Carroll County IL Biography


Written & Contributed by Barb Zora

John Rodgers was born near Cranfield of Bedfordshire County, England on September 29, 1823, to William and Sarah Smith Rogers. John was the first of three children born to William and Sarah Rogers. On February 1, 1824, John was christened at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Rectory, in Cranfield. John’s mother died when John was just a young boy. Records indicated that she died before 1830. His father remarried in 1830 to Frances Webb. John became a half brother to five more siblings. According to the 1841 England Census John, age 17, his parents, and his sisters, Mary, 15, Zilpha, 5, and brothers, Joseph, 8, and George, 3, were living in the Ampthill District in the parish of Cranfield. A brother, James William and a sister, Elizabeth Catherine, would be born after John left England.

  According to English marriage records, nine years later, John married Mary Ann Tite who also lived in the Ampthill District on June 11, 1849, in Cranfield at the St. Peter and St. Paul Church. Immediately following their wedding, the newlyweds packed up their belongings and sailed to America leaving behind their families forever. According to the New York Passenger Lists, John and his new bride, both age 25, left London, England on the Devonshire, a 497 foot ship. The Devonshire, a ship owned by the Bibby Shipping Lines, had two masts and one funnel and could hold 325 passengers. John and Mary Ann arrived at the port of New York City on July 24, 1849. The Rodgers then traveled by train to Illinois. They must have been exhausted when they arrived at their destination, Rockford, Illinois.

The Rodgers lived in Rockford, Illinois until after their son, William’s birth on February 25, 1850. Within a month of William’s birth, John and his family left Rockford and settled in Cherry Grove Township, of Carroll County, Illinois forty miles southwest of Rockford. Carroll County History noted that John settled in Shannon, Illinois in 1850, and according to the 1850 Census, he listed his occupation as a farmer. It can be assumed that John and Mary Ann had English friends in Carroll County, because at the time, few people were living in the county. What they discovered in Cherry Grove, a stage coach stop, in the spring of 1850, were a great number of wild cherry trees, tall and straight, which towered over the oaks and other trees. There was no habitation, no comfortable home to live in, and no family to count on.

The Rodgers quickly adjusted to their new homeland. It was important to John that he not only provide a comfortable home for his new family but also to become an American citizen. The naturalization records for Carroll County show that John became a naturalized citizen on October 13, 1853.

According to the Illinois Public Domain Land Grant Sales Database, John purchased four parcels of land in Cherry Grove Township. After living in Cherry Grove Township for two and one half years, on September 3, 1852, John bought 40.5 acres of land at $1.25 per acre. It was Lot 8NWNE in Section 16 in Range 06E. Then four months later on January 19, 1853, he purchased 40 more acres under the Federal Land Grant Program. There is no mention as to the cost of the land at NENE Section 7 in Range 06E. Then nearly twenty years later, in 1871, he purchased 40 more acres in Section 18 of Range 06E at $10 per acre. His final purchase was on January 31, 1872, when he purchased 40 more acres at $10 per acre for a total price of $400. It is uncertain as to whether his last two purchases were for his son, who began farming his own land four years later.

By 1860, John’s real estate was estimated to be worth $1200 and the value of his personal estate was said to be $550. A decade later, in 1870, the Census Report showed that the value of John’s real estate was estimated to be $6000. His personal estate was valued at $1300. John was farming more acreage and during that decade the Rodgers family prospered tremendously. By the late 1870’s, John gave up farming and moved to nearby Shannon. The 1878 Carroll County Directory had John Rodgers as retired and living in Shannon Township. Likewise, the 1880 Census showed that John, age 56, was retired from farming and living in a home in Shannon.

With his move to town, John took up gardening and changed careers. According to the gossip columns of the local newspaper, The Shannon Express, dated August 23, 1881, “Mr. John Rodgers is the champion parsnip-raiser in the vicinity and has some fine specimens from his gardens will show. A parsnip measuring twenty inches in length and fifteen in circumference is considerable but John raises plenty of them.” In another article from the same paper, John demonstrated his political aspirations. The newspaper noted, “The city election was an extremely quiet affair. The vote was very light and resulted in the election of the entire ticket. For Police Magistrate: John Rodgers 68 votes over Wm Rummel 64 votes.” John was elected police magistrate of Shannon, Illinois in 1881.

After John’s wife’s death in 1896, John moved back to the farm and moved in with his son, William, and his family. On February 27, 1901, John Rodgers died at the age of 77, in Cherry Grove Township surrounded by his family. He was buried in the Brethren Dunkard Cemetery in Shannon near his wife.  

MARY ANN TITE RODGERS - (1823-1896)  

Mary Ann Tite was born in January of 1823 in Bedfordshire, England to Thomas and Elizabeth Brittain Tite. She was christened January 19, 1823, in Wootton of Bedford, England. At the age of twenty-five, Mary Ann married John Rodgers in the village of Cranfield on June 11, 1849. In search of a better life, the couple packed up and immigrated to America in the summer of 1849, settling in Illinois. Mary Ann gave birth to one son, William, who was born February 25, 1850, in Rockford, Illinois. Mary Ann never gave birth to any other children, but according to the 1860 and 1870 census report, Mary Ann and John had taken a child into their home. In 1860, Amanda Sturdevant, age 11, lived with the Rodgers. She was a year older than their son, William. In 1870, Amanda was still living with the Rodgers. By 1880, Mary Ann and her husband had retired and moved into the village of Shannon. Mary Ann Rodgers died February 8, 1896, at the age of seventy-two, in Shannon, Illinois. She was buried in the Brethren Dunkard Cemetery in Shannon.

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