Religious History Sunday: The Memoirs and Legacy of Capt. Roger Clap

Roger Clap was born in Salcombe Regis, England on April 6, 1609 to William Clap and Johanna Channon Clap.  Though his parents were not wealthy they were devout and faithful servants of God.  His mother died in 1629.  At some point in his youth, after his mother’s death, Roger desired to live abroad and asked his father’s permission to take leave and live on a trial basis with Mr. William Southcot who lived near the town of Exor.


Every week Roger and the Southcots, a godly family, would journey into the city to attend church.  Roger was captivated by the ministry of Reverend John Warham and asked his father again for permission to relocate, this time into the city to live near Reverend Warham.  He lived with a Mr. Mossiour and his family and according to Roger, “as famous a family for religion as ever I knew”.  Roger later covenanted with the Mossiour family, but he began to hear about New England, a place he had never heard of before.

Roger learned that Reverend Warham was leaving to immigrate to New England and Mr. Mossiour encouraged Roger to go with him.  Roger again wrote to ask his father’s permission to take leave of England.  When Roger did not receive an answer he went in person to speak to his father who had been reluctant to grant permission.  However, Reverend Maverick had traveled to William’s home and convinced him to allow Roger to accompany him to New England.  Roger recognized God’s providence in not only changing his father’s heart, but God putting a desire in his own heart to leave his home and sail to New England.

The group left Plymouth, England on March 20, 1630, sailing on the Mary and John, and arrived in Nantasket, Massachusetts on May 30, 1630.  Roger, now twenty-one years of age expressed his gratitude, “Blessed be God that brought me here!”

The memoirs that Roger Clap later wrote for his children chronicle the hardships he endured upon his arrival.  Planting time had just occurred and there was little in the way of provisions so Roger wrote to his father requesting that provisions be sent.  Before those provisions arrived, Roger experienced hunger:

But before this Supply came, yea and after to (that being spent) and the then unsubdued Wilderness yielded little Food, many a time, if I could have filled my Belly, tho’ with mean Victuals, it would have been sweet unto me. Fish was a good help unto me, and others. Bread was very scarce, that sometimes I tho’t 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?

But God was faithful and Roger, even in enduring hardship, never regretted coming to New England, nor wished that he could return to his father’s house.  He convinced his brothers and sisters to later make the journey to New England as well.  On November 6, 1633, Roger married Joanna Ford, a fellow passenger on the Mary and John three years earlier.  She was seventeen years old and bore him fourteen children (several dying young).

Roger was prominent in his community, serving as Selectman fourteen times and representing his city in the General Court and made a freeman on May 14, 1634.  Roger Clap’s primary occupation, however, was that of serving in the militia.  In August of 1665 he was promoted to Captain of the Castle, a fort that provided protection for the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He and his family remained there for twenty-one years.  His son, Supply, suffered an unfortunate accident and died as a result:

Capt. Clap’s son, a very desirable man and gunner of the Castle…hath one of his eyes shott out, and a piece of his scull taken away by the accidental firing of a gun as he was going a fowling. (Diary of Samuel Sewall)

In September of 1686, Roger Clap resigned his post, receiving a nine-gun salute, and returned to Boston to live until his death on February 2, 1690.  His wife, Joanna, died in 1695.

roger_clapp_gravestoneRoger Clap was a deeply religious man who, in writing his memoirs, sought to instruct, counsel, direct and command his children and children’s children to continue serving the Lord.

RogerClapMemoirsRoger Clap shared his testimony of how he realized that he himself was a sinner (although he did not know how).  His love and compassion for people is quite evident and his prayer:

My earnest Desire and Prayer is, that God will help me to love his Graces more and more in all men wherever the Grace of God appears to be.

He felt privileged to be part of a church where the Bible was faithfully preached, and he regularly spent time evaluating his own life while lying in bed at night.  He encouraged his children to do likewise.  He also warned his children of those who he believed to be of corrupt mind, perverting the Gospel.  He specifically mentioned Quakers, who were notoriously at odds with the Puritans.  Opposition to Puritan beliefs was not welcome, as evidenced by his mention of Phillip Ratcliffe, who in 1631 was banished, whipped and his ears cut off for speaking against the churches.

Roger Clap implored his children and grandchildren:

Oh my Dear Children and Grand Children! For the Lord’s-sake labour for better Hearts, and to live better Lives than your poor Parents have done before you!

He continued by listing his admonitions to them (summarized below):

  • Study to Know your own Hearts, to know the Plague that there is in them.
  • Come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Labour for true godly Sorrow, and Grief of Heart for Sin.
  • Watch over your Hearts, your Hands, your Eyes, your Ears and your Tongues.

Watch the heart.  God’s Counsel is that we should keep the Heart with all Diligence.
Watch over your Ears.  So Christ commands us, that we must Take heed how we hear.
Watch over your Eyes.  That adulterous Lust got in David’s Heart through his Eyes.
Watch over your Tongues.  The Tongue is an unruly Evil.

  • Another Thing which I Charge you to observe, is, To Worship GOD in your Families.  Do not neglect Family Prayer, Morning and Evening.  And be sure to Read some part of the Word of God every day in your Families, in ordinary Course.
  • And I lay it as a solemn Charge upon you, That you Pray to God in Secret; and that often too.
  • And I do also Charge you, To live in Love and Peace among your selves.
  • Finally, Be good Examples unto others.  Walk humbly with God.

Choose God to be your Portion: Receive Christ by Believing in Him; so you shall be the Children of GOD.  Amen.

The Memoirs of Capt. Roger Clap can be read online or downloaded to your tablet or mobile device by clicking here. The memoirs are not long and certainly worthy of a read to see how devoutly Roger Clap lived his life and honored God.  He also relates stories of the early days living in New England which provide insights into colonial life.

Discussion Topic:

Are the admonitions in The Memoirs of Capt. Roger Clap applicable today?

Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2013.


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