I had never heard of John Asa Rogers, but then again I’m not from rural Butler County. I pass this one-room white clapboard building on the way to my uncle and aunt’s place in Forest Home, and I’ve always wondered what it was. I’m usually barreling down the county road, and having been in the car for a little more than an hour, I don’t even slow down here. But this time I stopped, and did something radical: I read the sign.
Forest Home, Alabama is a tiny unincorporated community that sits quietly between Pine Apple in Butler County and Camden in Wilcox County. Down the road and past their place, at the intersection that serves as the community’s hub, the two-story General Store in town is now collapsing, unpainted and covered in wisteria and Virginia creeper, while the whitewashed block buildings that comprise the volunteer fire department headquarters sit right across the street. Another old, boarded-up mustard-yellow building stands adjacent. What I’m getting at is: there’s not much there.
But it seems that there might be nothing there if it weren’t for John Asa Rogers. Just read . . .
John Rogers had a lot going on, especially back in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in an isolated location in Alabama’s Black Belt. Notwithstanding this list of business interests he had in the area: in the 1900 census, a 47-year-old Rogers had fourteen children in his household, ages 24, 22, 19, 18, 16, 15, 13, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 2 months. John Rogers was a busy boy! Seeing that census record, it only makes sense that he had start a school— his wife would have gone nuts without a break from all that madness!
Another interesting note about this guy: his mother was named Icy Saphronia (Skinner) Rogers. It even says so on her tombstone. His daddy, William Rogers, must’ve been a brave man— not sure I’d have the guts to marry a woman named Icy, who was the daughter of a Methodist minister. However, William was obviously a tough cat; as a Confederate veteran originally from North Carolina, his 1899 pension application says he was an infantryman during the Civil War, in Company D of the 33rd Alabama. Both William and Icy Rogers outlived their prosperous son, dying in 1912 and 1911, respectively.
Though the scripty words above John Rogers’ name are fading, they read: “An honest man is the noblest work of God.” Not a bad epitaph for a hard-working man . . . But to have parents with such longevity, it begs the question: what happened to John Asa Rogers that he died at 55 years old?