Meredith Rogers: From Armagh to Augusta

It is hard to know where to start with wonderful Meredith.

His life consisted of wide-ranging experiences, and he touched classic North American history here and there in his approximately 64 years of life. Perhaps I just need to start with where I first find him.

I found him marrying Eliza Donnelly in the Armagh parish in County Armagh on 26 November 1838. Their first baby, Arthur, was born there just about 10 months later on 6 October 1839.

After these two events in Ireland, the next place they pop up is in Quebec, British North America, in October 1841, for the baptism of their eldest daughter Jane.

Quebec 1840-1865 (assumed)

This means that in 2 years and two days, they traveled from Northeastern Ireland to Quebec with a baby or toddler in tow, and with Eliza pregnant most of the second year of their transition.  Imagine how much they believed that they needed to leave Ireland; what they were willing to endure on a transatlantic journey…

One thing to appreciate: when I found Meredith in any record, he was usually found with a mangled given name, and the mangling is nearly always unique!  I have had to do much browsing through records with very loose searches excluding his first name. Also the records are nearly all in French, which does help explain the Quebecois priests’ struggles with his unusual name.

A graphic of the multitudinous ways to mangle

The multitudinous ways to mangle “Meredith”

Meredith worked as a day laborer (“journalier”) through the 1840’s until he was able to lease land and become a farmer in the 1850’s through the 1860’s.

During this time, he and Eliza had 8 more children:

  • Jane b. Oct 1841
  • Elizabeth Anne b. May 1843 (died Sep 1856)
  • Catherine Rogers b. Apr 1845 (died Oct 1846)
  • Mary (my GG Grandmother) b. Jun 1847 (died Apr 1916)
  • John b. about 1850 — no parish record found yet, but is in 1861 census as 11 years old. Still looking for John.
  • Helen b. July 1851 (she liked to be called “Ellen”, died in Maine in Jan 1909)
  • Harriet b. May 1853
  • James b. June 1855

Meredith’s Emigration to the U.S. to Make Steel (1866-1870)

getthispictureagain

One of these men is quite likely Meredith! (Photo circa 1870)

The Portland Rolling Mills in South Portland, Maine was built from 1865 to 1866.  They attracted 65 families (mostly Welsh and Irish) to work at the Mills by building essentially a “company town” with 47 houses for the workers and their families.

An article about “Ligonia” mentions some of the families–including Meredith Rogers Family!  I commented while logged into the site (not visible publicly):

I was delighted to read this as I am descended from the Irish Rogers family listed in this article. It painted such a warm and interesting picture of their life there at that time. Meredith Rogers and Eliza (Donnelly) and their 13-year-old son were there in the 1870 census, and I imagined James in the school… and the Nation’s rails having been forged with the help of my 3x Great Grandfather. It also answered a question I had for my research about how it was that my 3xG Grandmother Eliza was listed as having lived in the “Campgrounds” on her death certificate. It made me sad to think of her living in… a tent? But now I’m happier to know it was better than that. Lovely article. Thank you for putting it out here. – Joy

The Rolling Mills produced a great deal of steel rail for the U.S. railroad system, and the work was hot, dangerous, and heavy.

  The Successful Business Houses of Portland from 1875 gives a fascinating description of the entire process at the rolling mills, describing the jobs and how a railroad rail is made — great reading.  I wonder if Meredith was a Puddler?

“When the pieces have attained a bright red heat the puddler proceeds to work them into a ball by means of an iron bar thrust through a hole in the door of the furnace. It is hot, heavy work, and the puddlers are the best paid and most independent workmen connected with the trade.”

The book describes the home of Meredith and the other people of Ligonia in the language of the era:

“Here the operatives of the mills dwell in comfortable detached cottages, afforded them by the company at a moderate rent. There has also been erected a school-house on the grounds…”

Life had a promise of sweetness in the late 1860’s through 1870, but then it got hard for Meredith…

Death of Eliza

Eliza died the 30th of January, 1871 of a “Liver Complaint” (possibly cirrhosis of the liver) with her address given as “Camp Grounds”.

This left Meredith with 13 year old James.  The other older children had either married back in Quebec and started their adult lives, or were living nearby.  Ellen and Hattie are found in Portland in 1870 as “Domestic Servants”.  My GG grandmother Mary married Michael Vizard in 1865 in Montreal, and likely had my great grandfather Victor in 1868.

The Docks of Portland (c. 1880-1884)

1883-84 saw Meredith listed as a Laborer at home at 2 Freeman Lane in east Portland near the docks and today’s Eastern Promenade. This lane no longer exists, but a satellite view below shows the approximate location, covered over with apartments/condos.

Daughter Ellen already lived nearby on India Street with her husband Bernard Burns, and two grandchildren for Meredith: Elizabeth 7, and Ellen 4. Younger brother James lived with Ellen and Bernard in 1880, but seems to have moved on. Bernard was a stevedore on the docks, and possibly Meredith worked the docks, as well, being so close.

1884_map_meredith_rogers_on_2_freeman_portland_me 2017_google_map_meredith_rogers_on_2_freeman_portland_me_approx

Somewhere between 1884 and 1888, Meredith suffered a dreadful turn in his mental health and was committed to the “Maine Insane Hospital“.  This haunting video gives the feeling of the place….

THE ASYLUM // The story being Maine’s haunted Insane Asylum from YESAH DIGITAL on Vimeo.

Meredith’s Death

Meredith died on November 15, 1888 of… “Insanity”.

1888-11-15_dea_meredith_rogers_augusta_maine

I was troubled by this diagnosis and in my research on the institution I learned that at former patient Karen Evans led an effort to commemorate the 11,647 patients who died there.

Reasons for being admitted to the hospital included ““erroneous views on religion”, Alzheimer’s, even epilepsy.   Patients “passed in the night”.  Suicidal patients were not protected from themselves, it seems, and went that way.

I do wonder just how 65-year-old Meredith’s “insanity” really took him.

Commemoration of 11,647 Patients

Karen Evans was successful in her efforts, and the 11,647 names of patients who died at the hospital–including Meredith’s–were read out loud in September 2015 in a public ceremony.  I am still hoping to find video of the event.  There is a stone marker shown in this link that I plan to visit one day in Augusta, Maine.

Meredith is NOT one of the unfortunates buried in an unmarked grave.  He was returned to Portland to be buried in Calvary Cemetery which is situated right next to his first home in the area, the now ghost-town of Ligonia.

I have sponsored Meredith’s Find-A-Grave Memorial which will do until I can go visit him and Eliza and the Burnses.

Please leave a flower for Meredith at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/146928480/meredith-rogers

c002671k

Quebec, c1840 – NAC C-002671