By W. T. Block
no one in early Beaumont
was as popular and well-known as the steamboat captains, and one of
them whose biography comes readily to mind was Capt. W. E. Rogers.
He was born near Nashville, TN. on Jan. 28, 1838, and moved with his
parents, Joseph E. and Margaret Ann McFaddin Rogers, in 1845 to Swarthout,
Polk County, and in 1857 to Beaumont.
Rogersí first employment was as a cook aboard the Doctor Massey, captained
by Cave Johnson, a Beaumont hotel keeper. He next sailed as second
engineer aboard the Mary Falvey, owned by Capt. C. H. Ruff of Beaumont,
and his ship carried cotton and
freight between Sabine
Wiess Bluff, and Concord on Pine Island Bayou. In 1859 Rogers sailed
as engineer aboard the Florilda, which carried the first load of rails
for the Texas and New Orleans Railroad.
Capt. Rogers enlisted as a private in cavalry Co. A, Spaightís Battalion
on Sept. 20, 1861. Although that company engaged in 21 battles and
skirmishes in Louisiana in 1863, it is uncertain how much action Rogers
experienced since, due to his extensive steamboat experience, he was
often detached to duty aboard any of several Confederate gunboats
or tenders, operated by the Confederate Texas Marine Department.
It is likewise suggested that Rogers may have sailed on one or more
blockade-running voyages, hauling cotton
Pass to Mexico.
Although the remainder of Co. A were discharged on May 24, 1865, W.
E. Rogers was not discharged until May 31, 1865, indicating that he
may have been at sea on May 24. In 1864, Rogers married Sophia Kappas
of Sabine Pass,
by whom he had 3 daughters, the Misses Pynke and Kate Rogers, and
Mrs. Nena Moore of Florida.
After the war, Rogers sailed on 3 of Capt Napoleon Wiessí sternwheelers,
the Adriance, the Albert Gallatin, and the J. L. Graham. When Wiess
died in 1872, Rogers and 2 partners bought the Graham, and Rogers
sailed for the next 3 years as captain on that vessel.
The J. L. Graham was one of the fastest boats in Sabine Lake and soon
cut the travel time from Beaumont
to Sabine Pass
from 8 hours to 4 hours and 30 minutes. The Beaumont News-Beacon of
Jan. 4, 1873 carried a long account about Capt. Rogers and the steamboat
Graham racing the Era No. 8 through Sabine Lake and Neches
River. Although in 1875 the owners of the Graham sold the vessel
to new Galveston
owners, Rogers soon became the owner of a new steamer, the Pelican
Rogers kept the Pelican State under contract to Beaumont Lumber Company
for 5 years, hauling feed and supplies to Yellow Bluff Tram Company
in Jasper County, and returning with cotton from Wiess Bluff, Bunnís
Eventually the Pelican State was destroyed in a hurricane. In 1886,
following the hurricane that destroyed Sabine
Pass, Rogers moved his family back to Beaumont.
that year, the captain earned his living as a carpenter, building
houses. For 2 years he was once a foreman of a construction crew,
building bridges and trestles for a railroad.
Rogers was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church. On 3 occasions
he was commander of Beaumontís A. S. Johnston Camp of United Confederate
Veterans. He was also a 35-year member of Beaumontís Masonic Lodge
and Order of Eastern Star. In 1903 Rogers was the first Beaumonter
knighted as a Knight Templar.
At age 87, Capt. Rogers died at his home at 815 Calder on May 14,
1925. Beaumont Enterprise and Polk County News both ran long editorials,
memorializing his long life span; and the Confederate Veterans, Masons,
and Eastern Star all published resolutions, honoring his memory.
© W. T. Block, Jr.
August 18, 2007 column