Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Rogers (1844–1909)

by John Woolley

This article was published:

Charles Rogers (1844-1909), cabinet maker and merchant, was born on 18 November 1844 at 17 Sweet Apple Court, Hackney Road, Middlesex, London, son of Charles Rogers (1805-1864), furniture maker, and his wife Margaret, née Edmundson (1812-1870). After some elementary schooling he began training as a cabinet maker. About 1859 Rogers arrived in Australia with his family. They settled at Goulburn, New South Wales, where his father set up a small cabinet-making business and Charles continued to learn his trade. On 8 March 1866 he married Elizabeth Johnston, daughter of a veterinary surgeon; she died suddenly on 26 March 1877. On 12 April 1878 at Newtown he married Agnes Hair.

Rogers prospered and the cabinet-making factory employed thirty workers. He had his own network of horse-drawn vans to supply furniture to his agents dispersed from Cooma to Wagga Wagga. Also a retailer and importer, he established a sixty-horse coachline between Goulburn and Yass and ran a livery stable. A great lover of horses, he took pride in driving his own four-in-hand and enjoyed the good things of life. In 1879 he moved into new premises known as the Goulburn Arcade in Auburn Street, designed and built under his own meticulous supervision, and there he became the 'universal provider'. The reputed value of the building, site and stock-in-trade was £90,000. From 1885 his business enterprises expanded south with the railway.

Liberal and public spirited, Rogers helped all charities and religions. A Methodist, he became a trustee of North Goulburn Methodist Church in 1884, and a magistrate next year. He often criticized the local council and others where the interests of Goulburn and his own business were concerned. In the 1880s he led a deputation to the secretary for public works on the vexed question of differential railway freight rates. In 1908 he was president of the local branch of the Rating on Unimproved Values League.

Rogers visited England and made other sea voyages. In March 1900 in the Yass Evening Tribune he published a twenty-five chapter description of his tour to the Western Pacific islands. Rogers died of cirrhosis of the liver at Colombo, Ceylon, on 17 May 1909 while on a cruise. Buried in the Ceylon general cemetery, his body was reinterred in the Methodist section of the old Goulburn cemetery on 10 October 1909. He was survived by two sons and two daughters of his first wife, by his second wife and their three sons, who conditionally inherited his business and estate valued for probate at almost £35,000. They traded as Charles Rogers & Co. until 1947 when the department store was sold to Burns Philp & Co. Ltd. Known as Mates Ltd it still operates on the second site in Auburn Street.

Select Bibliography

  • E. Digby (ed), Australian Men of Mark, vol 1 (Syd, 1889)
  • R. T. Wyatt, The History of Goulburn, N.S.W. (Goulburn, 1941)
  • Southern Argus (Goulburn), 18 July 1885
  • private information.

Citation details

John Woolley, 'Rogers, Charles (1844–1909)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 14 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (Melbourne University Press), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


18 November, 1844
London, Middlesex, England


17 May, 1909 (aged 64)
Colombo, Sri Lanka

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