Thursday, 26 April 2012

Planters, Loyalists or Rogerene Runaways?

The Rogers line from which I have descended was brought to Canada by my fifth Great Grandfather Rowland Rogers (1723-1805) who moved from New London, Connecticut to Horton Township, Nova Scotia. Immigration lists show Rowland (“Rolen”) arriving in Canada from the U.S. in 1861. Based on his time of arrival, Rowland and his wife Lucretia appear to be part of a wave of migration from New England known as the Planters, who came to Nova Scotia after Governor Charles Lawrence invited people to settle lands left vacant by the expulsion of the Acadians.  (Our Tupper lineage including former Canadian Prime Minister Sir Charles Tupper, profiled in the most recent of this Series, is also of Planter ancestry).

The New England Planters who came to Nova Scotia comprised a large group (estimated at roughly 8000), setting out from various ports from 1759 to 1765. The Rogers arrived in Horton at this time along with other Connecticut and Rhode Island settlers, establishing farms around the Minas Basin, and Rowland was a recipient of an original share of the Horton Township land grant. In that respect they certainly must be regarded as Planters themselves.


But what were the motives of Rowland and Lucretia in coming to Canada? Were they truly drawn to the good farm land on offer?  The early 1860s also marked the beginnings of a larger and longer wave of immigration around the time of (but mostly after) the American Revolution, a large portion of which also landed in Nova Scotia. This group became known in Canada as United Empire Loyalists. 1861 was well before the American revolutionary war, and even well before the 1765 Stamp Act imposing direct taxation from Britain that so infuriated the colonists. But the brewings of political upheaval are considered to have begun as early as 1960.

The timing of Rogers’ immigration suggests he was much more likely to have been a Planter than a U.E.L. and was it certainly early enough that considering it part of the U.E.L. wave is questionable. Yet histories of the Rogers family in New England label Rowland a “Tory”, which was commonly used to identify those who remained loyal to the British Crown.  Were Rowland and Lucretia really Loyalists fleeing the uncertainty of the smoldering American Revolution?

Planter, U.E.L., or neither?  Perhaps the answer lies in noting that the term “Tory” at the time denoted not just a traditional and conservative political philosophy, but also allegiance to monarchism and High Anglican or Catholic religious heritage. Toryism included any or all aspects of “God, King and Country” and opposed radical liberalism.  When one takes a look at the family and way of life Rowland left behind, one can’t help but wonder whether it was traditional religion that he sought to reconnect with, rather than the loyalty of the Empire or a particular desire to farm in Nova Scotia rather than Connecticut.

John Rogers (1648-1721) and the Rogerenes

The Winthrop Mill in New London
Rowland’s Grandfather Joseph and Great Uncle John Rogers were the second and third sons respectively of James Rogers (1615-1687) who had come to New London in 1660 at the request of the colony’s Governor, John Winthrop Jr., to operate a flour mill. The family prospered in the community, with James becoming its wealthiest inhabitant by 1664. But James increasingly came to disagreement with the local Congregational Church. Inspired by their father’s views on religious freedom, four of Rogers’ sons became dissenters; Joseph, John, James and Jonathan (the eldest Samuel was the exception).  James Jr. (1652-1714) was supposed the first to formally dissent, embracing Sabbatarian principles in 1674 after becoming familiar by way of trade with the Seventh-Day Baptists of Rhode Island. That same year brother John founded the controversial sect, The Rogerenes.
John Rogers was influenced by both the Seventh Day Baptists and the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers. Some of his views were similar to those of the Quakers, but his teachings are more similar to the former group and he was never in any way affiliated with the Quakers. None-the-less, he and his group were often referred to as Quakers, so much so that after a large number of his followers settled in the area of what is now Ledyard, Connecticut, it became widely known as Quakertown.

Reenaactment of early Rogerene-type
colonial settlement
The Rogerenes initially held to a Seventh Day Sabbath, but eventually began to regard each day as holy. They were ridiculed for their peculiar language, dress and manners.  Like many religious sects, they employed no physicians or medicines. But it was their distain for the Christian Sabbath that most disturbed their neighbours.

Anna Williams, in her introduction to “The Rogerenes: Some hitherto unpublished annals belonging to the colonial history of Connecticut” says the sect was regarded “as fanatics whose idiosyncrasies bordered upon lunacy”.  Due to aggressive behaviour such as disrupting services in the Congregational Church they endured decades of persecution including fines, public floggings, confiscation of some of their property and jail terms. John Rogers himself was imprisoned a number of times, spending a total of 15 years in jail.

Marriage Problems…

John Rogers married Elizabeth Griswold in 1670. Four and a half years later, in May of 1675 and after having two children with him, Elizabeth applied to the court for a divorce.  It was less than a year after he had founded the Rogerenes. As grounds in her petition she cited firstly his religious heterodoxy (and secondly certain alleged immoralities).  The court delayed almost a year and a half, but granted her petition. 

Fully 25 years later, John took Mary Ransford as his second wife.  John and Mary’s wedding was somewhat Quaker-like, comprising of interrupting a county court while it was in session, requesting the assembly take notice, publicly declaring their intentions and leaving it at that, with no proper or legal marriage rites. This relationship was reportedly an unhappy one, with violent quarrels between Mary and John’s youngest son requiring the intervention of legal authorities on several occasions. Eventually the court declared their marriage illegal, sentencing Mary to pay a fine and prohibiting her from returning to her reputed husband.  Incidentally, Mary Ransford was reportedly a servant whom Rogers had bought prior to their marriage – curious behaviour from one who was by then an anti-slavery advocate.

Third time round, to Sarah Cole in 1714, Rogers married in the more accepted manner. 

Passing of the Torch

John died 17 Oct 1721 of small pox and was buried on the grounds of his farm on the bank of the Thames River, but the Rogerenes continued to flourish after his passing with offshoots moving to New Jersey in the early 1700s. The sect was especially strong in numbers in the New London and Groton, Connecticut regions for close to two hundred years, partly owing to the publishing of their views and principles in “The Battle Axe” by the group’s elder Timothy Watrous, an original copy of which is in the Smithsonian Institute.

Rogerene Meeting House in Quakertown
Some of the Rogerene views would earn them more sympathetic reviews from modern historians. In addition to freedom of religion and the separation of church and state, the group espoused the abolition of slavery, the equality of men and women, and peaceful and respectful co-existence with native-Americans.  In opposing slavery, they were among the first groups to openly do so, at a time when such sentiments were not popular and often brought severe reactions.  In the days of the Underground Railroad, the group’s meeting house in Quakertown served as one of the first stations.  In later years they adopted a Pacifist position, sponsoring annual conventions of the Universal Peace Union and resisting war taxes.

Joseph Rogers (1646-1697)

John’s elder brother Joseph married Sarah Haughton in 1670, the same year John first married. Joseph and Sarah were both Rogerenes and their married life was a lot more stable than John’s.  Joseph and Sarah raised six boys and four girls, all of whom it seems stayed in the New London area their entire lives, as did Joseph and Sarah themselves. Vintson Ackley, writing in “The Rogerenes of Ledyard”, claims the people of Quakertown mingled comparatively little with those of other faiths, following a policy of isolation aimed at producing a people “firm in their faith and resolute in maintaining their convictions of righteousness.

On to Canada

Rowland was the third son of Joseph and Sarah’s son John. In 1750 at the age of 17 Rowland married Lucretia Rogers, his first cousin, daughter of his Uncle Jonathan Rogers. But Rowland and Lucretia apparently did not share their families’ devotion to their community.  Their first four children, born while they were still in Connecticut, appear to have been baptized by a Congregationalist pastor. The couple then packed up and moved to Nova Scotia. (Lucretia’s brother Stephen followed them).

Were Rowland and Lucretia Planters? U.E.L.s?  Were they just looking for a place to raise a growing family as land was becoming scarce in Connecticut? Or is it more likely they were trying to escape the ridicule and isolationism associated with their family’s religion? If so, they may not have been entirely successful. Alice Nieman, in “Windham Hill is Home: A Rogers Genealogy” writes

“Their new neighbours in Horton Township also knew their background which may well explain why some families who were strict Congregationalists or Baptists always kept away from them”.

Indeed, Rowland and his immediate family apparently do not show up in Horton Township church documents, so family historians have been unable to establish their religious affiliation.

In other respects Rowland was at first a respected member of the Horton community. But in 1777 he and his son ‘Rolen’ Jr. were found guilty by a jury of stealing two swine, received 39 lashes each and plunged the family into ill-repute. With this scandal layered on top of the religious cloud that hung over them, the next few years saw most of the family depart Horton Township for Gasperaux Mountain. Their descendants there a few generations later were generally identifying themselves as Baptists.

Steve Rogers is Fifth Great Grandson of Rowland and Lucretia Rogers, and Seventh Great Grand Nephew of John Rogers, founder of the Rogerenes.

Monument to New England Planters at Grand Pre,
Kings County, Nova Scotia

Births, Deaths and Marriages

Public Member Trees,

Canadian Censuses of 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, Library and Archives Canada
(Indexed on-line at and

John Rogers and The Rogerenes

History of Montville, Connecticut, formerly the North parish of New London from 1640 to 1896,
Compiled by Henry A. Baker, 1896, Press of Case, Lockwood & Brainard Co., Hartford, Conn.

The Rogerenes of New London County, Connecticut, Brian Rogers,

The Rogerenes of Ledyard, Vintson A. Ackley (1887-1934), Quakertown Online

The Rogerenes: Some hitherto unpublished annals belonging to the colonial history of Connecticut, J.R. Bolles & Anna B. Williams, (Boston) 1904, Quakertown Online

Windham Hill is Home: A Rogers Genealogy, Alice Rogers Nieman, 1989, Halcraft Pinters Inc., Halifax


Planter Migration Routes
Nova Scotia Planter 2010 Celebration,

Winthrop Mill
Charles E. Shain Library, Connecticut College, via
The Rogerenes of New London County, Connecticut, Brian Rogers,

Settlement Reenactment

Quakertown Meeting House
The Old Rogerene Cemetery, Quakertown Online

Planters Monument


  1. Thank you for your excellent storytelling! I'm a descendant of James and John Rogers. My husband is a descendent of the Bolles family. I have no idea how we found each other (he, a Marine, originally from California and me, from Atlanta, GA) but all roads led back to New London in the 1600s. I truly appreciate your blog, cousin!

  2. Thank you for your excellent storytelling! I'm a descendant of James and John Rogers. My husband is a descendent of the Bolles family. I have no idea how we found each other (he, a Marine, originally from California and me, from Atlanta, GA) but all roads led back to New London in the 1600s. I truly appreciate your blog, cousin!

  3. Hello,
    An interesting article. This is the first I've read about the Rogers families that moved to N.S., aside from brief mention by Eric Little, who managed a "James Rogers of New London" mailing list. I am sure James Swift Rogers' 1902 genealogy does not mention them after they migrated. My connection is through the mulatto Adam Rogers, a freed slave in the New London household. I like "For Adam's Sake, A Family Saga..." by Allegra di Bonaventura for a vivid description of the early Rogers' experience. Is there more written locally about your Nova Scotians? - Jim Rogers, Centennial CO