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JAMES RODGERS. For over half a century has this honored old Scotchman been a resident of Waukesha County. A native of Perthshire, Scotland, he was born in 1811, and was the eleventh in a family of twelve children, including seven boys and five girls, whose parents were Alexander and Janet (McLagan) Rodgers. Of this family but two are now living, Mr. Rodgers, who is the eldest, and Margaret, widow of Richard Craven, of the town of Lisbon, who is about eighty years old. The father and mother were also natives of Perthshire, their births occurring respectively in 1765 and 1767. The former, who was a linen weaver by trade, received but a very limited education; his father dying when he was eleven years of age, he was forced to begin life on his own responsibility early. A devout member of the Presbyterian Church, he died as he had lived, passing away in his native land in 1837. The mother’s death occurred in America, whither she had come with her children after her husband’s death, in 1848. Mr. Rodgers of this biography has been twice married. Previous to his emigration to this country he was united in marriage, July 12, 1838. with Miss Margaret Imrie, also a native of Perthshire, Scotland. who died in 1857. There are no children living of this union. On the 17th of December, 1857, Mr. Rodgers wedded Mrs. Rhoda B. (Look) Botsford, who was born March 26, 1821, in Smithfield, Madison County, N. Y. Mrs. Rodgers was a daughter of Joseph and Silence (Bond) Look, and was one of a family comprising four sons and four daughters, of whom but three are living at the present time, the other two being Rudolphus, who is an agriculturist of Onondaga County, N. Y., and Miranda, the wife of Thomas O’Brien. a retired farmer of Pierce County, Wis. Father Look, who was born in Ashfield. Mass., in 1785, died in 1874. He was a farmer by occupation, that being his life work. About 1845 he emigrated to the west, locating in Walworth County; from there he went to Jefferson County, thence to Waukesha County, where he lived until his death.

Mrs. Rodgers was reared in her native state, where she acquired a good education, largely through her own efforts, as she early formed the habit of devoting her spare moments to self-improvement. On the 15th of June, 1843, she became the wife of Sherman Botsford, and by this union became the mother of five children, all of whom are living as follows: James. S., who has adopted the legal profession as his life work, is a resident of Kansas City, Mo. He is a talented orator, and is considered one of the able attorneys of the southwest. His education is largely the result of his own efforts. In politics he is a thorough Republican. For a companion he chose Mrs. Sallie (Warner) Nutter, a Kentucky lady. The second is Clarissa, who is the wife of Amos Allen, who superintends a ranch in North Dakota. She was a student in the Normal University, at Normal, Ill., after which she taught successfully in the public schools for a number of terms. She is the mother of four children, a son and three daughters. Martha, the third, wedded David Muir, an extensive farmer and stock-raiser of Franklin County, Iowa. She was also educated in the university at Normal, Ill. Mrs. and Mrs. Muir have three sons and one daughter. Charles L. is the fourth in order of birth. He is an attorney-at-law, located at Norman, Okla. His professional education was obtained in the Michigan University at Ann Arbor, being a graduate of the Law Department of that institution. He is also married and has four children. Phoebe J., the youngest, became the wife of J. B. Wilcox, who is engaged in mercantile business in Sedalia, Mo. Mrs. Wilcox has been a teacher in the graded schools of Sedalia for many years. She was a student at Waukesha, at Normal University, and at Newark, Ill. They have two sons.

Mr. Botsford was a native of Madison County, N. Y., born in November, 1815, and died in the town of Lisbon, Waukesha County, Wis., on the 30th of October, 1851. He was by occupation a farmer. In 1833 he emigrated to Wisconsin, and located with his mother in Lisbon Township, though Waukesha County was but little more than a wilderness at that early day and Lisbon Township had no name. His first home was a log cabin which his brother Lucius had constructed; it was covered with bark, had a puncheon floor, and a mud and stick chimney. The country was inhabited by many Indians at that time. Mr. Botsford was a resident of Wisconsin ten years prior to its admission into the Union, and was closely identified with the early growth and history of his town. Politically he was a Republican when that party was organized, but at first he was a strong Abolitionist, and was ever ready to lend a hand to the oppressed and down trodden slave. In religious faith he was a member of the Congregational Church.

After the death of Mr. Botsford, Mrs. Rodgers continued her residence in the old home until her marriage with our subject, she having resided continuously in Waukesha County for the period of fifty-one years. Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers are the parents of two children, Anna and John A. The former married John Rankin, a merchant of the village of Waukesha. She was educated in the common schools, in Carroll College, and in White Water Normal School, and was a successful teacher in the schools of this county, also in the state of Iowa.

On the 12th of May, 1841, Mr. Rodgers sailed from Dundee, Scotland, on the good ship “Peruvian,” and after a voyage of seven weeks’ duration, landed in New York, July 4, 1841. In November of the same year he came to Wisconsin, which was then under a territorial form of government. The trip to the west was made by the lakes to Milwaukee, but as the vessel could not make a landing he was carried on to Chicago, at that time but a small and uninviting place, the greater part of the present populous city being prairie and marsh land. He came on to Burlington, Racine County, by wagon with another man, and from that point to the town of Libson, Waukesha County, he walked. Upon his arrival here Mr. Rodgers had only money enough to buy an ax. He at once commenced work in order to earn enough with which to purchase the necessities of life. He made a claim of fifty acres of wild land on section 27, in the town of Lisbon, which was without a vestige of improvement. The first home he owned in the county was a balloon frame structure filled in with poles, while he himself built the chimney of stones, sticks and mud. If his house was primitive it was not out of harmony with its surroundings and the houses of his neighbors. Indians would pass his doorway, while the woods abounded with deer and other wild game. His first grain was cut with the cradle and threshed with a flail, implements with which the early settlers were very familiar. After the threshing was over the ox team was hitched to the wagon, the grain loaded and hauled to the market at Milwaukee. Mrs. Rodgers remarked that she made her first two trips to Milwaukee by riding on a load of potatoes drawn by an ox team.

At that time the beautiful Cream City was almost an entire tamarack swamp, especially the western part where now stand the most substantial business blocks. They have witnessed the wonderful development of Waukesha County into one of the most beautiful and prosperous counties to be found in the state, or in many states.

In politics our subject was a strong Abolitionist, but when the Republican party came into being he espoused its principles, and has to the present time been a stanch adherent to its men and measures. His first Presidential vote was cast for the Abolition candidate, John P. Hale. Mr. and Mrs. Rodgers are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the town of Lisbon. They are living a retired life in their country home, situated within a few rods of that of their son, John A., and are passing their declining years in peace and contentment. This record of their lives with be cherished by their children, when they who have given them so worthy an example of right living have passed to that bourne from whence no traveler returns.


Source: Portrait and Biographical Record of Waukesha County, Wisconsin, Volume 2. Chicago: Excelsior Publishing Co., 1894, pp. 620-621.

 

Source: History of Jackson County, Michigan. Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1881, p. 811.

 

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