In 1638 the Rev. Ezekiel Rogers and his parishioners are said to have migrated from Rowley, East Yorkshire to Massachusetts, America and started a new settlement which he named Rowley. However there is some confusion regarding his companions and if they were actually from the parish of Rowley, and also the lack of parish registers in the original parish for this period.
A descendant of Ezekiel Rogers states that the Parish Register was taken to America, as it contained the records relating to those who left with him, however but this cannot be correct as fragments of the Bishops Transcripts covering 1620-1640, are available at the Borthwich Institute, York and the East Riding Archives, Beverley. These transcripts would have been copied from the main registers on an annual basis close to the Easter period, therefore the registers were still in East Yorkshire up until Easter 1641. The original parish register (pre 1653), for Rowley church was possibly lost or destroyed during the Civil War (1642-51). The earliest available register starts in 1653 when the Commonwealth started Civil Registration, and continued to be used when the Monarchy was reinstated and church records started again in 1660.
17th Century England was dominated by the Church, and the Sabbath was held by many to be for religious observance only. In 1633 Charles II re-issued King James’ the ‘Kings Declaration to His Subjects, Concerning Lawfull[sic] Sports to be Used’ which allowed sports such as dancing, piping and animal baiting, to be undertaken on Sundays and Holy Days, and threatened Puritans with exile for banning them and disobeying the Church’s laws. As Puritan power and as fear of the return of Catholicism grew, many Ministers rebelled and were suspended, and many from East Yorkshire migrated to New England including Ezekiel Rogers the minister of Rowley.
Ezekiel Rogers, a strict and fiery preacher, was suspended from his duties for “refusing to read from that accursed book, that allowed sports on God’s Holy Sabbath”. It is not certain when he ceased his duties but in a diary written by John Winthorp, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay, it states that when Ezekiel Rogers and his companions arrived in the province they had “for a good time, withdrawn themselves from the Church communion in England”.
There is disagreement over who actually travelled from Rowley to the Massachusetts. Mr A. N. Cooper, an East Riding Antiquarian in 1909, claimed Rogers took 20 families from Rowley, so depopulating the village, but later research in the 1940’s suggested that only four families, headed by: William Bellingham, Thomas Nelson, cousins Jerimiah & Ezekiel Northend, and William Jackson, had been parishioners of Rowley parish, the others being from other parishes and Counties. My research suggests that only the Northend’s have strong ancestral links to the parish.
Records states the travellers left Hull aboard the ‘John of London’, and this matches with details by Harvard College, as its first printing press was also aboard. This press would print ‘The Freeman’s Oath,’ a document “that every man over 20 years of age, and six months a householder, had to swear to in order to become a citizen of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.” The ship was possibly similar to the ‘Mayflower’ that took the Pilgrim Fathers to America 18 years earlier.
Before boarding passengers should have obtained the King’s license to travel, although not all did, and swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown.
The journey generally took about two months and comprised of crowded cabins, discomfort, boredom and disease. Although there are no records of this journey, Winthrop mentions contemporary journeys, including his own in 1630, which demonstrate some of the difficulties they may have experienced. One ship had been at sea for 18 weeks, whilst on another passengers only had ½ a pint of drink per day for a fortnight.
Massachusetts was first settled in 1620 when the Pilgrims on the Mayflower arrived, however in 1629 the Massachusetts Bay Company obtained a Royal Charter allowing the company to colonise and trade in New England, between the Merimack and Charles rivers, with 1,000 Puritans from England settling there in 1630. Between 1620 and 1640 over 21,000 British subjects settled in Massachusetts.
Rogers et.al. arrived in Boston on 10 December 1638, where they stayed until the following April when they created a plantation between Ipswich and Newbury. A year later, Ezekiel Rogers was ordained pastor of the plantation which he named Rowley in honour of his last parish.
Life was not easy for the settlers, forming partnerships and working together to create a new home and town in a strange land. In 1643 supplies from England had decreased due to the Civil War, so everyone had to make their own provisions, which Rowley reportedly did better than other towns.
Some suffered misfortunes. In 13 years, Ezekiel Rogers was widowed three times, lost children in childbirth and his home was maliciously destroyed by fire on the night of his 3rd marriage, by a jealous woman. One of the many items destroyed in the fire were the parish registers for Rowley MA. Upon his death in 1662 he bequeathed his books valued about £73 (roughly equivalent to £9,000 today) to the Harvard College.
In 1692 the Salem Witch Trials, affected the Rowley settlers, and probably harmed the sense of unity the original settlers had built up. The sons of Thomas Nelson both testified against Margaret Scott of Rowley, who was executed in September. Elizabeth Howe, the daughter of William Jackson, was tried and hung in July, and her brother John and his son were indicted and imprisoned for witchcraft in August. In four months, 19 people were executed as witches.