ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


James and Patrick Rogan

Rogan Home / Boyle Funeral Home


314 W Main



Many abstracts for properties west of the Rock River began with the name of Capt. James Rogan, the 'old salt' as he was called. Rogan captained a Great Lakes vessel, the 'Grampus,' which carried goods from Buffalo to other Great Lakes ports.


On a trip inland he saw the beauties of the Rock River valley and decided to cast his lot here. He was born in Ireland in 1801, his brother Patrick in 1808.  Both came to Watertown after living for a time in New York.

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        James Rogan, for the sum of $1, received the first deed to a land grant given to any individual in the present city limits of Watertown. He claimed it was first given to him in 1833 by a government surveyor, but it is recorded in Milwaukee with the date of 1836. (Watertown's first citizen, Timothy Johnson, made his first land claims at Aztalan, then in Jefferson and subsequently 1,000 acres in Watertown, but apparently this was recorded after Rogan's. Both came here in 1836).


Rogans Set Camp


The Rogans set up camp in a two room shanty which became headquarters for new arrivals in the area. It was referred to as the leading hotel in Johnson's Rapids. Old letters written by James Rogan related that over 400 Winnebagoes were his good neighbors. His family joined him here in 1837, the second family in the area.


Homes on South Washington (such as the Thauer home) were built on property included in the first land grant given to an individual in the present city limits of Watertown.  James Rogan received the early deed for $1. It was recorded at the Milwaukee Register of Deeds office in 1836.  Parcels of Rogan's property passed through many hands.


The original Rogan land grant covered acres of wooded land on the west side of the Rock River and was at that time occupied by the encampments and homes of Winnebago Indians. The camps of the Potawatomis were on the east side of the river.


The brothers are said to have been influential in having the name changed from Johnson's Rapids to Watertown, after their former home town of Watertown, N. Y.  This was before the county government was formed. The brothers farmed and put up a saw mill.


St. Bernard’s Land Donation


Patrick Rogan shared in ownership of some of the land granted to James. Patrick Rogan and his wife presented the land to St. Bernard's where the first frame church was built in 1846. Patrick Rogan was active in community, church and civic affairs.


Patrick Rogan

       Watertown Historical Society Collection


“The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin”, published: Chicago:  Western Historical Company, 1879.


Patrick Rogan, farmer; born in County Down, Ireland, Sept. 26, 1808; came to Montreal, Canada, in 1823; lived two years there, then removed to Jefferson Co., N.Y., where he resided until 1837, when he came to Watertown, arriving here May 15 of that year; made a claim to a fractional quarter-section, Sec. 11; was engaged in farming where the city now stands, on west side of the river; the spring he came here, he planted potatoes where the College of the Sacred Heart is now located; never, since he came here, has he entirely relinquished his farming interests.


Six or seven years after he came here, he erected a saw mill where George B. Lewis’ factory is now located; carried on the mill until 1858, in connection with his other business of contracting, building, farming, etc.; he has invested largely of his means in the building improvements of the west side of this city; he has also invested, to a great extent, in plank roads, railroads and other enterprises likely to benefit Watertown.


Being among the most public-spirited of its citizens; he was a member of the first Wisconsin Constitutional Convention; he has been four times a member of the State Legislature; he organized the school system here in 1855, having secured the passage of the act providing therefore; he was Postmaster of this city of eight years; first appointed by President Tyler, reappointed in 1845, by President Polk.


He was one of the original corporators of the Watertown Gas Co., also a director of plank road and railroad companies; he has held nearly all city and town offices within the gift of the people.


He never attended school but three months; he acquired some book knowledge while he was employed as errand boy in the office of a Notary Public in Montreal; experience has been his teacher, and it would be difficult to find better informed men than Mr. Rogan is at the present time. 


He was married, in Chicago, Jan. 17, 1846, to Rose Crangle; she was born in County of Down, Ireland; they have six children:  Robert Emmett, Charles Eugene, Edwin B., Louis P., Rose and Ellen E.; lost one daughter, who died at the age of 6 years.  Mr. and Mrs. Rogan are members of the Catholic Church.  Mr. R’s father, Peter Rogan, died at Rochester, N.Y., three years after he came to America with his family.   “The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin”, published: Chicago:  Western Historical Company, 1879.



01 22       Territorial road from Fort Winnebago to terminate at or near the dwelling house of James Rogan in the town of Watertown.



05 03       Among the doings of the late storm we are concerned to record that during its highest rage it effected an entrance, forcibly, into the oldest and most venerable house in our village.  The house lately occupied by James Rogan, Esq., was the first human habitation raised by the hand of the white man on the west side of Rock River, and as we are informed, the third erected in this village.  It has withstood the storms of many years, but that storm was too much for it.  It is a home no longer.  Its glory has departed.  In the Shakespearian language, it is “tenantless, and nothing but a wreck.”   Rock River Pilot



05 09        The following resolution was introduced by Alderman Steele:   Resolved, That James Rogan be and hereby is allowed to let his swine run at large on his own land that is open to the commons.  Lost.     Common Council Proceedings    WD




To the Citizens of Watertown, Wis.  Save your doctor bill by getting your beds renovated, whereby they are made more light, buoyant, sweeter and cleaner than new feathers.  Improve this opportunity and have your beds renovated, as the subscriber intends to remain here only a few days with his Steam Renovator . . . Office one door west of Cramer’s Block, west side of the river.  Peter Rogan.


Mr. Peter Rogan has put in working order his celebrated Steam Renovator for cleaning feather beds.  He takes the most filthy and dirty feathers, and after passing them through his Renovator, makes them as good as new.  They come out clean, light and dry, making them far more healthy and pleasant for use.  As he will remain but a few days, those who wish to secure his services must do so without delay. 



It was in the fall of 1871 that the authorities of the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame purchased the 65-acre site from Col. Henry Bertram who had purchased it from Patrick Rogen.  In addition to the land, the property consisted of a large two-story residence of white brick and other smaller buildings. That was the original school, and it later became a guest house.


1872       Adeline (Rogan) Cody Obituary      Daughter of Capt. James Rogan     08 08 WD



01 27       On Thursday, Jan. 20, some maliciously disposed person, instigated, no doubt, from sheer deviltry, plunged a fish-spear into the back of Captain James Rogan's cow.  Sometime during the day, Mr. Rogan unloosed the cow from his stable, so that she could get water at mill-race to drink, and discovered upon her return home, the spear with about five feet of the handle dangling on her side.  To relieve the poor animal from so barbarous an infliction, it became necessary to have the spear cut out, which left, owing to its sharp reverse points, a large wound.  Of all cruelties to animals this seems to be about as inhuman as any and whoever committed the act aught to reflect that it was inflicted upon a dumb and uncomplaining creature, which makes it all the more cruel and cowardly.   WD



Watertown Gazette, 12 25 1885



The Third White Settler of Watertown


Captain James Rogan, a person known to every man, woman and child in this city, died of paralysis at his home in the 2d ward, Friday, Dec. 18, 1885, at 11:30 o’clock A.M., in the 87th year of his age. 


For a man of his age he was possessed of unusual good health up to the Sunday previous to his death, at which time the disease which resulted fatally, laid hold of him.  His death is learned with sincere regret by all old residents here, who bear the fondest friendship for him and our citizens in general all bear a kindly feeling for the old gentleman and learn of his death with sorrow. 


He leaves only one child, Mrs. Sarah Jane Tennien, who has lived with the Captain since the death of his wife about two years ago.  His oldest daughter, who died some 13 years ago [1872], was the first wife of Dr. Cody. 


He was born August 12, 1799, in Down Patrick, County Down, Ireland, and came to this country in 1823. 


In 1836 he came to the present site of Watertown and made a claim and, in the following year, located here with his family. 


Below he gave a history of his life as taken from the history of Jefferson County, issued in 1879.


“James Rogan, farmer; born in County Down, Ireland, Aug. 12, 1799, and came to Wisconsin in the fall of 1835, locating in Green Bay.  Mr. Rogan was engaged in the distillery business in Zanesville, Ohio; he then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and bought a grocery and provision store, which he continued until he was burnt out, when he bought a lake vessel, the Grampus, which he ran from Buffalo to other points on the lakes; on March 2, 1837 he moved, with his family , to Watertown, Wis., and made his claim in sec. 4, Town 9, Range 15 east; in 1848-49, he was appointed lighthouse-keeper at Milwaukee; he was also one of the committee that named the county and town where he lived. 


He married May 16, 1829, Sarah Duffy, of Ireland; he has one child living-Sarah Jane, now Mrs. Tennien.  Mr. and Mrs. Rogan are members of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church.


Capt. James Rogan is one of the few who still live [able] to relate the circumstances of Watertown’s first settlement.  The Captain is now eighty years of age.


He converses upon the subject of pioneer days in Wisconsin in the manner of one in the possession of a good memory, and is gifted with the faculty of depicting the early events with wonderful detail, and coloring them with that happy Munchausen hue so faithfully employed by writers of the modern daily press.  He acquired the title of Captain through being the commander of a schooner which plowed the treacherous waters of Lake Michigan, and belongs to that army of “old salts” whose weather-eye is ever on the alert for Fortune Harbor.  In 1835-36, the Captain made several trips in his vessel from Cleveland to Milwaukee, and in the latter year he abandoned the mission of a mariner when in port at the latter village, establishing himself there in the general merchandise business. 


In the summer of 1836, Charles Seaton, who, as already related, came to the present site of Watertown with Timothy Johnson and Reeve Griswold, and located a claim, returned to Milwaukee, where he met Capt. Rogan.  The beauties of Rock River Valley were narrated by Seaton with such eloquent effect that the Captain concluded to cast his lot in that direction.  Exchanging his schooner, which rode at anchor in the lake, for Seaton’s land claim, he made preparations to remove, with his family, to the spot predestined to be their home for many years. 


In January, 1837, the Captain came to the Rapids made a claim on the west side of the river, built a house thereon, and returned to Milwaukee for his family and friends.  The party consisted of Capt. Rogan, his wife and two daughters (the eldest became the wife of Dr. Cody (died 1872)), Peter Rogan and Ezra Dolliver.  They arrived at Johnson’s Rapids on the 2d of March, 1837, and camped on the west side of the river.  Their first work was the construction of a double log house on the site now occupied by Woodard & Stone’s bakery.  The Captain’s shanty at once became the headquarters of all new arrivals, and was for some time regarded as “the leading hotel at Johnson’s Rapids.”  Gov. Ludington and his uncle, Harvey Burchard, and John Hustis, are among those who have roasted Irish potatoes (the Captain’s native fruit) in the hospitable fire place of the Hotel de Rogan.”


“Potatoes cost me twenty shilling a bushel in Chicago,” says the Captain, “and four shillings a bushel to bring them here from Milwaukee; but I consider them cheap even at this price, when I think of the good, solid comfort we had baking them in the ashes and eating them with the jackets on. 


When I came here,” continued the Captain, after a solemn pause, “there were over four hundred Winnebago Indians camped within half a mile of the place whereon I built my shanty.  But they were the best neighbors I ever had.  I brought with me from Milwaukee a large supply of that indispensible concomitant which figures so largely in the complete concomitant of every frontiersman.  It was of a good quality too, and when I sold or traded it to the Indians I refrained from the reprehensible practice of diluting it with water—a practice which, I am sorry to say, is a prevailing one among dealers of the present day.  The Indians all liked me and my whisky; and even now the remnants of their race still living in this vicinity, when they visit Watertown, come to my house, and they never go away thirsty.


This was the prettiest valley I ever saw—standing boldly out in its native grandeur; grand groves of oaks and elms and maples and basswood; the banks of the river on either side fringed with red cedars; resembling hedge fences.  Within the forest abounded herds of deer.  I have seen at one time over one hundred of these animals gamboling over the very spot where St. Bernard’s Church now stands.


The Captain also relates the following “fish story:”  “The waters of Rock River were alive with fish.  When the first dam was built the stream below it was very shallow, and it was a favorite place for teamsters to cross from one side of the river to the other.  If you’ll believe me, the fish were so thick that hundreds of them were killed by the feet of the teams, while others would be thrown into the air by the spokes of the revolving wheels.”


His funeral was held Monday morning from St. Bernard’s Church, and his remains were laid in their final resting place in St. Bernard’s cemetery, followed thither by a large number of sorrowing friends.


Patrick Rogan Obituary

 02 25 1898


Shortly before 10 o'clock last Wednesday evening all that was mortal of the Hon. Patrick Rogan passed to the other world. The cause of death was paralysis, with which the deceased was stricken about two weeks previously. Up to that time Mr. Rogan had enjoyed excellent health and was remarkably well preserved for a person of his age, having attained nearly four score years and ten. The end came peacefully at Mr. Rogan's home on West Main Street, surrounded by the remaining members of his household - his daughters, the Misses Rose and Ella, and his sons, Eugene, Edward and Louis. The death of Mr. Rogan removes from our midst the last remaining representative of those hearty pioneers who settled on the banks of the Rock in the latter '30s and founded the city of Watertown, then known as Johnson's Rapids.



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      Viewed from Church and Main



Thomas Brooks, Brooks & Boyle


Patrick Rogan Home

   Boyle Funeral Home, 1941-1978 (1941 or 1939 ? / see 1937 article that follows)


Patrick built a beautiful large brick home in the 1860's at what is now 314 West Main Street.  It became the Boyle Funeral Home which was later owned and also operated as a funeral home by Bernard Helser.


The Rogan House, a Federal style square house, with Italianate influence, was built in the 1860s and began as a square house with central hall and main rooms on both sides.  Arched front windows and a cupula were on the original house, but the porch, two story pillars and the addition of the east side of the building were completed in 1941 when the home was converted into a funeral home.


Pleasingly designed in the hospitable manner of a Southern colonial home.  New and modern equipment including chapel, pipe organ, show room, recreation room and family room (text from early postcard)


Although there have been many additions, the cupola was part of the original home, as were the unusual palladium windows. Under the ownership of Boyle who bought the home in 1941, additions were made. These included the porch and two story pillars, a garage, added rooms at the side and the archway over the drive. The home has beautiful oak woodwork throughout.  Helser was owner and operator of the funeral home from 1959 to 1978 when the building was purchased by T. W. Weber, president of Weber Realty.



Marriage of Miss Mary Ann Boyle and Clarence J. Corcoran


    Watertown Gazette, 09 10 1936


At St. Jerome’s Catholic Church in Oconomowoc on Tuesday, September 8, 1936, Rev. Father Haggerty, pastor of St. Bernard’s Church, Watertown, united in marriage Miss Mary Ann Boyle, daughter of Mrs. James W. Boyle and the late James W. Boyle, 220 West Main Street, and Clarence J. Corcoran, son of Mr. and Mrs. L. J. Corcoran of Madison.


The bride’s sister, Mrs. F. H. Carlson of this city, was her bridesmaid, and Dr. P. C. Dier of Milwaukee was the best man.


Mr. Corcoran, who is a graduate of River Falls State Teachers’ college and the University of Minnesota School of Embalming, is the mortician and funeral director at Boyle Funeral Home.  His bride attended Edgewood academy at Madison and is a graduate of Mercy High School in Milwaukee. 


They will make their home at 220 West Main Street.


Both are well known in Watertown and very highly esteemed, and enter married life with the good wishes of hosts of friends, including The Gazette editor.



    Watertown Gazette, 01 07 1937

Mrs.  Rose Boyle, son -in-law and daughter, M/M Corcoran


Mrs. Rose Boyle, son -in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Corcoran, have moved in to their new apartment above the new Boyle Funeral Home at 314 W. Main Street.  The new home will be opened for public inspection at a later date.



    Watertown Daily Times, 01 14 1937


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The new Boyle Funeral Home, shown in this artist’s sketch, has now been completed and is now ready for business.  This was announced by Mrs. James W. Boyle, who is operating the place with her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence J. Corcoran.


The new home, located in W Main Street, one block west of the old funeral home, represents the newest and most modern place of its kind.  It is beautifully designed and has been furnished with great care and taste, providing at atmosphere of comfort throughout.


The funeral establishment is confined to the main floor, while the private apartments of Mrs. Boyle and Mr. and Mrs. Corcoran are located on the second floor.


The main floor contains, in addition to the large and beautiful chapel and sanctuary, an office, several private and semi-private rooms for mourners and a large casket display section, besides the modern and complete preparation room.  There is also a music room with piano and organ.  There are several lavatories on the main floor and there is also a smoking room.


Beautifully selected furniture is scattered throughout the main floor, giving at once a home-like and inviting appearance.  The front entrance brings the visitors to a reception hall from which the office quarters and the chapel lead off on each side.  The stairway to the second floor gives an additional atmosphere of beauty.


In converting the old Rogan home into a modern funeral home, the architect, Frank S. Moulton, of Madison, has achieved everything Mrs. Boyle planned.  The general contract for the work was carried out by George Schleicher, local contractor.


Most of the old beauty of the original house has been retained.  This is especially true of the main staircase and the woodwork throughout.  Another feature that was retained from the old place is an antique fireplace which has been moved into and become part of the chapel room.


In announcing the completion of the new home Mrs. Boyle said that she carried out the dreams of her husband, the late James W. Boyle, who long before his death had begun plans for a modern funeral home.  He did not live to see the work begun, but his widow brought them to completion.  She said she feels she has built a place much as her husband would have liked to have and which, had he lived, would have met with his fullest approval.


Mr. Boyle was a resident of Watertown from the time of his boyhood, served this community as a funeral director most of his life, being active in the profession until the last.  He was in business for himself, after serving partnerships for some years earlier in his career.  He built up a large practice in this section and since his death, his wife and daughter, and later the son-in-law, have carried on the business. 



Ad, 1957 City Dir




One of Watertown's older and well known business establishments has changed hands.  Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Corcoran, owners of the Boyle Funeral Home, 314 West Main Street, today announced the sale of the property and the business to Mr. and Mrs. Bernard G. Helser, East Troy.  Mr. and Mrs. Helser have operated a funeral home at East Troy for the last 11 years.  Mr. Helser is a graduate of the Wisconsin College of Mortuary Science, Milwaukee.  Before establishing himself at East Troy, he worked as a mortician at Rochester, Minn., Ashland, Wis., and at Milwaukee for two years.  He spent three years in the Air Force.   WDT



10 05       HOME IS FOR SALE

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No 1:     Main, W, 220      1909, Brooks & Boyle, general mdse, undertakers

1930, First funeral home: Nowack’s

Main, W, 220      1935, Jas. W Boyle, undertaker

Main, W, 314      1937, Boyle Funeral Home

1909   Louis Rogan has accepted a position as clerk at the New Belvidere Hotel in West Main Street.  Louis is one of Watertown’s best known and reliable citizens and all his many friends predict that he will make a success of his new position.   WG  09 17 1909




It was a grand home.  As a kid living nearby, used to play with the Helsers as they lived up above.  It was a really neat home.



Spent many days with all of the Helser family there.  Helped with moving dead bodies, played in the casket room and general mischief.  Bernie was quite a character. He had a stroke which made one side of his body useless.  He had a bellowing voice.


The penthouse was treasure for kids.  Spent some time up there.





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History of Watertown, Wisconsin