Joseph Rogers.

Mr Rogers: The Neighbourhood Hatter

In this week's Times Past column, historian Jonathan Smyth looks at a hatter and fur trader in Toronto who came from Cootehill...

The following column on Joseph Rogers is based on a book called Joseph Rogers (c. 1793/4-1873) Hatter and Furrier of Cootehill, Co Cavan, Ireland, and Toronto, Ontario, Canada and his Two Wives, by Chuckie Raye Blaney.

The book's author is a descendant of Joseph Rogers. However, the tale of this Cootehill man is not so sensational as the title might suggest. The Rogers family, according to the book, had originated in Co Tyrone, where previously through some genealogical digging of my own, I discovered our own connection to a Rogers family who were master and matron at Omagh Workhouse in the 1880s.

During the 1920s, Mary Rogers, former matron at Omagh, lived into her nineties at her daughter and son in law’s home in the railway station at Cootehill. However, the Rogers family we are interested in, were based in Cootehill much earlier.

Chuckie Blaney states that Joseph was born around 1793/4 in Cootehill, Co Cavan,where according to Pigot’s Commercial Directory, a Thomas Rogers ran a leather selling business on Market Street. It is suggested by Chuckie that Thomas Rogers in all probability may have been Joseph’s father and a further record from Cootehill shows a Thomas and Catherine Rogers, as parents of Alexander and Elizabeth who may have been his siblings.


Joseph Rogers' emigration to Canada was on an unspecified date, sometime in the years leading up to 1815. However, by 1815, Rogers was in York (modern day Toronto) where his shop sold hats and fur products. Blaney’s book recalls Rogers meeting the multi-millionaire fur-trader and real estate agent, John Jacob Astor. They both became firm friends and, by mutual agreement, Astor agreed to ‘pursue the fur trade across America’ and Rogers pursue the same business across Canada.

Rogers opened his first hat and fur store on Kings Street East, York, and later relocated ‘to the third door from the church on the northside of Kings Street'. An advertisement from The York Gazette, June 27, 1815, promoted the enterprise, calling him, ‘Rogers, The Hatter'.

It reads: ‘Rogers & Stocking, hat manufactures, give notice to their friends and the public, that they have on hand an extensive assortment of various kinds of hats, viz. - beavers, casters … merino wool, etc., all of which are executed in the most fashionable style and warrant equal in every respect to any yet manufactured, they are determined to keep constantly a full supply of every description to meet all demands wholesale or retail, which they will sell on as liberal terms as can be obtained in this province - every exertion will be made to make their manufacture an object to the public. They also have on hand a quantity of hat trimmings of every description. Cash paid for furs, delivered at their shop, opposite Mr. St. George's store. York. June 9th, 1815.’


In physical appearance, Joseph Rogers was ‘a tall, dark-complexioned man, black hair, and heavy eye-brows, with correct, firm features'.

His looks evidently made him a catch and, in 1816, Joseph married Christiana Bastedo of Nelson, Halton Co., Upper Canada, a daughter of David Bastedo and Elizabeth MacMickling Bastedo. In their 21st year of marriage, Christiana became very ill, and died on September 30, 1837 from ‘brain fever'.

Christiana was interred in York ‘General Burying Ground’, a non-denominational cemetery, otherwise known as Potter’s Field, or Stranger’s Burial Ground. Later, Christiana and her two sons, Joseph Jnr and David were removed and re-buried in the ‘Joseph Rogers plot’ at Necropolis, in May 1852.

Joseph married his second wife, Miss Janet Nixon Bastedo, sometime in the years 1837 to 1840. She was a daughter of Gilbert and Marion Thornton Bastedo of Nelson, Upper Canada, and a first cousin of his late wife.

Rogers suffered a setback on August 28, 1838, when fire broke out that night at 10.30pm burning two of his buildings on Front Street, York, causing £600 of damage to his hat manufacturing works. Another report set the damage at £1000, having ‘scorched’ the buildings in the neighbourhood. Luckily, it did not put him out of business, and reports recalled that Roger’s hat and fur shop would ‘resume’ as soon as a new premises could be found.


Rogers died in Toronto on September 13, 1873, and a notice printed in The Globe newspaper was published: ‘Yesterday afternoon the mortal remains of the late Mr Joseph Rogers were interred in St James Cemetery. The funeral was attended by a large number of friends. Many Masonic brethren followed, deceased having been a member of St Andrews Lodge, No. 10, G.R.C. for many years.’ The procession was composed of ‘several York Pioneers’ of which the deceased was numbered, while at least forty ‘private carriages’ followed in demonstration of the universal esteem in which Rogers was held.


Joseph’s hatter and fur works continued under his son James Harris Rogers. In 1854, James married Rachel Clarke. On September 21, 1903, he died at the age of 78. Another of Joseph’s sons named John Halbert Rogers became a farmer and sawmill owner. Joseph’s second wife, Janet Bastedo Rogers, died in Toronto on July 1, 1891, and she was interred with her husband in the Rogers plot, Necropolis. An online copy of Chuckie Raye Blaney’s book is available to read on


On October 3, 1850, the attack and robbery of a Ballyjamesduff local appeared in The Anglo-Celt. Daniel Lynch, widely known to all as Daniel ‘The Dandy’ was heading home after attending the market of Ballyjamesduff where that morning he had bought ‘a quantity of butter.’ Entering the townland of Roebuck, on the ‘high road’ to Mountnugent he encountered his attacker. The Dandy got assaulted in the most ‘brutal manner’ by a ‘cowardly assassin’ who sneakily lay in wait in the grass behind a wall. ‘The Dandy’ spotted the ruffian cross a fence before receiving a ‘dreadful cut in the back of the head’ followed by two more, before collapsing insensibly to the ground. When the Dandy woke, he noticed his wallet was gone and his coat smeared in blood which the thieves’ hands were covered from the flow of the victim’s head. The Dandy’s injuries were callously inflicted using a heavy stone. The influence of whiskey on the victim was mentioned by the paper, of which Lynch said he only took a ‘dandy’ at a time. The amount stolen was £3.


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