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Retrospect: Brogan log cabin hosts first Catholic services

As settlers arrived in the Towns of Lisbon and Menomonee (Menomonee Falls today), Irish immigrants made the area around Town Line Road an extended Irish and Catholic enclave, extending it eastward eventually to include what is now the Village of Lannon.

James Brogan was one of those early Irish pioneers, claiming land that today includes the Whiskey Corners Tavern and St. James Catholic Church. He began with 80 acres, which cost him $100 at $1.25 per acre.

(An 1873 plat map showed only 79 acres, because he had given one acre to St. James Catholic Church, which was founded in 1847. His immediate northern neighbor, William N. Lannon, gave another acre.)

Brogan did not know much about house-building, but he persevered, using V-notched logs, some as long as 22 feet, to finish his 20-by-22-foot oak log cabin in 1842. He then whitewashed the interior walls with burnt lime powder and later chinked mud between the logs to windproof the cabin and keep out the cold.

By 1842, the Irish community - boasting such Gaelic names as Lannon, Brogan, Kennedy, Gill, Keating, Salmon, Carbery, Walsh, McCarty, Burke, Cambell, Hanafin, Pendergast and McLaughlin - decided to fill its need for a Catholic Church, so in May a Swiss Catholic priest (later a vicar general of the U.S. church) traveled by horseback to the recently built Brogan cabin at what today would be W220 N6400 Town Line Road (just beyond the north end of the Willow Springs Tavern parking lot).

Father Martin Kundig held a Mass in the Brogan cabin and gave Communion to the Irish settlers. Later, Father James Morrissey held other services there.

The growing Town Line Road Irish Catholics were rerouted in 1843 to a new church in Marcy, St. Dominic's, which initially met in a log structure there, but soon built a fieldstone church with an adjacent cemetery.

St. Dominic's replaced that building in the mid-1900s with a new one on Capitol Drive. St. James was a mission church of St. Dominic's when it was built in 1847-48.

Brogan died in 1875 and was buried in the St. James Church cemetery. Mrs. Brogan sold the cabin soon afterward, and later owners put on a new roof, added interior walls and covered the exterior with clapboard siding, hiding the logs.

Ed McLaughlin, a descendent of the early Irish settlers, bought it in the early 1940s and added another layer of siding.

A former owner of the Willow Springs Mobile Home Court, a prominent Lisbon farmer and a local land investor, McLaughlin rented the cabin out to various tenants until the late 1970s, when it started to deterioriate.

About January 1980, he contacted the Menomonee Falls Historical Society to see whether it wanted the dilapidated cabin for the Olde Falls Village museum at Pilgrim and County Line roads. With help, labor and money from Catholic Knights of Columbus Council 4240, the society agreed.

The Knights stripped away the siding, roof and add-on interior and raised most of the $8,000 needed to move the building and reconstruct it on the museum site. They put metal ID tags on each log so they could replace them exactly, but they had to get new base logs because the original ones had rotted away.

They began in spring 1981 and dedicated the finished work Oct. 24, 1982.




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