In 1895, Joseph Blackburn Rogers (1867-1934) was ordained as a Baptist minister. In 1897, after preaching in Kentucky, he moved to Moweaqua, Ill. He later worked in Springfield, 1902-7, Quincy, 1907-14, and Chicago, 1914-34.
In Chicago, Rogers served as the minister of the LaSalle Avenue Baptist Church. Once a thriving, upper-class neighborhood, the area by 1914 had become a rooming house district populated largely by newcomers to the city. Rogers took the dying church and revitalized it. He established kindergartens, a weekend vocational school, an employment bureau, programs for feeding and housing the unemployed and homeless, and several youth programs. Assistant ministers preached in Finnish, Swedish, and Persian. Under Rogers' direction, the church established nine satellite churches and fourteen Sunday Schools in the city and suburbs. The minister's favorite project became apartment housing where young people could live in a Christian atmosphere. His culminating effort was the seventeen-story Roger Williams Apartments at 1211-1217 North LaSalle Street. Due to financial problems, the apartments went into receivership and passed to new owners.
Rogers became a well-recognized figure on the post-war Chicago scene. Best known as an advocate of Prohibition, Rogers campaigned against gambling, prize fighting, and prostitution as well as alcohol. While a strong supporter of the national Republican party, he constantly sparred with the Chicago and state Republican organizations, which he considered corrupt. Rogers strongly backed America's entry into World War I, made Liberty Loan speeches, and established firm anti-communist credentials. He championed fundamentalism and private enterprise in his sermons and writings.
The collection mainly contains materials from Rogers' Chicago years. Included are correspondence, manuscripts, sermons and other writings, and printed items and photographs related to Rogers' church. Among the letters is a note from Theodore Roosevelt on Dec. 15, 1916.
The collection also includes an album of genealogical information collected by Rogers' daughter, D. Katharine Rogers (b. 1892), who taught in the University of Illinois School of Social Work. Her genealogical research, collected in 1976 in an album in Box 2, includes "random notes" on the Rogers, Taylor, Milton, Shumate, Barnett, Montgomery, Robertson, Landrum, and Blackburn families from Virginia; the Stevens, Ray, Scheckel, and Phipps families from Maryland, and the Condits family from New Jersey. In 1981-82, she donated the collection to the Library.