In 2010 Solomon Green contacted Edward
Conant and passed a book and some documents that his cousin Lisbeth Conant had
owned until her recent death. Included amongst these was the article below.
Lisbeth Conants husband Peter Conant was very proud of his family and Solomon
Green thought the documents would be best kept in the Lyndon Hall library.
With thanks to the Devon magazine which
printed the article in the 1990's and to Vivien Brenan, who wrote the text and
to John Proctor who took the photographs.
Roger Conant - A Devon Pioneer
On the patio in front of the Church Hall in East Budleigh,
is a huge granite millstone. It is called the Conant Stone in memory of Roger
Conant, the miller's son who sailed to North America in 1623 and founded the
city of Salem, Massachusetts.
Roger was born in East Budleigh in 1592, just a 100
years after Columbus first crossed the Atlantic. He was the youngest of the
large Conant family who lived in Mill House, not far from where the church hall
now stands. The mill| was fed by the Budleigh Brook which winds through the
village. Nearby is an ancient house, once the vicarage but now a private house
called Vicar's Mead. Up the hill keeping watch over the village is the medieval
church of All Saints, William Conant, Roger's father, was a churchwarden as
well as being the miller and so an important person in the community: One of
the carved oak pew ends in the church bears the Conant Arms. Roger and his
brothers probably received their early education from the Vicar and would have
become familiar with the book of common prayer, established by Queen Elizabeth
I's Act of Supremacy in 1559 as the only legal form of worship in
If the Church of England was one of the abiding influences
in Rogers' life, the other was the sea. East Budleigh lies in the valley of the
River Otter, two miles from the coast at 'Salterne' (now Budleigh Salterton),
where fishing boats put out from the pebble beach. From the fishermen and from
sailors returning from longer voyages, Roger would have heard many a tale of
the exploits of Devon seamen - Drake, Hawkins and above all Raleigh. Raleigh
was born in 1552 at Hayes Barton Manor, a mile from the village. Roger may have
read Raleigh' s ''Voyage to the Demerary'' and also a book called ''A Discovery
of the Bermudas. Other wise called the Isle of the Devils''. This was written
in 1610 by Silvester Jourdain, whose brother Ignatius was an Exeter magistrate
and merchant and friend of William Conant.
When they were old enough, Roger and his brother
Christopher were sent to London to learn a trade. Roger was apprenticed as a
salter and in 1616 he became a freeman of the Salters' Company. In Devon with
its many fishermen, a qualified salter would be sure of good living. However
Roger had other ideas. In London he heard much about the growing dislike of the
Puritans. Some Puritans simply wished to keep the church free from Catholic
ceremonial tendencies: This was the way Roger had been brought up in East
Budleigh and it was the feeling of most West Countrymen.
However in London and East Anglia, there were many
''separatists'' who wanted to leave the established church and worship in their
own way. It was such men who in 1620 sailed to North America in the Mayflower
and founded the first settlement in Massachusetts, naming it Plymouth after the
Devon port from which they had set out.
Roger and Christopher were much interested in the reports
that came back to London about the progress of the little colony, so much so
that in 1623 first Christopher and then Roger with his wife Sarah, emigrated to
America. They were well received in new Plymouth; Roger as a salter was
especially welcome. However he soon found that he was not in sympathy with the
extreme separatist religious views of the Pilgrim Fathers. He was glad
therefore when the opportunity came to move away from Plymouth. Back home in
England a group of West Country merchants had recently formed the Dorchester
Company to encourage development in Massachusetts. In 1625 they sent a number
of emigrants, including a Church of England minister called Lyford to Cape St.
Arm, North of Plymouth, with the intention of forming a new settlement
independent of the Pilgrim Fathers.
Roger Conant joined them and was chosen as their leader.
Under his direction they set up a fish curing station and tried to farm. Many
ships brought their catch to St. Ann and the salting side of the venture did
very well. However the exposed headland was a poor place for agriculture and
bitterly cold in winter. Many of the would-be settlers gave up and went home to
England, but Conant and some 40 or 50 determined pioneers stayed and moved to a
more sheltered and fertile area called Nahum Keike. Living was better there.
The Dorchester Company supported themselves by sending supplies, including 20
cattle, to help establish agriculture and so make the settlement
self-sufficient. In time, successful farms developed; Conant and four of his
followers each had 200 acres of land. Another eight had smaller properties.
they continued to maintain the fish curing station during the summer
During all this time of hardship, the little group of
settlers looked to their leader Conant for guidance and encouragement. Even
when his friend the minister Lyford, urged him to move south with him to the
easier land of Virginia, Roger refused to go. More difficulties arose when the
Dorchester Company having failed. a new company was formed called the ''New
England Company for a plantation in Massachusetts Bay''. They appointed a
Governor named John Endicott, also a Devon man. His grandfather was a wealthy
Chagford tinner. He arrived in 1628 accompanied by more settlers including two
fiercely separatist ministers named Higginson and Skelton. Roger Conant,
helpful as always, handed over to Endicott without protest and endeavored to
get on with the new Governor.
This was not easy; Endicott was an able man but harsh and
intolerant First there was a difficulty over the name of the settlement. Nahum
Keike was not thought suitable for a Christian English community. Conant wanted
the name of his home village. Budleigh, but Endicott and his friends the
ministers decided on Salem. Roger accepted the decision with grace but he was
deeply disturbed when, urged on by Higginson and Skelton, the governor forbad
the use of the Book of Common Prayer. There was protest from the earliest
settlers who had come with Conant. Two brothers, John and Samuel Broad, refused
to comply and were expelled from Massachusetts and went angrily back to
Conant himself avoided an outright clash with Endicott but
he ceased to take part in public affairs. He lived quietly but was always ready
to help and advise new settlers. He died in 1678 at the fine age of 86. Today
in Salem there is a statue of its founder Roger Conant. His descendants keep in
touch with East Budleigh and their names can be found in the church visitors
With thanks to Elizabeth Joyce Joseph of Willits,
from whose web page the following was taken in March
Roger Conant was born in East Budleigh, Devonshire,
England in 1592, the youngest of eight children.
In 1623 he emigrated to Plymouth with his wife, Sarah and
son, Caleb.However, he was uncomfortable with the strict Pilgrim society in
Plymouth and moved his family to Nantasket in 1624.
In the late autumn of 1625, Conant was invited by the Rev.
John White and othermembers of the Dorchester Company to move to their fishing
settlement on Cape Ann as theirgovernor. Still looking for more favorable
conditions for a settlement, he led a group of people to Naumkeag, now Salem,
in 1626, and continued as their governor.
In 1627 a patent was solicited from England and it was
obtained by a group led by John Endicott who arrived in Naumkeag in 1628.
Endicott and the other settlers of the New England Company now owned the rights
to Naumkeag. Fortunately for the peaceful continuity of the settlement, Conant
remained in Salem and, despite what must have been a disappointment for him,
acceded to Endicott's authority as the new governor.
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. He was active in the affairs of the town throughout his life. In 1679, he
died at the age of 87.
This dramatic, cloaked statue of Roger Conant faces the
Salem Common and stands atop a huge boulder brought from the woods near the
floating bridge at Lynn.Artist Henry H. Kitson designed this heroic bronze
statue for the Conant Family Association and the statue was dedicated on June
Roger Conant and Salem
A handsome statue of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem,
stands outside the Salem Witch Museum. Because of the statue's proximity to the
museum and because of his cloak and hat and generally impressive appearance,
Roger Conant is often mistaken for a participant in the Salem witch trials.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
We know that Roger Conant was baptized in All Saints
Church in the parish of East Budleigh, Devonshire, England on April 9, 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. 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 1623-24 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". 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 June 29, 1629.
Roger Conant died on November 19, 1679 considering
himself "...an instrument, though a weak one, of foundering and furthering this
colony..." After Conant's death, the colony suffered through the witch trials
As the world grew smaller in the 18th-century, Salem took
a leading role in developing international trade routes and enjoyed a period of
prosperity and fame. The 19th-century saw the advent of immigrants who enriched
the business and cultural life of the city as shipping was replaced by rail
transportation. Born in Salem on July 4, 1805, Nathaniel Hawthorne took
inspiration from his native streets. By the 20th-century Salem had grown from a
colony struggling with crisis to a cosmopolitan city. Today Salem is a city of
fascinating complexity. Traces of her history can be seen everywhere from the
17th-century buildings, the priceless items brought back from exotic ports by
Salem ship captains, the extraordinary architecture and the multi-ethnic
character of her streets. The city of Salem attracts visitors today as the
harbor and rivers and fields of Naumkeag drew Roger Conant over 300 years