Captain Roger Clapp’s Story . . . In His Own Words

Roger Clapp is my 10th Great Grandfather.

Late in life he wrote his memoir and in it he recounted how and why he had traveled to the Massachussets Colony and what transpired when he arrived.  Roger was a Puritain and his motivations were deeply religious.  Religious references and lists of people fill his narrative.

The source of the text quoted below is the Winthrop Society website, which I recommend.  My other post containing the entire text of his memoir comes from the book MEMOIRS of Roger Clapp, published by David Clapp in 1844.  It is the same material, which the Winthrop Society excerpted things of interest to them.  I have cut it down even further in this post.

What I have attempted to do here is to present a heavily edited version, which might, I hope, be easier to read and get you quicker to the story of his journey.  My edits are only deletions of text that some readers might find tedious.  I have not altered any text.

If you want to go straight to the full text, it is here:

I do recommend that you read the shorter version below first, which will get you a little quicker to the story line.  Read the entire memoir later to get to know Roger better.

Here is Roger Clapp’s story, in his own words:

I thought good, my dear children, to leave with you some account of God’s’ remarkable providences to me, in bringing me into this land, and placing me here among his dear servants, and in his house, who am most unworthy of the least of his mercies. The Scripture requireth us to tell God’s wondrous works to our children, that they may tell them to their children, that God may have glory throughout all ages. Amen.

I was born in England, in Sallcom, in Devonshire, in the year of our Lord 1609. My father was a man fearing God, and in good esteem among God’s faithful servants. His outward estate was not great, I think not above £80 per annum. We were five brethren, (of which I was the youngest,) and two sisters. God was graciously pleased to breathe by his hoJy spirit in all our hearts, if in mine; which I am not altogether without hopes of. Four of us brethren lived at home. I did desire my dear father (my dear mother being dead,) that I might live abroad; which he consented to. So I first went for trial to live with a worthy gentleman, Mr. William Southcot, who lived about three miles from the city of Exon.  He was careful to keep a godly family.

There being but a very mean preacher in that place, we went every Lord’s day into the city, where were many famous preachers of the word of God. I then took such a liking unto the Rev. Mr. John Warham, that I did desire to live near him. So I removed (with my father’s consent,) into the city, and lived with one Mr. Mossiour, as famous a family for religion as ever I knew. He kept seven or eight men, and divers maid-servants; and he had a conference upon a question propounded once a week in his own family. With him I covenanted.

I never so much as heard of New-England until I heard of many godly persons that were going there, and that Mr. Warham was to go also. My master asked me whether I would go. I told him, were I not engaged unto him, I would willingly go. He answered me, that should be no hindrance; I might go for him, or for myself, which I would. I then wrote to my father, who lived about twelve miles off, to entreat his leave to go to New-England;  who was so much displeased at first that he wrote me no answer, but told my brethren that I should not go. Having no answer, I went and made my request to him; and God so inclined his heart, that he never said me nay. For now God sent the reverend Mr. Maverick, who lived forty miles off, a man I never saw before. He having heard of me, came to my father’s house; and my father agreed that I should be with him and come under his care; which I did accordingly.

So God brought me out of Plymouth, the 20th of March, in the year 1629-30, and landed me in health at Nantasket on the 30th of May, 1630, I being then about the age of twenty-one years. Blessed be God that brought me here! There came many godly families in that ship. We were of passengers many in number, (besides seamen,) of good rank. Two of our magistrates came with us, viz. Mr. Rossiter and Mr. Ludlow.

When we came to Nantasket, Capt. Squeb, who was captain of that great ship of four hundred tons,7 would not bring us into Charles river, as he was bound to do, but put us ashore and our goods on Nantasket Point, and left us to shift for ourselves in a forlorn place in this wilderness. But, as it pleased God, we got a boat of some old planters, and laded her with goods; and some able men, well armed, went in her unto Charlestown, where we found some wigwams and one house; and in the house there was a man which had a boiled bass, but no bread, that we see. But we did eat of his bass, and then went up Charles river, until the river grew narrow and shallow, and there we landed our goods with much labor and toil, the bank being steep; and night coming on, we were informed that there were hard by us three hundred Indians. One Englishman, that could speak the Indian language, (an old planter,) went to them, and advised them not to come near us in the night; and they hearkened to his counsel, and came not.

I myself was one of the sentinels that first night. Our captain was a Low Country soldier, one Mr. Southcot,10 a brave soldier. In the morning, some of the Indians came and stood at a distance off, looking at us, but came not near us. But when they had been a while in view, some of them came and held out a great bass towards us; so we sent a man with a biscuit, and changed the cake for the bass. Afterwards, they supplied us with bass, exchanging a bass for a biscuit cake, and were very friendly unto us.

Capt. Squeb turned ashore us and our goods, like a merciless man; but God, even our merciful God, took pity on us, so that we were supplied first with a boat, and then caused many Indians (some hundreds) to be ruled by the advice of one man, not to come near us. Alas, had they come upon us, how soon might they have destroyed us! I think we were not above ten in number. But God caused the Indians to help us with fish at very cheap rates. We had not been there many days, (although by our diligence we had got up a kind of shelter to save our goods in,) but we had order to come away from that place, which was about Watertown, unto a place called Mattapan, now Dorchester, because there was a neck of land fit to keep our cattle on. So we removed, and came to Mattapan. The Indians there also were kind unto us.

Not long after came our renowned and blessed Governor, and divers of his Assistants with him. Their ships came into Charles river, and many passengers landed at Charlestown, many of whom died the winter following. Governor Winthrop purposed to set down his station about Cambridge, or somewhere on the river; but viewing the place, liked that plain neck, that was called then Blackstone’s Neck, now Boston. But in the mean time, before they could build at Boston, they lived many of them in tents and wigwams at Charlestown, their meeting-place being abroad under a tree, where I have heard Mr. Wilson and Mr. Phillips preach many a good sermon. Now coming into this country, I found it a vacant wilderness, in respect of English. There were indeed some English at Plymouth and Salem, and some few at Charlestown, who were very destitute when we came ashore; and planting time being past, shortly after provision was not to be had for money.

I wrote to my friends, namely to my dear father, to send me some provision; which accordingly he did, and also gave order to one of his neighbours to supply me with what I needed, (he being a seaman;) who coming hither, supplied me with divers things. But before this supply came, yea, and after too, (that being spent, and the then unsubdued wilderness yielding little food,) many a time if I could have filled my belly, though with mean victuals, it would have been sweet unto me. Fish was a good help unto me and others. Bread was so very scarce, that sometimes I thought the very crusts of my father’s table would have been very sweet unto me. And when I could have meal and water and salt boiled together, it was so good, who could wish better? In our beginning many were in great straits for want of provision for themselves and their little ones. Oh the hunger that many suffered, and saw no hope in an eye of reason to be supplied, only by clams, and muscles, and fish.

We did quickly build boats, and, some went a fishing. But bread was with many a very scarce thing, and flesh of all kind as scarce. And in those days, in our straits, though I cannot say God sent a raven to feed us, as he did the prophet Elijah, yet this I can say, to the praise of God’s glory, that he sent not only poor ravenous Indians, which came with their baskets of corn on their backs to trade with us, (which was a good supply unto many,) but also sent ships from Holland and from Ireland with provisions, and Indian corn from Virginia, to supply the wants of his dear servants in this wilderness, both for food and raiment. And when people’s wants were great, not only in one town but in divers towns, such was the godly wisdom, care, and prudence, (not selfishness, but self-denial,) of our Governor Winthrop and his Assistants, that when a ship came laden with provisions, they did order that the whole cargo should be bought for a general stock; and so accordingly it was, and distribution was made to every town, and to every person in each town, as every man had need.

Thus God was pleased to care for his people in times of straits, and to fill his servants with food and gladness. Then did all the servants of God bless his holy name, and love one another with pure hearts fervently. In those days God did cause his people to trust in him, and to be contented with mean things. It was not accounted a strange thing in those days to drink water, and to eat samp or hominy without butter or milk. Indeed, it would have been a strange thing to see a piece of roast beef, mutton, or veal; though it was not long before there was roast goat.

After the first winter, we were very healthy, though some of us had no great store of corn. The Indians did sometimes bring corn, and truck with us for clothing and knives; and once I had a peck of corn, or there-abouts, for a little puppy-dog. Frost-fish, muscles, and clams were a relief to many.

If our provision be better now than it was then, let us not, and do you, dear children, take heed that you do not, forget the Lord our God. You have better food and raiment than was in former times; but have you better hearts than your forefathers had? If so, rejoice in that mercy, and let New-England then shout for joy. Sure, all the people of God in other parts of the world, that shall hear that the children and grandchildren of the first planters of New-England have better hearts and are more heavenly than their predecessors, they will doubtless greatly rejoice, and will say, “This is the generation whom the Lord hath blessed.”

I do not remember that ever I did wish in my heart that I had not come into this country, or wish myself back again to my father’s house. Yea, I was so far from that, that I wished and advised some of my dear brethren to come hither also; and accordingly one of my brothers, and those two that married my two sisters, sold their means and came hither.

After God had brought me into this country, he was pleased to give me room in the hearts of his servants; so that I was admitted into the church fellow- ship at our first beginning in Dorchester, in the year 1630.

Before I proceed any further, I will inform you that God stirred up his poor servants to use means in their beginning for their preservation; though a low and weak people, yet a willing people to layout their estates for the defence of themselves and others. They having friends in divers places who thought it best for our safety to build a fort upon the island now called Castle Island, at first they built a castle with mud walls, which stood divers years. First, Capt. Simpkins was commander thereof; and after him Lieut. Monish for a little space. When the mud walls failed, it was built again with pine trees and earth; and Capt. Davenport was commander. When that decayed, which was within a little time, there was a small castle built with brick walls, and had three rooms in it, a dwelling room below, a lodging room over it, the gun room over that, wherein stood six very good saker guns, and over it, upon the top, three lesser guns.

All the time of our weakness, God was pleased to give us peace, until the wars with the Dutch in Charles the Second’s time. At that time our works were very weak, and intelligence came to us that De Ruyter, a Dutch commander of a squadron of ships, was in the West Indies, and intend to visit us; whereupon our battery was also repaired, wherein are seven good guns. But in the very time of this report, in July, 1665, God was pleased to send a grievous storm of thunder and lightning, which did some hurt at Boston, and struck dead here at the Castle Island that worthy, renowned Captain, Richard Davenport. Upon which the General Court, in wainscot partition between the room where the captain was killed, and the powder magazine. No injury was done to this building. But still God was pleased to keep this place in safety. The Lord enlarge our hearts unto thankfulness! August 10th following, appointed another Captain in the room of him that was slain. But, behold! God wrought for us; for although De Ruyter intended to come here, yet God by contrary winds kept him out; so he went to Newfoundland, and did great spoil there. And again, when danger grew on us by reason of the late wars with Holland, God permitted our castle at that very time to be burnt down, which was on the 21st day of March, 1672.

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