By Jennifer Moonsong, Jobe Publishing Regional Features
Descendant of Edmund Rogers discusses Edmund’s legacy
Attorney Ben Rogers has long been a resident of Barren County, but he feels a definite kinship with Metcalfe County, as well he should, being the fifth generation grandson of Edmund Rogers, for whom the City of Edmonton is named.
“I think my favorite thing about Edmonton, to steal a popular phrase, is that everyone knows your name. People have old-time values, which are missing and other places, and even other small towns,” Rogers said.
“I especially love that Edmonton has a vibrant town square still, with benches, because they want people to sit and stay.”
Rogers, who holds his great-grandfather five generations back in high esteem, visits his grave frequently.
“He was a modest man,” said Rogers.
“I always admired his service in the revolutionary war, and his dedication to the importance of living in a free country.”
Rogers also found that Edmund’s belief in divine providence fascinating.
“He believed there were no little things,” Rogers commented.
Because not everyone was able to attend the opening ceremonies, below you will find a complete speech Rogers gave paying homage to Edmund Rogers:
Distinguished guests, fellow descendants of Edmund Rogers and participants in this historic celebration of the bi-centennial founding of Edmonton, Ky. greetings.
Edmund Rogers was my grandfather’s great-grandfather or in other words my grandfather 5 generations back. I am here to share a little that I know about one of our early pioneers from whom I have the good fortune to be descended.
Edmund Rogers’s vocation was surveying. He had three loves in his life, Mary Shirley (affectionately known as Polly), the town of Edmonton and his country.
His grave in the Rogers – Beauchamp cemetery not far from here on his old farmstead is marked by a stone that carries this epithet:
PIONEER AND SURVEYOR OF SOUTHERN KENTUCKY, SOLDIER OF THE REVOLUTION AND FOUNDER OF THE TOWN OF EDMONTON AFTER WHOM THE TOWN WAS NAMED. MARRIED MARY SHIRLEY IN 1809.
Edmund Rogers lived in very interesting times:
He was born May 5, 1762, in Caroline County, Virginia near the end of the French and Indian war. His neighbors growing up were the Clark family. Edmund’s father George Rogers was a brother to Ann Rogers Clark the mother of Gen. George Rogers Clark, and his brother William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) and they all grew up in close proximity to each other in Caroline County Virginia
In 1781, at age 19 he answered the call for volunteers in Virginia. On the Yorktown peninsula, British Gen. Cornwallis found himself cornered by the combined forces of Washington’s Continental Army and the French army and French fleet. These forces began siege operations against the British troops isolated at Yorktown. On October 17, 1781, Cornwallis sought terms of surrender.
Edmund Rogers was there.
Years later he wrote about his service in the American Revolution.
Listen carefully to the echoes of history as he tells us what it was like:
Early in the spring of the year 1781, there was a call on the county for militia men to join the Army and in the lower part of the State…
We marched to Richmond and remained there in its facility until the great and good Lafayette left that place on his retreat to meet General Wayne…
The Army then let out for Albemarle County to meet Cornwallis who in turn commenced his retreat to the lower part of the State and we pursued after him…
we met a large body of British coming on to meet us. There was near to us a small old fence which we then got to and later were ordered to have our rifles through the fence locked our fingers on the trigger and site on a man and wait for orders to fire… and a terrible fire it was…
We were then ordered to retreat several hundred yards to the Woods. The enemies were thrown into some confusion by our fire but when they recovered they sent thousands of balls after us but not a man was hurt…
Later we encountered 3 officers leading a group of British soldiers…the site was to enticing for me to carry off a loaded rifle. There was a pine tree near to me which I stepped to and fired at the center officer but just as I pulled the trigger a ball struck the tree and filled my eyes with dust … This I believe was the last gun fired by the Army that day.
We marched to the old Courthouse where the Army was preparing for the siege. I was assigned courier duty. Going from one Army to the other and back I saw the great Washington, Knox and Lincoln and many others.
At age 23 Edmund Rogers came into the wilderness of Kentucky carrying a land grant from Gov. Patrick Henry.
After the war soldiers of the Revolution flowed into Kentucky by the hundreds if not thousands. Most had military land grants but perhaps little idea of the boundaries of their new found land.
After the Revolution Edmund Rogers spent the rest of his life as a surveyor locating military lands.
Surveying was Edmund Rogers’s livelihood at least from the time he completed his service as a soldier of the Revolution and continuing throughout his long life.
Edmund began business as a surveyor in the fall of 1783 in Clark’s grant as it was called on the north side of the Ohio River opposite to Louisville.
In the spring of 1784, Edmund’s operations were changed to the military district in Kentucky on the south side of the Green River. He soon settled upon a tract of land upon which he afterwards laid out the town of Edmonton.
Surveying the wilderness was dangerous:
Many creeks and branches were named by survey crews. One of them which is a tributary of the Little Barren is now known as No Bob Creek it was the Edmund Rogers survey crew that named it for the missing hunter “Bob” who failed to return one evening and was never seen again.
Edmund once said this about surveying in the wilderness that that was Kentucky:
“I was occasionally compelled to abandon my operations on account of signs and Indian attacks. On one occasion when in hot pursuit of my survey crew they overtook and killed one of our company. I impute my escape alone to the time occupied in dispatching the unfortunate individual who fell into their hands.”
Edmund Rogers owned land all over southern and western Kentucky. He chose to live in the town he loved, Edmonton.
He met Mary Shirley, or Polly as she affectionately called her when he was a 46 year old.
In later years Mary Shirley Rogers recounted how they met. She said:
“He was in a tree looking for signs of property lines when he fell out of the tree. I saw him fall and invited him to my father’s house.”
Edmund’s belief in the role divine providence played in meeting his future wife was recounted to historian Lewis Collins who recounted it in a History of Kentucky published in 1847 (four years after Edmund’s death) He told Collins:
“It was while surveying lands that I met Mary Shirley and it was all the cause of falling off a log. It happened on the day I left Pittman station to go into the wilderness south of Green River. I had been attempting to cross a River, I slipped off the log and fell into the river. I got my papers wet, and was induced to return to the station to dry them, and then to take a new start. Upon my return, I met with a stranger who had a large number of warrants and made a contract with him for their location. Under this contract, I secured the land around Edmonton where I lived. If I had not fallen into the Creek, I should not have turned back; if I had not returned to the station, I should not have made the contract by which I obtained the land on which I settled, if I had not got that land I should not have lived upon it: if I had not lived there I should have been thrown into a different society and most probably would never have seen the lady I married and of course would not have had the life and children I have and as a further consequence the very existence and destiny of those children and their descendants through all coming generations and the influence they may exercise in families neighborhoods and counties depended upon my falling from the log.”
Edmund and Polly had 7 daughters and one son. No doubt their descendants are in the hundreds.
He was 81 years old at his death August 28, 1843. He is said to have been in a perfect mind to his last breath. About an hour before he died he was seen to smile and being asked why he was smiling he said: “I was thinking of the vain efforts of three of the best physicians in the country to save the life of an old man when his time had come. “
His will is recorded in the Barren County Clerk’s Office.
He gave his son John T. Rogers his compass, chain and plotting instruments with which he surveyed the very property on which we stand.
This is my favorite line from the will speaking to us across the centuries in reference to his brother John Rogers who was a Captain in the Virginia line:
“The diploma of my brother John showing that he was a member of the Society of Cincinnati established by the officers of the Revolutionary war is now in a frame I give to my son John hoping that he and his descendants whenever they look upon it remember their country and devote themselves when necessary to the maintenance of her rights like those who established its independence.”
And thus ended the life of Edmund Rogers, my grandfather’s great-grandfather, I am very grateful that the community that he loved has continued to honor his memory. It has been a privilege to share some of his histories with you today.
The only known photo of Edmund Rogers, for whom Edmonton is named.