Henry Huttleston Rogers, Fairhaven’s most distinguished son, was born there Jan. 29, 1840, and died May 19, 1909, in New York City. Of typical New England stock and Old Colony antecedents, his continued identity with Fairhaven made him dearly beloved in that community.
The Rogers family is, perhaps, one of the most ancient and numerous of the old settled families in the country. There were no less than a dozen who bore the name of John Rogers among the seventeenth century emigrants, and one of this Christian name was president of Harvard College in the latter part of that century. It is the purpose in this article to deal, briefly, with only one of the New England Rogers families – that of which Henry Huttleston Rogers was a representative. His more recent ancestors on both sides have been inhabitants of towns of the Old Colony. Thomas Rogers came in the “Mayflower” to Plymouth, 1620, bringing his son Joseph; his other children came afterward. He died in the first sickness in 1621. His widow, Grace, afterward married (second) William Rogers, brother of Thomas, and (third) Roger Porter, of Long Sutton, Southampton, England. All his children (among whom was John, of Duxbury, who married Ann Churchman) married and had many children.
Joseph Rogers, son of Thomas, settled in Duxbury and later in Sandwich, in 1655 removing to Easton, Mass., where he died in 1676. He married and had six children.
William Rogers, youngest son of Joseph, born in 1640, died March 23, 1718. He moved to Nantucket, and married Martha Barnard, daughter of Robert and Joanna. From there he removed to Martha’s Vineyard.
Ebenezer Rogers, son of William, was born Jan. 5, 1676, married Sarah Dunham July 16, 1741, and had Lot, Roland and Henry.
Lot Rogers, son of Ebenezer, born about 1756, died in 1836. He married his cousin, Martha Rogers. He served in the Revolutionary war, being in Capt. Nathaniel Smith’s company, and later in Capt. Jeremiah Manter’s company.
Abisha Rogers of Mattapoisett Massachusetts
Abisha Rogers, son of Lot, was born June 23, 1786. He moved to the mainland from the island of Martha’s Vineyard, where four generations of the family had resided, and settled in Mattapoisett, which was an early precinct of the town of Rochester in Plymouth county, and which in comparatively recent years was incorporated as a town. He married Feb. 23, 1806, Judith Cushman, a member of one of the old families of that section, and several of their children are of record as baptized in the Second Church at Rochester, Mattapoisett precinct, namely:
- Ezra Rogers, Aug. 8, 1808
- Maria Sanford Rogers, in 1811
- Judith Rogers, in 1813
- Martha Ann Rogers, in October, 1825
The church and other public records evidence a worthy identity of this family with the affairs of the Mattapoisett community. The father in 1826 was one of the committee appointed to secure a minister for the church, which resulted in the coming to them of Rev. Asahel Cobb as colleague pastor; and Judith C. Rogers is found active among those of Mattapoisett who were desirous of securing for the children of the community the benefits of a higher education than the district school afforded, the result of which was the fitting up of a part of the old Congregational church there for school purposes, in which was opened a private school.
Three of Henry H. Rogers’s four great-grandfathers fought in the Revolution. The name of an Abisha Rogers is found in a list of those committed to Old Mill prison since the American war so styled, Rogers being taken on the sloop “Charming Polly,” May 16, 1777 (the crew committed in May), and being one of those later exchanged. This prison was situated on a promontory projecting into the sound between Plymouth and Plymouth Dock, two considerable towns, and to the right going from Dock to Plymouth. Formerly there stood a windmill on the eminence, hence the prison was called “Mill prison”; it comprised three buildings, one of which, tradition informs us, had been built in Queen Anne’s time.
Roland Rogers of Mattapoisett and Fairhaven Massachusetts
Roland Rogers, a son of Abisha and Judith (Cushman) Rogers, and a native of Mattapoisett, was a resident there and later of Fairhaven, in which latter place he was married and where were born his children. His birth occurred March 21, 1809, and on the 21st of March, 1833, he was married to Mary Eldredge, youngest child of Henry and Rhoda (Merrihew) Huttleston, the former a descendant of one of the original proprietors of ancient Dartmouth, which was the mother town of New Bedford, Fairhaven, Westport and Acushnet. This was Valentine Huddlestone, as the surname was originally spelled, who came first to Newport, but finally settled in Dartmouth, of which he was, as stated, one of the fifty-six original proprietors, and here have since lived and played well their part in the great transformation the passing of the years has made some of his descendants. The Huddleston family was one substantial in England, where there is a place of the name; and here, in America, it appeared early. In the early years of the seventeenth century one John Huddleston was vicar of Hitchin in Hertfordshire, and it was Capt. John Huddleston, of the “Bona Nova,” a vessel of some 200 tons, who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, sixteen days after the great massacre of whites by the Indians, and who in June, 1622, while fishing off the coast of Maine, sent a boat to the Puritans of Plymouth Rock with a letter telling them of the sad news. Captain Huddleston was then of the South Colony of Virginia. Valentine Huddlestone died June 8, 1727, in the hundredth year of his age, which would make him born in about 1628. By his wife Catherine he had sons: Henry and George, born Sept. 21, 1673, and Sept. 28, 1677, respectively; and through these has been perpetuated the name in this region. Henry and Peleg seem to have been favorite Christian names of the family. The vital records of the family in Dartmouth give at least two of the children of Henry Huttlestone, namely:
- Peleg Huttlestone, born Jan. 2, 1702
- Elizabeth Huttlestone, born Oct. 1, 1704, which with the inscriptions on the tombstones of Peleg Huttlestone (2) and his wife Tabitha give the lineage of Mrs. Rogers.
Peleg Huttlestone of Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Their remains rest in the Acushnet cemetery, an Old Colony burying ground established in the reign of Queen Anne in Ancient Dartmouth. Peleg Huttlestone (2) died May 22, 1801, aged sixty years, and his wife Tabitha passed away Aug. 24, 1790, aged forty-seven years. Mr. Huttlestone was a man of good circumstances and repute – a landholder and valuable citizen. Henry Huttleston, son of Peleg (2) and Tabitha, and the father of Mrs. Rogers, was born in Fairhaven in 1768. He was a man of great activity and business ability, and from a country merchant became the owner of numerous vessels and possessed of large shipping interests. He was largely engaged in fitting out ships for the foreign trade and sustained great loss through the perilous times of the war of 1812 and other foreign troubles, and at the time of his death had a number of claims against European governments. Only one of these claims, that against France, was ever realized upon. He died in January, 1831. He married Rhoda Merrihew, of Fairhaven, and of an old family in that locality; and their children were:
- Henry Huttleston
- Nancy Huttleston
- Betsey Huttleston
- Stephen Huttleston
- Jane Huttleston
- Killey Huttleston
- Mary E. Huttleston
Roland Rogers of Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Roland Rogers was for years engaged in mercantile pursuits in Fairhaven and as an accountant. For a few years he had a grocery in Main street, near Union. Whaling was then a typical industry of this section, and a large proportion of the inhabitants were directly or indirectly connected with it. He made one whaling trip, which was anything but profitable, the voyage covering three years, and his share of the catch netting him but $95.20. For a time he was also clerk to a broker in whale oil, and in his later years he was engaged in furnishing supplies for whalers. He was long an inspector of customs at Fairhaven. A man who held tenaciously to what he believed in, he had allied himself with the Democratic party, thoroughly believing in its principles, and was one of the half dozen or so of that political faith of his town who steadily voted the Democratic ticket undaunted by the bitter partisanship of the times. He held the esteem and respect of his fellow citizens. He died at Fairhaven, at a comparatively early age, of paralysis, Nov. 14, 1861, when aged fifty-two years, eight months. His wife survived him many years, dying in Fairhaven Nov. 9, 1899, when in the eighty-ninth year of her age, at the home of her son Henry. Mrs. Rogers had lived all her life in Fairhaven, and was well and favorably known by young and old, and her memory has since continued in many hearts to call her blessed. She had long been a member of the Unitarian Church in Fairhaven, and all her years were filled with praise. At her funeral the Rev. Dr. Collyer paid a most tender tribute of respect to the name mother, for all that she stands for in the home and life, for the virtue of doing good in that finest of all relations, where worship may be as truly as in the church. At a meeting held Nov. 16, 1899, resolutions of respect were passed by the Women’s Alliance of the Unitarian Church of Fairhaven in memory of Mrs. Rogers. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were:
- Elizabeth Sofer Rogers, born Sept. 7, 1834, who died June 2, 1849
- Henry H. Rogers
- Rufus Allen Rogers, born Feb. 22, 1843, who died Dec. 25, 1909
Henry Huttleston Rogers of Fairhaven Massachusetts
Henry Huttleston Rogers spent his boyhood days in his native village of Fairhaven. The house in which he was born still stands, though the frame was made in 1690. He had what intelligent thinkers now concede to be the ideal environment for the development of character. His parents were moderately well-to-do, neither so poor that living was a problem, nor so rich that the boy had no stimulus to ambition. It is said he was quick to learn and a diligent student; during his school days he had the sympathetic cooperation and encouragement of his mother, who helped him evenings with his studies. He graduated from the high school in 1856, at the age of sixteen. His first master at that school, Mr. Montague, was an Irishman of thorough education, a graduate of Harvard, and guided his pupils in the classics and in Latin, which latter he used not only as a method of pure instruction, but also as a punishment. However, he also believed in the efficacy of the rod, whipping the girls as well as the boys. Within a week of his graduation young Rogers took a position at the Fairhaven Union Grocery Store, the largest house of its kind in Fairhaven, and he acted as clerk and assistant superintendent. He was a valuable employee, and remained with the house for about three and a half years, when he changed to what seemed more promising work. When the railroad between Fairhaven and Tremont was started he became freight agent ion the line and while thus engaged heard of the marvelous opportunities offered in the newly opened oil fields and caught the excitement.
The year 1859 marked the beginning of the oil industry in Pennsylvania. When the Civil war broke out, and Southern privateers destroyed many cargoes of whale oil, besides endangering the whaling business for the time, the oil fields loomed into sudden importance. The young man had saved some money, and in his twenty-first year, with $2,741, what then seemed a considerable nucleus for a fortune, went to Pennsylvania and established himself in business at Oil City, as a refiner, in partnership with Charles H. Ellis. When he began thus it was on the impulse of a new idea. The oil had hitherto been shipped to tidewater in its crude state and in the refining process seventy-five per cent was discarded as worthless. Mr. Rogers thought the refining could be done at the wells, thus saving the expense of freighting and handling the bulk of the product, and he and his partner erected a refinery between Oil City and Titusville, where the first boring had been done. His working knowledge of mechanics led to more scientific study, and the thoroughness which characterized everything he undertook soon made him highly proficient in both the executive and practical departments of the business. The first year he and his partner divided thirty thousand dollars between them. In the fall of 1862, when he made his first visit home to claim his bride, he was already regarded as a rich man. Mr. Rogers within his two years in the oil regions came to be regarded as the most competent refiner in the field and Charles Pratt, of Brooklyn, a dealer and refiner of oils, contracted for the entire output of the refinery at a fixed price. But the young man was only a refiner, owning no wells of his own, and when the price of the crude oil suddenly went upward, on account of the manipulation of speculators, Rogers & Ellis experienced a great deal of financial embarrassment to carry out their contract for refined oil with Mr. Pratt. The latter was at that time a large stockholder in the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company and was not satisfied with its management. Knowing the financial condition of Rogers & Ellis, and their difficulty in obtaining new capital, he offered Mr. Rogers the superintendency of the Pennsylvania Salt Manufacturing Company. Mr. Rogers accepted, staying there one year, and put the company on a paying basis. Mr. Pratt then offered him a partnership in the Pratt Astral Oil Company, and the partnership of Rogers & Ellis was dissolved. This was in 3865. Mr. Rogers and Mr. Pratt did not draw down any large amount of the net earnings of their company, but returned the greater portion of it to new capital. His stock-holdings in the Pratt Company came from his interest in the partnership.
Mr. Rogers had chosen to be regarded as a scientific refiner, a chemist, and though his executive ability, resource and acumen were recognized even at that day, he always felt that it was his intimate knowledge of the details of the work that gave him an advantage over others in the same line. In 1862 or 1863 he had invented an oil refining still, and though it has been greatly improved it was practically the same as the stills used all over the world today.
Mr. Pratt was one of the first men to refine crude oil east of Pennsylvania (Mr. Rogers believed Weston Howland, of Fairhaven, to have been the first), was a dealer of long standing in lubricating and illuminating oil, and had a high reputation. Mr. Rogers soon became indispensable to him. The first year’s sales were more than double the amount hoped for, and the firm name of Charles Pratt & Co. was a style destined to stand for years as the synonym of the highest success in New York business circles. With this concern Mr. Rogers continued to be associated for many years, and in oil lines, if we mistake not, to the time of his death.
The business of Charles Pratt & Co. expanded at such a rate as to require every dollar of the capital to finance it. The Pratt works were incorporated in 1868, with Henry H. Rogers as vice president and general manager. They organized pipe lines and bought refined oil, which they were able to market profitably in spite of the advantages enjoyed by their mighty opponents, the Standard Oil interests. Meantime they had gained such strength, and were assuming such importance in the oil business, that they became the recognized leaders of the independent refiners, arrayed against the Rockefeller and Flagler interests. Mr. Rogers, a comparatively young man of forty, found himself a competitor of the leading oil producers in the world. Their power was not sufficient to drive him out of the market, and his strength was such that they approached the Pratt concern with offers of consolidation. This was in 1882. Mr. Rogers was not favorable to the merger, but after long and thoughtful consideration he and Mr. Pratt decided to accede – on their own terms. The terms were “stiff,” and the Standard Oil people. said so. But they accepted them all – and a few years later had the satisfaction of telling Mr. Rogers he might have had twice as much if he had demanded it. At any rate, what he did demand was enough to raise him, during the next five years, from a moderately wealthy man into the millionaire class. After he became an active member of the Standard Oil Company he held thousands of shares of unpurchasable trust stock – stock retained by only a few outside of Rockefeller and Flagler.
Thus Mr. Rogers became a director at once of the Standard Oil Company and was immediately elected vice president of the United Pipe Lines, one of the subordinate Standard Oil Companies, in that capacity having charge of all the pipe lines from the oil wells to the storage tanks and refineries – practically the transportation system from the wells to the refineries, one of the most important ends of the business of the trust. Moreover, in acknowledgment of his superior knowledge of refining in all its branches, he was appointed upon committees which considered the various devices for increasing the by-products and economizing in the operation of the numerous plants – a field in which his advice was found most valuable. He also had a voice in the policy of the company regarding the development of its foreign interests. Consequently, upon the retirement of Mr. Rockefeller, he was practically at the head of the Standard Oil interests until shortly before his death.
For years Mr. Rogers had his interests almost solely in the oil business, but naturally, as his wealth increased with unforeseen rapidity, he invested in other lines. He joined Mr. William Rockefeller in the development of the Brookline Gas Company and its sensational entrance into the Boston field, and subsequently found attractive investment in other Boston properties. Mr. Rogers and Mr. William Rockefeller consolidated the gas companies of Brooklyn into the Brooklyn Union Gas Co., and Mr. Rogers became vice president of that and of the East River Gas Company. They were also responsible for the consolidation of the New York Gas Company into the Consolidated Gas Company.
Mr. Rogers took a prominent part in the promotion of copper mines which had been owned in New England, and going into this new sphere with his customary alertness studied the situation thoroughly until convinced it was well worth his while. The result was that he made heavy investments, owning large blocks of Anaconda stock, and was the moving spirit in the organization of the Amalgamated Copper Company, of which he became president. He was vice president of the Federal Steel Company (which he formed by the consolidation of the Illinois Steel Company and several other concerns), and a member of the board of directors and of the finance committee of the United States Steel Corporation.
Of miscellaneous interests, he was a trustee of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York and of the Atlantic Trust Company; and vice president of the Chesebrough Manufacturing Company. Steamship and electric railway lines also interested him, and in that connection he was vice president of the Atlantic Coast Electric Railway Company, and a director of the Inter-National Navigation Company and of a number of electric railways in the vicinity of New York.
With all these vast enterprises Mr. Rogers could hardly escape becoming associated with railroads and their construction. He held the presidency of the Huntington & Big Sandy Railroad Company, the National Transit Company, the Ohio River Railroad Company and the New York Transit Company. But his big venture, his pet project, in this realm, was the building of the Virginian railway, from Deepwater, W. Va., to Sewell’s Point, in Hampton Roads, Va., which he financed. It was commenced in 1901-02, and its successful completion was a source of particular gratification to Mr. Rogers, who took a party of friends from New York by steamship to Norfolk for the occasion, which was accompanied by great ceremony, the month before his death, April, 1909.
A man of quick, nervous temperament and energetic nature, Mr. Rogers generally carried to a successful end whatever he undertook. Cool, practical and decisive in all business affairs, he accomplished so much that it would seem he could have little time to indulge his personal tastes. But his warm social nature was never allowed to suffer from his practical experiences. Rather, he used his increased opportunities for gratifying his cherished ambition, to give back to the world in fuller measure all that he had received from it. He is quoted as having said: “Success is rooted in reciprocity. He who does not benefit the world is headed for bankruptcy on the high speed clutch.” Among his many benefactions are gifts which mark almost every spot which had sacred or tender associations for him. This leads us to the great prominent characteristic of all his philanthropies – he did not give merely because he could afford it, or to relieve himself of the measure of his responsibility to his fellow men, but because he had a sincere and human interest in every project made possible by his generosity. His first public gift to Fairhaven, the Rogers grammar school, dedicated Sept. 3, 1885, a substantial structure of brick with terra cotta ornamentation and a model of school architecture, gave the local schools a fresh inspiration. All educational interests were quickened into new and lasting activities. He himself called it the realization of an air castle he had built some thirty years before, when, as a boy, he had waxed enthusiastic over the prospect of a new building for the primary and grammar pupils in that part of the town. The need for the building anticipated its construction by about forty years, and Mr. Rogers kept it in mind until able to thus express his fondness for the place of his birth. In 1893 was received the gift by the town of Anne E. Benjamin, Cara Rogers Duff, Mary Huttleston Rogers and Henry H. Rogers, Jr., of the magnificent Millicent Library, with its treasures of books, in memory of their sister Millicent Gifford Rogers. “No more exquisite and tasteful memorial edifice could have been designed.” Of the building said one of the local papers on the occasion of its dedication:
“Because it was erected to the memory of his daughter the library had a peculiar interest for Mr. Rogers. He watched its growth with absorbing care. It was his ambition that it become as perfect as eminent architect and builders could make it, and the finished architecture will bear inspection in every part and its beauty be only enhanced. It is a beauty whose elements are refinement, permanency and finesse. There is probably not a public town building in the State which can approach comparison with it. The structure is a monumental demonstration of the finest art; it is indeed the idealization of the real and the realization of the ideal. It is more than the grouping of costly and beautiful materials. It is a type of the expressive kind of architecture; it will speak in a real language of form and color to the people who pass in the shadow of its towers or through its doorway to the world of beauty inside.”
And said Mr. Rogers, himself, in part, at the dedication exercises of the library:
“The germ of the Millicent Library had its origin in the darkness of a great grief and pressed its tendrils into our hearts through a little story that was told of the dear girl whose memory we adore and desire to perpetuate. The story was expressive of what was in her thoughts a few weeks before her death, and coupled with the care she held for books, there came to our children a common desire to erect a library in tribute to her memory. The suggestion was so pleasing to us as parents that it found a ready acceptance, and with a feeling of thankfulness to heaven for the blessings which would enable us to carry out the work we undertook the charming task. The development of the germ you have watched as time has been passing until it stands before you today in its completed form prepared to begin, as we hope, a life of educational and pleasing purpose. We have tried to give the library an individuality in harmony with the character and personality as we cherish them of the loved one whose loss we mourn. If we have built better than was required by the measure of practical needs, it was because we were working to an ideal that was desired should stand for the best in worth and beauty.”
In the words of another:
“The Millicent Library in Fairhaven is grand and fair, but its significance would be trifling did not the beauty and graciousness of the young life it commemorates live in the hearts of the community. The memory of Miss Millicent G. Rogers is dear to all who knew her and many were the friends she made in Fairhaven. It was a place for which she had a peculiar fondness and the remembrance of her by the townspeople is that of a personality which brightened and bettered everything about it. Her memorial is almost a reflection of herself in its softened and refining beauty.”
This noble gift was endowed by Mr. Rogers with a fund of $100,000, deposited with the treasurer of the Commonwealth, and with ownership of the Fairhaven waterworks, which he built and from which a permanent income is assured.
In 1894, shortly before her death, Fairhaven received from Mrs. Abbie P. (Gifford) Rogers, first wife of Henry H. Rogers, the gift of the town hall, one of the finest specimens of civic architecture in New England. Still later, as a memorial to his mother, Mr. Rogers had erected in Fairhaven what is known as the Memorial Unitarian Church, which with the parish house and parsonage forms a group of beautiful buildings. It was dedicated Oct. 4, 1904. For its size the edifice is said to be the most magnificent church in the world, surpassing in point of decorativeness any of the cathedrals of England or Europe. Nothing was spared to make its beauty complete. One of the features that renders the church architecture of Europe superlatively fine is the decorations, the carving being done without duplicating. Charles Bingham, the architect, followed out this idea very carefully, with the result that there is found in this new memorial church building at Fairhaven probably the greatest multiplicity of designs that will be seen anywhere in America. The stone in this church was taken from the Fort Phoenix ledge, across from Mr. Rogers’s home, and the same material was used in the construction of the high school at the Fairhaven end of the bridge, built and presented to the town by Mr. Rogers a few years before his death, a magnificent and commodious structure. The Fairhaven High School Alumni Association was formed in 1894 and Mr. Rogers was elected its president, a relation he sustained several years. He found time to attend its meetings, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Among other gifts he made to the town is Tabitha Inn, a private enterprise, named in honor of his great-grandmother Huttleston; the Masonic building given to George H. Taber Lodge, dedicated June 18, 1901, in memory of “Uncle” George H. Taber, whom he had known and loved from boyhood, his long-time friend; the White Home for nurses, given to St. Luke’s Hospital, in memory of Dr. Charles Warren White, Jr., of Fairhaven; the building of the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, which he purchased and gave to that organization, and the modern school building he erected for Mattapoisett. When the old Unitarian Church building was no longer needed, after the completion of the new one, it was remodeled at Mr. Rogers’s expense for school purposes, for the lower grades, and for a manual training and cooking school. One of his most important and practical benefactions, however, comes under the head of business enterprises. The American Tack Company, for many years the leading industrial establishment of Fairhaven, was absorbed by the Atlas Tack Company, which failed. Mr. Rogers, purchasing the Taunton and Fairhaven plants, moved the former to Fairhaven, and rehabilitated a concern whose success was of the utmost importance to the place, affording employment to large numbers. It was his purpose to afford work to every man woman or child that wanted it.
In 1896 Mr. Rogers was appointed superintendent of streets and appointed John J. Bryant his assistant, relations to the town which these men sustained for ten years. His service in this capacity was the beginning of the many miles of block paved gutters, granite curbed sidewalks and macadamized roads the town now enjoys. The town appropriated $3,000 annually for its street department, and when bills to that amount had accumulated the books were balanced. The other bills never reached the town treasurer, being quietly settled by Mr. Rogers. The health as well as the pleasure and convenience of the residents of Fairhaven, too, was considered by Mr. Rogers in the adding by him in later years of a great physical feature to the possessions of the town by the obliteration of Herring river, or the “Mill Pond,” as it had been known for many years, and in its place creating an ample park, known as Cushman park. As an active member of the Fairhaven Improvement Association Mr. Rogers inspired much of the sentiment which has resulted in the making of the “town beautiful.” Moreover, he went to the extent of erecting a beautiful Colonial mansion of his own there, in 1895, in the midst of spacious grounds, so beautifully and artistically appointed as to win the Hunnewell prize for beautiful country estates some few years ago. Mr. Rogers took special pride in the splendid greenhouses at this place.
Though Fairhaven was the most frequent beneficiary of his lavish public gifts, other places have been well favored, some for reasons of sentiment, others from motives of pure philanthropy. When the old Methodist Church at Acushnet was burned, in December, 1904, Mr. Rogers was the first to come forward with a substantial contribution toward its reconstruction. In New Bedford he made heavy contributions for the establishment of the North End Guild and St. Luke’s hospital, though at the time the identity of the generous giver was not generally known. He found great pleasure in his endowments to the scenes of his early business struggles – the oil regions of Pennsylvania. In his mature years, though he spent little time in that section, he never forgot its conditions and its needs. And he embodied his sentimental and practical ideas in several enduring memorials, all so unostentatiously given that the donor’s identity was known to few at the time. The splendid monument to Col. Edwin L. Drake, the discoverer of petroleum, in.Woodlawn cemetery at Titusville; the $25,000 endowment fund for the Oil City hospital; the erection of a home for nurses at that hospital; and his $125,000 gift to the Meadville (Pa.) Theological School ($100,000 for the foundation of the Robert Collyer lectureship, named in honor of his long-time friend, and $25,000 for the library) – all these and many lesser benefactions show his interest in that country, but they do not show the extent or number of the substantial remembrances he made to many of his old-time but less successful associates there. He always sought out his old friends on the occasion of his visits to the oil fields and many have reason to recall his visits with gratitude, for he showed such tact and delicacy in these matters that he never wounded the pride or self-respect of the recipients of his bounty.
This practice of Mr. Rogers, of giving without ostentation, was frequently a source of embarrassment to the different organizations he so favored, as he usually made his donations with the request that his name be withheld. But his contributions were so liberal it was often difficult to conceal the source. For him, the pleasure of helping was the only reward he asked. Many were his private ministrations, though in these he followed what is conceded by the intelligent and thinking class to be the plan of wisdom ó he never gave alms to those who could and should help themselves; he placed the opportunity for self-help within their reach, that was all. This principle, however, had nothing to do with the large number of old and helpless whom he took under his protection, or the young who were struggling against poverty to obtain education and a real start in life. In New York a Messiah home for little children was given by him in the name of his wife. The only public bequest in his will was the $100,000 left to the town of Fairhaven, for the use of its primary and grammar schools. His sustained interest in Fairhaven and all its institutions associated with his real experiences in early life or even the dreams of his youth show how strong the bonds of affection were for him. And as he went on and on, through a long life of unusual and varied experiences, he formed new relations and new interests and was never done with sympathy. He made some enemies – what successful man does not? But it was the number of his friends that was surprising, for it included practically all who ever came in contact with him. His interest in Helen Keller, whom he met just at the time when the continuance of her education hung in the balance, was such that he assumed the expenses of her college training and thus brought to fruition the efforts of her early friends; and his personal kindnesses and attentions to this wonderful woman were one of her greatest sources of joy. Her appreciation and gratitude were a reward few men have experienced. Likewise the practical demonstration of his friendship for Mark Twain, whose financial bark he steered off the shoals of bankruptcy; his regard for Rev. Robert Collyer, many of whose most cherished plans were realized through Mr. Rogers’s generosity; his timely aid to Booker T. Washington; and less notable but no less noteworthy evidences of his tender feelings for all that was best in life, show the inner man – the real man. To quote from Elbert Hubbard, who devotes one of his “Little Journeys to the Homes of Great Business Men” to a character sketch of Mr. Rogers: “In judging a man we must in justice to ourselves ask, ‘What effect had this man’s life, taken as a whole, had on the world!’ To lift out samples here and there and hold them up does not give us the man, any more than a sample brick gives you a view of the house. And viewing the life of Rogers for years, from the time he saw the light of a whale-oil lamp in Fairhaven, to the man as we behold him now, we must acknowledge his initiative and his power. He gave profitable work to millions. He directly made homes and comforts possible for thousands upon thousands. He helped the young, without number, to find themselves in their work and at their work. In a material way he added vast millions to the wealth of the world by the utilization of products which were considered worthless.” That was the keynote, indeed, of much of his life, to turn what was apparently worthless to good use.
The Fairhaven Star of May 22, 1909, had the following editorial:
“The town of Fairhaven is in mourning. From the oldest man and woman in our quiet homes to the little children on our sunny streets, everywhere there is genuine grief.
“Everywhere there are silent tears for the great and gracious man who will greet us no more with his genial smile and pleasant words.
“What Fairhaven owes to Henry H. Rogers cannot now be set forth in our imperfect words.
“If ever a town or a community had a friend, a benefactor, a faithful son, a citizen who planned and toiled, and gave with generous and magnificent sagacity and foresight and boundless affection, to beautify and to uplift his native town, that town is Fairhaven and that man was Henry Huttleston Rogers.
“As time goes on and he walks our streets no more, the splendid mausoleum by the winding river, where his body rests in honor and peace, will come to be the shrine of our tender affection and our bravest hopes.
“Surely Fairhaven may well mourn, but through our tears we thank God that He gave us for so many years our noble son, our great-hearted citizen, our faithful friend – Henry Huttleston Rogers!”
Mr. Rogers had an attack in July, 1907, which he apparently considered a warning, for he arranged all his affairs with the utmost precision, completed certain plans and, with his usual regard for system, attended to numerous details of the matters with which he himself was most intimate. Yet he did not retire from active business pursuits, keeping his way quietly to the very end. The announcement of his sudden death, which occurred at his New York home, No. 3 East Seventy-eighth street, on the morning of May 19, 1909, was indeed an occasion of unusual sorrow at his birthplace. The flags on all the school buildings and at the Atlas Tack plant were placed at half mast; the school bells tolled for half an hour at noon; the bell of the Unitarian Memorial Church was tolled during the forenoon; and the bell of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was tolled every half minute from twelve until half past twelve. Few citizens, anywhere, have won the right to so many marks of tender respect. The Fairhaven Star said, in one article:
“While the world is paying tribute to the magnificent achievements of a great captain of industry Fairhaven is in sorrow for the friend it loved for his charming personal graces, his unceasing thoughtfulness and the courtesy which marked his charities. And he whose hand and heart lie within the good deeds he has done will never be forgotten in Fairhaven households.”
At the funeral services held in New York City, at the Unitarian Church of the Messiah, Rev. Robert Collyer, the pastor emeritus of that church, delivered a eulogy which will long be remembered by all present. They were attended by a special delegation from the Norfolk (Va.) Board of Trade, with which Mr. Rogers had been closely associated during the construction of the Virginian railroad. The Lotus Club, of which he was a member, was also represented by a special delegation. During the services, for the first time in its existence of thirty-five years, the Standard Oil Company practically suspended activities everywhere for a period of two hours, so timed as to be observed simultaneously at all the plants – only such machinery as could not be actually closed down being allowed to run. The following day services were held in the Unitarian Memorial Church at Fairhaven, when all business was suspended from ten in the morning until four in the afternoon. The body lay in state at the church from ten until one, during which time it was watched over by a bodyguard of Masons, including members of Star in the East Lodge, of New Bedford, to which Mr. Rogers belonged, and George H. Taber Lodge of Fairhaven. On May 22d, the day of the funeral and interment at Fairhaven, the trains on the Virginian railroad stood still for five minutes as a mark of respect, and work stopped throughout the branches of the Amalgamated Copper Company. The interment was at Riverside cemetery, Fairhaven, in the beautiful Greek mausoleum, on a knoll overlooking the river, erected by Mr. Rogers several years before his death.
On Sunday, June 27, 1909, the period of morning worship at the Unitarian Memorial Church was devoted to memorial services in honor of its great benefactor, and on May 15, 1910, both church and Sunday school gave over the day to the memory of the man whose memorial was their church home. The church was beautifully decorated in honor of the occasion. And so his work goes on, in the town of which it was his pleasure to make, as nearly as possible, an ideal community, still carried forward by the impetus of the vigorous impulse he gave to all its activities, but particularly those which make life most worth living.
On Nov. 17, 1862, Mr. Rogers was married, at the home of the bride in Fairhaven, to Abbie Palmer Gifford, daughter of Capt. Peleg W. and Amelia L. (Hammond) Gifford of that town, the former descended from Robert Gifford, who arrived in this country about 1630; who was descended from Walter Gifford, first Earl of Buckingham and companion of William the Conqueror at the battle of Hastings. To Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were born the following children:
- Annie Engle Rogers, born Feb. 5, 1865, was married Nov. 17, 1886, to William Evarts Benjamin, son of Park Benjamin, the author and poet, and they make their home at Ardsley-on-the-Hudson. They have two children.
- Cara Leland Rogers, born Nov. 24, 1867, married Nov. 17, 1890, Bradford Ferris Duff, grandson of Henry G. Shaw (Josh Billings). He died in 1893, and on Nov. 12, 1895, she became the wife of Urban H. Broughton, a native of England.
- Millicent Gifford Rogers, born Sept. 26, 1873, died Aug. 3, 1890.
- Mary Huttleston Rogers, born Sept. 26, 1875, married June 4, 1900, William Robertson Coe, of New York, and has three sons.
- Henry Huttleston Rogers, Jr., born Dec. 2, 1879, was associated in business with his father for several years before the latter’s death. He married Nov. 7, 1900, Mary Benjamin, of New York, daughter of George Hilliard Benjamin and niece of William Evarts Benjamin, his sister’s husband. They have two children. They reside at No. 26 East 57th street, New York City, in the home occupied for a number of years by his parents, before their removal to the beautiful new home at No. 3 East 78th street, where Mr. Rogers passed the remainder of his life. The mother of this family died May 20, 1893, at the age of fifty-three years. Mr. Rogers’s second marriage, on June 4, 1896, was to Mrs. Emilie Augusta Bandal Hart, daughter of Henry Bandal, of New York, who survived him. There were no children by the second marriage.