|CONANT, 1592-aft.1722||Related Families: Horton | Andrews | Moulton|
was baptized in All Saints Church in the parish of East Budleigh, Devonshire,
England on 9 April 1592. His father was the leading merchant of Clayton,
a neighboring parish. Family tradition says that as a boy young Roger met
Sir Walter Raleigh. On 11 November 1618, Roger married Sarah
at St. Anne Blackfriars.
Later Conant and his young family came to New England probably arriving
in Plymouth in 1622.
The Dorchester Company established a fishing settlement on Cape Anne during the winter of 1623/1624 under a charter with England. Located at Stage Point, now Gloucester, the company invited Roger Conant to join them in 1625 as their governor "for the management and government of all their affairs at Cape Ann".
Conant built the first Salem house on what is Essex Street today, almost opposite the Town Market. In 1639, his was one of the signatures on the building contract for enlarging the meeting house in Town House Square for the First Church in Salem. This document remains part of the town records at City Hall.
After a year's residence, Conant became convinced of the need for a more permanent settlement and found an ideal site at the mouth of the Naumkeag River (now the City of Salem). There the settlement thrived and grew by farming as well as fishing. When Governor Endicott arrived in 1628, he incorporated Conant and his men into the new government. (The Dorchester Company went into bankruptcy in 1627 and became the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 under charter from England). Known as the Old Planters, Conant and his followers lent continuity to the new settlement and can be considered the founding fathers of Naumkeag, renamed Salem for "Shalom" or Peace on 29 June 1629.
Nathaniel Hawthorne paid tribute to the founder of his birthplace in his book Main Street, Salem:
Roger Conant made his will 25 September 1679 and died on 19 November, considering himself "...an instrument, though a weak one, of foundering and furthering this colony...""You perceive, at a glance, that this is the ancient and primitive wood, the ever-youthful and venerably old, - verdant with new twigs, yet hoary, as it were, with the snowfall of innumerable years, that have accumulated upon its intermingled branches. ... In more than one spot, among the trees, an upheaved axe is glittering in the sunshine. Roger Conant, the first settler in Naumkeag, has built his dwelling, months ago, on the border of the forest-path; and at this moment he comes eastward, through the vista of woods, with his gun over his shoulder, bringing home the choice portions of a deer. His stalwart figure, clad in leather jerkin and breeches of the same, strides sturdily onward, with such an air of physical force and energy that we might almost expect the very trees to stand aside, and give him room to pass. And so, indeed, they must; for, humble as is his name in history, Roger Conant still is of that class of men who do not merely find, but make, their place in the system of human affairs; a man of thoughtful strength, he has planted the germ of a city. There stands his habitation, showing in its rough architecture some features of the Indian wigwam, and some of the log cabin, and somewhat too, of the straw-thatched cottage in Old England, where this good yeoman had his birth and breeding.
The dwelling is surrounded by a cleared space of a few acres, where Indian corn grows thrivingly among the stumps of the trees; while the dark forest hems it in, and seems to gaze silently and solemnly, as if wondering at the breadth of sunshine which the white man spreads around him. An Indian, half hidden in the dusky shade, is gazing and wondering too. Within the door of the cottage you discern the wife with her ruddy English cheek. She is singing doubtless a psalm tune, at her house hold work; or, perhaps she sighs at the remembrance of the cheerful gossip, and all the merry social life, of her native village beyond the vast and melancholy sea. Yet the next moment she laughs, with sympathetic glee, at the sports of her little tribe of children; and soon turns round, with the home-look on her face, as her husband's foot is heard approaching the rough-hewn threshold. How sweet must it be for those who have an Eden in their hearts, like Roger Conant and his wife, to find a new world to project it into, as they have, instead of dwelling among old haunts of men, where so many household fires have been kindled and burnt out, that the very glow of happiness has something dreary in it."
was born about 1637 in Salem, Essex Co., Massachusetts, and died 28 April
1722 in Windham, Windham Co., Connecticut. He married on 28 April 1663
Exercise was granted freeman status in 1663 in Beverly, Essex Co., Massachusetts. He purchased his house in Windham, Connecticut, in 1694 and was admitted as an inhabitant of that town in November. He was one of the pioneers of the Lebanon, Connecticut, settlement. In 1701, he sold his holdings in Windham and returned to the Boston area where he remained until 1718. He later returned to Windham where he died.
Monuments to Exercise Conant (cast reproduction of 1722 original) and
sister-in-law Joanne Dimmock (1727), carved by Obadiah Wheeler.
|© Mark A. Wentling, 2000||
"At Salem Court, 25:9:1679. The Last will and testament of Roger Conant, dated the 1st of the 1 mo. [March] 1677. I roger Conant aged about eightie fiue yeares, being of perfect vnderstandin though weak and feeble in body, doe hereby declare my will and minde wherein in the first place I doe bequeath my soule vnto God that gaue it & my body to the graue, in hope of a blessed resurection: & for my outward estate and goods, I giue vnto my Sonne Exercise one hundred and fortie acres of Land lyeing neer adjoining vnto the new towne of Dunstable a part of two hundred acres granted me by the General court: also I giue & bequeath vnto him ten acres of Land next adjoining vnto his p'sont home lott and land Lying by the side of william Dodgeses his land, and butts on the land of thomas Herrick: also I give him two acres of marsh at the south end of the grat pond by whenham, or if my daughter Elizabeth Conant will exchange to have soe much at the great marsh neer wenham: also I give him my swamp at the head of the railes which is yet undivided betwixt me and Benjamin Balch adjoining vnto william Dodgeses swamp: also I giue him my portion of land Lying by Henry Haggats on wenham side: toward the discharge of such Legassis as I have given & bequeathed: accordin as is hereafter sett down.
more I giue vnto my grandchild John Conant sonne of Roger Conant ten acres of Land adjoing to his twenty acres by the great pond side he paying twenty pounds for the same towards the payment of gegassis as after mentioned.
more I giue vnto my grandchild Joshua Conant seaventeen acres of Land Lying by the south side of the great marsh neer wenham and bounding unto the land of peeter woodbery: and the rest to return to my Executor.
also I giue vnto my Daughter Sarah two acres of Land lying between the gead of the railes and Isaac Hull his ground as part of six acres betwixt me and Benjamin Balch: this to her and her children.
also sixtie acres oif Land out of my farm granted me by the General Court neer the new town of Dunstable I giue and bequeath unto the hands of Capt Roger Clap of the castle neer Dorchester for the use of a daughter of one mrs. pitts deceased whose daughter now Liueth in culleton a towne in Devon in old England and is in lue for certaine goods sold for the said mrs. pitts in London and was there to be paid many years since but it is alleaged was neuer paid and the aforesaid capt clap to giue a discharge as theire atturney according as he is impowered and intrusted in theire behalfe:
furthermore as lagacies I doe giue vnto my sonne lott his ten children twenty pounds to be equally divided: to my daughter Sarahs Children to John five pounds to the foure daughters fiue pounds betwixt ym: to my daughter Mary Dodge to herself fiue pounds and fiue pounds to her fiue children equally divided: to Exercise his children foure pounds betwixt them: to Adoniron Veren three pounds to his sister Hannah twenty shillings and her two children each ten shillings: to my cozen Mary Veren wife to Hillier veren three pounds as also three pounds unto the daughters of My Cozen Jane Mason deceased to be divided amongst them including Loue steevens her children a share:
my wearing apparell I giue and household implements not otherwise disposed of and my Gray horse and cattle to my sonn Exercise and sheepe I giue to Rebacka Connant my grandchild and one sheep to Mary Leach:
and whereas there remains in my hands a certain portion of cattle belonging vnto one Mr. Dudeney in England and by him assigned vnto his nephew Richard Conant valued at twenty five pounds and now left in the hands of my sonne exercise Conant that there be a rendering vp of such cattle or theire valuation mentioned unto the said Richard Conant upon seasonable demand he giuing a full discharge for the same.
and further my will is that my sonn Exercise be my executor to my will and Testament and for further help in seeing these things forementioned my sonne william Dodge and my grandchild John Conant Senior to be overseears of the same. In witness whereof I haue haere vnto sett my hand the day and yeare aboure written. The blotting our of part of a line and a whole line under the part was before signing hereof.
The mark X of Roger CONANT his seale
Benjamin Balch and John Bennett gave oath in Court at Salem that they signed
as witnesses to the within written that then the said Roger Conant declared
the same to be his last will and testament and there is no later will of
his that they know of
Attest Hilliard Veren Cler: