Rogers, Philip McGregor

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Philip McGregor Rogers (August 15, 1812 – December 13, 1856) once owned all the land in an area bounded by Lake Michigan, Birchwood Terrace (now Juneway Terrace), Ridge Boulevard (previously Ridge Avenue), and Devon Avenue. He lived with his family in a house on the northwest corner of what is now known as Rogers Avenue and Clark Street [now a Walgreens Drug Store parking lot]. The trees in the area were primarily Birchwood trees and Philip started a charcoal factory to help him clear the area of trees. Once he had gotten rid of the trees he could, and did, run a vegetable farm. During a recorded interview with his grandson, the late S. Rogers Touhy, he remarked “only fate caused grandpa to settle in the area.”

Irish immigrant, Philip Rogers, arrived in Chicago from Watertown, New York, during the winter of 1834. Having originally come from a “more civilized” region, he was upset by Chicago’s perennially muddy streets and its filthy, wooden wharves. The icy, windy weather blew right through his homespun clothing. Because Lake Michigan was frozen, the most expedient form of transportation, the boats, were locked in or dry docked. This meant Rogers was forced to wait around for warmer weather.

Waiting for warm weather allowed him to spend a lot of time learning about the area around Chicago. Other than getting drunk every night, there wasn’t much else for a fellow to do. During this time, Rogers learned that the local Indians who hunted along the Calumet River in Summer, camped to the west of the larger of the two ridges about 8-9 miles north of Chicago. Philip decided that it was an ideal place for him to open a trading post.

In the Spring of 1835, Philip Rogers purchased 600 acres from the government for $1.25 an acre and established his trading post. When the Indians moved west for their summer haunts, he began to clear the land of trees in preparation for farming by forming a charcoal company.

In 1841, Philip wed Mrs. Mary Ward Hickey, another Irish immigrant. the widow of James Fox Hickey and the daughter of Thomas Breen Masterson Esq. In 1850, Philip Rogers was elected Justice of the peace for the Township of Ridgeville (which included what would later be known as Evanston. In 1854, their only daughter, Catherine Rogers was born. Her brother, Philip Rogers, Jr. followed in 1856.

When Philip McGregor Rogers died in 1856, his son, Philip, inherited the 1,600 acres. Later he gave his sister, Catherine, 800 of these acres. Her husband, Patrick Leonard Touhy, took over the management of his wife Catherine’s inheritance of the 800 acres from her brother Philip.

Philip was originally buried in the Chicago City Cemetery (Lincoln Park), which is now the present site of the Chicago History Museum). The cemetery had only been in operation from 1847. By 1865, the cemetery was closed and the bodies interred there were relocated to Graceland Cemetery, Rosehill Cemetery, and Calvary Cemetery. Philip was one of those relocated to Calvary Cemetery in 1863.


RPWRHS photo D005-7796 shows Patrick Leonard Touhy's mansion, "The Oaks", which he built for his wife, Catherine, who was the daughter of Philip McGregor Rogers, the first settler in Rogers Park. At one time, a Potawatomi Native American village occupied this land. The house was located at 5008 N. Clark Street (later 7339 N. Clark Street). Photo circa 1860.