By CHERIL VERNON
From 1874 to 1888, Marshal Christopher Columbus Rogers was the face of the law in Palestine — patrolling in the downtown and Old Town areas as well as the railroad yards. Controversy and scandal swirled around Rogers until his death in 1888.
Main Street Palestine and the Anderson County Historical Commission officially recognized Rogers with a Texas Historical Marker during a dedication ceremony on March 2 at the Palestine Visitor Information Center grounds.
“When the Historical Commission approached Main Street for assistance in locating the Christopher Rogers marker within the district, we were honored,” Palestine Main Street Manager Laura Westgate said. “Our town history is full of unique and interesting history, and Rogers typified the rough and tumble characteristics of a newly formed railroad town.”
The inscription on the marker contains the following:
“Born in Palestine in June 1850, Christopher Columbus Rogers was a noted and controversial lawman. Although his family moved to a rural area, Rogers returned to Palestine and lived with his sister, Eliza and her husband, James Ewing. Rogers was 13 when he enlisted to serve as a Guard at Camp Ford, a prisoner of war camp in Tyler during the Civil War. While there, Rogers killed his first man, a Union prisoner. After the Civil War, he returned home to work at Ewing’s newspaper, as a clerk and in various town stores.
“Chris Rogers became a Palestine policeman in 1872. He killed the town’s first Marshal, Dan Carey, in a gunfight. The City Aldermen then appointed him as Marshal. His reputation grew when he quickly cracked the case of a July 20, 1872 train robbery. He also solved the infamous murder of Dr. and Mrs. Grayson, who were killed because of Dr. Grayson's service to African Americans. However, Rogers would be suspended from his position several times after shootings — particularly because of his desire to hire an African-American police officer. His relationship with city officials was often tumultuous, but he enjoyed support from the populace, winning every election from 1877, when City Marshal ceased to be an appointed position, until 1888.
“Rogers’ 1887 shooting of an assailant led to his impeachment, resignation and a murder trial, which ended in a hung jury. Rogers also lost the use of his right arm after being shot during the incident. Although he was re-elected the next year, Rogers again left office. He was stabbed to death on July 27, 1888, after an altercation with railroads engineer, W. D. Young in the Robertson Saloon. Although Chris Rogers avoided bloodshed when possible, his life and death was marked by it. Today, he is remembered as a lawman who helped keep order in a town notorious for violence.”
Historical Commission Chairman Jimmy Odom researched Rogers’ background and history for the marker. Some of the research he found included essays written by Palestine High School seniors from 1919 to 1950, when the students were instructed to contact citizens still living in Palestine that could give their recollections of this period of time in Palestine.
“Rogers appeared to have a drive to protect and care for his surroundings. When the railroad came to town, bringing the cowboys and others to town, he worked to stop all their meanness,” Odom said. “Rogers never lost an election as city marshal. That speaks a lot about him as a man and law enforcement professional.”
The historical marker can be viewed at the Palestine Visitor Information Center, located at 825 W. Spring St.