“The Best Man for Settling New Country…”: The Journal of Timothy Rogers
Edited by Christopher Densmore and Albert Schrauwers
This guest post is contributed by Albert Schrauwers and includes his reflections on editing Timothy Rogers’ journal alongside Christopher Densmore. Rogers’ journal can be found here: https://www.cfha.info/journalrogers.pdf
Timothy Rogers is a subject of perennial interest to genealogists and historians, and I welcome this opportunity to broaden its availability. Rogers’s Journal contains a riveting narrative of his spiritual development and (unsuccessful) attempts at the ministry; his travels across the north-eastern states to Maine, Nova Scotia and PEI in service of the ministry; and his role in opening new Quaker settlements in Vermont, Newmarket, and Pickering. It is the most extensive first-person narrative of an early nineteenth century Quaker pioneer outside the manuscripts of David Willson, leader of the Children of Peace. It is thus of interest to Quaker and local historians in both Canada and the US, and to a very large number of descendants (including those who went on to create Rogers Communications).
Timothy Rogers’s Journal was published by CFHA twenty years ago, the product of years of careful preparation. The choice of Rogers’s Journal seemed obvious at the time. As a major source of historical and genealogical information, it was the single largest subject of interest to visitors of the Dorland Room. The journal itself, however, was in a fragile state and could not withstand heavy usage. The Yearly Meeting had decided not to allow the Archives of Ontario to microfilm its collection, but lacked the resources to do so itself. Producing an easily accessible copy was a pressing need.
Producing the journal was a complicated matter. Making a photocopy of the fragile journal from which the transcription could be made without damaging it was only the first step. Decisions also needed to be made as to how the transcription would be made. Rogers had little formal education, used erratic spelling and no punctuation. A copy of a page and its direct transcription were given in the published journal to indicate the actual tenor of his writing. It was decided, however, to make the journal as accessible as possible to a modern audience by following modern orthographic conventions. In doing so, some valuable information was lost. It was clear, for example, that Rogers spelled phonetically, hence the original journal conveyed his pronunciation and speaking style. Given the spiritual journey that Rogers recorded, it was also considered important to highlight to modern (perhaps secular) readers how grounded the journal was in biblical references. This entailed adding quotation marks to biblical passages, and providing footnoted citations. Further extensive footnotes were added drawing on Monthly Meeting minutes and secondary sources that clarified references made by Rogers; two appendices, containing journals by his descendant Wing Rogers, and fellow traveller, Joshua Evans, were included for the same reason. The preparation of the transcription was thus a long, laborious process.
As the copyright for the journal itself (as opposed to the transcription) was retained by the Yearly Meeting, it was decided that CFHA would self-publish the result, giving Friends greater control over it use. Unfortunately, we lacked the means of promoting it as it deserved. Dissemination on the web will at last make the work generally available, and further evidence the impact of early Quakers on Canadian history.