Tidbits of Shelby County History
History of John C. Rogers Drug Company

This week’s article will be about the John C. Rogers Drug store on the Center Square. It was taken from a newspaper article from the Shreveport Journal (Shreveport, LA) dated 29 July 1972 written by Mildred Waltkins, staff member.

I would like to remind everyone of the annual membership drive currently going on at the museum. This is our main source of operating funds. The past year of 2020 was a very difficult year for the museum as it limited the number of visitors because of Covid-19 and 2021 isn’t looking any better. The membership renewals are coming in very slowly. Please, please send in your 2021 membership form and be sure to encourage others around you to join the museum. Help keep the museum open!!!

Located on the north side of the square in Center, Texas, John C. Rogers Drug Company has been a familiar place to Shelby County residents since 1889, when its doors were first opened for business, by Dr. James Wooten Rogers, a 54-year old Center physician and a native of Keatchie.

The Rogers family indicated the first building house the Rogers Drug Store was a frame structure, l0cated on the west side of the Center Square. In 1904, J.J.E. Gibson, who was the same builder who constructed the Shelby County Court House in 1885, built the two-story structure on the northside square. It has been housed in the same structure since 1904, with the exception of the stock being moved temporarily to a nearby brick building due to fire damage in both 1911 and 1928. In 1952, the building underwent extensive remodeling.

Dr. Rogers the original owner, died in 1900. Following his death the store was under the ownership of the estate of his five children: J.M. Rogers, E.W. Rogers, L.Y. Rogers, O. C. Rogers and Mrs. Mary Ella Rogers Wheeler. His nephew, John Carlton Rogers, a pharmacist, operated it during the period until 1904 when he purchased it. It was then renamed the John C. Rogers Drug Company.

John Carlton Rogers, for whom it was named, was born in 1889, also in Keatchie, son of Young William Rogers and Mary Rebecca Carlton Rogers. He was married to Susan Belle Wilson of Nacogdoches, Texas. He was an energetic businessman, civic leader and church worker. He owned and operated the John C. Rogers Drug Company for almost fifty years. He served in 1903 and again in 1905 on the Texas District Board of Pharmacy and also served thirteen years in the Texas Legislature from Shelby County. He is said to be the first person to received Insulin in the State of Texas. He traveled to John Sealy Hospital in Galveston in 1921 to receive an injection from Dr. Charles T. Stone. He lived for twenty-one years afterwards.

In 1913, one of his sons, James G. (Jim) Rogers, started working in the store and a few years later another son, Edward Neal Rogers, after receiving his degree as a pharmacist, joined them. In 1930, a son-in-law, Choc Muldrow, who had previously been a bookkeeper for Pickering Lumber Company, when it was one of the largest pine mills in the south, joined the group as the bookkeeper.

In 1943, John Carlton Rogers died and the business passed to his five children: James G. (Jim) Rogers, W.C. Rogers, Edward Neal Rogers, Mrs. Hazel Rogers Muldrow and Young William Rogers. His widow, Mrs. Mary Rebecca Carlton Rogers, retained a life estate. In 1944, she gift deeded her share to the five children equally. In 1961 W.C. Rogers sold his interest to the remaining owners. Young William Rogers died in 1964, and his interest was purchased in 1968 by the remaining stockholders who owned it until 1972, when the current owner, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Giddens purchased it.

In discussing the Rogers Drug Store with other as well as the previous and current owners, they stated that looking back at some of the work and pleasures, the changes and improvements, they recalled the tremendous change in the drug business, especially in the variety of medicine, health and beauty aids offered the public.

They said the styles had also changed. In the early 1900’s John C. Rogers Drug was furnished with elaborate mahogany counters, shelves and a matching soda fountain. Ornate gas lights hung overhead and a large mirror covered the wall behind the chairs and tables where customers sipped Fantaz or ate ice cream made by the Rogers family. They bought their medicines and other supplies from Morris and Dickson Company and from Goode-Cage (now Southwestern Drug Corp.), both in Shreveport, and they went to St. Louis, MO., for their Christmas merchandise. These items were all shipped by freight from Shreveport to Tenaha, Texas, and then to Center until the day “when we got a direct truck line.” They compounded their own medicine. They bottled the liquids and the powders were either put in capsules or made into pills with their own “pill-making machine”. There were no rules and regulations regarding medicines, no prescriptions required. “Folks just came in and asked for the medicine they wanted or the medicine their doctor recommended,” said Jim Rogers. “And there was no income tax and a first-class letter cost three cents,” Muldrow added.

“We carried patent medicines, house paint, school books, garden seed, veterinary products, beauty products – a real wide variety,” Jim Rogers recalled “but we never carried playing cards, dice or contraceptives. We were open back then from 7am to 10pm six days a week and then were no such thing as a vacation.”

The soda fountain was always a popular section of the store and a favorite gathering place for all ages, especially in the afternoon. Drums of carbonated gas were charged by hand and kept under the mahogany fountain for use with the various flavors of syrup. And, way back then, Rogers said, they milked their own cows and made ice cream but later they began buying it, when it was marketed commercially, for the Phil Draiss Co., in Shreveport. The soda fountain was a far cry from the present-day fountain with it stainless steel, push button and instant-serve equipment, but it is still a popular gathering place.

There were few strangers – the Rogers and Muldrow knew everyone. Customers would come in, get an item and walk out saying “charge it” and the item would go on the accounts.

John C. Rogers has been a household name in Shelby County residents for 83 years and even through the Rogers do not own the store any longer, one Rogers remained as a employee. He is John C. Rogers, son of Jim Rogers.

Other than the usual medical role, Rogers Drug has been a “first” in several roles in the community. Its second floor has housed doctors, lawyers, judges, Court reporters, Retail Merchants Assoc., Chamber of Commerce and etc. Rogers Drug operated the first gasoline pump in Center, Texas; also served as the first dealership in Center for Sherwin-Williams Paints.

Rogers Drug has served the community not only through business means, but also through many church and civic areas. The owners have all been very active church and civic workers. John C. Rogers helped organize the standard Sunday school in the First Baptist Church in 1913. He served as Sunday school Superintendent many years. He also served on the School Board, City Council, and several other Civic Organizations.

The store has always sponsored and given help to sponsor Youth groups and Charity organizations and activities as well as the past and present owners serving in active positions in various phases of church work, Little League, Boy Scouts, Heart Association and etc.

When Robert J. (Bob) Giddens a former Louisianan, recently purchased John C. Rogers Drug, he assumed ownership of Center’s older retail establishment. The town of Center in 1972 paid tribute to the drug store for its “83 years of constructive service to the City of Center”, at the original site on the north side of the courthouse square.

Note: I will continue the history of the John C Rogers Drug Store next week. If anyone has a memory about the drug story that they would like to include in the history, please email me (martin.vickie.1@gmail.com). I know there are many who have fond memories of this business.