Marjory (Rogers) Donaldson painting

LaFayette N. Rogers 1891-1973

Cabinet-Maker of Northampton and Woodstock, Carleton County, NB1

LaFayette Nathan Rogers, "Fay," as he was familiarly known, was the second of the eight children of Harrison Wilmot and Emily Knox Rogers of Ferryville, Northampton. He attended the one-room schoolhouse at the Bluff, about 2 miles below the Rogers farm and 7 miles below the former Grafton Bridge. He completed only Grade 6. He was the "handiest" of the five Rogers boys, so he was the one kept home to help on the farm. All of his siblings received some post-secondary education.

All the family were musical. Fay's instrument was the violin. Even before WW1, he played in the exclusive Woodstock Orchestra. Later he taught violin and was reported in the press as participating in various concerts. He played the cornet when he enlisted in WW1, and later played the alto horn in the Carleton York Militia Band. All his life he sang in choirs, notably that of St James United Church in Woodstock.

In June 1916 he enlisted in the 219th Regiment in Kentville, NS. He chose this regiment because his close friend, John Draper, then attending Acadia University enlisted there at the same time. They were later separated. Draper was wounded first in France, and came home to marry Fay’s sister Esther. Esther, pregnant, died in February, 1919, during the Great Flu Epidemic a few months before Fay came back to Canada.

He was a bandsman, playing the cornet when he joined the 219th Regiment in Kentville, NS. In England the 219th was broken up to reinforce other units. Fay was sent to the 85th Battalion Cape Breton Highlanders, which already had a band. The 85th was spectacular in the Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge — but Fay was still back in England, quarantined for mumps. When he was sent to France he was given a horse and cart and sent on errands behind the lines. Then he qualified as a Stretcher-Bearer and "went into the lines." In the official history of the 85th Battalion he was cited for his bravery.

He was wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Cambrai on the night of September 29/30, 1918, and was sent to England. The joint of his right shoulder was destroyed. Since he could not raise his right arm as high as his shoulder, he could no longer play the cornet, so after the War, he switched to the alto horn and played in the Carleton-York Militia Band.

At the Fredericton Military Hospital (now the restored historic Government House) the medical officers were not satisfied with his shoulder and, after a leave at home, he was sent to Toronto to Christie Street Hospital, now Sunnybrook. At Christie Street he took training in cabinet making. He progressed from carved cigar boxes to a fern stand with carved top. The stand was photographed in Northampton holding the wedding cake of his sister Louise in 1921. It held Evelyn’s Boston fern in the front window of Elm Street. Now it holds a fern for Marjory in Fredericton. He was sent also to a military hospital in Saint John. He qualified as a Lieutenant at an Officers' Training Course in Saint John, and is included in the graduation photograph sitting on the right end of the front row.

He was officially discharged March 9th, 1920. With a discharge grant in 1920 he took a course at the Truro Agricultural College. Later he did the grafting for brother Harrison's extensive apple orchards in Northampton. It was in Truro that he met his future wife, Evelyn Dodge of Bridgetown, NS, who was taking a secretarial course while staying with her sister Harriet, secretary of the Agricultural School. They were married August 8, 1923.

In the early 1920s he purchased an existing woodworking firm near the Station. Later he moved the business to the 2-story former Imperial Meat Packing building on the south bank of the Meduxneakeag. The ground floor had the office, the main workshop with machinery run by belts from a central source, and a storage room for wood supplies. A hand operated, open lift moved furniture upstairs where it was finished. His long-time employee was Scott Currie, who bought the business when Fay retired.

One of John McKinley’s photographic views of Woodstock was taken from the old Creek Bridge, looking up the Meduxneakeag, with Rogers Woodworking prominent in the middle distance.

As a meat packing plant, the walls were insulated with thick tar-soaked material. The building was burned before the flooding of the Mactaquac Dam, making a spectacular black smoke cloud over Woodstock

In 1929, he joined the staff of the Carleton County Vocational School, under director R. W. (Bert) Maxwell, as Manual Training teacher. CCVS, built through a bequest of L. P. Fisher, was the first such vocational school in Canada.

Fay's pupils were the Agricultural students from Carleton and York Countries, plus the boys in grades 7 and 8 of the Woodstock schools, who attended one afternoon each week. As well as woodworking, they learned how to make tin utensils, and related skills like the steam-box formation of skis and toboggans.

The Agricultural students were educated to be as self-sufficient as possible when they returned to their farms, often miles from any technical help.

In retirement from teaching at the Vocational School, Fay set up his workshop behind his Elm Street house. There he continued to make fine furniture on request. During the spring and summer before his August death at 82, he made a complete mahogany bedroom suite for a niece in Manitoba. Every piece Fay made was unique. Many of the bedroom suites and dining sets were designed from a photograph torn from a magazine, or from someone's rough sketch, or a client might say: "….like the china cabinet you made for …. but with this difference."

Fay's earlier furniture was not signred and carried no maker's identification. It was not until the 1940s that he began to sign and date his work. His wife, Evelyn, kept records of his furniture clients, records that are still in possession of the family.. Some of his patterns are at King's Landing.

The Mahogany armchair, with its holly-inlaid legs, is typical of Fay's craftsmanship. This chair is part of the dining suite . The needlepoint seat was done by my mother, Evelyn.

LaFayette Rogers was to be the subject of a chapter in Charles Foss’s 1977 Cabinetmakers of the Eastern Seaboard.. Foss was in England when the publisher told the photographer, Richard Vroom, that one chapter would have to be deleted. He deleted the Rogers chapter in favour of one about his uncle. Foss was most apologetic to Fay’s disappointed widow. It is possible that the material — text and photographs — is somewhere in the Foss archives.

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1.   Images and content provided by his daughter, Marjory (Rogers) Donaldson.