One of Their Number First Taught the Dumb to Speak; The Whipples Were Pioneers in the Great Movement for Peace
One of the most interesting families that for generations have lived in New London county is that of the Whipples, scattered among the hamlets and villages on the east side of the Thames. The Day this evening gives a brief sketch of these interesting people, who are known far and wide for their earnest convictions and good deeds.
They Sprang from the Early Settlers, Became Quakers and Reformers
In the early history of this country William Whipple of Kittery, Maine, was deeply interested in the cause of American liberty. He was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and an efficient leader during the revolutionary struggle. Abraham Whipple, of Providence, another pioneer of colonial times, commanded the American frigate which fired the first gun in the naval department of the revolutionary war, and first displayed the United States flag on the Thames river, England.
From that time till now the prominent members of this family have been loyal to their convictions, but in more recent years their patriotism has taken a broader scope and is embodied in that sentiment, expressed by one of our great reformers, "The world is my country and all mankind my countrymen."
About 200 years ago Samuel Whipple emigrated from the Providence Plantation and settled in the town of Preston. Here he purchased 1000 acres of land where now the villages of Poquetannock and Hellville stand, and engaged in the manufacture of iron from ore found in this locality. This iron, made so many years ago, is now pronounced by blacksmiths to be of the very best quality. He furnished the iron work for the first large vessel built in this vicinity. This vessel of some 300 tons burthen was called the Starling, and when launched from the old shipyard in New London a large number of people assembled to behold this unusual sight.
About this time a sect of people called Rogerine Quakers established themselves in New London and vicinity. Some of their religious convictions were contrary to the prevailing church doctrine. This gave rise to a vigorous Puritanic persecution. John Rogers, their leader, who owned a large property in New London and Waterford, was imprisoned for more than ten years of his life in New London and Hartford and had the greater part of his property taken away from him in fines. While in the jail at Hartford an incident occurred which is painful to the writer to relate.
On the day of a public execution a gang of roughs who had attended the hanging, not having satisfied their brutal passion for a display of cruelty, surrounded the jail, brought out John Rogers and tied him to a cannon. He was then given sixty lashes on the bard back and with blood flowing from these cruel stripes, with no card whatever, he was taken back to his cell and locked in, with no bed, not even a bunch of straw. There he was loaded with irons by his keeper and given nothing but crusts of bread and water for two weeks. While in prison he was engaged in writing on religious subjects. His "Interpretation of the Book of Revelations," "The Midnight Cry," "The True and False Shepherd" and four other books are very highly praised by his followers.
Notwithstanding these cruel persecutions the Rogerine Quakers became quite numerous. Samuel Whipple's son, Noah, became a convert to their faith and married a member of this church. After the Whipples became identified with these people they came in for a full share of persecution. They did not believe in taking life under any circumstances and for this reason refused to take part in the military trainings which were compulsory in those times. They could not be forced to learn the art of a soldier, preferring to lose their property and suffer imprisonment instead. A grandson of Noah Whipple, Samuel by name, who lived in Ledyard two generations ago, had an ox taken from him and sold for this cause. At another time several of his cows were offered at sheriffs sale, but on stating to the people assembled that he couldnt conscientiously engage in the work of a soldier, no one would bid on the cattle and they were returned to his barn.
His son [actually, Noah's brother] Jonathan Whipple, who died twenty years ago, was a man of upright character, great perseverance and originality. He felt very badly when one of his sons was born deaf and dumb and he determined that he would teach the boy to talk. How well he succeeded by dint of ingenious practices and constant application is acknowledged by all who have conversed with Enoch Whipple of Ledyard, the first deaf mute in the country taught to speak and understand by motions of the lips. Jonathan Whipple was constantly active in reform work. Almost his last words were these: "Christ pronounced a blessing upon the peacemaker, but no word of praise did he bestow upon the warrior."
His grandson, Zerah C. Whipple, carried out and perfected this system of teaching and invented an alphabet for the deaf consisting of characters representing the position of the vocal organs in making the various sounds. His system of oral instruction is now introduced into nearly all institutions for the deaf and dumb and this alphabet is considered a vary valuable aid in teaching.
Zerah C. Whipple was a man of great moral power and during his short life of 30 years, exerted a wonderful influence in the world of reform. He and his sister Content who is now also dead, edited and printed The Bond of Peace, for years at their home in Quakertown. This publication has since been transferred to Philadelphia, is now called The Peace Maker, and is the chief organ of the peace and arbitration movement in this country.
When this young reformer became of age he could not conscientiously pay a tax which was used for the support of the army, believing that in so doing he was instrumental in taking live. So for refusing to pay this military tax, in the summer of 1874, he was taken from his home and placed in New London jail. Here he employed himself in teaching some of the prisoners, till he was released by a resident of New London who, it is said, made a record of the circumstance, in his family Bible, with the remark that he wished his children to remember that their father was the means of liberating a young man imprisoned for holding to his convictions of right. He soon after removed from Ledyard to the town of Groton, where he was allowed to hold his own opinion on this subject without interference from the town authorities.
These people believed in equal rights for women, were the pioneers of the temperance movement in this vicinity, and would not return evil for evil, but would rather conciliate and arbitrate. They oppose the use of tobacco, and it is very rare that you can find one of their descendants who uses the seed. They were active in the abolition movement and by means of the underground railroad, many a poor slave was carried from Quakertown north towards the land of liberty.
They had always been strongly opposed to war, but they did not fully realize its awful consequence till the war of the rebellion. At its close they determined to extend their influence as much as possible in the interest of peace, to help avert another such conflict in the future. Accordingly the Connecticut Peace society was organized in September, 1869, as auxiliary to the Universal Peace union, which had been established two years before. The Rapid growth and importance of the annual grove meetings, held by this society at Mystic are well known.
The efficient workers in the early history of the society were Jonathan Whipple, Zerah C. Whipple, Enoch Whipple, Timothy Whipple, recently deceased, Jeduthun Whipple, Julia Crouch Culver and Emeline Crouch, daughters of Zachariah Crouch, Jonathan Whipple Jr., and his daughter Content Whipple Waley. The present officers of the society who are members of the Whipple family are Mrs. Delight Whipple and Mrs. Ida Whipple Benham, vice presidents, Fred E. Whipple, secretary and Enoch Whipple, treasurer.
The Connecticut Peace society was organized to help, "Remove the causes and abolish the customs of war." Its members have always opposed appropriations for an increase of the army and navy or for defensive fortifications, believing that such measures create a distrust in our neighbors and instead of prohibiting an intrusion upon our rights, are a menace for war. They frequently protest against capital punishment, recently urged the settlement of the Chillian trouble by arbitration and are now engaged in connection with other organizations of like character in this country and Europe in assisting in the formation of a permanent court of arbitration.
(Note: This article was published in the New London (CT) newspaper The Day, on Wednesday, March 2, 1892, p. 8. If you are interested in this article, you might want to visit the Quakertown Online website.)