Redwood History: Robert Rogers

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:36am -- mfarias

After the Revolutionary War, Robert Rogers (1758-1835) became a proprietor of the Redwood Library and began a commitment to the company that he would honor throughout his life. He dedicated much of his time to serving the Redwood, and the greater Newport community.

Robert Rogers, 1799 by Washington Allston (1779-1843)

Robert Rogers was born in Newport on April 28, 1758 to William Rogers (1709-1772).  His father was a wealthy shipping merchant who owned much of the land around the parade. He was an early printer and publisher of the Newport Mercury, but advertised his business in other papers to a wider audience, including the Providence Gazette. While he may not have expected to draw business completely away from Providence markets, his aim was almost certainly to attract some customers who lived between Providence and Newport with a promise of goods "as cheap as can be bought at any shop in Providence." 


Rogers 1873, by Lloyd Anthony Robson (1893-1967)

The younger Rogers remained in New England. He graduated from Brown in 1775 and served in the war after leaving school. On his return to Newport, Rogers opened a classical school in Newport. It was a private school that was quite successful and served a portion of Newport’s population until 1843, when Newport established one of the first public high school in the state for the purpose of college preparation. In 1873, Roger’s son, named William Sanford Rogers, bequeathed $100,000 to Newport "for the education of youth of both sexes.... the income to be applied to the support of teachers of the highest qualifications" as well as for the construction of a new school building. The original home for the school was on Church Street. It then moved to a building on Broadway in 1905 while the old building became the Thayer School and later the Boys and Girls Club. In 1957, the school moved to its current location on Wickham Road and the Broadway building became Thompson Middle School. The legacy of the Rogers’ family interest in education had a lasting impact on Newport.


Rogers High School - West Passage, 1938 by Lloyd Anthony Robson (1893-1967)

While conducting his classical school, Rogers also maintained many positions at the Redwood Library. He first became part of a committee to take a catalog of the books held by the Redwood Library in 1810 (printed in 1816), which is the same year that he is first recorded as Secretary of the Redwood in the Annals. He held this position for some time, gaining the title of Treasurer along the way. In 1821, he is recorded as both Secretary and Treasurer for the Library. He was Secretary, Treasurer, and also Librarian of the Library at various points from 1810-1831, which is when he submitted a letter of resignation, printed in the Annals. In his letter, he writes:

“My advanced age and increasing debility, strongly remind me that it would be incompatible with the repose requisite in my declining years, to continue in the respective offices which I have endeavored to discharge with fidelity for a long period, with a sole view to promote and advance the interest of the excellent institution of the Redwood Library.” 

Within the same year that he resigned, he was also elected as a Director of the Library. Rogers maintained this position for a few years, clearly unable to completely remove himself from the workings of the Library, but he sent in a final resignation between 1834 and 1835. He begins this letter:

“My advanced age and feeble state of health remind me that my continuance as a Director of the Redwood Library is incompatible with its interests.”

Rogers died in Newport August 5, 1935, shortly after his resignation was complete, ending his life at the Redwood around the same time that his own life ended.


Michael Margonis
The Redwood Annals
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