John Roper, Sr. ca. 1588-ca. 1664
Forty-Fifth Signer of the Dedham Covenant
Memorial Service, Greenville SC, 8 October 2005

Have you ever been moved to wonder "WHY?" Why did they come, those early immigrants to America's shores? Why did they subject themselves and their families to the rigors of the north Atlantic? Why endure the dangers, discomfort and pain of that long and treacherous journey?

Why did John Roper, Sr., progenitor of those sometimes called "Northern Ropers" come? To understand John Roper's motivation we must recall the events of English history during his life.

John Roper grew to manhood, married and began to rear a family during a most chaotic period in the religious, social, and political life of Great Brittan. Charles I, a high churchman believed by many to be a Roman Catholic at heart, was king. The King was engaged in wars he could not fight for lack of funds. He had other major differences with parliament, He provoked a civil war. He attempted to eradicate the Puritans. Oliver Cromwell raised an army and defeated Charles who was subsequently condemned and executed by Parliament. Dissatisfaction with the Established Church and general unrest were rife in the nation. All of these events must have been major factors in the John Sr's. decision to leave for New England.

The Roper families, John, Sr., his wife and his sons, John, Jr. and Walter, sailed for New England aboard the Rose, John Andrews, Master, in the summer of 1637. Like the Pilgrims who sailed before them on the Mayflower, those who sailed on the Rose Covenanted together and just as the Mayflower Pilgrims founded Plymouth the Pilgrims on the Rose to covenanted together and founded a community-- Dedham, Massachusetts.

It was a rigorous paternal community that dominated the homes and daily life of the people. Following 1639 "the wearing of lace and other vain ornaments as tending to the nourishing of pride, and exhaustive or men's estates, was prohibited. A law of 1655 required "all hands not necessarily employed on other occasions, as women, girls, and b oys, shall and are hereby enjoyed, to spir according to their skill and ability." In addition, "select men overlook and access the spinning, each spinner to spin every year for thirty weeks, three pound each week of linen, cotton or wool, under penalty of twelve pence for every pound short."

Appended to the Covenant drawn at a Town Meeting on August 11, 1637 is the notation: "Grated that John Bachelor and John Roper, Sen., may have Lotts with us…" John Roper, Sr. was the 46th signer among the 125 persons who signed the Covenant.

John, Sr. is listed in attendance at Town Meetings until 1644. A carpenter, it is recorded on February 24, 1641 that: "on this day John Roper being destitute of corn, craved the privilege of selling boards." He was "Granted with license to take more timber." Subsequently, he was ranted 5-1/2 acres for cultivation, 4 acres of woodland, and 6 acres of meadow.

In November 1738, John, Sr., or his son John, Jr., was among those who undertook to finish building a church that was begun in January of that year. John, Sr., was among those who in 1640 established a "fre schoole". The school was to "teach to read English and the Accidence (Grammar) and to write and the knowledge and art of Arithmeticke and the rules and practice thereof."

We cannot but be proud of the courage and fortitude of John Roper and others like him who facing trials and a limited life in the land of their birth set out to found a new nation. He and others like him were worthy men. But we should not overlook that when John, Sr., and his sons landed in Massachusetts in 1637 they arrived in the midst of the Pequot War. This war was among the first attempts by the new comers to displace and push west the Indians then occupying the territory.

This story should give pause to present day descendents who look with dismay on others who in our day come to this country for reasons not too dissimilar from those that motivated John, Sr. and His family.