Robert Hodgson, Woodhouse voyager

Despite Robert Hodgson’s prominent role in planting Quakerism on the American shores, his full book-length biography yet to be written. In addition, his mother-in-law, especially, invites a fuller portrait: she is not only one of the first Quakers “by convincement” in the New World, providing essential comfort and support to the emerging movement, but she is associated with earlier dissenting movements in New England, first through Samuel Gorton and later with Anne Hutchinson. Even so, we do not yet have her maiden name.

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Robert Hodgson was born, circa 1626, in the Bishoprick of Durham, England; he died, May 10, 1696, at Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He married, August 3, 1665, Rachel Shotten, daughter of Sampson and Alice Shotten of New York and Portsmouth, Rhode Island. He was a recorded minister in Rhode Island Monthly Meeting at Portsmouth and Newport.

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Three known children:

1. Mary, born August 6, 1666.

2. Alice, born April 1668. She married as second wife, Third Month 18, 1699, under the care of Falls Meeting, Phineas Pemberton. In 1704, she married her second husband, Thomas Bradford. She died Sixth Month 28, 1711.

3. Robert, born circa 1670. He married, December 29, 1690, Sarah Borden, daughter of Matthew and Sarah (Clayton) Borden. He died 1733, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

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About the children:

Nothing is known of Mary at this point.

Alice, married March 18, 1699, at Falls, Pennsylvania, Phineas Pemberton as his second wife. No issue. She remarried, 1704, Thomas Bradford, and died 6th Month 28, 1711. As Phineas Pemberton’s second wife, Alice found herself married to one of William Penn’s lieutenants, a man sometimes dubbed “the father of Bucks County,” Pennsylvania, where he constructed a large stone home at Bristol. In that position, she would have been ensconced in an emerging dynasty within Philadelphia’s wealthy Quaker aristocracy; the Pembertons would become one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in colonial Pennsylvania, if not English-speaking America.

Phineas Pemberton had been a grocer and member of a large family in Lancashire, 1661, according to a letter cited by Barry Levy in Quakers and the American Family: British Settlement in the Delaware Valley (Oxford University Press, 1988); he came to America the next year, from Hartshaw Meeting in Lancashire. Israel Pemberton Senior, whom I assume was his son, would become a wealthy, prominent Quaker merchant, one of the two leading Philadelphia Quakers in the second quarter of the eighteenth century; one of his sons, Israel, sometimes called “the Quaker pope,” would become clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; despite an affinity for public office, son James remained active in Friends affairs, notably as clerk of Philadelphia’s Meeting for Sufferings; son John became an influential recorded Friends minister who helped redefine American Quakerism in the years before the Revolutionary War (see Jack D. Marietta’s The Reformation of American Quakerism: 1748 to 1783, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984) and served as clerk of Philadelphia’s Meeting of Ministers and Elders; the youngest son, Charles, who had a penchant for science, died at age nineteen.

Indeed, one Quaker pointedly quipped that the younger Israel Pemberton left his children so well endowed “they could fly above Truth.” Nevertheless, as Public Friends, Israel, James, and John were at one point banished during the American Revolution to Frederick County, Virginia (where some Quaker of their kin were already dwelling, notably their younger first half-cousin, once removed – a Robert Hodgson, grandson of Alice’s brother, Robert).

The son, Robert, is detailed in my February 15 posting.

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In New England, unlike most of Colonial America, the Society of Friends originated largely through religious conversions (or “convincements”) in the New World, often through itinerant ministers like Robert Hodgson. Elsewhere in North America, Friends often brought the new faith across the Atlantic with them. For the first several decades, Newport, Rhode Island, was the center of Quaker activity in America, yielding its position only after Pennsylvania was established in 1681. The local congregation, Rhode Island Monthly Meeting, worshipped in both Newport and Portsmouth, about eight miles apart on Aquidneck (or Rhode) Island, with Robert Hodgson as one of its ministers.


4 thoughts on “Robert Hodgson, Woodhouse voyager”

  1. I am delighted to find your chronicles. I am working on a narrative of Joanna Slocum Mott’s life, and I notice that she and Rachel Hodgson both signed the 1673 Epistle from the Women’s Meeting in Newport (in RI Quaker archives in Providence.) I do not think we are related, but I do have a lot of other Quaker ancestors who were in the Piedmont in early days, and then migrated to Indiana, and ultimately to California, where I now live.

    1. Hearing of your project is exciting. These lives of American dissidents point toward a much different history than the one that’s usually taught. And a few families, like your Motts, had a deep influence for generations. I look forward to reading your narrative. Best wishes!

      1. I think you have filled in a piece of my puzzle. My Mott timeline says, “Adam Mott2 signs Quaker statement as one of a group separated from the main” in 1681, but haven’t had a clue about what that meant until you wrote re Hodgson, “He headed a separate meeting in 1679 and probably was at the center of a controversy in March of 1680 over wearing one’s hat while another was at prayer … He also may have been one of the Rhode Island Friends who opposed monthly meeting authority four years earlier when William Edmundson met opposition. By early April 1680, however, Ann [Clayton] Bull joined him in opposing meeting authority.
        Their schism continued through 1684, at which time Hodgson and most of the other separatists returned somewhat contritely to the meeting.”
        I’m guessing that Adam Mott sided with Robert Hodgson in this disagreement. I’m also intrigued by the Ann Bull reference. She seems to have been a fascinating woman, and there’s not enough about her that I’ve found. Someone wrote a biography, “Caged,’ but in my view it’s not very well done, and there are no references to anything. I’d be glad to know your sources (I’m sure I know some of them!)

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