Reproduction of a 1757 depiction of an English ribbon weaver at work in his loom. This frame is very similar to the knitting frames used in Coventry up through the time of George W. Rogers. The feet and arms are constantly active while the back is bowed. This man is working with a good strong light behind him.
Above are silk windles used to wind and twist the silk in preparation for weaving. The silk was spooled and placed in special bobbins for the loom. The whole family, children and adults, were generally needed to labor in the silk spinning and weaving processes.
(Taken from a copperplate published in Universal Magazine, 1757.)
GEORGE WHITMORE ROGERS(Father of Sarah Porter Rogers)
George Whitmore Rogers was born to Martin Rogers (born at Culworth, Northampton, England) and Lydia Whitmore (born at Leicester, Warwickshire, England), 13 December 1819, in Exhall, Warwickshire, England, just five miles north of Coventry.
His father is believed to be originally from Northampton. His mother's family, the Whitmores, had enjoyed prominence in the Coventry area many years earlier. Exeter, and especially the small communities of Longford and Foleshill, lying between Exeter and Coventry, were noted for the number of silk weavers living there and the fine ribbons they produced.
George was left an orphan by the time he was ten years of age. He was bound out as a silk ribbon weaver to a childless couple who were extremely strict and severe.
Throughout his youth, George had no opportunity for schooling. (Even if he had the opportunity, the schools in the area were notably lacking.) At the age of nineteen, however, he was able to start night school. He was very intelligent and learned to read, write, and figure much better than many of those who had a first-class education. He had a wonderful memory, and he referred often to his "Uncle Dick" (as he always called the dictionary). He was also a natural-born mechanic.
In those years, the silk ribbon weaving trade involved more than half of the workers living in Coventry and its northern suburbs, perhaps as many as 30,000 people at its height in 1851. Exeter, Longford, Foleshill, and the other hamlets nearby were composed of small groups of houses sparsely scattered among the rough heathland. The poor quality of agriculture in the area did not allow large country estates. Coal seams, part of the North Warwickshire Coalfield, wound through the ground beneath the ribbon weavers' cottages. Their neighbors were chiefly other silk weavers or miners, or were laborers on the nearby Grand Junction Canal. (One neighbor, in nearby Foleshill, was young Mary Anne Evans, who lived there with her father from 1841-1849. Mary Anne later adopted the pen name of "George Eliot," and the novels
she wrote are considered by many to be second only to those of Charles Dickens. Many of the characters and locales in her Victorian novels were directly based on events and people she knew in the Foleshill and Coventry area.)
A ribbon weaver's day might last 17 hours. Much of the silk was locally grown, then spun into yarn using a spinning wheel, then wound onto bobbins to be placed in the knitting frame of the loom. The weavers' knitting frames were well above a man's height, built of heavy timber. The weavers had to use both arms to move the heavy iron carriage across the frame while they operated the pedals with both feet. The work required stamina and concentration, and was normally done only by strong men. Candles were expensive for weavers living on a meager income, so the weaving looms were always placed in the best light, normally next to a large window, and on an upper floor, if possible. Many of the weavers' cottages included an upper floor "top-shop" located above the living quarters. A "top-shop" always had good light and a ceiling high enough to allow room for the looms. If a "top-shop" were especially large, there might be an area for spinning and spooling the silk thread used on the looms.
On 23 October 1842, George married Ann Porter of Longford, Warwickshire, in St. Warburg's Church in Derby, England. Ann was born 22 January 1817. On 18 April 1845, Ann gave birth to their first child, a girl whom they named Hannah after George's oldest sister. Unfortunately, Ann died 3 March 1847, leaving George a widower to take care of two-year-old Hannah.
After Ann's death, her sister Lucy Porter, seven years younger than Ann, went to keep house for her brother-in-law and to look after little Hannah. At this time, George had four or five silk looms and as many hired weavers. Lucy was also an expert silk weaver, but she had her own loom and did weaving at home for her own use. George and Lucy Porter were married in May 1849 (just twenty-six months after Ann died), at Foleshill Independent Chapel, Coventry, England. Lucy was born on the 22nd of June 1824.
George's inborn industry had brought him more success than many other ribbon weavers. He owned at least four of his own looms at a time when each loom cost about eight month's wages,
and he was able to hire men to work them. Times were still very difficult, however: steam-powered factory looms were now coming into their own, and more and more cottage-based weavers were being put out of work. There had been years of growing discontent among the hard-pressed weavers in the Coventry area. In 1831, when the first ribbon weaving factory in England was built, the local workers in Coventry promptly burnt it to the ground. Foleshill, Longford, and the adjoining weaving communities, formerly havens of tranquility and industry, were now filling with idled workers who were acquiring notoriety for their lawlessness and drunken immorality. The rising rate of idled workers was being matched by an upward leap
in incidents of local thievery, burglaries, and drunkenness. Even the annual Godiva Procession, celebrating the legend of Lady Godiva's ride through Coventry to relieve the citizens of her husband's taxes, had lost its luster. The different animals and the people in fancy costumes, and even the grand fair that followed the procession, now had a sour taste.
As far as George W. Rogers was concerned, the writing (writ large) was on the wall for silk weavers. Factories were taking over the industry, and the cottage workers and their output were becoming all but obsolete. George had always been a cautious man, opposed to any type of speculative enterprises, but it was becoming progressively apparent that the silk weaving industry would little longer support his family.
In the early 1850s, George kept hearing accounts of a sensational gold rush in Australia. With prospects in England virtually without promise, George decided to take ship for Australia and test his opportunities,even though he had always been very much opposed to any kind of speculation. He would send for his family after he got settled. Upon arriving in South Australia, he bought a yoke of oxen and started a freighting business. He began to regularly travel the rugged 70 miles of frontier trail connecting Melbourne and the tough and violent mining town of Ballarat. He also called on several other small towns and mining camps.
George found Australia to be raw, wild, and uncivilized. Freighting was dangerous work, constantly subject to the threat of bands of lawless bush rangers who indiscriminately robbed
and murdered freighters, prospectors, and miners. These bush rangers were criminals and convicts who had been exiled from England many years before. There were also incidents of heavy violence between miners and government law enforcement: in December of 1854, several miners in Ballarat, angered at the government policy of restricting mining licenses, clashed violently with the government soldiers and police. At least 30 miners and 4 government soldiers died in the bloody fray.
In August of 1854, George's wife Lucy had written to him from Longford and spoke hopefully of soon joining him in Australia. George discouraged her from coming: the spectacular finds of surface gold that early marked the gold rush were now past; miners could no longer find work, and other occupations were oversupplied with laborers. Worst of all, the present laws in Australia had locked up land ownership and made it almost impossible for new immigrants to acquire land.
George lived in Australia three years, but saw no future there. He returned home to England where Lucy had endured a constant struggle to keep their weaving business afloat. George and Lucy had a happy reunion. After nine childless years, George and Lucy conceived their first child, and Sarah Porter Rogers was born in Longford on 11 April 1858. About two and one-half years later, their second child, Ann Porter Rogers, was born on 26 April 1861.
The economic prospects in England were still bleak, and George remained discontented and restless. In 1860, Parliament had put the final nail into the coffin of the cottage silk weaving industry: The Anglo-French Trade Agreement, completed that year, abolished import duties on French and Swiss ribbons, and a flood of inexpensive ribbon imports now jammed the English docks. Numerous laborers in and around Coventry were quitting the area.
George and his family were among the many who decided to depart. Rather than go to America like many of his friends, George decided to immigrate to New Zealand. He and his family left England in fall of 1862, accompanied by at least one of George's former loom workers. George's daughters, Sarah and Ann, were aged four years and eighteen months respectively.
The Rogers family were on the water about four months. After landing in Auckland, New Zealand, they lived in what was called the "Barracks," a long building that was divided into many apartments for the convenience of immigrant families who wished to use them until they could find suitable houses. Later, George and Lucy moved to a two-story house about a block from the beach. There was a gradual slope from the house down to the water. They had several shipboard friends boarding with them at that time. One boarder was a British officer, George Hinde, who was later to marry George's oldest daughter, Hannah. Hannah was now about seventeen years of age, and since she was perfectly capable of taking care of the house, Lucy felt free to accept a job as matron of an orphans' home just across the street.
George's business was good, and they happily prospered; however, prospects took a downturn when George broke a leg and a rib in an accident and was unable to work. During that time, Lucy did fine laundry work for some of the aristocrat ladies.
George always wanted to own his own home, so he bought two houses in Auckland, living in one and renting the other. Later, he bought several lots and rebuilt a four-room house. He equipped his new home with many conveniences that were not common in those days. He obtained five large 400 gallon steel tanks for rain water. He set the tanks high enough above the ground to be able to set a bucket under a tap. With the high-capacity tanks, the family was never short of water as many others were. George also built a wash house with a tank, boiler, and tubs. His workshop was well equipped with tools which were always kept in good condition.
About four and one-half years after settling in Auckland, Lucy bore a son, David George Rogers, born 26 June 1865.
Unfortunately, Lucy was never strong physically. Over the next several years, Lucy gradually fell into poorer health. She died at the age of 55 on 9 January 1880 in her home in Auckland, New Zealand.
About 1882, George came into contact with LDS missionaries who had begun proselyting in Auckland. George's initial attitude toward Mormons was emphatically negative; he did not like their reputation, and he issued severe warnings to his daughters against listening to the Utah missionaries. However, as George learned more about the faith, he came to have a complete change of heart. George's daughter, Sarah Porter Rogers, many years later, would write concerning the conversion of her family to the LDS faith, describing it in a penciled letter sent to her great-grandson, Darrow McCarthy, then serving an LDS mission in 1943 in Montgomery, Alabama:
"In New Zealand it [the challenge for LDS missionaries} was not exactly indifference to religion, for, as a rule, they were a church-going people living good everyday lives, but they thought their religion was just as good or better than what any "Mormons" had to offer. Consequently, when arrangements had been made for a debate between the Elders-or rather the President of the mission-and the Christian Brethren, there was quite a large attendance. We belonged then to the Christian Brethren, or called for short, the "Cook Street Church. " The Cook Street Brethren believed their church to be at the top as regards being closer to Bible doctrine than any of the others.
"My father [George Rogers} went to listen for he was quite familiar with bible doctrine, etc., & he had been investigating a little-but at first when I asked him about the Mormons, he said he hoped I was not thinking favorably of joining up with them for he would rather follow me to the grave than have anything like that happen. There used to be so many evil reports. But he was quite satisfied when he came home from [the} debate. He said the Mormons had the best of the argument all thru the piece. But anyway, it resulted in 4 families withdrawing from Cook Street
& allying themselves with the Mormons, so that was quite a little haul from one meeting, huh?"
George was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 30 June 1883 in Auckland. By November of 1884, George, together with his son George Jr, had decided to immigrate to Utah in company with his daughter Sarah and her husband and family. The Rogers and Williams families boarded the ship Zealandia November 19th for a voyage of nearly five weeks to California. George and his family celebrated his 65th birthday the day before the Zealandia landed in San Francisco.
George and his family had tried to maintain communication with George's oldest daughter, Hannah Rogers Hinde, then living in England with her husband, George Hinde. Unfortunately, George Hinde bore an unreasoning hatred toward Mormonism, forcefully contending that "Mormons should be wiped out by the sword." When Hinde learned that his wife's father, her half-sister Sarah, and half-brother George had become LDS converts, he angrily cut off all contact between them and Hannah. Hinde refused to allow even the prospect of George Sr. paying a visit to Hannah if he journeyed to England.
After the 1884 immigration to Utah, George Rogers and Hannah's half-sister, Sarah, sent many letters to Hannah, but never received a response. Sarah was convinced that Hannah's husband was intercepting all of their letters and deliberately keeping them from her sister. Hanna before always had nothing but the tenderest feelings toward her father and family. (In 1931, Sarah would write to her daughter Ada and briefly ponder whether it would be proper to perform LDS temple work in behalf of the obstinate, but now dead, George Hinde.)
The Rogers/Williams families settled in the American Fork area. George may have been attracted to American Fork by the local efforts to establish a silk industry. Although silk worms had been imported and mulberry trees planted (mulberry leaves were food for the silk worms), only a little local silk was actually created. As time went on, the idea of a silk industry was put aside as impractical for the times. George attended the American Fork Ward where he was ordained a deacon 10 May 1885 by Elder Ed Cliff. On 3 June 1887, George, with many others, renewed his allegiance to the LDS Church through a rebaptism performed by Issac Wagstaff. He was reconfirmed the same day by William W. Hunter.
About 1890, George married a widowed Danish convert to the LDS Church who had emigrated with her family to Utah in 1884. Marie Kjersten Madsen was the daughter of Madse Petersen and Kjersten Christensen, born in Hesselserg, Viborg, Denmark on 28 March 1835. She was the widow of Jacob Jensen Bonding whom she married about 1858, and who is believed to have died in 1881. At least two of her three sons by this marriage had died in childhood, but she had two daughters who had accompanied her to Utah: Dorothea Kjersten "Elizabeth" Bonding and Anna Marie "Anna May" Bonding. After her marriage to George Rogers, Marie Kjersten's name
became Americanized, and she was generally known as "Mary Christine Rogers." (Although no official record of a date of marriage between George and Mary Christine has been located, both LDS Church records and U. S. Census records affirm that the marriage was recognized.)
By 1891, according to tax records for American Fork, George Rogers was a property owner, taxed on property totaling $440. The 1900 U.S. Census indicates that George owned his own home free of any mortgage. Mary Christine's daughter, listed as "Elisabeth Etlefsen" [Edlefsen] was also living with them. George probably resided in that part of town that was to became part of the American Fork 2nd Ward when it was created in 1901.
On 26 October 1900, Mary Christine Rogers passed away. She was buried in one of four plots purchased by George at the American Fork City Cemetery (plots # 1, 6, 7, and 8, in section 1-31, according to Cemetery Deed #3216).
George Whitmore Rogers died 27 February 1901 at American Fork, Utah, at the age of 82. His
funeral was held in the American Fork Ward Chapel, and he was laid to rest in the American Fork City Cemetery beside Mary Christine on 28 February 1901.
The Deseret News of 1 March 1901, reported:
DEATH OF GEORGE ROGERS
Another old veteran passed away last night, Brother George Rogers. He was full of years, nearing the 80 mark. Brother Rogers was born in Coventry, England, emigrated to Australia, thence to New Zealand where the Elders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
found him. Brother Rogers, with his family believed the message brought to him and was baptized by Elder William M Bromley, of this place. He came to Utah several years ago. His wife preceded him into the great beyond by only a few months.
Wives and children of George Whitmore Rogers:
George Whitmore Rogers and (1) Ann Porter, had one child:
Hannah Rogers, born 18 April 1845, Longford, Warwickshire, England (Married George Ridsdale Hinde)
George Whitmore Rogers and (2) Lucy Porter had three children:
Sarah Porter Rogers, born 11 April 1858, Longford, Warwickshire (Married James Clark Williams; married Charles Denny)
Ann Porter Rogers, born 26 April 1861, Longford, Warwickshire (married (1) James Dryland, (2) Charles Gabb)
David George Rogers, born 16 June 1865, Auckland, New Zealand (never married)
(George and Lucy also adopted one child: Sarah Ann Flowers, believed to be born about 1845.)
George Whitmore Rogers and (3) Maria Kjersten Madsen Bonding had no issue.
Resource: Family records of Ruby R. Klenk
Family records of Lucy Williams Price
Family records of Calvin G. Price
Family records of Bernita Tanner McCarthy
Williams-Rogers A Family History, pp. 7-15