As Mayor of Buffalo (1868-1869), William F. Rogers was instrumental in establishing Buffalo’s system of public parks, and he helped to create the Buffalo Board of Park Commissioners to oversee the parks and their construction and appointed the first Board members. He did not seek reelection as Mayor after his term. He was himself appointed to the Board of Park Commissioners which he served as Secretary and Treasurer.
He was born in 1820 in Pennsylvania, and his family moved to Philadelphia when he was 4 years old. He attended public schools there until 1832, when, after his father’s death, the family returned to their former home in Easton, Pennsylvania and he began work as a printer for the local newspaper, the Whig. In 1834 he moved back to the Philadelphia, working for the Philadelphia Enquirer. From 1840 to 1846 he operated his own newspaper in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
Rogers moved to Buffalo in 1846. He worked for the Courier and for the Express. During 1848-1849 he operated the Buffalo Republic as an organ for anti-slavery Democrats.
Rogers took an active interest in military affairs. He joined Company D of the Buffalo City Guards in 1846, shortly after his arrival in the city. He was a Captain in the 74th Infantry, NYNG at the outbreak of the Civil War. He volunteered for Federal service in 1861, and was elected Colonel of the 21st New York Volunteer Infantry. His regiment saw duty from 1861 to 1863, including action at Antietam. Rogers received a brevet of Brigadier General of U.S. Volunteers in recognition of his service. In 1865 he was appointed Major General in the New York National Guard and commanded its 8th Division for a number of years.
He was Buffalo City Auditor in 1864-1865, and City Comptroller from 1866 to 1867. As previously noted, he successfully ran for Mayor in 1867, after which he served as a member of the Park Commissioners. He was elected to Congress in 1883 as a Democrat, serving for one term, after which he retired from active politics. While in Congress he successfully advocated for the establishment of a Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home for New York.
In 1887, he was appointed as Superintendent of the new Soldiers’ and Sailors Home at Bath, New York, serving until 1897.
Gen. Rogers died in Buffalo on December 16, 1899. He is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.