Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Memoir of Arriving in America – Roger Clap

B. 6 Apr 1609 in Salcombe Regis, England
M. 6 Nov 1633 in Dorchester, Massachusetts
Wife: Joanna Ford
D. 2 Feb 1691 in Boston, Massachusetts
Emigrated: 1630 on the ship Mary and John

Roger Clap is known amongst New England researchers as the man who left behind a personal memoir for his children. It is a rare piece of writing giving a detailed look at a Puritan immigrant's life and times. He was born April 6, 1609 in Salcombe Regis, England, which is near the coast of Devon. His parents were William Clap and Johana Channon and he was one of seven children. Roger's mother died in 1629.

Where Roger Clap was from

Sometime in his youth, Roger left home to live with a man near Exeter and there became a follower of Reverend John Warham. Roger idolized him, and he moved into the city to be closer. Then Warham announced his plans to migrate to America. Roger recalled that he had never heard of New England, but when Warham asked him to join the group of emigrants, he considered it. Roger wrote to his father asking his permission to do this and when he didn't get an answer, he traveled to his father's house to ask him in person. Reluctantly, William Clap agreed. Within a few years, three of Roger's siblings would also migrate.

The ship Roger sailed on was the Mary and John and has been well-docmented. When the Mary and John sailed into the Massachusetts Bay area, the captain was afraid of grounding the ship, so he let the passengers off with all of their goods on an outer strand of land at the entrance to the harbor. The settlers had to find a way to reach their destination. As Roger told it, "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." The arrival of the Mary and John preceded the Winthrop Fleet by a couple of months, so there were only scattered English settlers in the area. The established Plymouth colony was well to the south.

Roger spoke in his memoirs of the difficulty of being hungry. Fish and mussels were the only things they had easy access to; they also managed to trade with the Indians to acquire corn. Roger craved bread and other English foods during those early years. "Many a time if I could have filled my belly, …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?"

On November 6, 1633, Roger married one of the passengers of the Mary and John, Joanna Ford, who was 17 years-old. Between 1643 and 1660, they had 14 children, several of whom died as infants or in their teens. The place settled by the passengers from the Mary and John became Dorchester, Massachusetts and Roger was an important person in the community. He was chosen as selectman 14 times, and in his duties as a representative to the General Court, Roger had many dealings in Boston.

Roger's primary occupation was in the military and he became a captain of the militia. In August 1665, he was given the position of Captain of the Castle, the Castle being the fort that protected the Massachusetts Bay colony. He would live there with his family for the next 21 years. One son, Thomas, was killed at the age of 15 "by the accidental firing of a gun, as he was going a fowling." In September 1686, Roger retired from his post and was given "a nine-gun salute." He settled in Boston where he died on February 2, 1691. He was buried at King's Chapel Burying Ground in Boston.

The Memoirs of Roger Clap was a manuscript that Roger wrote during his retirement years and left for his children. One descendant offered it up for publication in 1731 and this is how the book exists today (the original written copy was lost). Not only did Roger give details of the challenges of leaving England for the sake of his religious beliefs, but he also gave his opinion on many events in his world. He spoke against the Quakers and considered them a nuisance in Massachusetts. "Satan and his instruments did malign us, and oppose our godly preachers," he wrote of the Quakers. He also justified certain punishments by saying, "sometimes God hath wrought for us by his providence other ways." He said that he witnessed one person who "spake boldly and wickedly against the Government and Governors here" get publicly whipped and have his ears cut off.

The first page of Roger Clap's memoir, published in 1731

Roger Clap is remembered today on a plaque at the site of his landing in America, and on the town seal of Watertown, Massachusetts. There is also an elementary school in Dorchester named in his honor.

The seal of Watertown, Massachusetts showing Roger Clap

Famous descendants of Roger Clap include Mike Huckabee.

1. Samuel Clapp – B. 11 Oct 1634, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 16 Oct 1708; M. Hannah Leeds (?-1708), 1659

2. William Clapp – B. 5 Jul 1636, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 22 Sep 1638, Dorchester, Massachusetts

3. Elizabeth Clapp – B. 22 Jun 1638, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 25 Dec 1711, Boston, Massachusetts; M. Joseph Holmes

4. Experience Clapp – B. 23 Aug 1640, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 1 Nov 1640, Dorchester, Massachusetts [female]

5. Waitstill Clapp – B. 22 Oct 1641, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 9 Aug 1643, Dorchester, Massachusetts [female]

6. Preserved Clapp – B. 23 Nov 1643, Dorchester, Massachusetts; D. 20 Sep 1720, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Sarah Newberry (1650-1716), 4 Jun 1668, Northampton, Massachusetts

7. Experience Clapp – B. Dec 1645; D. young [female]

8. Hopestill Clapp – B. 6 Nov 1647, Boston, Massachusetts; D. 2 Sep 1719; M. Susanna Swift, 1672

9. Wait Clapp – B. 17 Mar 1649, Boston, Massachusetts; D. 3 May 1717, Boston, Massachusetts; M. Jonathan Simpson (?-~1705)

10. Thanks Clapp – B. Jul 1651; D. young [female]

11. Desire Clapp – B. 17 Oct 1652, Boston, Massachusetts; D. Dec 1717; M. (1) Sarah Pond, 1669; (2) Deborah Smith

12.  Thomas Clapp – B. Apr 1655, Boston, Massachusetts; D. 1670

13. Unite Clapp – B. 13 Oct 1656, Boston, Massachusetts; D. 20 Mar 1664 [male]

14. Supply Clapp – B. 30 Oct 1660, Boston, Massachusetts; D. 6 Mar 1686, Boston, Massachusetts [male]

The Memoirs of Roger Clap, 1731
The History of Easthampton: its settlement and growth, Payson W. Lyman, 1866
The Clapp Memorial: record of the Clapp family in America, Ebenezer Clapp, 1876
GeneaStar: Famous Family Tree and Genealogy [website]

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