Two Homes Tell One Family’s Story

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The John “Duffy” Rogers Homestead | Evans County, Georgia | c. 1850s; 1890s

Along a quiet dirt path in south Georgia is a family homeplace that quietly fades away more each day. And while it is easy to overlook places like this, it holds a story that I thought was worth researching and sharing with you here. Because this rural homestead is more than just two old homes that are falling apart. It’s a place where one family transitioned through generations- their story here reaches back to 1800.

The Rogers Family of Bulloch County, Georgia

Thomas Rogers, from North Carolina, settled in Bulloch County where he started a small farm on the forks of the Canoochee River and Lott’s Creek just after 1800. On July 7, 1808, his son Uriah Rogers, was born on the family farm. It was there that Uriah established himself and raised his large family on the plantation he inherited from his parents. He would go on to own a large segment of the Canoochee.

Uriah married Martha Brewton Rogers (1813-1890) who was the daughter of Tattnall County pioneers Nathan and Nancy Fontaine Brewton who had come to own approximately 9,000 acres, The union of this couple made the Brewton-Rogers Family one of the most prominent in the area and soon after they wed, Uriah and Martha began to build what would become a large family. On September 23, 1847, Martha and Uriah Rogers gave birth to their eleventh child, John “Duffy” Rogers, at their old plantation house near the Canoochee River.

John “Duffy” Rogers (1847-1941).

The Civil War

Uriah Allen Rogers reported that he enslaved 30 people which exempted him from military service because, according to Confederate law, those who owned twenty or more slaves were exempt from serving in the army. His sons were also exempt from military service, but that didn’t stop five of them (Thomas, Samuel, Alexander, Martin, and John) from enlisting anyway.

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In 1864, a young John Rogers joined Company B, 6th Georgia Cavalry Regiment, serving under Captain Crosby at Nail’s Ferry on the Altamaha River. He was 16. When his company was at Screven, GA, John was given permission to go home to find a horse, and on the way, he was captured by Sherman’s troops. The entire company surrendered and was discharged at Blackshear in April 1865. Thomas and Alexander were captured in battle in Elmira and didn’t survive.

John “Duffy” Rogers

After the war, John returned to the family homeplace where he spent his days farming but he also spent some years working as a rafter on the Altamaha- moving logs down the river. It was during this job that he earned the nickname, “Duffy” when his hat was knocked off by a low-hanging branch on his way downriver.

Photo c. 1890 of men rafting timber logs down the Oconee River. Duffy is not featured in this photograph but this is similar to the work he did. RAFTING LOGS on the OCONEE RIVER….looks to be late 1800s…..Long before there were railroads and highways, logs had to get to market. The markets were in Savannah, Darien and Brunswick. The demand for Georgia’s Yellow Pine was strong, in the US and around the world. Local boys from counties along the Oconee, Ogeechee, Ocmulgee, the Altamaha and other Georgia rivers, rode rafts of logs lashed together, down inland rivers to the coastal cities, and their massive log marshalling operations, and large sawmills. Photo courtesy of the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

The Home of John Duffy Rogers and Laura Blitch Rogers

After the war, John established himself on his father’s land in Tattnall County on the banks of Bull Creek and settled into a simple log cabin that his father Uriah had purchased in 1856. In 1871, Duffy married Laura Blitch (1852-1883), whose family established the town of Blitchton in present-day Bryan County.

Laura Blitch Rogers (July 23, 1852 – September 16, 1883)

His influence in the community grew as the years went on and in 1878, he helped to establish Bull Creek Baptist Church, following a split in Antioch Baptist (his father’s church) over financial issues. Established on John’s property at Bull Creek- it was only fitting that the church would take the name, Bull Creek Baptist. According to tradition, the church was built by hand by John and his father, Uriah.

This was John Duffy Rogers’ first home where he lived with his wife Laura Blitch Rogers. The home was already standing here when John’s father, Uriah Rogers, purchased it in 1856. Duffy and Laura had seven children here and lived in the home together until her death in 1883. When he remarried in 1890, Duffy built a larger home just down the road on the same homestead where he lived with his second wife, Melvina Hearn.

Little is known about the history of this cabin before the Rogers’ bought it, but we do know that it predates 1856 when Uriah acquired the land. Inside this home, seven children were born to Laura and Duffy, who raised a proud family here until a tragic day in 1883 when Laura lost her life as she delivered her final child. A girl who was given the name Laura in honor of her mother.

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New Bride, New Home

After Laura’s death, John remarried Melvina ‘Mellie’ Hearn (1861-1927), but his new bride wasn’t interested in living in the house of her husband’s first wife. She insisted that such a small log cabin was not suitable for such a prominent citizen of the county. So John and Mellie moved down the road in 1891 and began construction on a much larger, more impressive home, thought to have been completed in 1894.

Family photo courtesy of Dylan Edward Mulligan, photo c. 1930s or 40s showing the 1890s house when it was still painted white.

Duffy and Mellie went on to have 13 children together, bringing John’s total children to 20- all of whom were raised on the same family homestead in the early house, or this later one just down the dirt road.

The second home of John Duffy Rogers- believed to have been built in 1891 for his second wife, Melvina Hearn. Although the house was painted white at one time, the sun and weather had worn it away. You will notice that the original barn from the 1940s picture still stands in the right of my photograph, which was taken in 2015.

John Duffy Rogers- Evans County’s Oldest Confederate Veteran

John “Duffy” Rogers passed away March 29, 1941, at the age of 93 at this farmhouse at Bull Creek, which in 1914 had become part of Evans County. At the time of his death, he was the only surviving Confederate veteran in Evans County. I found his obituary from 1941:

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“John Duffy Rogers’ Obituary VETERAN IN EVANS DIES AT AGE OF 93
John D. Rogers died at 10 o’clock today at his home. Mr. Rogers, 93, was the last Confederate veteran of Evans County and was prominently known and loved throughout South Georgia. Mr. Rogers had always had a prominent place in the affairs of this section and county, and until the time of his death was active in running his large farm, known as the old Rogers home place. He was the father of twenty children. Surviving are fourteen children: Seven sons, seventy grandchildren, and thirty-three great-grandchildren.”

John ‘Duffy’ Rogers’ headstone between his wives, Laura Blitch Rogers, and Melvina ‘Mellie’ Hearn Rogers. Photo courtesy of Kay Waters on Find A Grave.

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12 Comments

  1. I love these stories. I was born and raised in MO but was married for 53 years to a southern boy from NC. We traveled back to his home almost every year until circumstances prevented traveling. Love the south and especially Onslow County NC.

  2. What happened to all of that property? Who owns it now? 9,000 acres + is a gigantic tract of land. Were they Revolutionary War land grants? Thanks and keep up the good work.

  3. This is one of the BEST stories I’ve read here yet! Hard working family, leaving such a large family legacy of children & grandchildren. The barn & home, while weathered with time, still standing, because the owners built them with love, blood, sweat & tears. Of this I have no doubt. It gave me goosebumps. Thanks for this story.

  4. There must be descendants from those 20 children. I’m surprised at least one didn’t keep the farm and some land?

  5. Thank you for sharing your research and photos. Southern history is dear to me. My mother’s family, like so many Colonial families, followed the opening up of Southern lands from Virginia to the Carolinas, then to Georgia and finally, Alabama. In studying my genealogy I found relatives who fought in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. President Andrew Jackson is a very distant relative. Many ancestors are buried in the family cemetery known as Marble Cemetery in Sylacauga, Alabama.

  6. Love the story of how hard they worked to build a life and raise a family. Too bad someone from the family doesn’t still own and fix up the properties to keep it in the family. Thank you for sharing the wonderful stories.

  7. This was a very interesting story. I had a great uncle that floated logs down the Altmaha River. Used to love hearing his stories about that

  8. I love this history! I am part of the Uriah Rogers lineage.. 6th generation! This is great info on John’s family.. we are part of Martin’s family – another son of Uriah’s..

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