen doom the
Rogerenes to endless labor, like Sisyphus? He rolled up the stone to
have it roll back again; they helped to roll the stone to the top of
the mountain, the headstone, brought forth with shoutings, to rest
Mr. McEwen says: “A small remnant of their posterity, almost
unknown, exists in an adjacent town, with hardly a relic of their
earth-born religion. ‘A small remnant’ will be noted hereafter.”
“Earth-born religion!” In regard to doctrinal points in religion
they differed not from the Congregational church. Mr. Field himself
said, in the discourse from which we have before quoted, “In their
opinions concerning the doctrines of religion generally they
coincided with other Christians, and they did not abandon, as do the
Quakers, the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.” And Miss
Caulkins, in her history, says that John Rogers was strenuously
orthodox in his religious views, as all his writings clearly show.
The Rogerenes baptized by immersion, it is true, and much of their
suffering was on that account. Benedict, in his Church History,
speaks of them as “Rogerene Baptists.” This feature of their belief,
ancient though it may be, against which the Congregational church a
century or two ago set itself in such violent opposition, has now
become current and popular. With the progress of religious freedom
and of gospel truth, the Rogerenes have long since affiliated with
other denominations and are as one with them. We shall, presently,
show to the reader that prominent ministers, in different
denominations, have been of Rogerene descent.
“But why,” says Mr. McEwen, “you may be ready to ask, rake from
oblivion a sect devised for nothing but to destroy the religion of
the gospel and destined to vanish away?”
Apparently, Mr. McEwen judged the Puritan Sabbath to have been one
and the same with the “religion of the gospel.”
In view of what we have already said and shown, we are now somewhat
at a loss which of Solomon’s rules to adopt (see Proverbs xxvi, 4
and 5), and therefore deem it the part of wisdom to make no answer
at all. Had Mr. McEwen attempted to rear a monument to his own
ignorance, he could not have succeeded better than by uttering the
words above quoted.
“Our answer is,” he continues, “to confirm our faith in the Almighty
Saviour, who said, ‘Every plant which my Heavenly Father hath not
planted shall be rooted up.’”
We are glad that our faith needs no such confirmation. Said the
apostle, “We know whom we have believed.” But what have the ages
preceding the Rogerene movement not lost, who lived and passed away
before this new means of confirming the truth of the gospel was
“Shall be rooted up.” If he refers to the principles advocated
by the Rogerenes, to the seed of equal religious rights sown by
them, these are deeper rooted in the hearts, consciences and
understandings of men to-day than ever before at any period in
the world’s history.
To quote further from Mr. McEwen’s discourse:
“Men and women of low minds, in regions of darkness, now invent
An insinuation, perhaps, that the Rogerenes were “men and women of
low minds.” They did not invent a new religion, as we have fully
shown, and, for intelligence, for wealth, for moral rectitude, were
not behind others, as will further appear.
Mr. McEwen spoke of “a small remnant of their posterity, almost
unknown, in a neighboring town,” seeming to intimate, perhaps
unintentionally, that all, or nearly all, “their posterity” were in
that “town” and “almost unknown.”
We will mention some of their numerous posterity outside of this
“neighboring town,” where in fact are and have been comparatively
few of their descendants, showing first and chiefly how numerous and
well known are descendants of James Rogers, Sr., and his son John
Rogers, founders of this sect, in the town in which Mr. McEwen
resided and where he delivered this sermon.
First, we will mention Miss Frances Manwaring Caulkins, of pleasant
memory, author of “The History of New London,” and also Pamela, her
amiable sister, for many years an acceptable teacher in this city.
They were descendants of James Rogers, Sr., as was also their
brother, Henry P. Haven, so well known in religious and commercial
circles, to whose munificent gift, and that of his daughter, Mrs.
Anna Perkins, we are indebted for our Public Library, a noble
monument to their memory. The mother of Henry P. Haven and the
Misses Caulkins was a sister of Christopher Manwaring, formerly a
well-known citizen of this town, whose father, Robert Manwaring,
married Elizabeth Rogers, daughter of James^4. Miss Caulkins was
also of Rogerene descent on her father’s side, in the line of
Joseph, son of James, Sr.
The late Dr. Robert A. Manwaring, son of the above Christopher
Manwaring, was, by both his parents, honored by Rogers descent, his
mother being daughter of Dr. Simon Wolcott, of Windsor, who married
Lucy Rogers a descendant of James^2 and settled in this place.
Capt. Richard Law also married a daughter of Dr. Simon Wolcott and
Lucy Rogers; his descendants include the later branches of the Chew
family, also the children of William C. Crump and of Horace Coit.
J. N. Harris, one of New London’s most enterprising citizens, is a
descendant of James Rogers, Sr.
Ex-Lieut.-Gov. F. B. Loomis was a descendant in the same line, as
was the eminent Professor of Astronomy, the late Elias Loomis, of
Yale College, and also his brother, Dr. Loomis, of New York.
Rev. Nehemiah Dodge, formerly so well known in New London as the
talented minister of the First Baptist Church, who afterwards
adopted the doctrines of Universalism, was a descendant of James
Rogers; as, of course, was his brother, Israel Dodge, father of
Senator Henry Dodge of Wisconsin and grandfather of Senator Augustus
C. Dodge, first governor of the Territory of Iowa, and afterwards
minister to Spain. Rev. Nehemiah was remarkable for his wit and
quickness of repartee, and of him many anecdotes might be told. One
may suffice, as showing his abundant humor.
As Mr. Dodge was driving his horse and sleigh through a narrow
passage, high banks of snow on both sides, he was approached by a
person, also in a sleigh, coming in the opposite direction. Mr.
Dodge, who was a large, stalwart man, arose, and, lifting his whip
loftily, said, “Turn out, you rascal, or I’ll serve you as I did the
last man I met.” The poor fellow, his horses floundering in the
snow, replied, “How did you serve the last man you met?” “I turned
out for him,” was Mr. Dodge’s jovial reply, as he drove past.
The wife of Dr. Nathaniel Perkins and her sister, Miss Jane
Richards, may be mentioned as of Rogers ancestry.
The children of the late Thomas Fitch, one of New London’s most
enterprising citizens, are descendants of James Rogers, in the line
of his daughter, Bathsheba Smith, their mother being sister of the
famous whaling captains of this place, Robert Smith and Parker
Smith, also James Smith, the popular captain of the Manhansett.
The descendants of Henry Deshon, one of the early residents of New
London, are doubly of Rogers ancestry, being descendants of John
Rogers and also of his sister Bathsheba, by marriage of daughter of
latter to John Rogers, 2d. The late Capt. John Deshon, the children
of B. B. Thurston, and also Augustus Brandagee, on his mother’s
side, are in this line of descent.
John Bishop, government contractor, builder and first proprietor of
the Pequot House, Charles, Henry and Gilbert Bishop, of the
enterprising firm of Bishop Bros., and the late Joseph B. Congdon
may be named as descendants of John Rogers.
The children of Ex-Gov. T. M. Waller and the children of Frank
Chappell are descendants of John Rogers, in the Bishop line.
The children of Alfred Chappell are descendants of John Bolles, in
the Turner line.
Peter C. Turner, for some time cashier of the whaling bank in New
London, and afterwards of the First National Bank, was a descendant
of John Bolles; as are also, in the same line, the Weavers and
Newcombs of the later generations.
Elisha and Frank Palmer, of New London, large manufacturers at
Montville, Fitchville, etc., are descendants of James Rogers and of
John Bolles, as are also Reuben and Tyler Palmer, of New London,
manufacturers. Mr. George S. Palmer of Norwich is of the same line.
The late enterprising brothers, President and George Rogers, of New
London, were descendants of James Rogers, 2d, and of John Rogers.
The late Mrs. Marvin, of New London, daughter of Job Taber, was a
descendant of John Rogers and John Bolles, by marriage of a son of
the latter (Ebenezer) with a daughter of John Rogers, 2d.
William Bolles (brother of the writer) was for many years engaged in
the printing, publishing and book-selling business in New London. He
was author and compiler of several books, among which was Bolle’s
“Phonographic and Pronouncing Dictionary,” royal octavo, admitted to
be the best dictionary in this country previous to Webster’s
Unabridged. From the “History of New London County” we quote the
It is a fact worthy of notice, as displaying the originality and
versatility of New England thought and enterprise, that the paper
mill at Bolle’s Cove, a few miles out of New London, was erected
by William Bolles, who there made the paper for his dictionary,
which was printed and bound by the concern of which he was senior
William Bolles was a foremost abolitionist, when to speak against
slavery was to call down ridicule and opposition of a very serious
nature. William Bolles was a descendant of John Rogers and John
Bolles, who, one hundred and fifty years before, tenaciously
maintained the equal right of all to religious liberty.
Joshua Bolles, brother of above, was a prominent business man of New
London, being not only a partner in the book publishing firm and
bookstore, but also concerned in banking and brokerage. Of his
transactions as a broker, he was able to say that he never sold
stock which he considered unsafe to any man without fully stating to
the applicant his own opinion of the same, and that even after such
warning, he had never sold such stock unless fully confident that
the would-be purchaser was able to lose the amount thus risked.
Peter Strickland, Consul to Goree-dakir, Senegal, conspicuous for
fidelity in discharging the duties of that office, which he has held
for twenty years, and equally honored as a captain sailing between
Boston and foreign ports, is a descendant of John Rogers and James
Rogers, 2d. His skill in seamanship and fertility of resource when
his vessel was dismantled in a gale, and which he brought safely
into Boston, though it might lawfully have been abandoned, won him
great praise and a gold medal from the underwriters whose interests
he had so faithfully served.
Among lawyers of John Bolles descent: David Bolles, whose labors
were so efficient in the defence of religious liberty more than half
a century ago, to which we have before referred; John A. Bolles (son
of Rev. Matthew Bolles), first editor of the _Boston Daily Journal_,
and for many years a prominent lawyer in that city. He received the
degree of LL.D. from Brown University, and was Secretary of State of
Massachusetts. He was author of the prize essay on a Congress of
Nations, published by the American Peace Society, also of many
magazine articles. He was a member of Gen. John A. Dix’s staff
during the Civil War, and afterwards Judge Advocate General and
solicitor of the Navy Department. His son, Frank Bolles, was a
lawyer, although better known as Secretary of Harvard College. To
his superior qualities of mind and heart no words of ours can do
justice. He was the author of works illustrative of nature, among
which are “The Land of the Lingering Snow” and “Back of Beaucamp
Water.” Of his recent death, the _Boston Journal_ said: “The birds
and flowers have lost their best historian.” The following lines to
his memory were written by George B. Bancroft:—
All the world loves a lover,
Proclaims our poet seer.
So, Nature’s sweet interpreter—
We hold thy memory dear.
And all the world, with myriad tongues,
Rejoices to proclaim,
With insight true, and clear as thine,
Thy fair and spotless fame,
Which lifted high on mighty pens
On every side is heard,
Wherever sounds an insect note
Or carol of a bird.
On opening leaf of tree and plant
He who has eyes may see
The imprint of the secrets rare
It whispered unto thee.
Thy life, so short, compared with ours,
Seems very full and long,
Crowned with the mystic harmony
Of wild melodious song.
The gentle river, drifting slow,
Its verdant banks between,
Reflects the pines that bear thy name
And keeps them ever green.
“Secretary Bolles” is mentioned in the _Biglow Papers_. He wrote
an “Essay on Usury and Usury Laws,” published by the Boston
Chamber of Commerce, which led to the suspension of usury laws on
short bills of exchange.
H. Eugene Bolles (son of William Bolles mentioned above), now an
active lawyer in Boston, of large practice, is a descendant of John
Rogers and John Bolles.
There are seven lawyers of the present date in New London who are
descendants of John Rogers, viz., Hon. Augustus Brandagee, Frank
Brandagee, Tracy Waller and brothers, Abel Tanner and the writer.
There are three others who are descended from James Rogers, Sr., in
other lines, viz., Clayton B. Smith, W. F. M. Rogers and Richard
Benjamin Thurston, a distinguished lawyer in Providence, and his
brother, also a lawyer, are descendants of John Rogers.
We will now speak of ministers, and first of Rev. Peter Rogers,
descendant of James Rogers, 2d, and John Rogers, 2d, his father
being a grandson of the former and his mother a granddaughter of the
latter. We give the following extract from an obituary notice of
this early New England Baptist minister.
Elder Peter Rogers was born in New London, Conn., June 23, 1754,
and died at Waterloo, Munroe Co., Illinois, Nov. 4, 1849, at the
age of 95 years. His father was a seafaring man and commanded a
vessel; his mother was a devout, praying woman and made a lasting
impression upon his character. Yet he grew up worldly and
thoughtless, and at an early period in the Revolutionary War,
enlisted in the army as a musician and became attached to the
corps denominated “Washington’s Life Guards.” After three year’s
service in the army, he was honorably discharged and then
commanded a government vessel, in which he performed valiant deeds
and took three prizes from the enemy.
His conviction of sin was instrumentally produced by the life of
faith and happy death of his first wife (we think she lived to
rejoice in his conversion, but died soon after) and remembrance of
the prayers and instruction of his mother. He was baptized by Eld.
Amos Crandall and soon began to “improve his gift,” as the Baptist
phrase was in early times. In 1790, he was ordained by Elder Zadoc
Darrow, Sr., Jason Lee and Christopher Palmer. His ministry was
distinguished by revivals.
Obituary Notice of Elder Peter Rogers, by Rev. J. M. Peck, D.D.,
of Illinois. Published in the Minutes of the Pastoral Union for
For a number of years, Eld. Rogers was a retailing merchant, while
his gratuitous labors were abundant as an evangelist and pastor.
He lived and preached in New London, Killingly and Hampton, in
Connecticut, in Leicester, Mass., and Swanzey, N. Ham., from 1789
to 1828, when he removed to Munroe County, Illinois.
For a few years, he was partially sustained as a pastor; but for a
large part of sixty years he performed the warfare at his own
charges, as did nearly all the Baptist ministers of New England in
that day. Several hundred were converted and baptized under his
ministry, a much larger number, in that day and in that part of
the country, than by other Baptist ministers.
He was past threescore and ten when he came to Illinois, yet for a
number of years he labored much in the gospel and was highly
esteemed and beloved by all his brethren.
He delighted in Christian society, and, like a memorable patriarch
of a former age, his presence, counsel and kindness were welcome
in all our circles. “He fell like a shock of corn fully ripe in
its season,” strong in faith, full of hope, and abundant in joy
Dr. Lucius Bolles (Rev., D.D., and S.T.D.) was a descendant of John
Bolles. He was for more than twenty-two years pastor of the First
Baptist Church in Salem, Mass., and for many years Secretary of the
American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions and Fellow of Brown
University. Of him it is said, “No man of his denomination occupied
a more prominent position, or exercised an influence more strong and
James A. Bolles, D.D., Episcopalian, for many years pastor of the
Church of the Advent, Boston, was a descendant of John Bolles. He
was author of several pamphlets and books on church matters.
Edwin C. Bolles, D.D., a talented preacher of New York City (Church
of the Eternal Hope), whose sermons are embellished more with the
precepts of the Bible than with sectarian tenets, is a descendant of
Four ministers born in New London during the present century were
descendants of John Rogers, among them Rev. John Brandagee and
Father Deshon of good fame.
Rev. John Middleton was a descendant of James Rogers, 2d.
Rev. Charles H. Peck, of Bennington, Vt., is a descendant of James
Rogers, 2d. He is the son of Mrs. E. P. Peck, of New London,
daughter of our late esteemed fellow-townsman, Daniel Rogers, to
whose interest in genealogical researches many besides ourselves are
indebted for information concerning early inhabitants of New London.
As to physicians of Rogerene descent, we recall very few at time of
this writing. Their ancestors largely discarded medicines, and this
sentiment may have been handed down. But we will mention William P.
Bolles, M.D., of Boston, brother of Lawyer H. E. Bolles above
mentioned, who by his skill in surgery and medical practice, and
also by literary work in the same lines, has brought honor to
himself and his profession.
The writer will here relate a conversation which was held with a
prominent physician of the present day.
“If you had lived,” said we, “two hundred years ago, would you have
chosen the attendance of a physician or the good care of friends in
“I would have preferred the good care of friends,” was the reply.
“The science of medicine was not so well understood then as at the
A tacit acknowledgment that the Rogerenes were right, although the
doctor knew not the purpose for which the question was asked.
Certain it is that much less medicine is administered now than
formerly, and statistics show that longevity has increased.
Mr. McEwen has not failed to ridicule the belief of the Rogerenes
concerning the non-use of medicine, and perhaps the best reply is
given by Mrs. Caulkins, when she says of John Rogers, 2d, as before
quoted, “Notwithstanding his long testimony and his many weary
trials and imprisonments, he reared to maturity a family of eighteen
children, most of them, like their parents, sturdy Rogerenes.”
And of John Bolles in this connection we have only to say, he had
fifteen children, the average age reached by whom was more than
seventy-six years. He himself lived to be ninety.
We are not disposed to deny the fact that the Rogerenes held the
sentiments ascribed to them on this subject, and, not to spoil a
joke for relation’s sake, we will relate an anecdote which was told
us by the late Edward Prentice, with much glee on his part.
Joshua Bolles, youngest son of John Bolles (and grandfather of the
writer), then living on Bolles Hill, was badly injured by a
ferocious animal on his place, and brought to the house insensible.
Mr. Frink, his nearest neighbor, immediately sent for Dr. Wolcott,
who came to his assistance. When Mr. Bolles recovered consciousness,
he saw Dr. Wolcott in the room and said to Mr. Frink, who was
standing near him, “What’s Wolcott here for?” Mr. Frink replied, “I
sent for him; if I had not, you would have been dead by this time.”
“Then you should have let me die!” was Mr. Bolle’s answer. Joshua
Bolles lived to be eighty-three years of age; only one of his
fifteen children died in childhood. Several lived to be eighty and
upwards, and all but one of the others to past middle age.
Since we have introduced Joshua Bolles, we will make the reader
acquainted with a few more of his descendants.
Andrew W. Phillips, the distinguished Professor of Mathematics in
Yale College, is a descendant of Joshua Bolles; as are also Rev.
Joshua Bolles Garritt, Professor of Greek and Latin in Hanover
College, Indiana, his son, Joshua Garritt, missionary in China, and
his daughter, Mrs. Coulter, well known in missionary and
philanthropic circles, wife of John M. Coulter, formerly Professor
of Natural Sciences in Wabash College, and now President of the
Indiana State University.
Later a professor in Chicago University.
Of professors in the Rogers line, we will mention Hamilton Smith,
son of Anson Smith, formerly of New London. He early gave his
attention to telescopic observations, and is a well-known professor
of astronomy in Hobart College, N.Y. He is a descendant of John
William Augustus Rogers, a descendant of James Rogers, 2d, also
deserves honorable notice. He is a graduate of Brown University. He
was Professor of Mathematics and Industrial Mechanics at Alfred
University, N.Y., where he secured the building of an observatory
which he equipped at his own expense. Afterwards, he was for fifteen
years Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Harvard College. In 1880,
he received from Yale College the honorary degree of A.M., in
recognition of his services to astronomy; was elected member of the
American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Fellow of the Royal
Microscopical Society, London; and is now (1895) a professor in
Colby University, Maine.
Prof. Nathaniel Britton, of Columbia College, New York, Professor of
Botany, is a grandson of David S. Turner, of New London, a
descendant of John Bolles. David Turner, son of the latter, is a
prominent journalist in Florence, Italy.
Of wealthy merchants and brokers of Rogerene descent in the Rogers
and Bolles line there have been and still are several millionaires.
William Bolles, of Hartford, recently deceased, whose estate was
valued at more than a million, was a grandson of Joshua Bolles.
As an example of sterling business integrity we will mention Matthew
Bolles, of Boston, well known in commercial circles at home and
abroad, a descendant of John Bolles.
Of artists, we will name John W. Bolles, of Newark, N.J.,
Miss Amelia M. Watson and Miss Edith S. Watson, of Windsor,
granddaughters of Frederick D. Bolles, also Miss Thurston, of
Providence, formerly of New London, and daughter of Hon. B. B.
Thurston, a descendant of John Rogers.
A young architect, of high promise and achievement, should not be
overlooked, Charles Urbane Thrall, of the Perth Amboy Terra Cotta
Works. He is grandson of Mrs. Urbane Haven, of New London, who is
doubly of John Rogers descent.
This young man reproduced, from a description given him by his
grandmother, Mrs. Haven, the old John Rogers house, near which
Mrs. Haven lived in her youth, and where she used to visit her
aunt Elizabeth Rogers. (See the Genealogy entitled “James Rogers
and His Descendants,” for the drawing by Mr. Thrall.)
Of editors and authors: Frederick D. Bolles, founder and first
editor of the _Hartford Times_, a descendant of John Bolles.
Joshua A. Bolles, son of the late Joshua Bolles of New London
(before mentioned), editor and proprietor of the _New Milford
Gazette_, a descendant of John Rogers and John Bolles.
John McGinley, editor of the _New London Day_, is a descendant of
Anna Bolles Williams, author of a number of popular works, is a
descendant of John Rogers and John Bolles.
Mrs. Mary L. Bolles Branch (daughter of the writer), author of many
acceptable articles for periodicals, both in prose and verse, is a
descendant of John Rogers and John Bolles.
Her daughter, Anna Hempstead Branch, is now well known as one of
our young poets.
Among teachers, we must not fail to mention Mrs. Marion Hempstead
Lillie, so long the efficient and popular Principal of the Coit
Street School, also a prominent member of the L. S. Chapter of the
D. A. R. and other social and literary circles, in which her genial
manners and brilliant conversational powers have won her many
friends and admirers. She is a descendant of John Rogers, also of
Miss Jennie Turner, so favorably known, and for many years Assistant
Principal of the Young Ladie’s Institute of New London, is a
descendant of John Bolles.
The last four were fellow-students at the Young Ladie’s Academy of
New London, under the instruction of Mr. Amos Perry, afterwards
consul to Tunis, and now (1894) Secretary of the Rhode Island
Historical Society. They were members of an advanced class formed by
him, of which, as the names are now recalled, we discover that
nearly all were of Rogerene descent, viz.: John Bolles, John Rogers,
Goodness should not less receive its meed of praise. We present in
this place the name of one who from childhood was called to display
sweet ministries in all the walks of life, and by gentlest influence
to lead the hearts of others to that which is purest and best. We
speak of our own sister, Delight Rogers Bolles, admired and loved by
all, and whose influence ceases not to be felt at the present day.
When about twenty years of age, she listened to a discourse
delivered by a preacher of some eminence, which was praised by all
who heard it. After returning home, for her own benefit and that
of others, she wrote down the sermon as nearly as possible as it
was delivered, which was read by many. Fifty years afterwards, Mr.
Charles Johnson, President of the Norwich Bank, formerly a
resident of the town of Griswold, in which she resided at the
time, spoke of it to us with fresh admiration, saying, “Every word
of the sermon was written to a dot.” Afterwards she married and
lived in Hampton for several years, where her excellence of
character won for her hosts of friends. Although a Baptist by
profession, she uniformly partook of the sacrament of the Lord’s
Supper with the Congregational Church on Hampton Hill, no Baptist
meeting being within several miles of that place, for which she
received no censure from the church to which she belonged, to
their praise be it spoken. Goodness and love overshadowed all
distinction. We should remember that the robe of Christ was
seamless. Having so beautifully served her day and generation, she
still lives, though her obsequies were celebrated at the
Congregational church at Hampton seventy years ago. We never heard
an unpleasant word spoken to or by the subject of this memoir. She
kept a diary. When eleven years of age, we cast a glance upon one
of its pages and read these words: “What shall I do to glorify
Thee this day?” This awakened in me a little surprise at the time,
wondering what a person in so small a sphere could do to glorify
the great God of the universe. But we have long since found that
the smallest offerings are acceptable to Him who makes his abode
with the humble and the contrite.
The list of persons of Rogerene descent might be much enlarged, even
within the limits of New London. Outside of this city, it might be
almost indefinitely extended. But we have here given enough, we
think, to show that Mr. McEwen’s words, “a small remnant,” were not
It is surprising to note how many of the dwellers on State Street,
in New London, have been, and are, of Rogerene descent. Even the
agent from Washington employed by the government to select a lot on
that street for the new postoffice, and other public uses, was a
descendant of John Rogers.
Instead of a “small remnant,” the words of Scripture would be much
“There shall be a handful of corn in the earth, on the top of the
mountain, and the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon.”
Here the writer may be indulged in a little pleasantry, and hopes
the reader will not regard it as ungermane to the subject.
As we throw our searchlights upon the past, we are pleased to note
that the lot on which the First Congregational Church now stands was
formerly owned by Stephen Bolles (grandson of John Bolles) and then
called Bolles Hill. It was purchased from him in the year 1786,
by “The First Church of Christ,” and a meeting-house built thereon;
Stephen Bolles contributing one-third of the price of the lot
towards its erection. At and after this period, it would seem that
the church was more lenient toward the Rogerenes; although they were
not permitted to enter into full enjoyment of equal religious
liberty until 1818, when the New Constitution spread its broad ægis
over all alike, to the consummation of which glorious end, the
descendants of the pioneers in the Rogers movement acted such an
Thus, the First Congregational Church, leaving the spot where had
been enacted so much injustice towards the dissenters, planted
itself on Bolles Hill, where the fresh breezes of liberty seemed to
give it a higher and a purer life, reminding us of the old saying,
“If the mountain will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the
Not to be confounded with Bolles Hill where Joshua Bolles resided,
which is a mile and a half from above location.
A fine granite structure now stands upon the old hill. May all its
future utterances be worthy of its foundation. Long may it live to
make the _amende honorable_, till the brightness of its future glory
shall hide the shadows of the past. None will be more ready to
publish its praises than the numerous posterity of the persecuted
Rogerenes, remembering the motto, “To err is human, to forgive
We will close this chapter with a poem by Mary L. Bolles Branch, one
of her earlier productions which has been widely circulated in this
and other countries. Is not the same oftentimes true of character;
hidden long in obscurity under masses of prejudice and scorn, yet
destined, some day, to be presented, in all its lines of beauty, to
the gaze of men?
THE PETRIFIED FERN.
In a valley, centuries ago,
Grew a little fern-leaf, green and slender,
Veining delicate and fibres tender,
Waving when the wind crept down so low.
Rushes tall and moss and grass grew round it,
Playful sunbeams darted in and found it,
Drops of dew stole down by night and crowned it;
But no foot of man e’er trod that way;
Earth was young and keeping holiday.
Monster fishes swam the silent main,
Stately forests waved their giant branches,
Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches,
Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain;
Nature revelled in grand mysteries,
But the little fern was not of these,
Did not number with the hills and trees,
Only grew and waved its wild, sweet way.
No one came to note it, day by day.
Earth one time put on a frolic mood,
Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion
Of the deep, strong currents of the ocean;
Moved the plain and shook the haughty wood;
Crushed the little fern in soft, moist clay—
Covered it, and hid it safe away.
O the long, long centuries since that day!
O the changes! O life’s bitter cost,
Since the useless little fern was lost!
Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man
Searching for Nature’s secrets, far and deep;
From a fissure in a rocky steep,
He withdrew a stone, o’er which there ran
Fairy pencillings, a quaint design,
Leafage, veining fibres, clear and fine,
And the fern’s life lay in every line!
So, I think, God hides some souls away,
Sweetly to surprise us, the last day.
* * * * *
Shortly after mention, in this chapter, of some of the descendants
of the Rogerene leaders, Mr. John R. Bolles was called to join those
heroes whose vindication he had so conscientiously undertaken, in
the cause of justice and of truth. It remains to add to the above
list of descendants some notice of this deceased writer, who not
only bore the names of both of the principal Rogerene leaders, but
was a direct descendant of both, his mother being a daughter of John
Rogers, 3d, and his father a grandson of John Bolles. For this
purpose is here presented the briefest of the several obituary
notices that appeared in New London papers, being an editorial in
the _Daily Telegraph_, of February 26, 1895.
The death of John Rogers Bolles removes from the people one who
might be regarded almost as a relic of the old times when men were
inspired to bear messages to the world. He was a bold and
persistent fighter of what he deemed wrong and an active and
indefatigable warrior for the right; any cause in which he was
engaged was certain to have the whole benefit of his energies. The
achievements of Mr. Bolles for his city and state have been fully
set forth in the number of brilliant and graphic papers he
contributed to _The Telegraph_ and which were read with the widest
interest, not only by those here but in other states. But it was
not left for himself to chronicle his work. Some of the greatest
men of the nation have been his friends and have repeatedly
testified their admiration and respect for his remarkable
qualities of mind. Mr. Bolles had a memory that was something
prodigious. He was able to correct with the utmost ease the most
trivial misplacements of a word in a MS. of many thousands, and
his familiarity with the Book and all authors, ancient and modern,
was also little less than a marvel, considering his lack of sight
in later years. His reasoning powers were keen and wonderfully
swift, he could anticipate and provide means against an emergency
in an inconceivably short time, and as a tactician in the fight
for New London’s rights he was one of the most skilful and adroit
of managers. Had he devoted his life to other than the work which
was his sole aim, he would undoubtedly have won national
pre-eminence. But after leaving the business of publishing, in
which he was very successful and which he brought to a high degree
of excellence here, he went with all his energies for the
development of the Navy Yard, and in the pursuit of this object he
spared nothing, himself least of all. He was very fluent in
speech. His figures were always grand and forcible, and the
magnetic power of his utterance carried away his audience. His pen
is well known. There was a wonderful power of imagery in him, and
he often expressed himself in verse of no mean order. His capacity
for doing literary labor was something enormous; he could turn out
a volume that would stagger an industrious man, and yet be fresh
to tackle another subject after five or six consecutive hours of
steady application. New London owes a great deal to John R.
Bolles, how much it will understand more fully as time goes on.
But apart from his mental endowments, the grand simplicity and
purity of the man deserves the highest commendation. He hated
vice. He lived in virtue. His faith might not have been that of
the creed follower, but he had a sublime and unshaken confidence
in God and belief in His love for him and all true followers of
His rules. Simple, sincere, innocent as a babe of wrong thought or
act, John R. Bolles ended his long life a firm believer in the
goodness and mercy of the Creator whom all that life he had
worshipped with the worship of faith and act and example. In
Christ he lived and in Christ he fell asleep.