Ellery Bicknell Crane.

Historic homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester county, Massachusetts, with a history of Worcester society of antiquity (Volume 2) online

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where he lived five years. He came east and worked
for a year in Manchester, New Hampshire, but re-
turned to Elyria. Six months later, in 1872, he
came to Whitinsville, Massachusetts, where he has
lived ever since. He served his time in an appren-
ticeship to learn the machinist's trade in the Whitin
Machine Works, and he rose to the position of
foreman in the tool department. After working
in that department for some five years, he was two
years in the planer department. In 1886 he returned
to his former position in the tool department and
later became the superintendent of the Whitin Ma-
chine Works. A skillful mechanic himself, he has
been very successful in his management of the em-
ployees of this concern. In politics Mr. Whipple is
a Republican; in religion a Congregationalist. He
married, May 17, 1881, Anna C. Rogers, daughter
of James and Harriet Colby, of Dunbarton, New
Hampshire. Their children : Earl Rogers, born
March 19, 1882, attended the public and high schools,
graduating from the latter in 1899; studied at Stam-
ford Academy and for a year at Yale College, mem-
ber of the class of 1908, University of Pennsylvania.
Fred W., December 3, 1866, residing in Denver, Col-
orado. Daughter, died in infancy.

ROPER FAMILY. John Roper (1), the emi-
grant ancestor of all known members of the Ameri-
can Roper family, was, of course, the ancestor of
Charles F. Roper of Hopedale, Massachusetts, and
his son Walter F. Roper.

The name of Roper has been evolved from a
somewhat fantastic origin. The first known an-
cestor of the Roper family in England, Musard,
probably of Norman descent, was Latinized as
Hasculphus. His grandson, William of Miserden,
Gloucester county, assumed the title De Rubra
Spatha, or Red Sheath, in the time of Henry III.
This was shortened into one word, Rospeare, and
passed through the various stages of Rousper,
Rooper, Ropere, and Roper, its present form. Will-
iam of the Red Sheath and his Saxon wife, Elnith,
were great benefactors ot St. Martin's Priory in
Dorn. His son was Adam, of Swacliffe, county
Kent, and this was the home of Sir William Roper,
husband of Margaret (More) Roper, daughter of
Sir Thomas More (1535).

John Roper, the emigrant, came from New Buck-
ingham, Norfolk county, England. John Roper, of
Banham, gave twelve shillings to the church in 1437.
This church is only two miles and a half from New
Buckingham. Thomas Roper was a tenant of the
New Buckingham Manor in 1621. He may have
been the father of the emigrant. John Roper, Sr.,
and John Roper, Jr., both settled in Dedham. Both
had wives named Alice, and it remained for the
family historian to discover that there were two
of the same name. John Roper, Sr., was born
about 1588, and sailed with his wife to New Eng-
land. John Roper, Sr., signed the famous Dedham
Covenant, and settled in Lancaster in August, 1637.
He died in Dedham soon after 1664. His widow
was living at the time of the Lancaster massacre
in 1676. The children of John Roper, Sr., were :
I. John, Jr., see forward. 2. Walter, born about

1614, married Susan , settled in Ipswich and

Topsfield, Massachusetts.

(II) John Roper, Jr., son of John Roper (1),
born in New Buckingham, England, 161 1. He mar-
ried in England, Alice , and had two daughters

born in England — Alice and Elizabeth. His wife
was born in 1614. They passed an examination
April 13, 1637, to go to New England, and probably
sailed on the "Rose," of Yarmouth, John Andrews,
master. He was a carpenter by trade. He settled in

Dedham with his father, and was admitted a freeman
there June 2, 1641. His wife was admitted to the
Dedham church September 13, 1639. He removed
to Charlestown before 1649, and later settled in
Lancaster, where he served as selectman in 1664 to
succeed Roger Sumner. Roper was in Charlestown
from 1647 to 1658. He was killed by the Indians
March 26, 1676. The family returned to Charles-
town. His widow Alice married (second) at
Charlestown, April 14, 1681, John Dickinson. They
resided in Salisbury. She married (third), at Salis-
bury, 1684, William Allen. She died in Salisbury
April 1, 1687. The chifcren of John and Alice Roper
were: Alice, born in England, married Thomas
Adams. Elizabeth. Mary, baptized September 22,
1639. Rachel, born in Dedham, March 18, 1639,
married Archelaus Courser. Hannah, April 2,
1642. Ephraim, see forward. Benjamin (twin of
Ephraim), born February 23, 1644-45. Nathaniel.
Ruth, married Deacon John Haynes. Sarah, married
James Mackinab, or McNabb.

(III) Ephraim Roper, son of John Roper (2),
born Dedham, Massachusetts, February 23, 1644-45.
He married Priscilla . He was a farmer, and set-
tled in Lancaster at some time after the death of
John Roper, Sr. He was in Dedham in 1672, when
his first child Priscilla was born, November 26, 1672.
The two Priscillas, mother and daughter, perished
in the first Lancaster massacre by the Indians in
King Philip's war, February 10, 1676. Ephraim re-
moved to Concord, Massachusetts. He married (sec-
ond), November 20, 1677, Hannah Coble, of Concord.
Both were killed in the second Lancaster massacre,
September 11, 1697. Elizabeth, their third child,
was killed at the same time. The first husband of
Ephraim's second wife, Stephen Coble, was hanged
September 26, 1676, for murdering three squaws
and three Indian children, August 7, 1676. He and
the three other soldiers involved confessed, and one
other, Daniel Goble, the ringleader, was also exe-
cuted. When Ephraim and his wife were killed,
their son Ephraim, then about ten years old, and
one of the daughters Ruth or Bathsheba who es-
caped, was wounded. Children of Ephraim and
Hannah Roper: 1. (not recorded). 2. Ruth, born
August 2, 1679. 3. Elizabeth, born September 1,
1681. 4. Bathsheba. 5. Ephraim, born 1687.

(IV) Ephraim Roper, youngest child of Ephraim
Roper (3), born 1687, in Concord, Massachusetts,
married about 1714, Sybillah, daughter of Richard
and Mary (Collins) Moore, born in Sudbury, Sep-
tember 2, 1694. Ephraim was taken prisoner by the
Indians when his parents and sister were slain and
was returned after two years to his family. He
lived with relatives in Sudbury until 1720. His
first four children were born in Sudbury. Then he
removed to Worcester, where the remainder of the
family was born. He was a farmer, his place being
on Tatnuck Hill. From October 14 to November
28, 1722, during his first year in Worcester, he was
employed by the government "as a sentinel to keep
garrison or range the wood." A highway to connect
the farms in the vicinity of Roper's with the meeting
house on the common was laid out March 24,
1724, and very nearly corresponds to the present
Pleasant street. He was accidentally killed in the
woods, February 16, 1730. He is buried on the
common, and his gravestone is preserved under the
sod in its original location. The number of the
grave on the chart made at the time the stones
were buried is 158, from which its location may be
determined at any time. He left a widow aged
thirty-six, with nine children and one unborn. She
removed to Marlboro. Children of Ephraim and
Syllibah (Moore) Roper: 1. Mary, born May 20,


'j6» «v




1715. 2. Ephraim, October 21, 1716, see forward.
3. Priscilla, .May 20. 1718. 4. Sybilla, March 6, 1720.
5. Abigail, March 11, 1722. 6. Ruth, January 14,
1724; 7. John, October 27, 1725. 8. Nathaniel,
March 2, 1727. 9. Hannah, March 3, 1729. 10.
Daniel, born October 2, 1730, founder of the Rut-
land Line.

(V) Ephraim Roper, second child of Ephraim
Roper (4), was born in Worcester, Massachusetts,
October 21, 1716. At the time of his father's death,
when he was sixteen years old, Richard Moore was
appointed his guardian. May 26, 1740, he enlisted
for the expedition against the Spanish in the West
Indies, but no record of service has been found.
March 6, 1748, the intentions of marriage of Ephraim
Roper and Michal, third daughter of Benjamin and
Zerviah Houghton, were published. The father had
settled in Lancaster in the part formerly Chocksett,
now Sterling. The marriage of Ephraim was April
8, 1748, when at the same time and place Keziah,
her sister, married Ebenezer Buss. Ephraim be-
came a large owner of land in Lancaster and vi-
cinity. His first house was on Rowley Hill, above
the place now known as the homestead. It was
built strong to defend the occupants against Indian
attacks. It seems probable that the ten sons and
the daughter were born in the log house. Ephraim
died December 5, 1793, and is buried in the Sterl-
ing graveyard. His wife died December 31, 1816,
at the age of ninety-one. His grave has a stone;
hers has not. Children of Ephraim and Michal
(Houghton) Roper: 1. Benjamin, born January
7, 1750, married Azubah Willard. 2. Manasseh, born
May 26, 1752, married Lucy Livermore. 3. Silas,
see forward. 4. Asa, born August 16, 1756, mar-
ried Polly King. 5. Nathaniel, born February 23,
1758, married Naomi Gibbs. 6. Enoch, born De-
cember 7, 1758. 7. Ephraim. 8. John, married Dor-
cas Killburn. 9. Sylvester, born July 22, 1762, mar-
ried Catherine Pierce. 10. Joseph, born December
29. 1763. 11. Lucy, born February 10, 1767, married
Joshua Everett. Seven of the ten sons did service
in the revolution.

(VI) Silas Roper, third child of Ephraim Roper
(5), was born in Chocksett, Lancaster, now Sterling,
Massachusetts, January 20, 1754. He was a soldier
in the revolution, and was commissioned lieutenant
in the Seventh Company of the Second Worcester
Regiment. The old house was built by his father
during the revolution. It is related that the huge
door stone required seventy-five yoke of oxen to
haul it into place. The floor of the great kitchen
was laid on the famous Dark Day, May 19, 1780.

Silas married, December 31, 1782, Elizabeth
Burpee. He was a farmer and lived in Sterling,
in the Rowley Hill district. The farm is still known
as the Captain Roper place for his son, Captain Silas.
In personal appearance Silas was tall and inclined
to be slender. He was at one time severely stung
by bees and was always tremulous afterward. He
disposed of his real estate to his son Silas before
his death. He died October 27, 1827. His wife
lived until December 2, 1850. Children of Silas and
Elizabeth (Burpee) Roper: I. Silas, born May 21,
1783, married Lucy Kendall. 2. Azubah, born De-
cember 9, 1784, married Samuel Sawyer. 3. Betsy,
born May 19, 1786, married Jonathan Wilder. 4.
Patty, May 22, 1790. 5. Merrick, see forward. 6.
Sylvia, born March 10, 1797, died April 12, 1799. 7.
Sydney, born September 3, 1801, married Polly

(VII) Merrick Roper, fifth child of Silas Roper
(6), was born in Sterling, Massachusetts, March 15,
1792. He came to Francestown with Joseph Willard,
son of Ephraim Willard, of Lancaster, Massachu-

setts, and brother of his aunt Azubah (Mrs. Benja-
min Roper). Willard was a cabinet maker by trade,
and Merrick Roper was his apprentice. Together
they went to Francestown, New Hampshire, in 1807.
Roper married there, November 18, 1817, Susan
Fairbanks of Francestown, descendant of a Lan-
caster family also. The house that he occupied for
many years is now or was lately occupied by Daniel
S. Henderson. His shop where he did cabinet mak-
ing is now part of the house of Frank Crosby.
Merrick Roper died in Francestown, February 19,
1861. All his children were born there, viz.: 1.
Charles, born February 7, 1819, married Amelia
Nussbaum, of Zanesville, Ohio, December 25, 1851.
He served in an Ohio regiment during the civil
war, and was in Gen. Lew Wallace's brigade at the
Battle of Shiloh ; he was a house painter by trade ;
he lived in his later years at Zanesville. 2. Syl-
vester H., see forward. 3. Lucy Ann, born Febru-
ary 5, 1828, married George C. Patten, of Deering,
New Hampshire, November 11, 1881, and there re-
sides. 4. Edward F., born December 17, 1831, mar-
ried first Henrietta M. Green, of Revere, Massachu-
setts, September 16, 1857; married (second) Eliza
Beals, of Cohasset, Massachusetts, June 7, 1867;
(third) Mary D. Dailey, of Francestown, December
14, 1893 ; was a machinist in early life and worked
for a sewing machine company; is a jeweler at
Francestown. 5. Susan Elizabeth, born September
25, 1836, married Ephraim W. Colburn of New
Boston, June 4, 1857; resides in Francestown; he
is a carpenter and builder ; was deputy sheriff 1874-
76; they have seven children.

(VIII) Sylvester H. Roper, second child of
Merrick Roper (7), was born in Francestown, Ver-
mont, November 24, 1823. He married first Almira
D. Hill, of Peterboro, Vermont, April 23, 1845, and
(second) Ellen F. Robinson, of Lynn, Massachusetts,
October 28, 1873. When a boy he displayed a re-
markable degree of precocity in mechanics, and his
career as an inventor proved him to be without a
rival in mechanical genius among those who have
gone out from Francestown. At twelve years of age,
although he had not seen a steam engine, he con-
structed a small stationary engine which is now pre-
served in the laboratory of the Francestown
Academy. Two years later he made a locomotive,
and shortly afterward saw at Nashua for the first
time in his life a railroad locomotive.

He left his home early in life and followed the
trade of machinist in Nashua, Manchester and Wor-
cester. In 1854 he became a resident of Hopedale
and there spent the remainder of his life. He in-
vented the handstitch sewing machine which was
in many respects an improvement on the earlier
machines. He invented a hot air engine in 1861,
which was found useful until the day of gas and
gasoline engines arrived. He made improvements
on steam engines and invented breech loading guns
of various patterns. He was most successful 111
a financial way with his hot air engines. During
the war there was a large demand for his ammuni-
tion for field guns, of which he was the inventor.
He invented a steam carriage, a • steam velocipede
and a steam bicycle, propelled by an engine fastened
to the frame work not unlike the modern motor
cycle, except that it was larger and the fuel was
coal instead of gasoline. He invented a successful
pocket fire escape, designed for the use of traveling
men. He made several patterns of rotary engines.
He designed a hot air furnace.

Mr. Roper's death was dramatic. After making
a phenomenal mile on a steam bicycle of his in-
vention he was stricken with heart disease and
actually died while riding. The Boston Globe in .



describing the incident said : "The dramatic fatality
occurred (June I, 1896) yesterday morning at the
new Crrarles river bicycle track, just across the
Harvard Bridge on the Cambridge side. The de-
ceased had for years enjoyed a reputation as an
able mechanical engineer, who had perhaps been
more identified with steam propulsion as applied
to carriages and for general road use than any
other man in New England. Ever since 1859 he
has been at work on various contrivances for con-
veyances with steam as a motive power. He was
exhibiting his engine applied to a modern safety
bicycle with a view of ascertaining its qualities as
a pace maker for bicycle racing. He demonstrated
its utility, but did not live to receive the con-
gratulations on his achievement. Away back in
1869 Mr. Roper equipped a heavy two-wheeled
velocipede with a steam engine, and for thirteen
years used it with great success. No great speed
was developed on it, but the inventor proved that
it was a practical machine. Recently, however, he
again turned his attention to an attachment for a
modern racing cycle, and interested a large local
bicycle manufacturer in his invention. His bicycle
was taken out first a week ago last Sunday for a
speed trial on Dorchester avenue. That it was
capable of being run forty miles an hour was
demonstrated, and then Mr. Roper was anxious to
try it on a smooth track. With His machine the
inventor appeared yesterday. When he arrived there
were a number of cyclers on the track in training.
As he was to make a few exhibition trips around
the track, it was suggested that the wheelmen try
to follow him. Mr. Roper mounted his machine
just back of the start and, turning on the steam,
was under full headway in a remarkable short time.
The trained racing men could not keep up with him,
and he made the' mile in two minutes one and two-
fifth seconds. After crossing the line Mr. Roper
apparently was so elated that he proposed making
even better time, and continued to scorch around
the track. The machine was cutting out a lively
pace on the back stretch wdien the men seated near
the training quarters noticed that the bicycle was
unsteady. The forward wheel wobbled badly, and
then suddenly the cycle was deflected from its
course and plunged off the track into the sand,
throwing the rider and overturning. All rushed
to the assistance of the inventor, who lay motion-
less beneath his wheel, but as soon as they touched
him they perceived that life was extinct. The only
wound was a slight cut over the left temple. Dr.
Wolcott, who was called, gave his opinion that
Mr. Roper died before the machine left tile track.
His bicycle weighed with the engine one hundred
and fifty pounds, and carried from one hundred to
one hundred and eighty-five pounds of steam. The
rider could carry enough coal to carry him twenty-
five miles or more."

Mr. Roper was a member of no fraternal orders.
He was liberal in his religious views. He resided
for many years at 299 Eustis street, Roxbury, Bos-
ton. His first wife, Almira, died October 6, 1898,
aged sixty-eight years His widow survives him
(1905). She resides in Dorchester. The children
of Sylvester H. and Almira D. (Hill) Roper were:
i. Charles Fredrick, see forward. 2. Ada Frances,
died when four years old.

(IX) Charles Fredrick Roper, only son of
Sylvester H. Roper (8), was born in Manchester,
New Hampshire, December 10, 1847. When a young
boy lie went to live with his grandmother, Caro-
line Hill, who married (second) Samuel Smith, at
Dublin. New Hampshire, and he went to school
in Dublin. Later he attended Francestown Acad-

emy, at Francestown, New Hampshire, and French's
Business College in Boston. He developed early
an aptitude for mechanics, and worked with his
lather in making steam carriages before he was
through school. His father had a shop in Rox-
bury in the sixties, and employed at times thirty
men in manufacturing his engines. The son worked
in this shop with his father, and developed his
mechanical skill.

His father's repeating rifle was at that time
manufactured in Amherst, Massachusetts, by the
Roper Repeating Rifle Company, and his father was
a stockholder and director. Charles Roper went to
Amherst as bookkeeper, but his knowledge and skill
made him more useful in the shop, and he worked
at his trade there for two years. He returned to
his father's shop and helped him make knitting
machines and guns for two years at Roxbury. He
returned to Amherst and married an Amherst girl.
Soon afterward the Rcper Repeating Rifle Company
was reorganized under the name of the Billings &
Spencer Company, and removed to Hartford. Mr.
Roper went with the company. The Billings &
Spencer Company gradually abandoned the making
of rifles and built up a business in drop forgings.
rding to an arrangement made with his em-
ers he worked in. Hartford for a year for Pratt
& Whitney, makers of machine tools and lathes.
The junior member of the firm of Billings & Spen-
cer, Christopher, was the inventor of the famous
Spencer rifle, used in the civil war. He is living
at present in Windsor, Connecticut. Mr. Roper
had been in Hartford about three years when Mr.
Spencer invented the first successful automatic screw
machine, and organized the Hartford Machine
Screw Company to manufacture it, after manufac-
turing it under his own name for a year or two.
Mr. Roper was his general manager, and had charge
of his first shop at Hartford. When the corpora-
tion was organized he had full charge of the shop.
Mr. Spencer was superintendent, but he spent his
time experimenting. After five or six years Mr.
Roper went back to Boston to perfect a screw ma-
chine he had designed. He lived at Forest Hills
and worked out his patterns in his father's shop
at Roxbury. He successfully completed his auto-
matic screw machine and applied for a p<. ,f e t, but
abandoned the design and went to Amherst, Massa-
chusetts, where he designed, built and patented the
machine in 1883 that was the foundation of the
Hopedale Machine Screw Company of Hopedale,
and has been used at the Draper Works ever since.
He sold the patent to the Drapers and went to
Hopedale as superintendent of their screw depart-
ment, conducted under the name of the Hopedale
Machine Company until 1888, when it became the
Hopedale Machine Screw Company, with Mr. Roper
as agent, or general manager. He was also a
director of the company.

When the Draper Company was organized, Janu-
ary 1, 1897. Mr. Roper became the mechanical en-
gineer of the consolidated concern, of which he
i, a stockholder. He has devoted his time ex-
clusively to the improvement of machinery built
bv the Draper Company, to designing new ma-
chinery, and in experimenting. He has worked for
the past seven years mainly on cotton machinery,
looms and spindles. He is at the head of one of
the experimental departments. Mr. Roper has in-
vented in the neighborhood of one hundred patent
designs, devices and machines, all except one of
which he has sold to Drapers or the Draper Com-
pany. He made his first money from a patented
oil saving machine. The only patent he has taken
out in his own name was in 1905 for a boat



propeller. All the others were sold before the
patents were issued, except the oil saving machine.
His most valuable and important invention is the
warp stop motion on automatic looms. Hundreds
of thousands of them have been put on the Draper
looms in the past twelve years. Mr. Roper in-
vented a successful voting machine. Most of his
inventions have been in special improvements and
labor saving devices on cotton machinery.

Mr. Roper is a Republican in politics. He has
held several minor town offices, but has had no
time for office calling for much attention. He has
been trustee of the library, park commissioner and
street commissioner of the town of Hopedale. He
is a member of no fraternal organizations. He
is a member of the First Congregational Church of
Milford. He was one of the founders of the Union
church, an undenominational and evangelical church
established at Hopedale. He was for many years
the president and treasurer of the society. He mar-
ried, October II, 1870, Abbie F. Taylor, daughter
of Dr. Israel and Levina (Crossett) Taylor, of
Amherst. Massachusetts. She was born March 13,
1850. Their children are: 1. Bessie Taylor, born
February 12, 1S76, educated in the Hopedale schools
and at Lasalle Seminary, Auburndale. 2. Waltev
Fredrick (sic), see forward. 3. Arthur Edward,
born December 26, 1S84, attended Worcester Acad-
emy and is now a student at Brown University,
class of 1909.

(X) Walter Fredrick Roper, eldest child of
Charles Fredrick Roper (9), was born February
9, 1 88 1 . He was educated at the Worcester Acad-
emy and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technol-
"ogy. He became connected with the Draper Com-
pany in his father's department and is in the ex-
perimenting department. He has already secured
two valuable inventions and has others in progress.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he
was a member of the Mechanical Engineering So-
ciety and of the Phi Beta Epsilon fraternity. He
is a Republican in politics. He married, June 3,
1905, Harriette Frances Nichols, of Boston. She
was born December 10, 1882.

grandfather of Benjamin Lloyd Mason Smith, of
Whitinsville, Massachusetts, was of an old family
of New England, whose progenitor settled early in
the Bristol colony. He lived on the old home-
stead at Somerset, Massachusetts. He married Lydia
Shove, of a well known Rhode Island family. Their
children, all born in Somerset, were: George;
Thomas. David, Joseph, see forward.

(II) Joseph Smith, son of Jude Smith (1),
was born in Somerset, Massachusetts, about 1800.
He also settled in his native town. He married
Phebe Chase. He died at the age of forty-seven,
in the gold mines of California. In early life, like
most of the residents of his town, he was a sea-
faring man, but was later employed in a pottery.

Online LibraryEllery Bicknell CraneHistoric homes and institutions and genealogical and personal memoirs of Worcester county, Massachusetts, with a history of Worcester society of antiquity (Volume 2) → online text (page 49 of 133)