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John William (Willie) "Bud" Rogan, 1868-1905
Sumner County, TN
John William (Willie) "Bud" Rogan, Sumner County, TN 1868-1905
The Tallest African American Man of His Era
8 feet, 9 inches tall

John William (Willie) "Bud" Rogan was born in Sumner County, Tennessee, the fourth of twelve children, fathered by former slave William Rogan. His mother may, or may not, have been William''s wife True Love “Unknown”. Willie's obituary gives his birth year as 1868, but Census records show him as being born 1865/66. Willie was a child of normal size until about the age of 13, and then he began to grow rapidly. His rapid growth was accompied by the disease Ankylosis (fusion of the joints) which affected his knees and hips. Eventually he became so crippled that he could not walk or stand. His exact height was not measured until his death. At that time he measured 8 feet, 9 inches tall but weighed only 175 pounds.

Willie refused all offers to join carnivals and side shows. He remained in Sumner County, TN, living in the county seat Gallatin. After he became too crippled to walk, Willie designed and built himself a cart, which was pulled by two goats, and provided him with transportation. He also became self employed. Every day of his adult life, he would ride in his goat cart to the Louisville and Nashville railroad depot in Gallatin. There he would sell postcards of his image to the railroad passengers. Willie died in 1905 from complications of his disease.


The 1870 and 1880 Census of Sumner County, TN, shows Willie''s paternal grandmother, Mary Rogan, living in the household of her son, Willie’s father. Mary was shown as born about 1805 in TN. Mary's parents were noted as both born in Virginia. Mary Rogan, her son William, and possibly her parents, were mostly likely the slaves of Francis Rogan of Sumner County. Francis Rogan owned 71 slaves when the 1860 Slave Schedule was taken.

Information from the 1870, 1880, and 1900 Census of Sumner County, TN show the following 12 children in the household of William and/or True Love Rogan: Nimrod born abt 1860, Edward born abt 1861, Chaney born abt 1862, John William (WILLIE) born between 1865 to 1868, Anthony born abt 1867, Titus born abt 1868, Mary born abt 1871, Charles born abt 1873, Humphrey B. born June 1876, Johnnie born April 1879, Malissa born March 1883, and Louie born August 1889

Census records put the birth of the father, William, as between 1825 to 1830. He was shown as born in TN, as were his parents. His mother was Mary, born about 1805. William was a farmer and his personal property was valued at $340 in 1870. William was dead before the 1900 Census.

The 1900 Census of Sumner County showed True Love Rogan as a widow. Her household was supported by farming. Living with her were her children Humphrey, John, Malissa and Louie. The 1900 Census gives True Love's birth date as May 1848. Both she and her parents were shown as being born in TN.

On the 1910 Census of Sumner County, TN, True Love was living alone. She was noted as the mother of 8 children with 6 still living. But Census records from 1870 to 1900 show that her husband William's households had a total of 12 children. So True Love may not have been the mother of the 4 oldest children, Nimrod, Edward, Chaney, and the subject of this article, Willie, who were all born before 1870. Nimrod, Edward and Chaney were all born into slavery. Considering the approximately 15 to 20 year age difference between William and True Love, these older sons probably had a different mother. We may never know for sure just who Willie''s mother was since he died in 1905, before death certificates were required.

Sumner County, TN marriage records show the following marriages for Willie''s siblings:
1. Anthony Rogan married Nita PATTERSON June 30, 1888.
2. Charles Rogan married Bettie BELL September 20, 1890. Bettie Bell was born about 1868 in Sumner County, the daughter of Dave and Kitty Bell.
3. Humphrey Rogan married John Anne MARTIN (yes, her 1st name was John) December 24, 1901.

The 1910 Census of Sumner County shows:
1. Sister Malissa Rogan listed as single. She was a Cook in the white household of James and Minnie Jones.
2. Brother Charley and his wife Bettie were shown as married 18 years. Bettie was shown as the mother of 10 children with 9 living. Charley and his 3 oldest sons were working as farm laborers. Nine children are listed in the household but the Census is very damaged and most of the children’s names are not readable. There were 7 sons: Shane (?) 17, Dave 16, R. 14, Ed 11, Lonnie 6, and ????? 4. There were 2 daughters, age 13 (maybe Leila), and age 1 ½, whose names were not readable.

The 1920 Census of Sumner County shows:
1. Charles Rogan listed with a new, younger wife named Sarah, age 32. Charles worked as a janitor for a law office and Sarah was a laundress. Also in the household was a daughter named Lelia, age about 22, who worked as a nurse in a private home.
2. Humphrey Rogan appears on this census with wife John Ann age 33. He was a farmer. They are shown with 3 children: an 18 year old son whose name is unreadable, a daughter Lela age 12, and a son John McKinley age 1 year 9 months.

There is no information to be found, in current published Sumner County, TN resources, about the graves of any of William Rogan’s family. The Rogan graveyard for the white slave owning Rogans had been transcribed. The “Colored” Rogan cemetery has not been transcribed. They also might be buried in one of the African American Church cemeteries.

Bettie Bell, wife of Charles Rogan, was born about 1868 in Sumner County. She was the daughter of David (Dave) Bell and Kitty (Catherine) “Unknown”. The 1870 and 1880 Census of Sumner County show this family as being Black and everyone born in TN. Siblings of Bettie Bell Rogan were: Martha born abt 1861, Peter born abt 1864, David born abt 1865, daughter Elay (?) born abt 1868, Rhody born abt 1870 and Mary born 1880. Rhody Bell married Jess Franklin.

The 1860 Slave Schedule (see below) had shown Francis Rogan as owing 71 slaves. On the 1870 Census of Sumner County, there were only 42 African Americans with the surname Rogan. They were living in 10 households. William Rogan’s household contained nine of these African American Rogans. The other African American Rogan households had eight children born after Emancipation. So there were more than two dozen Rogan ex-slaves not accounted for. Some of those, of course, were women who were listed under their husband’s surnames. One of these was Eliza Rogan who was married to Sam Patterson before 1870. Some may have died, or moved away, and some may have been sold off before Emancipation. Some, or all of the wives shown in the following households, may have been owned by a slave owner other than Francis Rogan.

Other African American Rogan Households on the 1870 Census of Sumner County:
James Rogan, age 18, was living in the household of his former owner Francis Rogan.

Clarissa Rogan, 17, and Jesse Rogan 59, were living in the Black household of Harry GOODALL. Harry was 50, his wife Manda was 45, and their son William was 18.

The household of Benjamin Rogan, 31, consisted of his wife Rose, 20, and sons Benjamin 9 and Clinton 2.

Hiram Rogan was 40, and his household shows his wife Sarah J. 24, daughter Sarah S. 2, son James A. 10 months, and Jennie Rogan 55.
Also in this household were four people with the surname READ.
They were Caroline Read 25, Alter (female) Read 18, Victoria Read 18, and Willis Read 4.
(Note – the wife of Slave owner Francis Rogan was Martha READ.).

George Rogan, 52, a stone mason, is shown with his wife Elvira (McMurrey), 50, and his children Silmira 12, David 4, Caroline 7, and Julia 21.

Wesley Rogan, 46, and his wife Patsy (Harris), 50, are shown with children Mike 16, Emma 15, Henry 10, and Rodney 8.

David Rogan, 44, is shown as head of the household consisting of Richard 20, David 18, Reese/Russ 15, and Rosebell 3, who were probably his children.

Titus Rogan is shown with his wife Tich/Tick (?) 20 and daughter Anna 2.
(the wife of Titus was Corinna Harper)

Robert Rogan, age 10, was living in the white household of James and Eliza Senter.

The 1880 Census of Sumner County shows:
Eliza Rogan Patterson, born abt 1830, was living with her husband Sam Patterson, born abt 1820. Their children were: Matt born abt 1858, Brooks born abt 1860, Laura born abt 1861, Mollie born abt 1863, Aleck born abt 1865 and Sallie born abt 1868.

1. Records of Sumner County Poor House:

By April 1879, George Rogan was living in the Poor House. Twenty dollars was allotted for his annual upkeep.

2. Records of the Alexander Funeral Home in Sumner County show:

David Rogan, born 1861, died May 13, 1942. He was the son of David Rogan and Ann BROWN. He is buried at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, Kansas, Sumner County. Informant was Richard Rogan.

Mrs. Annie Rogan BRYANT, born 1875, died May 1841, was the daughter of George Rogan and Elvira McMURREY. She is buried in Gallatin Cemetery.

Mrs. Emma Rogan McDONNELL, born 1858, died June 1936, was the daughter of Wes Rogan and Patsie HARRIS.

Mrs. Annie Rogan BRANHAM born 1898, died June 1938, was the daughter of Will Rogan (not the “tallest man”) and Margaret McGILL.

The daughter of Eliza Rogan and Sam PATTERSON, Laura Patterson, was born abt 1861 and died December 1941.

3. Record of the Wilkinson and Wiseman Funeral Home in Sumner County show:

James Rogan, born August 1870, died January 1951, was the son of Titus Rogan and Corinna HARPER. He was buried at Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery.

Mrs. Bettie Rogan BROWN WINCHESTER, who was born 1886, and died August 1951, was the daughter of Titus Rogan and Corinne HARPER. Buried Mt. Zion Baptist Church cemetery.

Henry Rogan died April 6, 1925 in Sumner County.

4. Newby Funeral Home in Sumner County records show:

Nancy Rogan FITTS, born 1894, died January 1946. She was the daughter of Will Rogan (not Will the “tallest man”) and Margaret McGILL. Informant was Mary Margaret Fitts. Nancy is buried in the Gallatin Cemetery.

5. TN Death Records for 1923 show:
Annie Rogan MORROW, born September 1869, died June 1923. She was the daughter of Titus Rogan and Corinna HARPER. She is buried in Mt. Zion Baptist Church cemetery.

This African American church was organized shortly after Emancipation. Among the families who were members of this church were Rogans, Fitts, Pattersons, and Bells. Baptisms were performed in nearby Drake’s Creek. A school for African American children was established at this church in 1870. The farmers who lived in the area around Parker Chapel grew tobacco and strawberries.


Hugh Rogan was born in Ireland in 1747 and married Nancy Anne Duffy there. He came to America, alone, in 1775, leaving behind his wife and baby son Bernard. He first settled in North Carolina and fought in the Revolution against England. Hugh Rogan was in Davidson County, TN by 1788, one of the original 77 men who came to the area of Nashville when TN was still part of NC. Some records indicate that he brought one slave with him. He settled in the area of Sumner County, TN, where he acquired 1,000 acres and established the village of Rogana. Hugh Rogan was a relentless and eager Indian fighter and seems to have had quite a reputation for the number of Indians he killed. In 1796, more than 20 years after he left Ireland, Hugh returned and brought his wife Nancy and grown son Bernard back to Sumner County, TN. His second son Francis was born in Sumner County in 1798.

The Rogans were devout Catholics living in a region of the country where almost everyone else practiced Protestant faiths. For 40 years the Rogan home was the meeting place for the few Catholics in the area. The Catholic Church required that all Catholic slave owners convert their slaves to the Catholic faith. So, it is highly likely that all of the Rogan Slaves were also required to practice the Catholic faith. Hugh Rogan died in 1813 and Nancy died in 1839. Son Bernard Rogan, who lived to be 98 years old, never married. Francis Rogan married Martha L. Read March 21, 1831 in Sumner Co. TN. Francis and Martha’s son, John Montgomery Rogan, was a Confederate infantry soldier who died July 1862, fighting in the Civil War. Francis died in 1885.

On the 1820 Census of Sumner County, TN, Hugh’s widow, Nancy Rogan, is shown as owning 11 Slaves. She owned 3 male slaves, 2 were under age 14 and 1 was age 26 to 45. Her 8 females slaves were 3 under age 14, 4 age 14 to 26, and 1 age 26 to 45. Son Francis appears to have inherited these 11 slaves and then purchased more.

The 1850 Slave Schedule shows Francis Rogan as the owner of 57 Black slaves, two-thirds of them under the age of 18. There were 27 males ages: 60, 46, 27, 26, 23, (3) 21, 20, 19, (4) 18, (2) 15, 13, (2) 11, (2) 9, (4) 5, 3, and 1. There were 30 females ages: 55, 54, 43, (2) 33, 32, 29, 27, 17, 13, (2) 11, (3) 9, (2) 7, (2) 5, (3) 3, (2) 2, (3) 1, and 3 under the age of 1 year. He was the only Rogan slave owner in the county.

On the 1860 Slave Schedule of Sumner County, TN, Francis Rogan (incorrectly spelled as Hogan) was again the only Rogan to own slaves in the county. He is shown as owning 71 slaves with two-thirds of them children. There were 11 adult Black females, ages 54, 53, 45, (2) 35, 28, and (5) 25. There were 12 adult Black males, ages 41, (4) 35, (6) 25 and 24. There were 3 Mulatto slaves, a male age 10 and 3 females all age 15. The Black female children were ages (3) 15, (2) 10, (2) 9, (2) 8, (2) 6, (2) 4, 3, 2, and (3) 1. The Black male children were ages (17) 15, 10, 9, 8, 5, 6, 2, and 1. The 1860 Census shows Francis Rogan as owning real estate valued at $46,660 and person property (includes slaves) valued at $46,030.

Go to the following web site to see photos of the Hugh Rogan plantation home which has been preserved as an historical landmark. His home was rather small and plain. It could be assumed that his slave quarters were equally frugal. Hugh’s grandson William was still living in this home in 1900.

For more information about Hugh Rogan, go to the following site.

1. 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedule of Sumner Co. TN
2. 1820, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920 Census of Sumner Co. TN
3. Obituary
4. Marriage Record Index of Sumner County, TN
5. Images of America Series, African American Life in Sumner County, by Velma Howell Brinkley with Mary Huddleston Malone, 1998, Arcadia Publishing, Dover, NH,
ISBN 0-7523-0541-1
6. "A Pictorial History of Sumner County, TN, 1786-1986", by Walter Durham and James Thomas, 1986, Sumner Co. TN Historical Society
7. “Sumner County, TN Cemetery Records”, by Margaret Cummings Snider and Joan Hollis Yorganson, 1981.
8. Online resources at
9. Online resources at

January 2005
Kathleen Hill

This article may be printed and freely shared for nonprofit purposes, as long as this notice and citation appear with the article:

This article was prepared for The USF Africana Heritage Project ( by Kathleen Hill.


Hill, Kathleen
2005 "John William (Willie) 'Bud' Rogan, 1868-1905, Sumner County, TN." The USF Africana Heritage Project,

Copyright 2004 The University of South Florida and The Africana Heritage Project. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. For more information, contact the Africana Heritage Project via e-mail.