October 25, 2007

Minnesota Man’s 15-Year Genealogy Trek Ends at Pleasant Hill Cemetery

Bruce Rodgers grew up hearing stories about Memphis, his grandfather’s hometown. He also had plenty of memories of even more colorful tales regarding his great-great-great-grandfather. The tales were somewhat intertwined, as Bruce would later come to learn that his third great grandfather actually called Scotland County home for some while as well.

All of this information didn’t come easily at first for Rodgers, a native of Rochester Minnesota. The middle school history teacher embarked on a genealogy journey that would ultimately last 15 years before he finally found out the entire truth about his ancestor.

“I grew up hearing stories about my third great grandfather and what a colorful character he was,” Bruce said. “I heard about Memphis all of my life from my father, so in 1991 I decided to investigate both.”

That was when Bruce made his first trip to this community. Over the next fifteen years Bruce and his wife Karen returned a dozen times or more to do family history research.

“Every time we answered one question, four more would pop up,” Bruce said. “Ultimately this story took us all across the United States.”

They learned that James HC Rodgers was a resident of Scotland County from around 1852 until the Civil War.

These discoveries were made via many records maintained in the Scotland County Courthouse as well as other family history items made available by the Scotland County Genealogical Society and the Scotland County Memorial Library.

‘I can’t tell you how much we appreciate the folks in the Scotland County Courthouse, who let me pour through all their records, not to mention the genealogists in the county,” Bruce said.

Information uncovered in Scotland County led Bruce and his wife to Illinois and Indiana before ultimately landing the couple at the National Archives in Washington D.C.

“Finally, after a long day in the National Archives, I have been able to connect all the dots and write the story of James’ life,” Bruce said.

With 15 years worth of research it is easy to see why Bruce’s manuscript on his ancestor’s life is nearing the 100-page mark.

The final chapter was written this summer when Bruce and his cousin, Kevin Rodgers of Kahoka, along with their wives spent the day at Pleasant Hill Cemetery northwest of Memphis. It was there that they installed a Civil War era tombstone provided by the United States government.

The stone for James HC Rodgers is directly next to the graves of his sister and his son.

The special honor was installed upon Rodgers after Bruce learned that his third great grandfather had died during the Civil War and had been buried in a mass grave near Little Rock, AR.

“Once I did all of the research and was able to document that he had passed away during the war and had never been returned home for burial, the Veterans Administration sent us the special tombstone to be placed back at home with the rest of his family,” Bruce said.

James HC Rodgers died on May 6th, 1865 while in his third enlistment with the Union forces. He had left Scotland County for Illinois and ultimately moved on to Indiana when the war broke out. He was one of the first enlistees in the state of Indiana, initially signing up for three months. He re-enlisted for another six months and was in the midst of his third signing, a one-year commitment, at the time of his death.

But even after his death, James HC Rodgers left his impact on Scotland County.

“His entire family moved back to Scotland County to live with his sister and her family,” Bruce said.

The family used his war pension to build a new home, one that still is called home by a member of the family. The ancestral residence now belongs to Bruce’s uncle, Bob Rodgers.

Even his story has had a reuniting factor for the family today.

“That has been one of the biggest benefits of doing this, said Bruce. “We reconnected with family members, who in turn have gotten excited about this project,” he said. “They want to know the story of James HC Rodgers, but they also want to know more about each other and what is happening today.”

While James HC Rodgers finally returned home, it doesn’t mark the end of the trip for Bruce and Karen.

“We still have a little work left to do in the National Archives, and then of course there are the parents of James HC Rodgers, who we have learned lived in Clark County, Kentucky,” he said. “That’s our next stop.”

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