John Ogden, the Pilgrim (1609-1682): A Man of More Than Ordinary Mark

John Ogden, the Pilgrim (1609-1682): A Man of More Than Ordinary Mark

John Ogden, the Pilgrim (1609-1682): A Man of More Than Ordinary Mark

John Ogden, the Pilgrim (1609-1682): A Man of More Than Ordinary Mark


This book tells the story of a remarkable man who left a significant footprint in seventeenth-century colonial America. Now nearly forgotten, John Ogden was one of our country’s earliest patriots – a man who stood tall against the intrusion of foreign intervention in colonial affairs.

An accomplished stonemason, John Ogden was born in Lancashire, England in 1609. He immigrated to the New World in 1641, arriving in Rippowam (now Stamford, Connecticut) to build a dam and gristmill for the community. In 1642, he was hired to build the first permanent stone church in Fort Amsterdam, then but a small dusty settlement at the foot of Manhattan Island.

Leaving Stamford in 1644, Ogden spent the next twenty-one years on Long Island. Among other accomplishments there, he established the first commercial whaling enterprise in America.

In 1665 Ogden became one of the original patentees on the Elizabethtown Purchase, the first English settlement in the Colony of New Jersey. For the next nineteen years, until his death in 1682, he led the community though the difficult years of conflict between the settlers – who had purchased their land directly from the Indians – and the English proprietors, who attempted to usurp the settlers’ property and their government. On one occasion, he risked almost everything he owned rather than accede to a foreign authority that he felt had no legal standing. This single act of civil disobedience should allow him to stand with the foremost patriots in our history

Ogden’s service to his community included many stints as a magistrate, first at the town level and later at the East New Jersey colony level. He was also chosen on many occasions to lead delegations to deal with the Indians, who trusted him completely.

His years in New Jersey also saw Ogden develop and pursue many business interests. He built, with his own hands, a gristmill, a lumber mill, a tanyard, and a brickyard. He also conducted a successful trading business and built another whaling company.

No accurate information has been previously published about John Ogden’s earliest years in England. A one-hundred-year-old genealogical study on the Ogden family in America – which has served as the foundation for much of our information about the man – is inaccurate. Using both direct and inferential information, Jack Harpster has recreated that early time, providing the first-ever look at the ancestral home of the Ogdens and how they came to immigrate to America. Harpster has also delved deep into early colonial records to discuss the Ogden family’s life and times in America during the mid to late 1600s. The story is highlighted by many colorful incidents and descriptions, often told in the words on contemporary colonial Americans.

John Ogden, The Pilgrim (1609-1982): A Man of More than Ordinary Mark, provides new history – and often rewrites existing history – about an important colonial American pioneer. It is an absorbing, insightful biography set in an exciting but understudies period of American history.


Why a book on John Ogden?

John Ogden, the Pilgrim,* my great (8) grandfather, emigrated from England to the New World in late 1641. He died in East New Jersey, a colony he fathered, forty-one years later. In that span of time, he left a significant footprint in early colonial America.

With the exception of the Jamestown and Plymouth colonists, history has not been kind to our earliest colonial ancestors, those who arrived on these virgin shores in the early to mid-seventeenth century. Most Americans, indeed even many historians, know very little about the deeds of these earliest pioneers. But it is these men, men like John Ogden, who are the true fathers of our country, the ones who planted the first seeds of the freedom and democracy we enjoy today.

This book, and the research behind it, is not a genealogical study. However, it makes a significant contribution to the genealogy of one extended American family by debunking many commonly held beliefs about its root ancestor, his background, and forefathers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) genealogical collection in Salt Lake City, Utah, is massive, by far the largest in the world. Within their library they receive and electronically store data on more than eighty million names. The library does not vouch for the accuracy of the information they house. They are a repository only, and leave it to the user to decide what to believe and what to reject. I would posit the same warning for any of the genealogical information you find within

*The appellation “The Pilgrim” that is often appended to John Ogden’s name in twentieth-century Ogden genealogies came originally from the Rev. Edwin Hatfield’s 1868 The History of Elizabeth, New Jersey. In his panagyric to Ogden, he wrote: “And now ‘Good Old John Ogden,’ whose wandering for forty years had justly entitled him to rank with the ‘Pilgrim Fathers,’….” In all my readings, the next place I found the appellation is in the title of William Ogden Wheeler’s book, The Ogden Family in America…, from whence, I believe, it has spread.

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