Alabamiana: John Asa Rogers, 1853 – 1908
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?
Sitting in traffic at mile 2,598 on a long road trip I stumbled across your post am delighted as I am married to John Asa Rogers the IV and mother to John Asa Rogers the V. Thanks for sharing, we had no idea this sign existed.
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John Asa Rogers was my great-grandfather. I knew J. A. Rogers III, who died in 2010 in Maryland. How is your husband related to J. A. Rogers? My name is Frank Aquila Rogers II, grandson of F. A. Rogers, who died in 1936.
Hi Frank. I forwarded this to my husband. He is the first born son of J.A. Rogers III, born in 1964.
We recently visited the home and other surrounding historic sites. The sign is much nicer now.
Thanks for the message. It’s good to hear about the old buildings in Forest Home. The last time I was there was in 1998, with my father, James A. Rogers, who died a year later. The last time I saw Jack Rogers was at a family reunion at Forest Home Methodist Church in 1996. I wanted to get in touch with him, but lost his address. In the last few years I have tried to Google him, but had no success until today, when I sadly came across his obituary. I’m going to be traveling to southern Alabama later this month and would like to visit Forest Home, but I don’t really know who lives there since Aunt Exia died in 1998 (shortly after my father and I were there).
My father was very fond of “J A”, as he called John Asa Rogers, Jr.
I’m John Asa Rogers IV, son of Jack Rogers. My son who is now 15 years old is John Asa Rogers V, who goes by the name Jack. If and when you do go to Forest Home, you will be delighted to learn that the homestead has been designated as a Historic Site. I suppose it’s being cared for now by the county and is in absolutely amazing condition…better than I ever saw it. We visited many times in my youth in the early and mid 70’s. Such a tranquil place. Always loved it. Always carry a little bit of pride that my heritage includes this bit of achievement. We live in Atlanta and rarely find ourselves anywhere near there, but the next time we drive to New Orleans, I’ll stop by.
You may find it interesting that my brother’s name is James A Rogers. If you’d like to connect at some point, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To all Rogers Family. Here is a Dropbox link to some pictures of the Forest Home homestead. Enjoy.
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Thank you J. A. IV. These pictures make me very happy and really take me back in my memories..It hasn’t changed, but seems cleaner and better maintained than the last time I was there, 20 years ago.
It looks so amazing. I was grinning ear to ear when I came upon it. I was giddy! It was a gorgeous spring day, so peaceful and quiet.