On Aug. 24, 1935, two lonely people, bereft of their spouses, united in matrimony in Barrie. It was common enough for widowed folks in middle age to find happiness in another, and to walk down the aisle once again with their now grown children in attendance. Christina McKenzie must have felt like a girl again when she married George Rogers that day.
Christina was not a girl, but a widowed woman with $2,000 of her late husband’s insurance money in the bank, and George was not a member of any Rogers family. In fact, his true name was George Roediger and he was a serial bigamist with a very dark past.
Christina had been swept off her feet during a very quick romance with the self-described big business man with many connections. George took his new bride on an extended honeymoon tour of the United States, a place he was well familiar with, and showed his Allandale wife exciting places she had never seen before. After that, they settled into a house on Vaughan Road in Toronto.
Christina’s son, Duncan McKenzie, heard from his mother a handful of times during the first year of her new marriage. The last communication he received was a post card on Christmas Day of 1935, but it was in the handwriting of his stepfather.
As 1937 dawned, Duncan McKenzie was puzzled about his mother’s whereabouts. A visit to the Vaughan Road house yielded nothing. Neighbours only recalled seeing Christina within the first week of her residency there, and had not seen George since the autumn of 1936.
The police soon became involved and learned the true identity of the man that had lured Duncan McKenzie’s widowed mother away from her Allandale home. He was a fake and a con man, a bigamist possibly 10 times over, and a serial killer.
George Roediger was not so much a man of business, but a butcher by trade and a specialist in the making of sausages. He was born in Germany and had immigrated to Canada with his wife, Meta. The couple were married for 22 years and lived in Hanover, Ont.
Their son, Gerhardt Roediger, was born in Hanover in 1912. On the boy’s birth registration, George was listed as being employed as a packer and his name was given rather fantastically as George Gotfried Fritz August Roediger.
The family was living in Niagara Falls when Meta died suddenly in 1926. Her death was listed as poisoning. A hand-written notation on the death registration added the words ‘bichloride of mercury’, an easily obtained topical medication that was lethal if swallowed. A further addition informed that, “From the evidence submitted, we are unable to decide by whom said poison was administered.”
With no charges brought in the death of his wife, George was a free man, emboldened and inspired to make himself scarce in the Niagara area by starting over in New York State.
Each week, the Barrie Historical Archive provides BarrieToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past. This unique column features photos and stories from years gone by and is sure to appeal to the historian in each of us.