Biography of John Rogers

Among the pioneer builders who aided in laying the broad foundation upon which has been erected the present greatness and prosperity of the state of Oklahoma, representatives of the Rogers family have figured conspicuously and of a goodly portion of this family John Rogers, the great-grandfather of Mrs. Ellen Howard Miller, nee Blythe, was the head. His father was a native of England and served as a colonel in the Revolutionary war. He married Sarah Cordery, whose mother was a Cherokee. Her father, Thomas Cordery, was a member of a family that belonged to the aristocracy of France, but for political reasons they made their home in England. When about sixteen years of age Thomas Cordery was sent by his father on a sea voyage to the colonies, for the benefit of his health. In company with two sisters and a brother, he sailed for America and finally landed at St. Augustine, Florida. This was undoubtedly during the seventeenth century, for on leaving the vessel at St. Augustine the first object which attracted their attention was the guillotine a ghastly reminder of Spanish rule in this part of the new world.

The sisters and brother made their home in Florida and Thomas Cordery spent his time in hunting. Eventually he started out upon a trip of this kind, but never returned and many years later, during the Seminole war, his sisters entertained in their home one evening two young men whom they discovered were grandsons of their brother. In his youth he had fallen in love with and married a beautiful Cherokee girl, Rosanna Blue, the daughter of the chief of the tribe. During an uprising, in which a certain faction of the Cherokees had made plans to kill all of the white men in the settlement, she placed her husband upon her back, as he was in a weakened condition, and swam across the River, drifting down the stream to safety. They reared a large family who were an honor to their father’s name and to the country in which they lived.

The Georgia Methodist, published at Cumming, Georgia, by Isaac S. Clement & Company, under date of January 30, 1878, gives the following genealogical account of John Rogers and his family, written by Rev. W. T. Lane, editor. “Mr. John Rogers was born in Bullock County, Georgia, in 1774, and spent the early days of his boyhood in his native County. While very young he left home and settled in what was then the northwestern portion of Georgia, his home being situated one mile from the mouth of the Suwannee River, upon an elevation overlooking the valley of the Chattahoochee for a considerable distance. This was then the territory, but was afterward embraced in the County of Gwinnett. At and near this place he lived for fifty years, rearing and educating a large family of children. In many respects he was a remark-able man. Nature had given him an indomitable will and a firmness of purpose that no obstacle could deter from where the pole of duty led; he was as true to duty as ‘the needle to the pole.’ The widow in bereavement and distress and the orphan in destitution found comfort and sustenance at his hands; and the doors of his house and the hospitality of his hands were ever open and ready to assuage and relieve their wants. By energy, industry, honesty and good judgment he prospered in business and amassed a large fortune, which was not hoarded up with parsimonious selfishness, but was used for the education of his children, for the relief of the poor and needy, and for the advancement of religion. The memory of such a man should be cherished as a bright spot in the world ; as an oasis in the desert of this selfish world of heartlessness. Blessed be the memory of John Rogers for his benevolence, for his kindness and his charities to the poor, for his contribution to the gospel, and for his innumerable good deeds. In the Creek war, or rather the War of 1812, John Rogers volunteered as a private and served until the battle of the Horseshoe. Such was his promptness in the discharge of his duty that he was recommended to General Jackson as a suitable man to ride as a courier on what was considered a very dangerous express, from the seat of war to Monticello, Georgia, through a pathless forest. Guided alone by instinct and a fair knowledge of the direction, he reached his destination in safety. In after years General Jackson spoke of him with high commendation as `The brave John Rogers.’

“During that trip, after hard riding for several days and nights, he was so worn out and exhausted from want of sleep that it became absolutely necessary for him to rest. To sleep with safety was a doubtful and serious question. After riding nearly all night he found a dense canebrake, and turning into it, he kindled a small fire, cooked and ate some food, tied his horse so he could graze, placed his saddle under his head for a pillow, and was soon lost in profound sleep. Upon waking at early dawn, on opening his eyes he saw a tall Indian (who probably had been attracted by the smoke of the fire) standing over him. The Indian knew him, had been treated kindly by him, and though his tribe was on the war-path, did not molest him, but offered him tokens of friendship. The first Church ever built in the territory of the old country (the early settling of Georgia) was erected mainly through his instrumentality, near his residence, on the Chattahoochee. I have tried to learn the name given to this rude `Sanctuary of the Living God’ and something of its history, but the story is now numbered with the lumber of forgotten things, and like those who used to worship there, has passed away forever.

“Mr. Rogers was in favor of strict justice to all. If the Indian was wrong, he was in favor of punishing him; if his rights were invaded, he was on his side, and zealous in extending them to him. He always treated them kindly and was therefore popular with them. The Indian never forgets or forgives an injury. An incident of his treatment to a starving Creek family is worthy of mention. Soon after the war this family came to his house and asked for food, which he gave them, and allowed them to stay on his premises for some time. With this family was a small boy. Years after, Mr. Rogers had a horse stolen by the Indians. Following the direction taken by the thief, he pursued him to the line of Alabama. Riding up to an Indian house, he made some inquiries about the stolen horse and gave a description of him. A young Indian, just grown, informed him that from the description he had given he knew the horse, and that he owned him ; that he had gotten him honestly, but that he had no doubt that he was the property of Mr. Rogers, and would give him up. `Get down and stay ’til I come back and I will bring the horse,’ he requested. He then asked Mr. Rogers if he did not live near the mouth of the Suwannee, on the Chattahoochee, and was told yes. Then said he: ‘Do you remember several years ago you fed a Creek family who came to your house in a starving condition and who had a little boy with them?’ `Yes,’ said Mr. Rogers. `Well, I am that little boy and I could not tell you a lie about your horse.’ Mr. Rogers paid him for the horse and offered a reward of fifty dollars for the thief. He was captured and delivered to Mr. Rogers, who gave him his choice of being tried by the laws of Georgia, or the Cherokee Nation. He chose the latter. At the trial this same Indian boy appeared as a witness against him. He was convicted and sentenced to `thirty-nine lashes on his naked back, well laid on.’Through the interposition of Mr. Rogers he was let off with twenty-five. Thanking Mr. Rogers for interposing he bade him a friendly `Good-bye’ and was never heard of after.

“Mr. Rogers reared nine sons and three daughters. With five of his oldest sons I went to school long ago at the old Lawrence Academy, under the tutorship of the Rev. John S. Wilson.

“Robert was the eldest and was a grown young man. He was a noble specimen of a man physically, and mentally he was far above ediocrity. His face, as I remember it, was very much after the type of Commodore Oliver H. Perry. He became a Methodist preacher and for a time was a member of the Georgia conference. William was a great man, great in mental proportions. He was six feet, two or three inches tall; great in moral rectitude, for a better, more conscientious man I never knew; great in intellect and mental capacity, and but for his innate modesty, would have been a star of the first magnitude both in `Church and State.’ I need not attempt to give a personal description of him. He is remembered by most of my readers; his manly form, his kind, intellectual face, all radiating with love of God, charity to man and benevolence to his race. He was a Methodist preacher for a long period, and his memory is held in grateful remembrance by all who knew him.

“Johnson was somewhat after the style of William, not quite so tall, probably not quite so intellectual, but far above the average, and something of a model man. He for thirty years was agent of the Cherokee Indians, and spent thirty years in Washington, D. C., where he died.

“Joseph moved west at an early date. He made quite a reputation and was accumulating property rapidly, but died in a few years, and was buried at Old Fort Wayne with honors of war.

“Lovely, the fourth son, when I knew him was just grown up, with a pale face, and was a young man of fine capacity. He now lives in California and is doing well.

“George, one of the younger sons, died in the west, in the Confederate service.

“John moved to the west, and is living in the Choctaw Nation.

“Jackson is in Whitfield County, in this state, and Colonel Henry C. is living in Milton County, on the old homestead of his father, I believe. I never saw any of the daughters except Mary, the eldest. I remember her well, when she was just grown up and just from school. She was a beautiful girl, with a lily complexion, glossy black hair, and beautiful black eyes. I think she was educated in North Carolina. She was to my young mind when I saw her, one of the loveliest women I ever saw. The memory of her sweet face haunts me still, after forty long years; and if I had been older, I should have `worshiped at her shrine.’ She married a Mr. McNair, and I understood made a good wife to a good husband.

“Finally, John Rogers, was a good man, and a Christian gentleman, a Christian at home, a Christian abroad. At close of day, his prayers went up to Heaven at the family altar; and at morning, the same devotions were offered up for many years. He raised a large family of sons and several of them were great men; great in proportions, great in moral worth, great in Christian virtue

“Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime; And departing, leave behind us, Footprints on the sands of time and great intellectual capacity. Footprints that perhaps another, Sailing o’er life’s solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, hall take heart again.’

“In politics Mr. Rogers was a whig, but at the same time an admirer of General Jackson, not for his politics, but for his military genius, his patriotism and his personal kindness to him, to which I have already alluded. He named, I think, one of his sons, Andrew. Jackson. Mr. Clay was his polar star in politics until his dying day. I have never heard it so stated, but I think his son, Henry C., was named for the `Gallant Henry of the West.’ I think so; I hope I am not mistaken. I have great respect for Colonel Henry C. Rogers, for his moral worth, intelligence; and this good opinion is enhanced because I thought he bore the name of Henry Clay, my political idol. Like John Rogers, I was a follower of Mr. Clay in my young days, and the proud satisfaction I now have is that I was his follower.”


Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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