|DAVID WHITE AND MARTHA COLLINS ROGERS
David White Rogers, son of Samuel Rogers and Hannah Sinclair, was born October 4, 1787 in Morristown, Merrimac County, New Hampshire. His birth was synonymous with the birth of our United States of America. Just four months before, the Constitutional Convention had convened in Philadelphia. George Washington became President of the fledgling country just before David's second birthday.
The Revolutionary War had ended in 1783. David's father hired someone to serve in the Revolutionary War in his place because his parents were ill or disabled and he, being one of their two living children, cared for them. Samuel's father, Nathaniel, and grandfather, Reverend John Rogers, spent most of their lives in Boxford, Mass., where Reverend John Rogers was the first ordained minister. David's Mother, Hannah, was born in Boxford.
Samuel Rogers married Hannah in Morristown (now Franconia), New Hampshire, November 14, 1782. He was a farmer, as were ninety percent of the men in the new union. He moved west and took up land on what was then the frontier.
The Rogers' first child was born just across the New Hampshire border at Bradford, Vermont. The next three, including David White, were born back in Franconia. The family moved to upstate Vermont in 1787, lived there five years, then moved to St. Cermand, east of Missisquoi Bay in Quebec Province, Lower Canada. They were living in Stanbridge, Quebec, when Hannah, David's mother, died February 19, 1804. The oldest of the ten children was 22 years old, the youngest was six, and David, the 4th child was almost 17. Two years later Samuel married Mrs. Elfreda Joy. Three children were born to this union.
Martha Collins was born August 22, 1793 in Berkshire, Vermont, 25 miles from Lake Champlain and 5 miles from the Canadian border. She was the daughter of Ebenezer Collins and Ann Stowe. Her father fought for three and a half years in the Revolutionary War. She was proud of her grandfather, Manessah Stowe, who was of the House of Stowe in English history. We don't know how she met David, but he was most likely living just over the Canadian border near Vermont. They were married December 5, 1811.
David built a cabin in a little clearing on the north shore of Lake Champlain in Canada, a beautiful large lake that stretches southward, dividing Vermont and New York. Green forests fringed the miles of shoreline. Beaver, mink, and ermine were plentiful there, and David had a trapline along the shore which he tended in a small rowboat. It is likely he sold furs to the Northwest Trading Company headquartered in Montreal, Canada, less than 30 miles northwest of their home.
July 5, 1813, "Monday morning at three o’clock," according to David's handwritten records, a daughter was born whom they named Susanna Mehetible after two of David's sisters. A son, Edward William Rogers was born December 5, 1814, but only lived nine months.
The war of 1812 came to their doorstep in 1814 with the Battle of Lake Champlain. At this time many American men living over the border in Canada were forced to fight with the British against their countrymen, but David eluded the recruiters. The battle took place on the lake, near Plattsburg. For miles around, the volleys could be heard as a heated battle took place. The British surrendered.
Charles Addison was born July 28, 1816; and Amelia Ann was born April 21, 1818 in Queenstown, Quebec, Canada. David refers to it as "upper Canada." For a time the family lived in a clearing now known as Roger's Rock.
Sometime in 1820 David moved his family to Pomphret, on the Western border of New York State, a distance of 250 miles. Roads were very poor, being little more than tracks through the wilderness, so it must have been quite an undertaking. About that time John Jacob Astor obtained a monopoly on the fur trade in America and this may have affected David’s trapping business. Ross Ransom was born in their new home February 11, 1821.
In 1825 David received the following letter from his brother Samuel, addressed to David W. Rogers, Pomphret, state of New York, Chautaugua County.
Jan. 28, 1825
Not having heard from you for a long time my anxiety to hear from you compels me to undertake to open some communication with you, and inquire for your welfare and likewise for Father and all my brothers and sisters and inquire about my friends in your acquaintance. I wish you to wright (sic) me as soon as you can conveniently, and inform me of your circumstances and all of our friends in that part of the country. I have not heard from Father for about three years. I know not whether he is still living or not. If he is living I wish you to show this to him and inform him of my anxiety to hear from him. My negligence in wrighting (sic) is not from want of an anxious and tender feeling for my parents. It is to be attributed to other cases. Therefore I hope they will overlook them. I often hear from ----(?) Friend to the east. By what I learn they are all well. Brother James came to my house two years ago. He gave me information of all our family and where they lived. He staid (sic) here nine months. He left here a year and ½ ago and promised to wright (sic) but I have not heard from him since. The last that I heard from him he went aboard a boat to go up the St. Lawrence River with only one man. He had not far from $100.00 in cash when he left this place. I think it very strange that he hasn’t wrote to me before now. If he’s been in your knowlege I wish you to inform him that I have not heard from him since he left, and I feel very much concerned about him.
I can give very little account of myself that would be of use to you. We have six children. Their names and particulars I suppose you have, so I must conclude at this time by informing you that we are all well at present and hope you are all well. My wife and children send their love to you and your children. Please to accept this in lew of what I should wright (sic) while I ----(?) myself your most affectionate and loving brother.
Samuel Rogers Jr.
Fort Covington, N.Y.
The Rogers next move was a few miles up the shores of Lake Erie to Dunkirk where they lived eight years. Four more children were born during that time: Glezen Fillmore, December 2, 1822; Hester Ann, March 23, 1825; Caroline, March 26, 1827; and David, July 7, 1829.
The summer Hester was born, the family traveled to Ticonderoga in upstate New York, a distance of over 300 miles from their home in Dunkirk. They may have lived there a short time; however they were back in Dunkirk by March of 1827.
Their daughter Susanna says they were in Ticonderoga the summer of 1825 when Lafayette, the Revolutionary war hero came to visit.
A banner was stretched across the street with the words “Welcome Lafayette” outlined in flowers; and every soul in the town who could move or be moved turned out to meet the 68 year old Frenchman.
The Rogers family all were there: David; Martha; Susanna, age 12; Charles, age 9; Amelia, age 7; Ross, age 4; Gleezen Filmore, age 2; and baby Hester. The patriot came up to the little group, kissed Hester, shook hands with the adults and gallantly bowed and kissed Susanna’s hand.
Gleason Fillmore died December 23, 1825, at age two years and 21 days according to a handwritten record by David. Among Susanna’s papers was a tribute to him, probably written by David’s brother Samuel to console the grief-stricken family.
Gleason Fillmore was his name
Lovely and beautiful his frame
Engaging countenance and mild
Loves own beloved child.
Eternal bliss he now has found
No more to dwell on lower ground.
From the blest regions of Love
In mercy an angel come down
Led his Spirit to worlds above
Lest in sin he might be drowned
May we with love and awe adore
O Lord thy goodness and thy grace
Redeemed by thy love and power
Even now he’s gone to see thy face.
Caroline describes Dunkirk. “It always seems to me that I can remember the house where I was born, even though I was only three when we moved away from there. In my mind I can see a house with windows overlooking a lake, standing close to a high bank with the water running many feet below, and boats sailing on the water. Fruit trees grew around the house. One thing I remember very vividly before I was three: The teacher called me to her and taking hold of my ear with one hand, and a pen knife in the other, she said she would cut off my ear.”
Charles wrote poignantly of their home on Lake Erie. “Nothing conveys greater emotions in the heart of absent friends than the thoughts of bygone days when we dwelt together in the peaceful and endearing shades of our father’s house with our own dear brothers and sisters around, with no cares to bother or perplex us and with nothing to molest of make us afraid. Those are the days never to be forgotten and days which we never can enjoy again, but this memory will ever be dear to me. Were I a boy again on the shore of the deep blue Lake Erie, I should not wish for change.”
Ross Ransom says, “I can well remember many circumstances of my childhood home in Dunkirk: such as playing with neighbor children in the meadow along the banks of a small stream that ran a few yards from our home; fishing and bathing in Lake Erie; and going to school.”
“In the fall of 1830 my Mother received letters from my Father who was in the city of New York, requesting her to come to him with all the family: Susanna, Charles, Amelia, Hester, Caroline, David and myself. At this time my Mother was almost destitute of means; however she set about the task with the energy that always characterized her in overcoming obstacles.
“I can well remember the journey although I was only nine years old. Neighbors came out to the wagon to bid us a last farewell. Some were so affected they wept with sorrow, for my Mother was greatly beloved by all who knew her. We carried our luggage in a borrowed wagon, while we drove the livestock and trudged along 45 miles to the city of Buffalo, New York. “There we boarded a canal boat, one of those that took on freight as well as passengers.”
Ross says they traveled by canal boat 363 miles to Troy, N.Y., where they boarded a towboat of the Swift Line. “On this boat my mother was abused by one of the collectors of passage money and he threatened to put us off. Mother had arranged to pay passage when we reached New York, using our baggage for collateral. It was finally worked out and we arrived in New York. Our baggage remained on the boat as security for our passage money.
“When the boat got near enough to the landing, my brother Charles and I jumped on shore and started in search of my father. At that time I had a very vague idea of the city, and I soon found myself lost in a wilderness of houses. From the foot of Water Street we walked up that thoroughfare to the Battery and up Washington Street to Courtland.
“There was an alarm of fire, and for the first time in my life I saw a fire engine. I thought it was the strangest sight I had ever seen. The engine was highly ornamented and drawn by about forty men, two abreast, each man holding to the rope attached to the front axle. Each wore a broad brimmed stout leather hat with a large front piece painted with the number of the engine. The men were going down Courtland Street at the rate of about 8 miles per hour. As they whizzed past me I began to think I was in danger of my life. Because my brother was five years older than me (fourteen), I trusted him to pilot us through the living mass that thronged the street. We walked up Broadway to Exchange Street, then to New York Street and number 34. My brother pointed to my father’s sign, ROGERS AND SON HOUSE CARPENTERS AND JOINERS. The building was one of those old steep tile roofed Dutch buildings. The first story was occupied by a hackney coachman stable. The second was a hay loft, and the third was a low roofed garret where my Father lived.
“We found him cooking his supper of salt mackerel and a boiled sweet potato over a wood shavings fire. He was surprised to see us as we weren’t expected till later. We soon started back to where mother was anxiously awaiting us. Father procured a Carman.” Delivery carts were driven by white smocked Carmen, who were the terror of all because of the speed at which they traveled the congested streets. New York City streets were described as chaotic, full of carriages, buggies and horses, with few traffic rules. Policemen were on hand to arrest anyone going over five miles an hour and untangle traffic when the flow came to a dead halt. The air was filled with the groan of thousands of iron rimmed wheels and the strike of iron horseshoes upon the cobbled and payed streets.
Ross continues his narrative. “It was after dark when we left the boat. We started up the street, not knowing where we would find a house, but we were lucky to find one to rent on New York Street, not far from the shop. By ten o’clock we were as well off as thousands of others who had never been outside the city.
“It was the custom in New York to change our hire houses on the first day of May. We lived first in New York Street, second in Market Street, third at Water Street, fourth at 29 Washington Street, Mulberry Street, Jane Street, and lastly at the corner of Spring and Greenwich Streets.”
Many of the houses had cisterns, but most of the people carried water from the free pumps on almost every street corner. It was saline water, “physic” in effect. Those who could afford it had better tasting water hauled from Collect Pond in the North part of the city, a favorite fishing and swimming hole. The best pump water was at the corner of Pearl Street and Park Row. It was carried in hogsheads, sold for a penny a gallon, and made more palatable by lacing it with drams from a grog shop-there was one for every thirty male citizens.
Caroline continues her story: “The next thing that made a great impression on my mind was going to my father’s bedroom one day as he was sick. The first thing that met my eyes was the doctor bleeding him and some person holding a white bowl to catch the blood. I was almost frightened to death. I thought they were killing him. I had never seen anything like that before, although it was common practice for father to be bled for the severe headaches he was subject to. I have heard my mother say that father had over sixty scars on his arms where he had been bled. In later years father was much opposed to bleeding. He practiced medicine himself and never bled a patient unless it was actually necessary.
“I remember the death of my little sister Maria, October 23, 1832, at nine and a half months old. She was the first dead person I ever saw. (Her brother David Preston died in December of that year at three and a half years of age.)
“We were living on the banks of the Hudson River near the docks. Steamers landed at the docks all the time. It was exciting. I remember one day looking over the railing into the river. There I saw the body of a dead man which had floated up to the docks all bloated, an unsightly thing to behold. Some men in a boat were trying to get the body aboard. I became frightened and ran away.”
The Rogers family probably shopped at Washington Market, a large open area with every kind of food and produce imaginable. It had been serving the people in the city for two centuries and stood where the World Trade Center now stands.
“The year 1832 was the great Cholera year in New York City, when the dead wagons were going night and day carrying the dead to the graves. (Four thousand died during June.) My mother was very sick that year with Typhus fever. She used to call us children to her every day to inquire how we felt. ‘Does your head ache? Do you feel sick anywhere?’ She was so afraid we would catch cholera. The doctors forbade the people from eating melons or fruit of any kind. However, my brother told my mother they had never eaten so many melons in one season in their lives. Melons were so cheap anyone could get them very easily.
“I remember my sister Susanna taking my dress off me to keep me from running off to play with a little friend of mine. That saved her a great deal of trouble chasing after me to bring me home again.
“In 1833 we moved to a large house on the Battery at #1 Water Street and Castle Gardens. My sister and I used to take great pleasure in walking around Battery Park and sitting on the benches under the trees and also watching the ships land.”
Drifters were allowed to sleep in Battery Park. They were mostly street musicians, including Italian organ grinders, and street vendors. From stands, carts, or newspapers spread on the ground these people sold watches, jewelry, cigars or sweets.
New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July and Halloween were occasions for disorder in New York City. Drinking crowds ranged up and down streets singing loudly and stealing shop signs. New Years Eve a crowd at the Bowery made noise with pots and pans, horns, whistles, drums and rattles. People threw missiles filled with flour and lime at a grog shop on Hester Street, beat up the watchman and surged across Courtland then down Broadway breaking up barrels and boxes. A crowd of 4,000 arrived at South Ferry at one AM, tried to tear up the iron fence at the Battery, overturned carts and broke windows until dawn.
The Rogers operated a boarding house on the Battery. Their children were sent to the best schools New York had to offer. The family was deeply religious, attending the Methodist Church with Reverend Fitch Reed. In Sunday School the children memorized whole chapters of the New Testament.
Henry Clay was born October 19, 1833. From his name we assume that David voted for Henry Clay against Pres. Andrew Jackson in the 1832 elections. (Women weren’t allowed to vote.)
In October of 1833, an Italian political exile by the name of Benedetto Sangiovanni came to the boarding house and rented a room. He had been Captain of the Provincial Guards in Italy under Napoleon, and escaped with a price on his head after the Battle of Waterloo. David was very impressed with him. Even though he was 52 and Susanna only 20, David encouraged his daughter to accept Benedetto’s proposal of marriage. The couple was married November 5, 1833 and moved to Tallahassee, Florida.
Slavery was abolished in the state of New York, but slavery and anti-slavery riots were common. In July of 1834, five days of rioting took place on Spring Street. Unruly mobs smashed doors, windows, and destroyed much property.
The following letter was received by David from his father in early 1834.
My Dear Son,
Hearing nothing from you since your letter by W.L. Farnham dated November 7, I now address you and inform you I have enjoyed better health than I could reasonably expect through the cold season thus far. I have cut my winter wood and done considerable other labor.
Your brother Samuel came here in the forepart of Nov. and went from this (place) to George in Pierpoint, Ohio. He returned here on the 11th inst. And has gone home. He has bought a small farm in Pierpoint and intends to move his family as soon as the season and his circumstances will allow. He is involved and under necessity to sell where he lives or rent his place on the best terms he can. Your lost sister Rebecca came here the last week in November, the last day of the month, returned in the steamboat to Buffalo and took her passage on the Canal. She wrote me on the 13th of December and stated she had just arrived in N.Y. and there being a vessel bound to the southern climate where her residence is, she engaged passage for home immediately and had no time to spare there. She could not even call on you.
(On her way here) she left (?) and came to N.Y. in a ship and being seasick she stayed in the city a fortnight and knew not that you lived there until she arrived in St. Cermand at her sister Susannah’s. After visiting her and her sister Hannah, she went by way of Montreal to Samuel’s; he having gone before to his country. She came by steamboat to Niagra and came by land to see me, the season being so far advanced she only stayed with me two days. Her residence is near the Mexican Territory. She had lived there or near there three years, but is not settled for life and intends removing again to some other place, yet to her unknown. Her children except Hannah live with her. Hannah is married and gone to some part of the Northern country, to her (Rebecca) unknown.
George’s wife is yet unable to labor or attend to the family concerns and is not likely to recover. The rest of the family are blest with good health. My situation remains uncertain and disagreeable. I have to look for a new residence in April. We are yet blest with health and have been enabled to procure a comfortable subsistance thus far. We have, however, very little aforehand, and the prospect is dark and dull. I expected from what you wrote me that I should have received another letter from you long before this.
The English family and the box you mentioned I have heard no more of. I hope you will not fail to write me soon and let me know how you are prospered etc.
Receive this my son,
From your loving Papa and friend. (74 years old)
My, love, I wish to be remembered to Martha and the children....
Kindness and love,
When fancy leads the way
Now afar we are to stray.
Caroline says, “In 1834 my Father moved again. This time it was across the Hudson River at a place called Caldwell’s Landing. It was just opposite Peckskill, a town on the other side of the Hudson River. We could see West Point from our house. The house was an old Revolutionary War era building with three verandas running around the house, one above the other. Many old historic places were in the near vicinity, and a tavern (hotel) was next door. Our house was a large roomy edifice standing on the banks of the River very near the shore, a lovely place indeed.” She further describes it in verse:
MY OLD HOME ON THE HUDSON RIVER
Oh that home on the hillside, I look back with pleasure
To dear ones once gathered within its wide halls.
My father, my mother, my sisters and brothers,
What a picture of comfort the memory recalls.
And that bright rolling river, the beautiful Hudson
Where often at evening while gliding along,
On it’s blue sparkling waters, in childish enjoyment
We made the air echo with music and song.
How oft’ with my playmates in childish abandon
I’ve roamed through the valleys new pleasures to find.
The murmuring streamlets, the birds singing gaily
Would chase all the gloom and the care from my mind.
Oh those cool shady grapevines, and swings we made in them
Now come to mind with those memories dear.
How we played there at evening, our tasks then all ended
With naught but sweet pleasure.....with never a care.
Oh that bright rolling river, that home on the hillside
With vine covered porches, now come to my view,
And the green grassy meadow, where often at twilight
I gathered the daisies, all wet with the dew.
The old cherished home with the threes on the hilltop
And the brickyard, how plainly it all comes to view,
And the wide spreading chestnuts, the children we played with,
It seems that but yesterday I was there too.
That dear cherished homestead! How often at evening
We talked o’er our pleasures and each had a share.
In the parlor we gathered, with ne’er a chair vacant
And bowed ‘round the alter in family prayer.
And our father invoking the blessings of heaven
To rest on his household, his girls and his boys,
For the blessings of health, for our food and our raiment
And thanked Him for all of our manifold joys.
Oh, I ne’er can forget it, the garden, the orchard
With the wide spreading apple trees, shady and sweet.