On first glimpsing an abandoned stone cottage on an isolated
farm in Sumner County in 1992, my thought was "This is an Irish cottage, but why is it here?"
It was confirmed that indeed this house was built by an Irishman in the late eighteenth century
and from that day began my search for the stories of the pioneer settler Hugh Rogan and his family.
The journey has been fascinating and remains so after nearly twenty years. The first result of
research was an article entitled "Hugh Rogan of Counties Donegal and Sumner: Irish Acculturation
in Frontier Tennessee" which appeared in the Winter 1995 issue of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly.
Versions of this article were published in Tennessee History: The Land, The People, and the Culture,
edited by Carroll Van West (University of Tennessee Press, 1998) and in the
County Donegal Historical Society, Issue #53, 2001.
Based on research known at that time, a first web site was developed about 1997 to tell an
abbreviated story of Hugh Rogan and his house to a wider audience. In these efforts and in
subsequent work on Rogana, the Center for Historic Preservation at Middle Tennessee State
University supported this project that addresses many aspects of Tennessee history and culture
and has evolved into an international partnership. For that continued encouragement,
I am grateful to Dr. Carroll Van West, Center director, who also made that initial field
visit to Rogana in 1992. Likewise, I appreciate the insights of Center colleague and
preservation specialist, Michael T. Gavin.
Many other people have kindly assisted this ongoing project.
Walter T. Durham, Tennessee State Historian, whose knowledge of Sumner County history is without
parallel, never fails to provide answers. Tom Sweeney of Dublin, Ireland, architect and historian,
shared his understanding and sources of information early on in this effort.
I am also indebted to Tracey Parks, who first
introduced us to Rogana, the Alexander family of the Rogana community, Barbara Beasley Smith, whose
family has owned the Rogan farm since the 1920s, John Garrott, Nathan Harsh,
and the members of the Bledsoe's Lick Historical Association, including the
late Tom Mabrey, a descendent of Anthony Bledsoe.
With the subsequent interest and involvement of
Dr. Phil Mowat,
Curator of the Ulster-American Folk Park in County Tyrone, a new chapter in the
Rogan story began to develop.
The decision of the Museums of Northern Ireland to bring the house of
Francis Rogan, American-born son of Hugh and Nancy Duffy Rogan, to the Folk Park adds a
further dimension of cooperation between Tennessee and Northern Ireland
to the story.
This house, now located within a few miles of where the parents of Francis
were born and lived, helps to
tell the story of Ulster American migration and continued relationships. Phil Mowat's scholarship
and vision, as well as his research and analysis of information, most
recently provided in his article for the book entitled Urney-History/People/Place,
has been key to this latest and truly
remarkable continuation of the Rogan story.
Through Dr. Mowat, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. John Rogan of Glentown. His kindness and hospitality,
coupled with his genuine interest and knowledge of family and parish history, is very much appreciated.
Steve Brown, owner of Republic Construction and a
preservationist with strong Irish roots, was responsible for the careful dismantling, recordation,
and packing of the various materials of the Francis Rogan House. He also engaged skilled woodworkers
to reproduce pieces of the fabric of the house that were missing or too damaged to be reused.
With Paul Hoffman, MTSU graduate student, Brown travelled to County Tyrone to assist with the
unpacking and the beginnings of the exacting reconstruction process.
The furnishings plan for the Francis Rogan House was accomplished
by Susan Knowles and Jennifer Butt. Dr. Knowles, of S. W. Knowles and Associates,
is a graduate fellow at the Center for Historic Preservation. Jennifer Butt, also with the Center,
is a Sumner County native whose knowledge of period antiques comes from years of study and experience.
They located appropriate period pieces and worked with artisans who
reproduced some items. A furnishings narrative and
suggested placement within the completed house were provided to assist the staff at the
Ulster-American Folk Park in their interpretation. The furnishings project was administered through
the Tennessee Historical Society and its Executive Director, Ann Toplovich.
The creation of this most recent web site has involved several
students--Hallie Fieser, Brian Manifold, Sara Rieger, and Amy Kostine--all
graduate assistants at the Center for Historic Preservation. Principally,
Ms. Fieser diligently worked on the development of this site for several
months. Revisions and updates in late 2012 and in 2013 are the work of
Cassandra Bennett, also a graduate assistant with the CHP. Their work is
invaluable and very much appreciated.
Essays to further explain some of the people and places mentioned in
connection with the Rogana story are from the
Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture,
a project of the University of Tennessee Press, the Tennessee Historical
Society, and the Center for Historic Preservation. A selected list of consulted works is provided in the "Links" section. Unless otherwise noted,
photographs are from the collection of the Center for Historic Preservation.
Caneta Skelley Hankins, Assistant Director
MTSU Center for Historic Preservation