29 December 2012

My Ancestor - The First Abolitionist In America

Roger Williams Building His House
In between trying to finish up the book about the Civil War in Lexington, I've been doing some research into the Williams side of my family. It's becoming a fascinating journey. Due to some unpleasant recent family history on the Williams side, I'd lost touch with those kinfolk. However, I recently reconnected with a cousin (twice removed), and have been exploring some information she shared. Of course, I was already aware (Thanks to Robert Moore) that I am a direct descendant of the Reverend Roger Williams - the founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and of the first Baptist Church in America. However, I was not aware of him being considered the "very first abolitionist in America" - according to Wikipedia anyway:

Williams was arguably the very first abolitionist in North America, having organized the first attempt to prohibit slavery in any of the original thirteen colonies.

The ruling class elites of Williams's day sound eerily familiar to what I've experienced coming from certain corners of academia: "The Court declared that he was spreading "diverse, new, and dangerous opinions." Ah yes, diversity of ideas is not to be tolerated by the modern Puritans in the Ivory Towers.

He was then ordered to be banished. The execution of the order was delayed because Williams was ill and winter was approaching, and he was allowed to stay temporarily provided he ceased his agitation. He did not cease, so in January 1636 the sheriff came to pick him up only to discover that Williams had slipped away three days before during a blizzard. He walked through the deep snow of a hard winter the 105 miles from Salem to the head of Narragansett Bay where the local Wampanoags offered him shelter and took him to the winter camp of their chief sachem, Massasoit, where he resided for 3 and a half months.

My, my, my, how little things change. Of course, it's always good to keep in mind this admonishment:

It is indeed a desirable thing to be well-descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors. ~ Plutarch


The History Book Guy said...

That's an interesting piece of "family history"! I recently discovered through a distant cousin that I had a relative who fought for the Italian army in WWI at the Battle of Monte Grappa. It prompted me to do a little research on the battle's history. It was actually truly a grueling fight that many historians call "Italy's Thermopylae".

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

That is interesting. Amazing how much we can lose in our family histories if just one generation "drops the baton." Thanks for the comment.

shanadthompson said...

Very interesting!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Shannon.

Lindsay said...

I agree, it is so amazing how much is lost if it is not kept up - the women in our family have been digging a LOT for our UDC and DAR memberships and there are so many holes...I am also so thankful for family bibles and wish more people used them today. I know that with technology more will be kept on record but there is something magical about looking in old family bibles and uncovering treasures.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I am also so thankful for family bibles and wish more people used them today."

Yes, I've found that those old Bibles often provide hints and clues found nowhere else.

WHSclass1969 said...

Richard, Thank you for highlighting our common ancestor's (Roger Williams) courageous stand on the evil institution of slavery. In reading Roger Williams's history of Rhode Island's founding, it was also interesting to read of his interaction with another of my ancestors (William Bradford) during his stay in Plymouth. It is pretty clear that the attempt to oust Williams from the Mass. Bay Colony was tied to greedy politicians opposed to his stands for Indian rights.... John Bradford Williams

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"greedy politicians opposed to his stands for Indian rights"

Yes, greedy politicians haven't changed much, have they?

WHSclass1969 said...

You are correct, Richard !