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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Whatever Happened to John Lewis Grogan 1870- 1909?

December 11, 2015
Update to the following post below about my Great-grandfather John Lewis Grogan. I found an old historical photo of "Grogan Hotel" in Sweetwater, Texas. After a little research on the web, I'm convinced my Great-grandfather was the 2nd owner of this hotel. My thoughts are my great-grandfather and his father; Richard Wilbourn Grogan purchased the hotel and mineral rights when they located into the Abeline, Texas area. The dates match.. He purchased the hotel in 1905 and it was sold in 1909 the year of his unpredicted death... What are the chances there would be two John L. Grogan's in the Sweetwater, Texas area during this time and be a very successful business man? If you want to know more about John L. Grogan and an amazing story of a man that history forgot until I started researching in honor of my grandfather Dexter L. Grogan. 
                           GROGAN HOTEL 1905.. Sweetwater, Texas
                The History of Grogan Hotel, Sweetwater, TEXAS

This is a first time to post family genealogy on my blog, but it is an important topic of mine. I know history has been lost by other family members, that I have never met. Due to the death of my great-grandfather John Lewis Grogan, January 10, 1909 in Abilene, Texas, my grandfather Dexter Lewis Grogan, only being 2 months old at the time, never got to share in the Grogan Texas Timber legacy, which his father was apart of in it's humble beginnings. You will find much information in cyberspace about the Grogan family who traveled from Georgia to Texas around 1897 to start a mill and were very successful in their endeavors. You will also find that my great-grandfather is listed in the Grogan genealogy tree as one of several sons of; Richard Wilbourn and Nancy Lewis Grogan. This is all you could find on Ancestry.com,  until I added pictures and facts related to my great grandfather, which I gathered from our family history and new facts I have discovered. 

Searching on Ancestry.com, I felt like a detective and many times started questioning the direction I was going, but in the end I know I am right and sad to say, John Lewis Grogan was a forgotten soul.

About a year ago, I was disturbed by the "NO" history and "NO" facts that were "not" floating out in cyberspace, about my father's grandfather, my great-grandfather; John Lewis Grogan. I guess it would have not mattered, had he not been apart of the "humble beginnings" of a "lumber and mill legacy" in Texas. Sad to say, he was all by "himself" on Ancestry.com with no wife or children to claim and history could have thought he was a single man that died a young death. The only history and documents found about him, was the fact in which he was the son of Richard Wilbourn Grogan and Thersia Nancy Emaline Lewis; parents who traveled from the state of Georgia with a flock of kids, some grown and married, and started a mill in Cass County, Texas in 1890. The legacy of this family continued to grow through out the history of Texas and today the company is still a working and profitable business.

My grandfather, Dexter Lewis Grogan went to his grave, feeling left out and disconnected from his father's family and never getting the opportunity to share in this legacy. You will never find any write up about him, being the grandson of Richard Wilbourn Grogan and Thersia Nancy Emaline Lewis or the son of John Lewis Grogan, the Grogan family who came from Georgia that started the "Grogan legacy" of Texas Mills and Lumber.
It was also very difficult to find information about John Lewis Grogan's first wife who died in 1906 leaving him to raise three children. I found their marriage certificate, and they married in 1893 in Cass County, Texas and I found her grave marker, with this information; 
 "Birth: Oct. 26, 1873
, Death: Feb. 14, 1906
, Inscription:
Wife of John L. Grogan, Burial:
Sweetwater Cemetery 
Nolan County
, Texas, USA
 Plot: 28."

John Lewis Grogan and Mollie Jenkins had three children; Clarence Grogan, Mildred Grogan Van Braden and Denson Shumpart (Jack) Grogan. I could not find any records about what happened to Mollie, or how she died (death certificate). I could not find any records about where she was born or where she came from. Strangely, I could not find any information about the birth of her children with John Lewis Grogan, only dates on which they were born, in census records taken through the years, as they lived with their grandparents, grandmother and aunts and uncles. One census even recorded they were the children of Henry N. and Ida May Grogan in 1910. This 1910 census also listed their grandparents Richard Wilbourn Grogan and Thersia Nancy Emaline Lewis and Richard was listed as "head" of the household. This census was taken in Abilene, Texas 1910, the same year Richard Wilbourn Grogan died and also one year before, "1910" Richard Wilbourn Grogan and Thersia Nancy Emaline Lewis son John Lewis died in Abilene, Texas in 1909. Searching the census records through the years before the children of John and Molly were adults. I found; Jack, Mildred and Clarence listed living mainly with their grandmother Nancy Lewis Grogan. Funny thing, the information about the children did not add up with the previous census records. Sometimes they were listed as being born in Texas and sometimes Louisiana. Their dates of birth varied on the records and the place where their mother Molly was born changed with the years. She was listed as being born in Tennessee,  Georgia and Mississippi.   

From stories told by my grandfather Dexter Lewis Grogan, his father and grandfather, relocated to Abilene, Texas to start up a mill. But, in my research, and I am speculating with facts, John Lewis Grogan could have relocated before the marriage took place with my great-grandfather (John Lewis Grogan) and great-grandmother (Kate Rives). Why? Because John Lewis Grogan's 1st wife Molly Jenkins is buried west of Abilene in Sweetwater, Texas. 

Texas was growing and folks needed lumber. The Grogan's were working hard and they were ambitious in their endeavors to supply lumber to as many parts of Texas as they could, some traveling to Magnolia, Texas. My guess is the start-up of the mill in Cass County had been profitable and they set their sights and dreams to other regions of this; vast, young state, called; "Texas." Sad to say, after the death of John Lewis Grogan and his father Richard Wilbourn, all company operations, from what I can tell, ended in Abilene, Texas.

My great-grandma Kate Rives Grogan left Abilene, Texas after the death of her husband John Lewis Grogan and moved back to Vivian, LA with her parents; Edward V. Rives and M. Ellen Rives.

John L. Grogan and Kate Rives were married in October 29, 1907 in Cass County, Texas, 1 year and 9 months after Molly Jenkin's death (Feb.14, 1906.) Dexter Lewis Grogan was born in November 13, 1908 and his father died January 10, 1909. Dexter was shy of being 2 months old when his father died. Boy, this must of been some hard years for the Grogan family. Business was going well, but personal family life was having it ups and downs. 

Dexter shared many stories with family concerning the facts; his half-siblings Clarence, Mildred, and Jack would come and stay with him and his mother, during the summer in Vivian, LA and they would connect many times through-out their lives. My Aunt Kate Grogan Kennedy who lived in Pinehurst,Texas for many years, has shared many stories through the years about; Jack and Clarence picking her father Dexter up in a limousine. This was during the late 60's and early 70's, and they would pick Dexter up at her house and they would go out on the town for the evening into Houston.

According to my grandfather Dexter Lewis Grogan, John Lewis Grogan's brothers went to his mother Kate Rives Grogan and bought her out of the family business after his fathers death. What amount? We will never know, it's lost family history. But, this is not about the wealth and the riches in which he never got to be a part of, this story is about a family who never recognized a son born to John Lewis Grogan. It's about history that never got told about Mollie Jenkins and John Lewis Grogan and their children and their marriage, and John Lewis Grogan being apart of a Texas legacy and start-up of a mill in Cass County, Texas.

The following family keepsakes found among Dexter's belongings after his death are pictures with his half siblings and their visits. We also found a letter his father John Lewis Grogan had written to his mother, Kate Rives dated; August 28, 1907. Now remember Molly Jenkins died Feb. 14, 1906, which tells us a year and 6 mos. had passed, since John Lewis Grogan was widowed. Kate Rives married John Lewis Grogan, October 29, 1907, just 2 months after he wrote her this love letter. Their son Dexter Lewis Grogan, my grandfather was born November 13, 1908. John Lewis Grogan and Kate Rives had been married a little over a year when Dexter was born. Sad to say, Kate Rives Grogan, was married, had a baby and lost her husband and was widowed within 15 months.

Notice in the upper left corner of the stationary it lists John L. Grogan as the President of Grogan Manufacturing Company.

This letter is on a business stationary of the “Grogan Manufacturing Company.” It claims the company was incorporated in 1902, and the two addresses on the stationary are; Bivins, Texas and Atlanta, Texas. Phone No. 43-3 RINGS, Manufacturers of Yellow Pine Lumber, We Make a specialty of pine grades.

J.L. Grogan, President
T.M. Cochran, Vice President
W.R. Grogan, Treasurer
Geo L. Grogan, Secretary
R. W. Grogan, Manager

It reads as followed;

Bivin, Texas 08/28/07
Miss Kate,
My Dearest--- I have been thinking of you so often and wanting to see you so bad, thought would write you a few lines this morning, but I had so much rather see you and hear your kind voice but guess I cant to day.  (His punctuation and knowing how to end a sentence is interesting).
The letter continues and is very hard to decipher. It is a love letter in which John is expressing missing Miss Kate very much and cannot wait until they meet again. They also had a phone conversation the day before and Miss Kate told John; “she was very lonely without him.”

This letter is proof that the history of “Grogan Manufacturing Company” has ignored or maybe innocently lost information about its "humble beginnings" and how it was originally formed, concerning its officers in charge of the company.

 Picture of John Lewis Grogan and Kate Rives, Texas City, Texas before they married

    John Lewis and Kate Rives Grogan home in Abilene, Texas

     John Lewis and Kate Rives Grogan home in Abilene, Texas

      John Lewis and Kate Rives Grogan home in Abilene, Texas
                                                              Dexter Lewis Grogan 
                               Dexter Lewis Grogan at home in Vivian, LA.
                     Dexter Lewis Grogan at home in Vivian, LA.

 Dexter Lewis Grogan
                                Dexter Lewis Grogan

                 Dexter Lewis Grogan and Jack Grogan 1917
 Dexter and Mildred Grogan, Aug 14, 1923, taken in Vivian, LA after they all returned from Clarence Grogan's wedding
  Mildred Grogan, and Clarence and Jack's wives; Aug 14, 1923, taken in Vivian, LA after they all returned from Clarence Grogan's wedding.

   Dexter Grogan, Mildred Grogan and Jack Grogan; Aug 14, 1923, taken in Vivian, LA after they all returned from Clarence Grogan's wedding.

  Jack Grogan, Dexter Grogan and Clarence Grogan Aug 14, 1923, taken in Vivian, LA after they all returned from Clarence Grogan's wedding.

Dexter Grogan, Jack's wife and Jack Grogan, Aug. 14, 1923, taken in Vivian, LA after they all returned from Clarence Grogan's wedding.

Two other items I found to validate this story on Ancestory.com was the the census of 1910 in Abilene, Texas.
Richard Wilbourn Grogan: head
Thersia Nancy Emaline Lewis: wife
Henry N. Grogan: son
May I. Grogan: daughter-inlaw
Clarence Grogan: grandson
Mildred Grogan: granddaughter
Denrow Grogan: grandson, my question..who is Denrow? Born in 1903.. Now remember these documents are all hand written and the writing hard to decipher.

Then I found the death certificate of Denson Shumpart Grogan
Born 1903, died 1982, parents: John L. Grogan and Molly Jenkins. From what I understand, this birth date matches Jack Grogan's birth date found on several census records. I also found a census record with the name "Denrow Grogan" once, and that was the 1910; Abilene, Texas census. This was the census I discussed earlier. This must have been Jack's given name, and he went by Jack. I might be wrong, but the name Denrow dropped out of site and the children were always listed as Jack, Clarence and Mildred on all other census records. 

John Lewis Grogan is no longer a bachelor in cyberspace and hope my grandfather Dexter, would be proud I connected him to the Texas Grogan Lumber Empire.

Interesting reads I found concerning the Grogan family:

JOHN KENNETH GROGAN, "KEN" 85, passed away peacefully May 31, 2010 in Orlando, Florida. He was born September 6, 1924 in Conroe, Texas. He was predeceased
by his mother, Eunice Arthur Grogan, father, Clarence E. Grogan, and sister Jeanette Grogan Bowden. Past generations of the Grogan family were Texas pioneers in the timber industry; and history dates back to the America Revolution. Ken grew up in Houston, graduated from Lamar High School in 1942, and attended Univ. of Texas. He was in the lumber and steel business until he moved to Florida in 1981 where he owned Cable Construction.He is survived by his loving wife, Bette Grogan, of 43 years. He is survived by his brother Gene Grogan and wife Jane Grogan of Boerne, Texas. Also, survived by twin daughters, Melissa Grogan McCaffrey, and Melinda Grogan Grant, step-children Kathy Burnett and Ron Rowell, cousins Jacqueline Grogan and David Grogan of Houston.Memorial services held June 4, 2010 at St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Orlando, Florida. Any contributions to VITAS Charity Fund Hospice Care.org.Ken lived life to the fullest-Rest in peace-God Bless. This was my grandfather's half-brothers son and his nephew.

 Cass County records reveal that R. W. Grogan, W. R. Grogan, and T. M. Cochran had a sawmill just across the state line in Miller County, Arkansas, in 1897. The company lumber yard was one mile into Texas on the tracks of the Kansas City Pittsburg & Co Railway Company. A company tram connected the sawmill to the lumber yard. The obituary for George L. Grogan, in The Gulf Coast Lumberman, noted that his father, R. W. Grogan established the Grogan Lumber County in Cass County in 1890 and the Grogan Manufacturing Company in 1902. The first mill was in Arkansas. A timber deed note of 1902 stated that the Grogan mill in Cass County would be erected and running that year. The Cass County operation was known by the two above names as well as “the Grogan's Sawmill” on the March 1910 edition of the United States Geological Survey map. A company tramway connected the mill with the Texas & Pacific tracks at Bivins. The sawmill was then situated about mile and a half northwest of Bivins. Grogan Manufacturing appeared in the January 1905 and 1907 editions of the Reference Book of the Lumbermen's Credit Association as a manufacturer of lumber. An article of The Gulf Coast Lumberman, in 1954, reported that the timber supporting the Grogan Manufacturing Company sawmill at Bivins had been cut out by 1908. In June 1908, the Grogans leased the old Bivins Lumber Company place on Mornen survey for loading and tramming and leased (later bought) J. W. Liles property, near Bivins, to build another sawmill. The same article notes that Grogan Manufacturing Company built a larger plant near Linden, in Cass County, in 1908. The Linden plant would continue for many years.

My dad, John Herman Grogan, father was Dexter Lewis Grogan. Dexter Lewis Grogan was born in 1908 in Abilene, Texas. His parents were John Lewis Grogan and Kate Rives, married October 29, 1907. John Lewis Grogan died Jan. 10, 1909 in Abilene, Texas.

John Lewis Grogan parents were Richard William Grogan and Nancy E. Lewis Grogan. They married August 3, 1866 in Milton, GA.

According to stories concerning,
“THE GROGAN-COCHRAN MILLS" told to Ann Meadows Menefee by Lois Cochran Meadows & Bill Cochran, Sr."In 1886, Richard W. Grogan, his wife Nancy, their family & son-in-law Terrell McKinney Cochran, came to Queen City, Texas from Alpharetta, Georgia. Laura, the oldest child, had married Terrell McKinney ("Mack") Cochran. Richard & Nancy's sons were John Lewis Grogan, W.R. Grogan, J.G. Grogan. The daughters were Laura, the oldest, Mary Grogan, and Fannie Grogan.In 1902, Richard Grogan, his sons & son-in-law Terrell organized the Grogan Manufacturing Company in Bivins, Texas. In 1910 Richard W. Grogan died. The Grogan-Cochran family wanted to expand the operations & secure additional "natural resourses". Terrell McKinney Cochran & his two sons, Virgil & Alfred Cochran came south & reported back to the other family members that Liberty & Montg. Co., Texas "were rich in natural resources".The Grogan Manufacturing Company then built a new sawmill in Gladstill, 3 miles south of Cleveland, Texas. This sawmill operated for several years! Along with the original name, a new company, the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company, based in Tamina, Texas, was formed in 1917. With this new company, a large amount of fine timber land was purchased. A new mill was built on the site which is now known as "The Woodlands". This mill cut out it's last timber in 1927 and was located adjacent to the now-existing "Lamar Elementary School". Over the years, these mills were established & operated by the "Grogan-Cochran" families in Bivins,Texas, Gladstell Texas, Grand Lake Texas, Magnolia Texas, & Tamina, Texas. The area around Tamina, Texas was sold by the Grogan & Cochran families to George Mitchell, in 1964. This area became popularly known as "The Woodlands". Nearly 50,000 acres were sold! This area of sell included land in nearby Waller, Montg, Grimes, & Liberty Counties.The original officers of the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company were as follows:George Grogan: President, J. G. Grogan, Sr.: Vice President Henry Grogan: SecretaryTerrell McKinney Cochran: Alternate Officer Alfred Cochran, D.D.S.: Alternate Officer Virgil C. Cochran, Sr.: Alternate Officer John Cochran Alternate Officer During the 1920's, Terrell McKinney (Mack) Cochran, with his sons, owned & operated their own sawmill at Grand Lake Switch, Texas, just 3 miles south of Conroe.When George Mitchell purchased the above-mentioned land in the 1960's the principal stockholders of the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company, located in Conroe, Texas, were as follows:Mrs. Evelyn G. AndersonMrs. Bebe C. BengeMrs. Lucille CochranG. R. Grisham, Jr. J. G. Paul Grogan William David Grogan Hattie Bell C. Hooper Juanita G. La Four Fannie Pearl C. Surratt.”

Update: December 2014, I traveled to Atlanta, TX to find my great-grandfather’s grave, John Lewis Grogan. I had found a picture of his headstone and the name, location of the cemetery he was buried in, on the website….. www.findagrave.com

Traveling with my brother James Gordon Grogan (Jamey) to Atlanta brought back many childhood memories. My parents were antique collectors and Atlanta was one of their favorite places to find antique treasures. We also visited a great aunt there many, many times. She was my great-grandmother Kate Rives Grogan Murray Spell’s sister. Her name was Aunt Vassar Rives Teat and she lived in a big Victorian home on the old main street.  I always thought she was an old maid with no children, but learned in doing my research she was widowed at a young age and never remarried or had children. One time when visiting her with my parents, I was rocking in a small little rocking chair that I’ve learned later in life is called a “Nursing Rocker” and I was having such a good time rocking. Aunt Vassar asked me if I wanted it…. Ummm, being maybe 11 or 12 did not really know what to say to that offer. But, before we left I was the owner of a family heirloom. To this day I still have the “little rocker” and nursed both my babies in it.

Arriving in Atlanta, TX with my brother did bring back many memories. It was the first time since I was a child that I had returned. The old section of the town had not changed much from what I could remember. And there it was, Aunt Vassar’s home was still there. The GPS had taken us right in front of her old Victorian home and the cemetery was a few blocks behind where she had lived. Wow!

We had been so close to my great-grandfathers grave many times. Guess my dad was never told his grandfather was buried in the old cemetery of Atlanta.
As we arrived in the cemetery my brother spotted John Lewis Grogan’s grave right away. It was a large stone and from the picture we found of it, it was not hard to spot. Other large Grogan headstones also surrounded it. Many of John Grogan’s siblings were laid to rest in the same area. His parents are buried almost next to him.

But, the highlight of the trip was seeing a grave next to my great-grandfather’s grave. It was a little girls grave and he was her daddy and Molly Jenkins was her mamma.. John Lewis Grogan and his first wife Molly had lost a little girl.
Her tombstone read:
Ruby Lee
Dau. Of
John & Molly Grogan
Oct. 11, 1904
Oct. 17, 1907

Ruby Lee was only three years old.

Standing there and adding up the facts..
John Lewis Grogan lost his first wife “Molly” near Abilene February 14, 1906.  Ruby was only 16 months old.
John was widowed with four children and 20 months later buried his little girl, Ruby.
October 17, 1907; Ruby died and October 29, 1907, John Lewis married my great-grandmother Kate Rives.  Twelve days after John buried his little girl, he married Grandma Kate.
 I stood at both their graves and wondered if my Grandma Kate was at Ruby’s funeral. Did she comfort a man who in many ways had found wealth in a family business that was growing in a new frontier called Texas? But, also a man that had buried two loved ones in such a short time.
How did John Lewis Grogan’s parents and siblings view this young beauty who had enter his life after so much tragedy had struck him on a personal level? Why had we never been told this family history? Did my grandfather Dexter know all of this? Had Dexter ever visited his grave? Did Dexter and his half-siblings; Clarence, Jack and Mildred ever speak of little Ruby again? And did Jack, Mildred and Clarence ever speak of their mother Mollie again and did Dexter know about their mother?

Also, to conclude our trip to the cemetery… one last thing that was interesting. I knew from research that John Lewis Grogan had a brother named, “James Gordon Grogan.”  My brother is named “James Gordon Grogan” and that is just weird. And no he was not named after John Lewis Grogan’s brother.
A few graves from John Lewis Grogan’s grave stood a huge gravestone for “James Gordon Grogan” his brother. Just eerie that my brother has the same name and now we are looking at Jamey’s name on a tombstone of his great-uncle; “James Gordon Grogan.”
Jamey was named after my father’s Aunt Vassar (her nickname Jug) husband, James.  Aunt Jug was named after her Aunt Vassar, her mother’s (Grandma Kate Rives Grogan Murray Spell) sister. The same great aunt Vassar we visited in Atlanta as a child. And Jamey was named after our mother’s father, who was our grandfather; Jesse (Jack) Gordon Swilley.

I wish I could talk to my great-grandmother Kate today. Boy, I have so many questions I would love to ask her. Life went on for her after the death of her first husband John Lewis Grogan. She married a “Murray” next, who was also a widow and he died a few years after they married. Then she married a Thomas “Tom” Spell, and he owned the local grocery, hardware and dry goods store in Vivian, LA. They would have two children together; my Aunt Vassar (Jug) and Aunt Mary Ellen.

My Granddaddy Dexter has six half siblings from two different fathers.

Little Ruby's Headstone, right

To conclude and finish up this posting on my blog ...

John Lewis Grogan and Kate Rives had one son together "Dexter Lewis Grogan." Dexter’s middle name "Lewis" was taken from John Lewis Grogan’s, mother’s maiden name, she was Nancy Lewis. Dexter’s first born child was named after himself and his second born son was named after his father "John" (John Herman Grogan, my dad) Dexter Lewis Jr. continued the name to his first and only son. And Dexter Lewis Grogan, second son continued the name "John" to his first born child and added the Lewis name.. "John Lewis Grogan" so, we've got another John Lewis, he also named his first born son "John." Sad, to say generations now have ceased the tradition.

Great Grandma Kate Rives Grogan Murray Spell holding her first great-grandson named after her first husband; John Lewis Grogan.
Standing beside her is Dexter Lewis Grogan's wife and proud first time grandmother Edith Grogan, 1954

Dexter Lewis Grogan holding his first grandchild, named after his father John Lewis Grogan.
Can you imagine how special this day was for Grandma Kate? Her first love and husband she lost at such a young age, is now holding a new generation that will carry on the John Lewis Grogan name. 1954


  1. Awesome detective work Julie! Seems like the basis for a plot in a book! Your ancestors are no doubt proud of your dedication and tenacity. Quite a family story!
    Your children and grandchildren will have some facts to savor over the ages too.
    It inspires me to dig deeper into my family history.

  2. Hello, my name is Bryan Owens. I'm a local historian here in Sweetwater, TX. I would like to learn more about the Grogan Hotel in Sweetwater. I only have one photo of the hotel and I know where it was located. I would like to learn more about the Grogan Hotel. If you have any pictures you want to share, please contact me.

    1. Bryan, I wish I did have more pictures of Grogan Hotel.. It was a treasure to find the one I did on the Internet. Grogan Hotel was lost history that my family never knew about my great-grandfather John L. Grogan.. I would suggest getting in touch with some of the descendents of Nancy Lewis and Richard Wilbourn Grogan... The ones who carried the Grogan legacy on to this day in lumber and etc.. My family lost contact with them the day my great-grandfather died. I do know that the Grogan's did own a hotel in Atlanta, Texas... and their descendents might have stories or pictures of when John L. Grogan and possible his father owned the hotel in Sweetwater, Texas.. Let me know what you find out...