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Biography of Rev. David Roper, of Richmond, VA

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Biography of Rev. David Roper, of Richmond, VA

William A. Roper, Jr. (View posts)
Posted: 1016146099000
Classification: Query
Surnames: Roper, Miller, Carter, Grigg, Gregg, Semple
In 1838, James B. Taylor, the Pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Richmond, VA, published his "SECOND EDITION, REVISED AND ENLARGED", of his book "LIVES OF VIRGINIA BAPTIST MINISTERS". The publishers of the book are shown to be:


This book, as the title implies contains biographical sketches of a number of very early Baptist ministers preaching in Virginia before 1828. One of these, on pages 401 through 406, is a biography of Rev. David Roper, prepared by Elder Henry Keeling. For the benefit of other members of Rev. Daviid Roper's family, I have appended the full text of that biography below:


Prepared by Elder Henry Keeling

The Rev. David Roper was born Sept. 27, 1792, in the county of Charles City. His father, David Roper, was a respectable farmer, noted for the industry, frugality, and independence of spirit which characterized the time and county in which he lived; and remarkable for his punctilious observance of promises, and for his benevolence to the poor. His mother was a Christian, and prayed devoutly for her children. Such intercessions commonly revail; and the instruction and example, which always accompany them, when sincere, cannot be without effect. The subject of this hasty sketch, enjoyed, while a boy, no other advantages for instruction, than those which are furnished in ordinary schools. In one of these, however, he received the elements of a plain English education, and at a very early period distinguished himself, by his attainments, and skill in arithmetic calculations. This fact might have been passed over in silence, were it not considered as an early indication of the superior rational powers with which his mind was to be afterward possessed.

It was not until 1810, that he commenced in this city, such English, mathematical, and classical studies as, by attainments in which he became qualified for future usefulness. In these, his progress was astonishing. Not quite two years were employed in the accomplishment of an amount of Latin literature, equal to what is completed by graduates in our most respectable colleges. And the facility was as great, with which he acquired a knowledge of the Greek language. In all probability, it was now that his constitution began to be impaired. Four years’ unceasing application to the books, during a part of the time, he boarded in the country, at a distance of three or four miles, which he walked, returning the same day, reduced him from a strong and healthy, to a thin and pallid appearance. Here we could stop and weep, that in their development, talent and virtue should so frequently be clogged with hindrances and privation. But we are checked by the possibility that hindrances and privation produce application and system, which more than counterbalance their own disadvantages. Certain it is, that many of the most distinguished individuals who adorn the annals of literature and religion, and who occupy the most responsible and useful stations in life, have become qualified for them, in the midst of appalling disadvantages.

About the close of 1813, he completed his classical studies with Rev. Robert B. Semple of King and Queen; and shortly after, commenced study of medicine under the direction of the late Dr. James Greenhow. His progress in this study induced the Doctor to remark that, “Mr. Roper had acquired as much knowledge of medicine in one year, as young men generally obtain in two.” His early marriage rendered it necessary to abandon the pursuit of a profession, preparation for which, required so much time; and now, his efforts and patrimonial estate were embarked in mercantile life, in which, in the course of one year, he proved entirely unsuccessful, and failed. By this disaster, his circumstances were very much reduced; and no other means, for the time, presenting themselves, by which his family might be supported, he engaged in copying the records of a court. In this unprofitable employment it was necessary to toil twelve or fifteen hours a day, to secure sustenance and comfort.

But such talents as those with which Mr. Roper had been blessed by his Maker, could not remain unseen, by the intelligent and good. In 1817, he was employed by judge Bouldin, as a clerk, for the management of an extensive estate; in discharging the duties of which, his integrity, knowledge of accounts, and assiduity, secured the unchanging confidence and friendship of his employer. In this office he continued, at an annual salary of $1,200, until the year 1822, when the estate required a clerk no longer. Afterwards, he occupied responsible stations in two banks in this city, one of which he filled until his death; and in these, he gave entire satisfaction, and obtained universal regard.

It was while at school with the Rev. Mr. Semple, that he made a profession of religion. In a letter to his brother, at about that time, describing his religious exercises of heart, he remarks, “You may think it strange, when I tell you, I am born again.” Of the reality of this change, his subsequent life afforded satisfactory proof. To what extent the instruction of his venerable preceptor, may have been blessed in the production of this change, is unknown to the writer of this sketch. But it is well known to all his friends, that till the end of his days, he looked up to him, and admired and loved him, as a father. Soon afterwards, he attached himself to the Baptist church: in which, he was licensed to the exercise of gifts in public teaching and exhorting, and then fully ordained to the gospel ministry.

Upon the constitution of the Second Baptist church, Richmond, in 1819, he received an affectionate call to be their pastor. This call, it was not possible that he accepted from any other motive than an impression of imperious duty. The number of members in the church did not exceed thirty – among these there was but little wealth – the house in which they worshipped was rented – the congregation was to collect – and the boundaries of the different churches and worshipping assemblies appeared to be distinctly marked. But, of this small number, there were praying and active men. And their efforts, under the divine blessing, were successful in the erection of a commodious and neat edifice, dedicted to the service of God. But it is easy to see, that under circumstances like these, their pastor could not be supported without his own individual toils.

Now, his labors were too heavy, to be sustained by any man of feeble constitution. The enlightened understanding, the refined taste, and the high sense of ministerial duty, possessed and cherished by Mr. Roper, did not permit him to enter the sacred desk, with a mind unprepared by previous thought and research, to discuss, explain, and enforce the subject of his discourse. But the time requisite to be devoted to thoughtand research for the matter and form of religious discourses, he was compelled to subtract from that portion, which his health demanded him to appropriate to exercise, relaxation, and repose. Of the intenseness of which he labored in the collection of solid, evangelical sentiments, for the good of his hearers, the mass of manuscript sermons which he left behind him, and the distinctness with which they remain ingraved on the memory and hearts of many of those to whom they were addressed, are affecting evidences. AN agreeable manner in the pulpit, is the only excellence as a preacher, which he did not possess; and in this particular itself, he surpassed many whose names are justly enrolled among the most eminent pastors in our country. For clearness of method, force of argument, aptness of illustration, purity of language, and correctness of sentiment, as to doctrine and precept, his sermons were remarkable. Yet in the midst of life, at an age when the intellectual and bodily powers of man are scarcely at maturity, a mysterious Providence calls him away. Some time in 1825, his declining health compelled him to relinquish his charge, and as much as a year elapsed before his death, in which he was totally unable to preach.

In the last summer and autumn, his friends and physicians thought that traveling might improve his health; but from this he was prevented, it is believed, exclusively by his attachment to his domestic enjoyments. Indeed he said that when away from his family, his mind never felt at rest. Then, the idea was cherished, while blasts of winter would apparently destroy him, that the mildness of spring might be instrumental in his restoration. But the immediate transition from cold to mild weather, in the month of February, was accompanied by an immediate prostration of all bodily energy, and in ten days he fell asleep.

He had long before told his physicians not to fear declaring to him any apprehensions they might have, as the issue of his indisposition: that he was not afraid to die. In his sickness, during six weeks confinement to the house, his mind was composed. Shortly before his death, he selected as the text (whose improvement he wished at his funeral) the words “Not by the works of righteousness, which we have done,” &c. While sinking into death, his mind, from the nature of the disease which oppressed his body, was not joyous; but it was calm and resigned, trusting in the compassion of God and the merits of intercession of the Redeemer. On 28th February, 1827, at three o’clock in the morning, he reached the other side of the “valley of the shadow of death”. In this passage he had been supported by the consolations of the gospel – “a rod and a staff.” “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness; but the righteous hath hope in his death.” On Thursday, at four o’clock, P.M., his remains were taken to the Second Baptist church, at which, notwithstanding the great inclemency of the day, a large concourse of respectable citizens had assembled. In accordance with the request of the deceased, an appropriate address was made by the Rev. H. Keeling. And then a solemn procession followed the corpse to the grave, “the house appointed for all the living.”

As a Christian, Mr. Roper was sentimental and exemplary. Adhering to the doctrine, that salvation is by grace alone, he maintained the necessity of a holy life. In his manners, unostentatious and retiring, yet firmly attached to what he deemed to be right. Fixed in the belief, that the sentiments peculiar to his own denomination, are true; yet opposed to bigotry. Economical, yet liberal. No man afforded pecuniary aid to a greater extent than he, in proportion to his means, to support the cause of Christ and his gospel. “Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”

An afflicted widow, four children*, and an affectionate brother, lament, in this bereavement, an irreparable loss; while the cause of virtue, knowledge, and piety, is deprived of an able advocate and a firm supporter.


* It is a pleasing fact, that one of his children, Mrs. Frances G. Davenport, is now employed as a missionary among the Siamese.

* * * * *


Rev. David Roper (b 27 Sep 1792 - Charles City County, VA; d 28 Feb 1827 - Charles CIty County, VA) was the son of David Roper (b 13 Nov 1744; d 16 Apr 1808 - Charles City County, VA) and Elizabeth ---.

Rev. David Roper inherited an interest in "Gatesville Farm" at a Broad Run in the Chickahominy, Charles CIty County, VA, from his father, but sold his interest to his brother Edward Roper on February 17, 1814. This was within several days of his marriage to Mary Frances Miller (b ca 1800; d 6 Sep 1844- Richmond, VA), ward of Jacob Grigg (or Gregg).

Rev. Jacob Gregg, also a Baptist minister, was the subject of another profile in James B. Taylor's book. Rev. Jacob Gregg was teaching school in Richmond from the period 1808 through 1816 or 1817. In affition, Rev. Gregg sometimes preached at the First Baptist church in Richmond during this period. It seems quite likely that David Roper was either an earlier pupil of Rev. Gregg, or at least was acquainted with him through the First Baptist church, of which Rev. David Roper was a member prior to accepting the position as pastor of the Second Baptist church.

Mary Frances Miller, is believed to have been the daughter of Frederick Miller and Mary Carter (b ca 1759 - Caroline County, VA), who married 12 Apr 1787, though there has been little proof of this yet identified. If so, Mary Frances Miller's mother Mary Carter is believed to be the daughter of George Carter (b 1723 - Caroline Co, VA; d ca 1786 - Halifax Co, VA) and Frances Neale . George Carter was the son of Thomas Carter (b 1 Feb 1700 - Christ Church Parish, Lancaster Co, VA; d 3 Dec 1776). Thomas Carter in turn was the son of Edward Carter (b 6 Apr 1671 - Lancaster Co, VA; d 1743 - Lancaster Co, VA) and Elizabeth Thornton (b 26 Aug 1672 - Gloucester Co.,VA), and the grandson of Thomas Carter (b ca 1631 - England; d 22 Oct 1700 - Lancaster County,VA) and Katherine Dale (b 1652 - VA; d 10 May 1703 - Lancaster County, VA).

Rev. David and Mary Frances Miller Roper had five children: Frederick A. Roper (b ca 1815 - Richmond, Henrico Co, VA), Benjamin Eliscus Roper (b 8 Nov 1816 - Richmond, Henrico Co, VA; d 11 Apr 1871 - Lynchburg, Harris Co. TX), Mary Frances Greenhow Roper (b 8 Mar 1818 - Richmond, VA; d 18 Jul 1896 - Baltimore, MD); James Manning Roper (b 1821 - Richmond, Henrico Co., VA; d 6 Aug 1823 - Richmond, Henrico Co., VA); and Amanda Jane Roper (b 1823 - Richmond, VA).

Frederick A. Roper seems to have clearly lived in Richmond through at least 31 Dec 1836, as he is named in Mutual Assurance Society insurance policy in Policy No. 10110 (Vol. 100, reel 15), which indicates his residence there as of that date. He would have been about 21 at that time. Thereafter, there has been found no trace of him.

Benjamin Eliscus Roper lived in Richmond until at least December 1836, as revealed by a Mutual Assurance Society insurance policy in Richmond on 31 Dec 1836 (Policy No. 10110, Vol. 100, reel 15). He married Catherine Withers Payne on 17 May 1843 in Hinds Co, MS. And they moved from Hinds county to Texas between 1847 and 1850. Benjamin Eliscus Roper is mentioned prominently in my post "Obituary of Mary Wither Roper (d 1941) of Houston, TX" to this Roper Bulletin Board.

Mary Frances Greenhow Roper married Robert Davenport on 18 Sep 1835. By the date of the sketch on Rev. David Roper in 1838, she was already doing work as a Baptist missionary in Siam (Thailand), where it is believed that she worked from from 1837 to 1845, thus preceeding the visit of "Anna" in the "King and I", by about two decades. In 1880, she wrote a book "India, by Fanny Roper Feudge. With one hundred illustrations.", published by D. Lothrop and company (Boston). She died in Baltimore in 1896.

Amanda Jane Roper is shown in Mutual Assurance Society insurance policy in Richmond dated 31 Dec 1836, so she was certainly alive at that date, at age 13. I have no further information on her.

James Manning Roper died as a child, age 2, in 1823.

Rev. David Roper was interred in Shockoe Hill Cemetery. His gravestone reads "David Roper, Baptist Preacher, 35 y, February 28, 1827". Rev. Roper's wife Mary is also interred there. Her gravestone reads "Mary Roper, 44 y, September 8, 1844". The Roper's infant child is buried at Shockoe Hill, as well. His epitaph reads "James Manning Roper, 2 y, August 6, 1823". There is another grave at Shockoe Hill for a "James M. Roper, -, November 26, 1827". I am unaware of any certain evidence of the parents of this child, but Mary Miller Roper may have been with child at the date of her husband's death in February 1827 and had another child who didn't survive infancy.


SubjectAuthorDate Posted
William A. Roper, Jr. 1016146099000 
Willaim A. Roper, Jr. 1046654828000 
William A. Roper, Jr. 1046679588000 
waroper 1425450137000 
rebeccawright... 1517154194000 
Elizabeth SB Potter 1086963518000 
William A. Roper, Jr. 1101947724000 
waroper 1170718076000 
waroper 1352357037000 
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