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Anthony Rogerson (Rodgerson) Edinburgh fencing master
  • Steve August 2013
    I am currently researching the life of Anthony Rogerson a remarkable African American Virginian who became a prominent teacher of fencing and self defence in Edinburgh, Scotland in the last two decades of the 18th century. Rogerson operating a popular fencing and pugilist academy in the Scottish capital during the late 1780s and 1790s on the city's then major street now known as the Royal Mile. Rogerson moving to London in the early 1800s where he also taught fencing operating an academy in the city into the 1810s.

    Rogerson's Virginian origins were recorded in his registration under Britain's 1793 Aliens Act, which also revealed that he left New York for Britain in 1783. Given the 1783 date it seems likely that he was evacuated by the British along with large numbers of other American loyalists, both black (feee and slave) and white, to the West Indies, Nova Scotia and Britain.I have however, been unable to find any record of him among the various sources available as having left on a British ship or any information of his background or experiences through the war..

    Rogerson's time in Edinburgh and London is reasonably well documented through a variety of sources from newspaper reports to city business directories and court cases. I am interested however, to find out about his background and status in North America , whether he was free or a slave in particular, so as to better understand his decision to settle in Edinburgh (although there were a number of white Virginians studying medicine at Edinburgh University at the time). Given that most black loyalists evacuated to Britain ended up living in established communities, in relative poverty, in the great port cities of England or London. Rogerson however made the decision to settle in a city with no recorded African community and apparently without connection built a successful business and became something of a local celebrity, particularly for his skills as a boxer.

    n particular I would like to find out how Rogerson might have achieved, persumably in North America, sufficiently high levels of fencing skills to be successful with Enlightenment in teaching such skills to Edinburgh's elite. Rogerson acquiring sufficient pupils to prosper over a period of 13 years despite a competitive market with teachers present both from military backgrounds and the acknowledged European centres of fencing, France and Italy offering their services.If anyone can offer me any guidance on tracing Rogerson's life before 1783 I would be immensely grateful.

  • Queenie August 2013
    He's not listed in the Book of Negroes which documents a large number of the blacks evacuated out of NY State as well as their statuses.

    What about his wife? Does anyone know anything of the origins of Cecilia Carolina (Megget)?

  • Steve August 2013
    Cecilia was English from London born in 1780 and the daughter of a starch manufacturer from Borough in south London, named John and her mother Susannah. She had a child, a little boy, in 1800, following the marriage to Anthony in 1798 at Edinburgh's New North Church. The boy, Anthony Charles Dalkeith, died in 1802 aged 1 year and four months and is buried in Edinburgh.

    The Rogersons then disappear from Edinburgh to reappear in London around 1810, but it is unclear however, if they are together. Rogerson described as a fencing master, is indicted for assault in 1810, jailed for six months for attempted rape in 1816 and acquitted of arson in 1828 . A Cecilia Rogerson does enter the work house for a day in 1820 suggesting she had fallen on hard times given only the very poor were place in such places, but also that someone had rescued her . She is recorded as having died in Stepney in east London in 1851.I can't find any record of Rogerson after 1828, but reports suggest he was an increasingly heavy drinker and given that he must have been at least in his mid 50s, he may have died destitute and unrecorded.

    I'm still trying to follow up some further leads, but a contemporary report from Edinburgh in the late 1790s printed in 1820, would suggest that Cecilia may have been a high class prostitute. Rogerson reported to have stated that she was attractive and had received gifts from gentlemen for her company. I still have to make more sense of the statement however and remain confused as to how she was in Edinburgh at all, as I can find no trace of her father's business operating in Edinburgh. It would appear that Anthony was perhaps something of a Jekyll and Hyde character capable of being both charming and very aggressive. Another Edinburgh report in the late 1790s relating that Anthony had threatened to kill Cecilia if anything happened to his son, which of course it did. The child dying of what was described as despair.

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