Jonathan Rogers

Jonathan Rogers was born at Plas-Onn, near Llangollen, North Wales, and grew up speaking only Welsh. At the age of 16 he moved to Liverpool where he lived for seven years working at various jobs and perfecting his English. In 1887, at the age of 23, and armed with a legacy left to him by an aunt, Jonathan sailed for Montreal and crossed Canada on the first transcontinental train to Vancouver.

Two weeks after he arrived, Jonathan attended a public auction of parcels of CPR land within the newly-created city. He bought four lots in the middle of the forest, land which is now located in the heart of downtown Vancouver. He managed to hold on to the land through the depression of the 1890s, correctly judging that his investment in the fledgling city would eventually be rewarded.

By 1895 Jonathan had set himself up as a contractor and builder and soon became involved in all kinds of construction work – offices, manufacturing plants, hotels, banks, even an electricity-generating station – in what was Vancouver’s first great building and real-estate boom.

In 1902 Jonathan married Elisabeth, a girl from Oswestry, a town near his ancestral home in Wales. They lived close to Stanley Park in a large, elegant house appropriately named Argoed, which in Welsh means beside the wood. Elisabeth was one of the founders and early benefactors of the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Symphony Society.

By the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 Jonathan Rogers was a very wealthy man and a prominent public figure in Vancouver. He spent the last 30 years of his life repaying the city for the opportunities it had afforded him over the years. He held a number of elected and honorary offices in many fields, most prominently serving for 26 years on the Parks Board, one of his prime interests.

Jonathan Rogers died in 1945 and left what at that time was a very large sum of money, a quarter of a million dollars, to various causes in Vancouver. The largest single bequest of $100,000 was given to the City of Vancouver to create a neighbourhood park in a poorer part of the city. After several delays, the park was finally opened in 1958 and called Jonathan Rogers Park in his memory.

from Watermill: Life Story of a Welsh Cornmill
By David Llewelyn Davies 
Hardcover / Ceiriog Press / September 1997