Black History Month 2020 – Francis Rogan and Slavery

This Black History Month, we are recognising and highlighting some of the experiences of enslaved people. These experiences are a shocking and unavoidable part of the story of emigration from Ulster to North America over the 18th and 19th centuries. They are important stories to be told. As a museum, we acknowledge the exploitative and harmful impacts of life in the New World for enslaved people. We commit to tell more of those stories and do them justice.

Image: The Rogan House at the Ulster American Folk Park
The Rogan House at the Ulster American Folk Park

Francis Rogan was born in Tennessee on 14 September 1798. He was the son of an Ulster emigrant, Hugh Rogan, a weaver from the Parish of Urney, close to Strabane in County Tyrone.

Francis built this house, now at the Folk Park, in the mid-1820s on his family’s farm in Sumner County, Tennessee. Enslaved people, trained in brick-making and bricklaying, very likely assisted in building the house. Francis married Martha Lytle Read on 21 March 1833 in Tennessee and they had at least seven children, four of whom survived to adulthood.  Enslaved people belonging to Francis carried out most of the labour on the Rogan farm. The main crops grown on the farm were wheat, tobacco, sweet potatoes, and corn. Enslaved people also worked as servants for the family. They cooked, carried out household chores and looked after the children.

By 1860 Francis Rogan owned 71 enslaved people. This put him in the highest 5% of slave owners in Tennessee at the time. The value of his real estate was calculated at $46,600. The value of his personal property, including his enslaved people, was valued at a further $46,030.

Slavery in Tennessee officially lasted until 1865. However many black people in need of an income and shelter remained and worked for their former owners. In the 1870 census of Sumner County, Francis Rogan and family had five black people living with them. Their names were Eliza Bill, Richmond, Jason Rogan, Rhodes, and Stokely. They carried out work including cooking and labouring.