ROGER, CHARLES, historian and journalist; b. Dundee, Scotland, 14 April 1819, son of Charles Roger and his first wife Ann Cruikshank; d. perhaps in 1878.
Charles Roger Sr moved from Perthshire to Dundee where he was successively a tobacco merchant and city librarian. His son, Charles, matriculated at St Salvator’s College in St Andrews University in 1832–33 and studied first for the ministry and then for the medical profession. In September 1835, however, he gave up his studies and enlisted in the Royal Artillery at Perth. He was first enrolled as a gunner in the 7th Battalion, but in 1836 was transferred to the 4th Battalion where he was promoted bombardier in 1839 and corporal in 1841. From 1836 to 1839 he was stationed at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and from then until 1842 he was at Quebec City. When he was discharged, at his own request, in July 1842, his conduct was shown as “exemplary” and he was allowed £25. (He should not be confused with the Charles Rogers of the 95th Foot who was cashiered by court martial in 1842.)
Roger, a Presbyterian, married Dorothy MacRobie at Quebec on 29 Feb. 1840; they had at least five sons and four daughters. He apparently remained in Quebec City after he left the army, and by 1847 he was superintendent of the library for the Quebec Library Association. In 1849 he left this post to work for the Morning Chronicle (1849–53) and then briefly for the Quebec Gazette. Although he is often given as an editor of the papers, he was not the editor-in-chief for either. On 30 March 1854, with the help of subscriptions raised by friends, he began his own paper, the Observer, which expired in 1855. By 1856 he was back working for the Quebec Gazette, but in the next year he was again superintendent for the Quebec Library Association before moving to Port Hope, Canada West.
It was in Quebec that Roger began writing works on Canadian history. His first and best known work was The rise of Canada, from barbarism to wealth and civilisation (1856), of which only one volume covering the period 1534 to 1824 was ever published. The projected second volume, which would have brought the history up to 1837, was apparently never written, probably because of the appearance of John Mercier McMullen*’s history in 1855. Roger worked in haste, relying on only a few sources, particularly Robert Christie*’s history of Lower Canada; he has received more credit from the critics for his energy than for his merits. Yet the work is well written. It concentrates most heavily on the modern period, and as the title indicates, it is a tale of progress. The next year he wrote Stadacona depicta; or Quebec and its environs, the title obviously influenced by the Reverend Newton Bosworth’s study of Montreal. Roger’s work is a history and description of the city as it was in 1842, based on Hawkins’s picture of Quebec; with historical recollections (Quebec, 1834), by Alfred Hawkins*, along with further information on conditions in 1857. Roger probably also prepared an historical guide Quebec: as it was, and as it is, of which there were five editions between 1857 and 1867, the first four appearing under the name of Willis Russell.
Once resident at Port Hope, Roger founded another newspaper, the Atlas, which was described succinctly as “a venture of C. Roger & Co., in 1858 which stood a short battle.” He then moved to the small village of Millbrook, some 15 miles to the north, where he apparently published a newspaper, again called the Observer, for some years.
Roger next turned up in Ottawa where he was a clerk in the post office from about 1866 to 1874. He resumed his literary efforts, and in 1871 produced another historical guide book, Ottawa past and present. He also wrote a series of letters to the Ottawa Times describing a visit to England in 1872–73, which were later reprinted in pamphlet form as Glimpses of London, and Atlantic experiences. It was while in England in 1873 that he was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, probably under the aegis of its secretary, his cousin the historian Charles Rogers, who was the most important of the several members of his family with literary interests.
What happened to Roger after his return from England is obscure; he disappears from the Ottawa city directories after 1874. W. S. Wallace* shows the date of his death as 1878, but Roger continued to appear as a correspondent of the Royal Historical Society until 1880. He disappears after this date.
Although a minor figure Charles Roger is interesting as one of the earliest Canadian historians and as an example of the type of wandering, unsuccessful newspaper editor who appears so frequently in 19th century Canada.
Charles Roger was the author of Glimpses of London and Atlantic experiences; or, an account of a voyage to England . . . in the winter of 1872–73 (Ottawa, 1873); Ottawa past and present, or a brief account of the first opening up of the Ottawa country, and incidents in connection with the rise and progress of Ottawa city and parts adjacent thereto . . . (Ottawa, 1871); The rise of Canada, from barbarism to wealth and civilisation (Quebec, 1856); Stadacona depicta: or Quebec and its environs historically, panoramically, and locally exhibited (Quebec, ); and was probably the author of Quebec: as it was, and as it is, or, a brief history of the oldest city in Canada, from its foundation to the present time, with a guide for strangers to the different places of interest within the city and adjacent thereto, prepared for Willis Russell (1st ed., Quebec, 1857; 3rd ed., 1860; 4th ed., 1864; 5th ed., 1867). Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 1849–53. Quebec Gazette, 1853, 1856. No copies of the newspapers Roger edited are known to exist.
PAC, RG 31, A1, 1871, Ottawa city, Wellington ward. PRO, WO 69/107; WO 71/314. Beaulieu et Hamelin, Journaux du Québec, 204. Boase, Modern English biography, III, 254; VI, 493. Canada, an encyclopædia, V, 161. Illustrated historical atlas of the counties of Northumberland and Durham, Ont. (Toronto, 1878), x. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 324. Norah Story, The Oxford companion to Canadian history and literature (Toronto, London, New York, 1967), 723. Wallace, Macmillan dictionary, 642. Lareau, Hist. de la littérature canadienne, 181–83. Lit. hist. of Can. (Klinck), 215–16. Horace Têtu, Historique des journaux de Québec (2e éd., Québec, 1889), 41. Charles Rogers, “Notes on the history of the Scottish branch of the Norman house of Roger,” Historical Society Trans. (London), I (1872), 357–88. F. C. Wurtele, “Our library,” Lit. and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Trans., new ser., XIX (1889), 31–73.