Letter from Frances Rokeby to Reverend Mr. Rose regarding settling in Carolina to Christianize the Native Americans, 1707

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This letter written by Frances Rokeby, a woman living in Lawnwith in the historic English county of Yorkshire, was sent to Reverend Mr. Rose urging him to move to Carolina with her and her husband.  Rokeby offers to pay Reverend Rose’s way in the hopes that he will help Christianize the Native Americans. 

It is uncertain whether Rokeby or Reverend Rose ever made it to Carolina, but many people with similar inclinations did.  Images of Native Americans, written accounts, and even Native American visitors traveled back across the Atlantic and gripped the English imagination during the early colonial period.  Rokeby’s description of Native American reverence for old age reveals what English people learned about them.  Many in England saw it as an important mission to “endeavor the conversion of the Poor Ignorant Natives,” as Rokeby words it.  In 1699 the Bishop of London, Henry Compton, sent Reverend Dr. Thomas Bray to America to report on the state of religion in the colonies.  Due to his unfavorable report, a charter allowed for the founding of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1701.  The Society aimed to send priests to the colonies, but it also sent missions to slaves and Native Americans.  By 1710, evangelizing to African and native populations became one of the main goals of the organization.

The Church of England was the established church in colonial South Carolina, but Anglican colonists suffered from a lack of ministers.  The Society of the Propagation of the Gospel provided not only missionaries but also assistance in building churches in the colony.  This letter illustrates the desire of people on both sides of the Atlantic to increase religious activity in the young colony.


Letter from Frances Rokeby to Reverend Mr. Rose 1707.  Miscellaneous Papers, Box 6, P90069 372IO4-IO6. South Carolina Department of Archives and History. Columbia, South Carolina.


Lawnwith August ye 20:th


     I have long had a desire to goe into Carolina, & take one of those Honest Clergiemen [who are not suffered to doe good in England;] to endeavour the Conversion of the Poor Ignorant Natives, of that country; who are good Moral Heathen & if they can be rightly Instructed, in our Holy Religion; may I hope, be as good Christians:

  I think I was once Speakeing to you, of this designe when we were att Cosen Kirbys, att York; but it was never yet, in my Power to effect itt; as I hope we will now be; for my Husband, & Selfe; are fully resolved on a Voiage thither, in November Next; if we can possibly get our affaires settled in time; and if you please to accompany us, and undertake ye worthy employment of endeavouring to promote the Glory of God, & Salvation of Soules; we will carry you att our own charge; & you shall fare as well as our selves, in all respects; & if it please God to Bless us with a Prosperous Voiage; we will take care to settle a Sufficient Maintenance, on you, & your Successors; & in such a Maner, as shall not be liable to disturbance, or deprivation; by any change of government:

  perhaps you will object your being advanced in years, as an obstacle to this undertakeing; but I can assure you, your Doctrine will be more regarded, & your Person more respected, for that reason; they having a great Reverence for Age; & believe only those that are old, are fitt to Instruct others:

  please to lett me have your answer to this, as soon as possibly you can, and you will oblige

                                                                                your friend & Servant

                                                                                Frances Ro [rest is torn and gone--ESR]

least the change of my name, should hinder your knowing who I am; I thought fitt to tell you, my name was Holmes; my now [or “new”—the letter is torn right through the center of this word—ESR] Husband, was one of the sons of the worthy Major Rokeby, of Rokeby, which is enough to enforme you, that he is a true son of the Church of England:  he sends his Service to you, tho unknown;

please to direct for me att Lawnwith, …[this part—where the seal was located—is now torn, and is gone—ESR] with Mr William Chambers, Att of Ripon:  by Borrowbridge Bagg.

[Back of sheet:  endorsement, or direction of addressee—ESR]

For the Reverend Mr Rose, att Mr Staffords house, att Huanonby.


Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the exploration and settlement of South Carolina and the United Stats.

Indicator 3-2.5 Summarize the impact that the European colonization of South Carolina had on Native Americans, including conflicts between settlers and Native Americans.

Standard 4-2: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of North America by Native Americans, Europeans, and African Americans and the interactions among these peoples.

Indicator 4-2.3 Identify the English, Spanish, and French colonies in North America and summarize the motivations for the settlement of these colonies, including freedom of worship, and economic opportunity.

Standard 8-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of South Carolina and the United States by Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans.

Indicator 8-1.1 Summarize the culture, political systems, and daily life of the Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands, including their methods of hunting and farming, their use of natural resources and geographic features, and their relationships with other nations.

Standard USHC-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the settlement of North America.

Indicator USHC-1.1 Summarize the distinct characteristics of each colonial region in the settlement and development of America, including religious, social, political, and economic differences.

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