Rodgers Family Papers

Institution: Newberry Library
60 W. Walton St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-255-3506
Date: 1773-1925
Extent: 4 Linear Feet
Finding Aid

Biographical/Historical Note:
The earliest of the Rodgers family to arrive in America was the Rev. John Rodger. He was born in Scotland in 1735 and came to Virginia, eventually settling in Rockbridge County when he was 35. He was first married to Elizabeth Blackwood (1746-1778) and they had three children: Thomas (1773-1860), Margaret (1776-1823), and Iren (later changed to Irene) (1778-1807). Iren(e) married James McCormick in 1804, uncle to Cyrus, Leander, and William McCormick who founded the McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago. After the death of his first wife, John Rodger married Isabel Ireland (d. 1822) in 1780. Together they had seven children: John (1782-ca. 1860), William (1783-ca. 1820), Aleri (1785-1863), Aniel (1786-1864), Alexander (1788-1866), Andrew [called Andrew Sr.] (1789-1849), and Samuel (1791-ca. 1824). The second generation changed their name from Rodger to Rodgers.

Aleri, Aniel, and Andrew Rodgers moved to Missouri, and later to Illinois where they settled in Warren County in 1836. Aleri married Mary Davidson (1790-1879) who was related to General Sam Houston, and the aunt of Virginia Governor John Letcher (1813-1884). Aleri and Mary had ten children: John (1814-1878), William (1816-1836), Andrew [called Andrew Jr.] (1818-1847), Alexander J. (1821-1864), Mary Thompson (1823-1912), Joseph (1825-1836), Phebe (1828-1840), Isabel Ireland (1830-1912), Samuel W. (1832-1920), Calvin Melancthon (1835-1906), and Eliza A. (died at birth, 1837). Andrew Jr. and Alexander joined a party traveling west to the Oregon Territory in 1845, and Andrew Jr. kept a journal of his travels. Andrew Jr. then joined Dr. and Mrs. Marcus Whitman at their mission at Waiilatpu, Walla Walla, Washington. There he worked as a teacher and studied to be a minister. Andrew Jr. was one of the members of the party that was killed by the Cayuse in the Whitman Massacre, Nov. 29, 1847.

Another of Aleri and Mary's children, Isabel Ireland Rodgers, played a critical role in the development of the Rodgers Family Papers. She wrote to a number of distant relatives and compiled a few family histories relating to the Ireland and Rodgers families. She lived with her brother Calvin and his wife Eliza Paine Rodgers, and was very close to their children. Both Isabel and Calvin attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. Calvin was a farmer who held a number of public offices in Warren County, Illinois: he was a school trustee, Commissioner of Highways, and was elected to the State Legislature as a Republican in the twenty-seventh district in 1882 and 1884. Calvin married Eliza Paine (1837-1926) in 1858, and they had nine children: Mary Romaine (called Romaine or Rome, 1861-1952), Charles Henry (Hal, 1863-1925), Alisa Amiel and Aleri (died at birth, 1865), Aleri A. (1866-1943), William D. (1867-1929), Alexander (1870-1960), Emily E. (1872-1961), and Fred Merritt (died at birth, 1874).

Scope and Content Note:
Correspondence, essays, financial and legal documents, genealogies, journals, newspaper clippings, and four photographs relating to the Rodgers family.

The collection consists mainly of correspondence between four generations of the Rodgers family and related families (Davidson, Graham, Letcher, and Ireland). Many of the letters describe the daily activities of the family, life on the farm, travel, sicknesses, births, and deaths. Andrew Rodgers, Sr. wrote a few extensive letters to Anna Maria Rodgers that discusses the roles of women, as well as various essays on slavery, capital punishment, and various religious topics. There are three letters to Jemima Hall, a former slave who was brought by the Rodgers family from Virginia to live with them in Illinois in 1836. The letters from Andrew Rodgers Jr. are an important component to the Rodgers family papers as they describe life in the early west. His Overland Journal provides insight into life on the Oregon Trail, Native Americans, and the landscape of the early American West.

Related Material: None