Richard Birdsall Rogers - Business Correspondence

Correspondence Index
Go to Personal Correspondence



Business Correspondence

The Geale-Rogers Papers in Trent University Archives contain hundreds of letters written to and from Richard Rogers on a variety of business matters. The letters indicate working conditions and salaries of labourers, the extent of patronage which attended government contracts including repeated complaints that "the employment of men and the purchase of materials has not been done in the interests of the Liberal party." The letters of 1906 to 1908 (82-022 Box 11) are especially significant for they indicate the serious money problems which Rogers was experiencing during this time. His relationships with creditors, banks, business associates like his friend W.T.C. Boyd of Bobcaygeon, and even family members such as his brother Edwin Rogers were complex and must have occupied a good deal of his time and energy. Monies had to be raised for sureties if Rogers was to be able to tender on new projects; workers and creditors associated with the last project had to be paid. At the same time, the Holgate Report charging Rogers with professional negligence had been released in January 1906. He resigned as Superintending Engineer in March of that same year and spent the next 8 years clearing his name and, in the end, even had to pay the bill for the independent investigation conducted by Charles Keefer which vindicated his career. During this period, he worked on a number of contracts in partnership with William Dennon but, from this time forward, he always had trouble finding a stable and reliable source of income. The following are just a few selections of the many letters available.

We will draw the attention of the researcher to another item in the holdings of Trent University Archives: a CD of the correspondence of Walter J. Francis compiled from his original letterbook by Francis' great grandson. An index to the letterbook correspondence is at: 02-1009


July 21, 1893

Trent Valley Canal,

Superintending Engineer’s Office

I agree not to taste liquor of any kind during the season and to behave myself in a becoming manner both on and off the Steamer "Empire" and if it can be proven to the satisfaction of the Superintending Engineer that I have violated either of the above I agree to forfeit all the wages then due to me and to be at once discharged from the employ of the Government.

William White


April 3, 1894


Dear Sir,

Will you kindly wage my case for an increase in salary. I don’t see why I am discriminated against as for instance there is not [a]Superintending Engineer in the employ of the Dept. of R. & C. who does not receive $2000 per year and upwards while I receive only $800 from the Dept. of R. & C. I receive $800 in addition from the Dept. of Public Wks. but that is for additional work in connection with the descent of timber which no other Supt’g Eng. has in connection with his duties – My predecessor received $1100 a year from the Dept. of R. & C. notwithstanding the work of the office has much increased owing to the large increase of traffic and consequent extra work upon opening up new stretches of navigation from Young’s Pt., Burleigh, Lovesick, Buckhorn, Trenton, etc. The ordinary Superintendents (who are not professional men) on the other canals receive salaries of from $1200 to $1800 – I am called upon to design, make specifications for, prepare contracts, etc for the several engineering works in connection with this canal. I am entrusted with the expenditure of thousands of dollars yearly and still I am only paid the salary of a second class clerk. Surely this is not right.

[R.B. Rogers]


February 25, 1901

Hon. A.G. Blair,

Minister of Railways and Canals


Dear Sir,

Mr. R.B. Rogers Chief Engineer of the Trent Canal called on me today and stated that certain parties interested had made statements to you that he was a violent partizan [sic] and had interfered in election matters against the Government [Liberal]. I wish to state that I have known Mr. Rogers and his family all his life and that I am certain that there are no grounds whatever for any such statements.

Yours Truly,

Peter Hamilton,

President Peterboro Reform Association


May 11, 1901

R.B. Rogers,

Superintending Engineer,

Trent Canal,

Peterboro, Ont.

Dear Sir:

When you require the services of a concrete Inspector on section 2 Peterboro; Lakefield division of the Trent Canal, you will be good enough to employ Mr. Edward R. Blackwell, provided of course he [is] a suitable person for that position. He is recommended by Mr. Lang, M.P.

Yours truly,

Collingwood Schreiber,

Deputy Minister & Chief Engineer


November 6, 1901

To the Honourable Sir Richard Cartwright,



With reference to our conversation this morning regarding the distribution of patronage on the Trent Canal, I am pleased to be given the opportunity of stating the facts in connection with this matter, as I fear I have been grossly misrepresented in regard to this matter…I have adopted one principal for the whole district, which has been rigidly carried out, namely that the names of all Foremen and Inspectors shall be given by the Liberal Members or defeated Liberal Candidates, or by order from the Department of Railways and Canals. The labouring men have been appointed by the several Foremen who have been appointed as stated above. Without exception this rule have [sic] been carried out. All materials purchased out side of that let by tender, have been purchased by the Forman from those firms who have been recommended by the Liberal Members or Liberal Association in the locality. I have not made a single appointment nor have I used my influence to have a single man employed on the works since 1896 [when the Conservative government fell], nor was it my rule previously. In the Town of Peterborough, there are three persons who claim to have the distribution of patronage, namely: - J.R. Stratton, Provincial Secretary, Mr. McClennan, the defeated Liberal Candidate in West Peterborough, and Mr. Lang, the member for East Peterborough. Mr. Lang has written to me stating that as he lives so far away from the Town of Peterborough and from the work in progress, that he asks me to accept on his behalf the nominations for office made by Mr. J.B. McWilliams. When the appointment is made of the nominee of either of these parties, the other two are displeased with me and complain about the matter. For the past season at my request all appointments have been made by written instructions from the Department, which I can produce at any time. When I tell you that I have the supervision of eleven contracts, besides the operation and maintenance of the whole Canal, you will readily see that I have enough trouble in keeping matters in connection with the work running smoothly without interfering unnecessarily with the distribution of patronage.

I shall be glad at any time to give you any further facts in regard to the distribution of patronage on the works under my charge.

As you suggested this morning, I should be glad to meet Mr. McClennan before you at any time, in fact I think it only justice to myself that this should be done.

I have to thank you sir for giving me the opportunity of laying these matters before you.

I am, Sir,

Yours Respectfully,

[Richard Rogers]


July 15 1902


Rich’d B. Rogers Esq., C. Inst. C,E.

Supt’g Engineer Trent Canal,

Town –

Dear Sir-

In view of the very important work now on my hands, in connection with Hydraulic Lock No. 1, and that of Hydraulic Lock No. 2 already begun, which do not properly come within my sphere as Division Engineer ... I would most respectfully add that I consider my services worth at least $2500 per year. Should the Department concur in this opinion I shall be pleased to undertake any other work outside of Peterborough, if the Department desire my duties.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your Obedient Servant,

Walter J. Francis, Div. Eng’r.


October 3, 1903

Richard Birdsall Rogers

My Dear Mr. Rogers

You see I like to write your name in full for the reason that it is associated with your grand-father and the memories I happily retain of him. I am largely indebted to you for a trip that I shall remember as long as I remember anything. I call it my [...] trip and it was crowned with every success. It has been such a pleasure to make the acquaintance of Mr. Mossam Boyd and his mother associated as their names are with a period of my life in the first half of the last century.

I wish to express to you my very cordial thanks for contributing so much to my enjoyment during the days I spent in the Trent Navigation.

Believe me,

Very sincerely yours,

Sandford Fleming



April 24, 1905

Hon. H.R. Emmerson,

Minister of Railways & Canals

Ottawa, Ontario

My Dear Mr. Emmerson:

Mr. Rogers of Peterboro, Chief Engineer of the Trent Valley Canal, is an old personal friend of my own and is, I know, a very competent and thoroughly reliable officer. I am afraid from what I hear that the ground is being gradually cut from under his feet, by one appointment after another detracting from his position, and I am quite sure that this is not in the interest of the Government and that if you knew all the circumstances as well as I do you would not allow his position to be interfered with to the extent that is being done. He also has for a long time been kept upon a salary not in keeping with the responsible position he holds, or with the ability and attention that he devotes to it.

Yours very truly,

George A. Cox


April 25, 1905

Hon. George A. Cox.

My Dear Senator,

I have your letter of yesterday’s date, and note what you say in relation to Mr. Rogers. When the canal was opened for traffic over a considerable section it became imperative to have a competent man take charge of some of the features of operation, and Mr. Maclennan was chosen for this purpose. The object was to relieve Mr. Rogers from many details in order that he might be able to devote his time more directly to the important work of construction. I shall be glad to give every possible consideration to your representations, and will also bear in mind your suggestion with respect to the readjustment of Mr. Rogers’ salary.

Yours faithfully,

H.R. Emmerson


April 25, 1905

R.B. Rogers, Esq.

Superintending Engineer Trent Canal,

Peterboro, Ont.


I have to inform you, by direction, that the Minister has been pleased to increase your salary from $3,000. a year to $3,600. a year, such increase to take effect from the 1st of July next.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

L.K. [Jones]


Department of Railways & Canals


February 15, 1906


By direction, I have to inform you that the investigation made under oath by Mr. Henry Holgate, into matters connected the construction works of the Hydraulic Locks, on the Trent Canal, at Kirkfield and Peterborough, respectively, for which purpose he had been appointed Commissioner, under Order-In-Council, has now been completed; and his report dated the 8th of January, ultimo, has been received.

The findings of the Commissioner have been very carefully analyzed by the Department, and the conclusions reached by him as to the measure of responsibility for the condition of these works resting on those controlling them, considered with the utmost impartiality and fairness.

I am directed to furnish you with a copy of the Commissioner’s report, on the perusal of which you may deem it in your interests to place your resignation in the hands of the Department at an early date; such resignation to take effect so soon as your papers can be handed over to your successor.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient servant,

L.K. Jones,


Department of Railways and Canals,



February 19, 1906

L.K. Jones Esq.

Secretary, Department of Railways and Canals,



In compliance with the intimation contained in your letter of the 14th inst I hereby tender my resignation as Superintending Engineer of the Trent Canal.

I am, Sir,

Yours truly,

Rich’d B. Rogers

[copy "written in Montreal"]


March 2, 1906

Dear Rogers,

I have been out of town for 10 days and just got back on 25th Febr’y to see the trend of affairs with you, but little else could be expected from the case as conducted.

It is an infernal shame to be persecuted and I can see how difficult it is for you to decide just what to do.

Did it ever occur to you to submit your case to C.S.C.E. [Canadian Society of Civil Engineers] and ask for a Society enquiry?

Warmest sympathy, and trust you will fight to the last ditch.


C.B. Smith [Cecil B. Smith, Civil Engineer]




May 23, 1906

Bonnington Falls, near Nelson B.C.

My Dear Mr. Rogers,

I was very sorry that I was unable to see you before I pulled out of the old town. After I reached Toronto I again tried to catch you but failed.

I reached here on the 4th and had the honor of being accompanied by Crane and the "Hon." J.R. as far as Medicine Hat. I had some opportunities to say some things to Stratton – and I said them in no uncertain tone. He’s a good man to be clear of. …

The development is 3200 HP under 80 ft. head and we are whacking in about 190 cu. yds. of concrete per 10 hours. Laborers get $3.00 per day, carpenters & machinists $4.00 to $5.00 & some board on top of that! I hope to return to Montreal early in October. So far Ross & Holgate & the West Kootenay Power & Light Co. have treated me royally. Here at the camp we have a house finished in natural wood (BC cedar) bath rooms, closets, electric light, electric heaters, fine rugs on the floors, brass bedsteads, down quilts, Chinese cook, Chinese servant man, reading room and everything complete.

How is the famous "Glaring Defect" etc. coming on? Do they still harp on the same string? Has the new Sup’t Eng’r got to his bearings yet? And I believe I have a successor – what of him? I’m aching for some reliable news of the old spot.

I trust everything is going well with you – it could hardly be more unsatisfactory than the last few years anyway.

Kindly remember me to Mrs. Rogers.

Yours very truly,

Walter J. Francis


December 3, 1907

My dear Dick,

I got home from Windsor last Saturday night. While there I went over to Detroit & spent the most of one day with [Ryerson] Ritchie & also saw Mr. Murphy. I spoke to the former re the proposition you went to Detroit to meet Mr. Shmidt about & he (Ritchie) was of the opinion that that was all off now, since it was found that they had not the control of the Canadian patents fro the reinforced steel concrete & was of opinion that you should not be looking for anything from that quarter. Your name being mentioned in Mr. Murphy’s presence he (Mr. M) expressed surprise that a man of your ability should find it so hard to get a remunerative position in Canada & said that as he was intimate with several big Gov’t contractors there (in Detroit) he was going to see if they could offer you anything. This was not said in any off-hand way & I think he intends to be as good as his word & you will no doubt hear thro’ Ritchie if anything comes of it.


I am glad to note that since your visit to Campbellford you have a more hopeful view of affairs there.

If we do not meet in Toronto, let me know by letter care of Wickam, 688 Spadina Ave. what your plans are for next week.

Yours sincerely,

W.T.C. Boyd

The Trent Valley Navigation Company Limited,

Bobcaygeon, Ont.


March 1, 1908

R.B. Rogers,

Peterboro, Ont.

My Dear R.B.

Yours of the 28th ult. rec’d this a.m. I think your idea of going to Ottawa is the proper thing to do as there you can find out at first hand how things stand. I think Bob is all right and would do anything he could to help us but being on the ground yourself I think is much better. there must be some cause for the delay in awarding Sec. 2 and you should find out what it is, as from your letter the contract for Sec. 1 is up to Larkin & Sangster to sign. I think if Sec. 2 is awarded to us we should meet L. & S. and find out what concession they have been made if any. I think perhaps they would ask to have the wage scale for common labor under present conditions changed to one fifty per day and some other matters. I am feeling much better and will probably be in shape to go to Canada if necessary in a few days or at the furthest in a week.

Yours, etc.

W.M. Dennon


January 28, 1909

R.B. Rogers,

Frankfurt, Ontario.

Dear R.B.

I have been thinking over your financial situation and think the best and only way that I can see for you to do is for you to see your creditors and say to them that the prospects for you to material [sic] reduce your indebtedness the coming season are very good but that in order to do so the process of hounding you must cease and that they must give you an extension of say six months without being continually harassed so that you can put your mind on the work and keep it there.

As matters stand now there is no prospect of our having any surplus money for the next three or four months and when we do have any the firms debts must come before any private debts. I do not feel that the firm should be called upon to become responsible for any debts not directly belonging to the firm and as things stand today we are not able to pay our debts on a/c of advancing to you over eighteen hundred dollars which would pay all our bills on a/c of the work and the men we are holding off today and who should be paid when they were laid off.

It looks to me that if your creditors keep up as they have been doing they will drive you to the wall and it would be much better for them to give you the extension I mention than to do that, or even to advance you enough money to keep you on your feet until things commence to come your way.

I arrived home yesterday afternoon and am feeling well today the weather is quite cold today but has been very warm for Jan’y. Cliff is all right again and feeling and looking first class both the Mrs. Dennons are well.

Hoping that you will get your affairs arranged in a satisfactory condition,

I am yours, etc.,

W.M. Dennon,



October 19, 1911

Dear Rogers,

Please accept my thanks for your kind telegram of congratulation which reached me a few days ago.

Your endorsement and encouragement will be of very material strength to me in endeavouring to perform my duty in the important position to which I have been called. Next to the conviction of my own heart and conscience that my course has been right, I value the approval and suggestions of my honest fellow man, therefore I shall at all times be very glad to receive any suggestions you may see fit to offer.


Sam Hughes

Minister’s Office,

Militia and Defence, Canada.


September 21, 1912

Dear Mr. Rogers,

The day after the investigation by Mr. Holgate in reference to the Lift Locks was closed he told me in my office that your work and everything connected with it were very satisfactory and he distinctly said that there was nothing in it except politics.

This I am prepared to verify at any time if required to do so. This conversation took place between Mr. Holgate and myself.

Yours truly,

Jas. Kendry,

President & Managing Director,

The Auburn Woolen Company,


[Also President of the Peterborough Liberal Association]


February 3, 1915

E. Guss Porter, Esq., MP

The House of Commons,


Dear Mr. Porter,

I find that Rogers has, in some manner unknown to me, secured a copy of Keefer’s report and has published the same to his own vindication although he has not had the decency to pay the bill. All we have in this matter is your word, which is good enough for me, but I think before Rogers rushed into print he should have paid the score. Will you kindly let me hear from you and oblige?

Yours very truly,

F. Cochrane,

Office of the Minister of Railways and Canals


February 22, 1915

R.B. Rogers, Esq.

Dear sir:

I am sure that it is impossible for me to adequately express in words the pleasure you must feel upon hearing that justice has at last been done you and the honour (that endeavours were made to dispose you of) remains yours absolutely and may you and yours, Sir, live long to admire your Masterpiece of Constructional Engineering.

I handed the paper to Mr. Frank Chappell C.E. our Town Engineer he was interested and being a just and good man was extremely pleased that credit has been given where it is due although I am sure that many, very many never hesitated to question your right to the honour. Permit me to quote an extract from a Debate held here last winter. The subject was ""hat reading had greater Educational advantages than Travel." "Most of you have seen, and all of you have heard of that marvelous construction the Peterboro Lift Lock built by Civil Engineer R.B. Rogers. Do you know? that in spite of plans, specifications, designs, etc. Mr. Rogers travelled to Europe to gain the necessary knowledge of Hydraulic Lifts. Would he have gone there could he have gained his information through reading." So you see from the above, sir, that even here the truth was known. I hope that you and all your family are well, I am pleased to say that I am, but I regret to say that my youngest Brother was killed in Action and my other brother severely wounded but he has recovered and been promoted Lieutenant for bravery in the field. I am the only son left so I hesitate to volunteer but I am Serg’t in the 34th and am prepared to go if I feel I am needed. I thank you for sending me that splendid news and I feel that living as you have lived in truth and righteousness there could be no other reward in store for you. I am anticipating the pleasure of hearing Archdeacon Davidson preach here on Wednesday evening our lenten service.

Again congratulating you Sir,

I remain,

Yours very truly,

Fred C. Palmer,

Oshawa, Ontario.


April 3, 1915

Honourable Frank Cochrane,

Minister of Railways and Canals,


Dear Sir:

Enclosed herewith please find my cheque for Eleven Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($1150.00) in payment of the account of Mr. Chas. H. Keefer, M.C.S., CE, for making a Review and Report of the charges made by Hr. H. Holgate, CE against me, on behalf of the Government, in connection with the design and construction of the Hydraulic Lift Locks at Peterborough and Kirkfield.

As this is the first communication I have had with you, I desire to say that when the matter was first brought to your attention by Mr. Porter, MP on March 7th, 1912, you yourself suggested that you would have an expert in your Department make an examination of the papers and if the report of such an expert warranted it that you would select a Commissioner to make an official investigation and report to you.

You will understand that I was exceedingly anxious that the matter should be reviewed by a competent and impartial judge for the obvious reason that my reputation as an Engineer and public servant was at stake. I waited for your expected action for over two years and then in conversation with Mr. Porter I asserted that rather than not have the official investigation I would assume the expense of it personally. In doing so, I felt positive that the result of such investigation would prove the injustice that had been done to me and would remind you of your original promise of March 1912 – when no reference to any private contribution on my part was made.

The rebuttal in toto of the Holgate charges, the excellence of the work done under my supervision and my 23 years’ service to the country as an Engineer in charge of important public works have failed, it seems, to be in any way a Governmental responsibility. The honourable vindication of my record by Commissioner Keefer has been degraded into a personal or professional favour by imposing on me the cost of an official inquiry affecting a government work and a public servant. An official vindication at the private expense of the person vindicated forms a precedent that does little credit to the administration.

Yours truly,

R.B. Rogers


November 28, 1917

Dr. Read,

Minister of Railways & Canals,


My Dear Read,

I understand that Guss Porter has gone into the matter with you of my friend R.B. Rogers of Peterborough, formerly Chief Engineer of the Trent Canal in connection with the charges that the Grits brought against him some years ago in connection with the construction of the Hydraulic Lift Locks on the Trent Canal.

As you know there was nothing in the charges but they employed an Engineer named Holgate to investigate these charges and he brought in a report to satisfy those who employed him. This man Holgate has since acknowledged to Cochrane so Cochrane told Guss Porter, that for party reasons he had made such reports. Rogers was treated very badly and was not even given a chance to reply to this report and was forced to resign and it was not until a couple of years ago that after three years of pestering by Guss Porter that Cochrane consented to appoint a Commissioner to re-investigate these charges and he appointed C.H. Keefer of Ottawa to do so. Keefer after going thoroughly into the whole matter reported that he found no grounds whatever for the finding of the former Commissioner Holgate but, on the contrary, he eulogized the construction of the work in every way and in conclusion stated that "it was a work that any Engineer in the world might well be proud to have been connected with."

Rogers in connection with the construction of these Lift Locks has brought fame and distinction to the whole Engineering Profession of this country and it seems outrageous that after making such a name for himself and the country that he should be treated in such a shabby manner. Engineers from every civilized country in the world have visited and admired these works. Not only did Cochrane keep delaying and delaying Porter’s requests on Rogers behalf for the appointment of a Commissioner to go into the matter but he actually insisted on Rogers paying for the whole expense, (some $1150) in connection with this Commission, even after Keefer had shown the great injustice that had been done to Rogers.

Mr. Rogers asks that he be reimbursed for this expenditure of this Commission. Such a case I will venture to say was never before known where an individual has been called upon to pay the expense of a Commission appointed by a Government of the country, especially so when it has been shown that such an individual has been so grossly wronged by the former Government of the country.

I hope you will agree that this matter should be put right and that Mr. Rogers be refunded the amount that he was compelled to pay for the expenses of this Commission.

Please let me have your decision as soon as possible and you will greatly oblige,

Yours truly,

J. Sexsmith



[April, 1918]

To The Honourable,

The Minister of Railways and Canals:-

Your petitioners set forth the following facts which are well known to them, namely:-

1st. - That after the change of Government in 1896 it was the aim of the Liberal Machine here to get rid of as many Conservative officials on the Canal as possible, and in this, they were successful to a large extent.

2nd - That owing to the high standing and position held by Mr. R.B. Rogers, namely, that of superintending Engineer of the Canal, who had as such, immediate control over all expenditures on the Canal, it was found impossible to so influence him as to carry out their party objects.

3rd - That in the light of recent investigations it can easily be understood why the Liberal Machine was so anxious to have Mr. Rogers removed from his position of responsibility over the public expenditure on the Canal.

4th - That for nearly twenty-five years, Mr. Rogers has held the position of Superintending Engineer: his management of the Canal has been most satisfactory and some of his engineering achievements, notably the Hydraulic Likt Locks at Peterboro and Kirkfield, have made the name of Canada in gneral, and of our city of Peterboro in particular, most favorably known throughout the world.

5th - That it is a matter of common knowledge that the so-called charges brought against Mr. Rogers in 1905 were brought fro party purposes only, and as the only possible was to get him removed.

6th – That the great works referred to have perfectly performed the function for which they were constructed, notwithstanding some slight alterations which are incidental to all great works.

7th – That we are informed that Mr. Rogers was refused an opportunity to reply to the Report of the Commissioner appointed by the Minister of Railways and Canals in the late Liberal Government, and has, up to the present, faileed to induce the present Minister to grant him such an opportunity – a right that any British subject might claim, namely, the right to reply to his detractors.

Your petitioners therefore pray that you will appoint an independent Commissioner with such powers as is necessary to fully consider the reply of Mr. Rogers as to the charges in the report referred to, and which was the cause of his having to resign his position as Superintending Engineer of the Trent Canal.


President Peterborough Conservative Association

First Vice President " "

Secretary Peterborough Conservative Ass’n

[Rogers has written in pencil across this petition that it was sent to the Minister of Railways & Canals by every Conservative Association along the Trent Canal]








Correspondence Index
Back to Top