Roger Morey, Neatherd and Tavernkeeper (1612-1688)

Roger left Twekesbury and arrived in Boston in May of 1630. He was part of the Great Puritan Migration that saw some 13,000 to 21,000 English emigrants who went to the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1630 and 1642. The primary motivation for this migration was religious persecution for their non-conforming beliefs. The Puritans essentially believed that the established Church of England too closely resembled the Catholic Church. The Puritans was divided into Separatists and Non-Separatists. The Non-Separatists sought reform of the church. The Separatists sought to leave the English Church and start over. This presented a bit of a problem since the Head of the English Church was the king, leaving the church was considered treasonous. Some of the early Separatists were known as Pilgrims who managed to arrive in Plymouth in 1620. Another group of Puritans attempted to settle in Gloucester by 1623 to establish a commercial fishery. This venture failed in 1626 and the would be fishers settled in Salem without permission from King James.

In the mean time, religious persecution is stepping up in England with the ascension to the throne of Charles I in 1625. His Catholic wife had no use for Puritans and Protestants in general. His hostility to Protestants and Parliament would lead to Civil War by 1640, by many Separatists and even more moderate Non-Separatists decided that this was the time to leave. In general, these later emigrants were much better prepared than the pioneer Pilgrims and didn’t suffer a disastrous first winter like the Pilgrims.

In 1628, the New England Company obtained a royal patent to settle in Salem and takeover the illegal Gloucester settlement. The enterprise is renamed the Massachusetts Bay Company and is authorized to engage in trade by the King. A Puritan lawyer named John Winthrop leads a large group of Puritans to Boston arriving in April of 1630. Whereas, the earlier English emigrants planned their enterprises as business ventures that would give them social distance to practice their religion, the Puritans under Winthrop and leaders like Cotton Mather felt their goal was to establish “lights upon a hill” to demonstrate how Christianity could guide civil society. They also argued that the earlier “plantations” had failed because they lacked a religious basis for their settlements. Thus, these Congregationalist inspired settlements believed they were on a mission from God and those in opposition were to be outlawed or banished.

Our Roger Mowry was part of this immigration landing in Boston in 1631 and quickly relocating to Salem until 1636. Either in Boston or in Salem, Roger became a follower of Roger Williams. Williams is enshrined in American history as an early proponent of the separation of church and state that would later become a key component of the United States Constitution. While Williams was developing his religious and political theories, young Roger Mowry was securing a secure livelihood as the Neatherd of Salem. It was his responsibility to tend to cattle outside the confines of the village of Salem. He was paid a commission for the herd he tended. Evidently, it paid well enough for young Roger to be recognized as freeman in 1636. A freeman could vote and serve as a juror. This status was not available until a man turned 24 when an oath could be administered. Roger receives a 50 acre land grant for Salem in 1636 and was granted other plots of land upon which to build a house.

While Roger Mowry is establishing a home and holdings, Roger Williams is creating controversy with the Salem and Massachusetts authorities. His insistence that church laws did not apply secular endeavors were too much for the authorities and he lost his position in the Congregational church and was banished from the colony. By 1636, he and his most devoted followers relocated out of the reach of the Massachusetts authorities in Rhode Island.

Roger will marry Mary Johnson in 1639 after the birth of son Jonathan in 1637 and daughter Bethiah in 1638. This somewhat deferred marriage appears strange, but it seemed to be no barrier to Roger wedding the daughter of the prominent Captain John Johnson who arrived in Salem with the Governor John Winthrop in 1630. Johnson held a number of important positions in the colonial government based in Boston. He represented his Roxbury home district in the first meeting of the House of Deputies in 1634. He also was the first Clerk of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery. He will lead militia forces in the Pequot War in 1637. Many future ancestors will also belong to this militia. In his role as Surveyor for towns around Boston, he managed to acquire at lease 1,000 acres of land. The 27 year old cowboy Roger will manage to formally marry 25 year old daughter Mary in 1639. They will continue to reside in Salem until 1653 when he and the family moves to Providence. Son Jonathan will separate from his family and choose to live in Plymouth and marry into the prominent family of the Bartletts.

Roger Mowry tavern
1872 Engraving

Roger’s choice of Providence as a home is a matter of some curiosity. Some of my fellow family historians attempt to create a strong degree of friendship and connection with the famous Roger Williams. Both Rogers arrived in Boston at the same time and also briefly lived in Plymouth concurrently before also moving to Salem. Their circumstances were vastly different. Roger Williams was Cambridge educated and a recognized although controversial theologian. Our Roger could read and write. Most probably, our Roger was attracted to the charismatic preacher and like attended many of his sermons. Our Roger will remain in Salem long after Williams has relocated in Rhode Island. Nonetheless, when Roger Mowry finally moves to Providence, he purchases property adjacent to land held by Roger Wiliams.

In 1653 Roger Mowry builds a house on Abbott Street in Providence not far from the North burial ground. The house for remained standing for a couple of centuries until torn down in 1900. The house Mowry built became the Providence tavern or public house. The tavern was used frequently not only for refreshment but also for meetings of the town council. Most famously when Boston constables attempted to arrest a Providence citizen, the town leaders met. The Boston constable didn’t get his man. The tavern was also involved with a murder that took place near the tavern in 1661 of a Dutch carpenter John Clawson. A local native Indian, Waumanitt was arrested and held prisoner at the tavern. No records exist of the Indian’s fate but before expiring, Clawson accused a friend of Roger Williams as the murderer. Williams’ friend escaped punishment.

Roger was not only the tavernkeeper but also the Providence constable. This position must have come in handy as he was licensed to operate “a house of entertainment. Laws provided that no alcohol could be served after 9 p.m. unless a satisfactory reason was given to the magistrate or constable. Records exist of payment made by the town council for the use of the tavern for meetings. The tavern itself avoided destruction during King Phillip’s war in 1675. Since the tavern had been used for Roger William’s church services, the Wampanoags spared the building because of their friendship with Williams.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Mowryhouse.jpg

2 thoughts on “Roger Morey, Neatherd and Tavernkeeper (1612-1688)

  1. You are simply amazing. I have been also collecting historical events which surrounded my ancestors and have volumes of history printed on the countries and circumstances of their lives. I too have been trying to get a focus on how to present this material for others to read and enjoy.

    I look forward to any materials you create on family and historical events. Again, just know what you have created is so worthwhile to others. –Sue

    Sue (Grisham) Hardwig


  2. Mark and Peggy – Great post. A couple of questions: 1) I assume that you are descended from Roger Mowry. Is that correct? How so? What is your line? 2) You say that Roger married Mary Johnson in 1639 after the birth of son Jonathan in 1637 and daughter Bethiah in 1638. What is the source of the the date of marriage, and how do you know Mary is the mother of Jonathan and Bethiah? What is your data source? Thanks in advance, Bruce Fogwell

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