Quakertown Online

The Rogerenes of Ledyard
Vintson A. Ackley

Vintson Ackley was born in 1887, the son of Augustus O. and Martha Josephine (Whipple) Ackley. He was graduated from Brown University, and taught in a private preparatory school in Manhattan, as well as in Stonington High School in Stonington Village, Connecticut. He lived in the family home on Gallup Hill Road, Ledyard, where he died in 1934. He is buried in Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic.

A CONSIDERABLE PORTION of the southern part of Ledyard is known by the name of Quakertown. This is in a sense a misnomer, as the name Quaker has been a term by which the society of Friends has usually been designated, and the impression has often been given that the people of Quakertown are a branch of that society. Such is not the fact however, as the settlers of Quakertown and Quakerhill in Waterford were followers of the teaching of John Rogers, who lived from 1648-1721 at Quakerhill. He established an organization which was in the early days known as Rogerenes.

John Rogers was never in any way affiliated with the Quakers or Friends. He was in his youth a Congregationalist, but he withdrew from that church and joined the Seventh Day Baptists. He later drew away from that church as his own convictions became more established. Some of his beliefs were the same as those of the Quakers, and it was doubtless on this account that the name became attached to him and to his followers. But his teachings were as a whole more similar to those of the Baptists than to those of the Friends.

Among the early settlers of Quakertown was John Waterhouse of New London. He located in Groton in the early part of the eighteenth century. He built his house about a mile north of what is now known as Burnetts Corners, where he owned a large tract of land. He was an active Rogerene leader and was succeeded by his son Timothy who is usually known by the shortened name of Watrous.

Timothy Watrous was born in 1740 and was at an early age the accepted elder of his people. He maintained a vigorous leadership for a long period of years. He with his sons Timothy Jr. and Zacharia wrote The Battle Axe. This work set forth the principles of the Rogerene teachings and held up to ridicule the customs of other churches in so militant a manner that it was impossible to find a printer who would undertake to publish it. The difficulty was overcome however by Zacharia who constructed a press on which, after his death, his brother Timothy printed the book. There are a few original copies still extant which are highly prized. One of these is in the Smithsonian Institute.

Timothy Jr. succeeded his father as elder, but his was not a long leadership. He died in 1814, soon after his father, and he was succeeded by his youngest brother, Zephania. The new leader at once set about the construction of a meeting house. Abundant material was soon at hand as the September gale of 1815 laid low a forest belonging to the Rogerenes, and of this lumber the meeting house was at once constructed. It was built to furnish a home for the elder and his family on the first floor and a hall for holding meetings above. Zephania was about thirty years of age when he became elder. He was a man of strong character and maintained his leadership throughout his life. He met with considerable opposition in his later years however. It was alleged that he insisted on more ridged discipline and allowed less freedom of speech in his meetings than was consistent with Rogerene traditions. The opposition became the stronger party, and no other leader was ever accepted as Zephania's successor.

Much of the land which belonged to John Waterhouse is still owned by the Watrouses. Their family has in many instances been conspicuous for their mechanical ability. Zacharia Watrous not only constructed the printing press but was the inventor of the coffee mill. He was also a teacher of high standing. His brother Timothy invented the first machine for cutting cold iron into nails. Elder Zephania was able to bring the water from a large spring into the cellar of the meeting house and have it furnish power to run the spinning wheels on the floor above. Nathan Chapman, a descendant of John Waterhouse, was one of the founders of the Standard Iron Works of Mystic, Conn. Stephen Watrous of Quakertown was a well known contractor and able builder. Stephen's sons and grandsons have also followed the building trade.

Another name common in Quakertown and its vicinity is that of Crouch. William crouch of Groton married a daughter of John Bolles of Waterford, who was a disciple of John Rogers. From this union have descended most of the Crouches of the present day. The Crouches are closely related to the Watrouses by blood and the same mechanical ability is evident among them. Much of the building in nearby cities and towns has been done by men of this name. Zacharia Crouch successfully conducted a hinge factory in Quakertown and was a prosperous farmer in his later years. His daughter, Julia Crouch, was the author of the book, Three Successful Girls.

A third name common among the Rogerenes is that of Whipple. The first Whipple who came from Providence and settled in this locality was Samuel. He bought about 1000 acres of land near the village of Poquetannoc in 1712. he built a sawmill and iron works on this land and carried an extensive business. There were frequent marriages between the descendants of this man and those of John Rogers. A great grandson, Samuel, who was born in 1766, and who was a descendant of John Rogers, settled in Quakertown and is the ancestor of most of the Whipples. The Whipples have been active in varied lines of achievement. Noah Whipple, son of this Samuel, was one of the most capable stone masons of his time. He, with six of his eleven sons who reached manhood during the father's active life, did much structural work in this and neighboring towns.

Jonathan, a brother of Noah, had a son who was deaf and mute. As there were no schools for the deaf available, he undertook the task of teaching his son. He taught him to speak and to understand by motions of the lips. He was so successful that the son, who was Enoch Whipple, was able to converse and carry on business with no apparent handicap. A grandson, Zerah Whipple, became interested in this method of teaching the deaf and developed it more fully. He invented the Whipple Natural Alphabet and with his grandfather established the Home School for the deaf. The home of Jonathan Whipple, which is still standing in Quakertown, was enlarged for the accommodation of pupils, and another building was built nearby for school purposes. Later the school was moved to Mystic and remained in the hands of descendants of the Whipple family until it was purchased by the state. Margaret Whipple Hammond was superintendent of this school, and her daughter Clara Hammond McGuigan was superintendent of it for twenty-seven years after the state owned it.

This school has not only been of benefit to those who have received instruction within its walls, but it has inspired teachers to go forth to teach and in other schools teaching the Oral method. An instance of this is the Albany School for the Deaf which was owned and conducted by Quincy and Mary Macguire who were descendants of the same Whipple family of which Johnthan was a member.

Jonathan Whipple was also a capable teacher of hearing pupils and was the first president of the Connecticut Peace Society. He devoted much of his time in later years to working and writing in the cause of peace. This work as was that of teaching the deaf was carried on farther by the grandson, Zerah Whipple, who was a gifted scholar and whose early death cut short a life of much promise. Content Whipple, a granddaughter of Johathan, was the author of the books The Prescott Family and The Newal Boys.

Mrs. Ida Whipple Benham was a well known poet and was an earnest worker in the cause of peace. Timothy Whipple of Mystic was for years a teacher in the town and was one of the most extensive strawberry growers of eastern Connecticut. Silas Whipple was a well known gardener of Leffingwell and achieved considerable success in horticulture. John Whipple devoted his life to missionary work in India.

The Rogerenes have always been active in reform movements. They were among the first to urge openly the abolition of slavery at a time when abolition was not a popular sentiment and those advocating it were often dealt with severely. In the days of the underground railroad Quakertown was one of the stations. Runaway slaves were hidden in the meeting house and were then aided on their way to the next station.

After slavery ceased to be an issue, much attention was given to the cause of international peace. In 1868 the people of Quakertown united with the Universal Peace Union in holding at Mystic the first of the series of yearly meetings which continued for more than forty years. The meetings were held during the latter part of August. The time was increased from one to four days, and the number in attendance increased from forty-three who were present at the first meeting to several thousand who were often present in later years.

Since the days of settlement the people of Quakertown have mingled comparatively little with those of other faiths. This policy of isolation, while it has not tended to strengthen the race, has produced a people firm in their faith and resolute in maintaining their convictions of righteousness.

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