Captain Peter Feagan needs no introduction to the readers of this volume. For years he was prominently connected with commercial interests as a general merchant. Since his retirement from business he has been connected with public office, serving now for the seventh year as county coroner. Sheboygan has been his home practically since 1851 although for a brief period he was in California and later was absent from the state through the period of his service in the Civil war. The fidelity to his country which he displayed in the darkest hour of its history has been characteristic of his attitude in citizenship throughout his entire life. Indeed, there are many elements in his career which commend him to the confidence and good-will of his fellow townsmen and which constitute his life record an important chapter in the annals of Sheboygan.
Captain Feagan was born in Syracuse, New York, June 7, 1834, his parents being Patrick and Eleanore (Madden) Feagan. The son was reared in the state of New York where he remained until 1851 when he removed westward to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, influenced in his choice of a location by the fact that his eldest brother, Thomas Feagan, had taken up his abode here in 1849. The father had passed away when Captain Feagan came to the middle west where he remained until 1854 when he decided to go to the gold fields of California, hoping he might rapidly acquire a fortune on the Pacific coast.
He therefore proceeded to New York city with the expectation of making the trip by way of the Isthmus route. When he arrived in the eastern metropolis he found that the transportation company had increased the price of tickets to California over that route by about one hundred and fifty dollars. Thinking this was done on account of the rush for the mines on that one ship, Captain Feagan decided to wait until the next boat, two weeks later. When that vessel sailed it was more crowded than the other and the increase in price of tickets rendered the trip prohibitive to Captain Feagan, who then took passage on a vessel going by way of Cape Horn. He went as a sailor before the mast but not being used to rough weather he was sick practically all the time until after they crossed the equator going south. From that time on the voyage was a thoroughly enjoyable one.
For four years he remained in California and then returned by way of the Isthmus route to Sheboygan in 1858. The succeeding three years were devoted to farming near the city, but in 1861, following the outbreak of the Civil war, he put aside all business and personal considerations and began recruiting a company for active duty at the front. John McGowery of Cascade also began recruiting a company about the same time. As neither one had the required number of one hundred men they joined forces and thus formed Company E of the Seventeenth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, Mr. McGowery becoming captain and Mr. Feagan first lieutenant. In June, 1862, however, the former resigned and the latter was promoted to the captaincy of the company, with which rank he served throughout the remainder of the war, being mustered out with his regiment at Louisville, Kentucky, on the 14th of July, 1865. He was in many important engagements; often in the thickest of the fight and yet he was never wounded. Death, however, almost claimed him as a victim at Natchez, Mississippi, where he lay ill of typhoid fever.
His first introduction to actual warfare was at Shiloh and later at Cornish, which they held until October 3-4, 1862. They subsequently started for Vicksburg by way of Holly Springs and the water route, and remained there from January 1, 1863, until March, 1864, when the regiment reenlisted for three more years of service. He participated in the siege of Vicksburg and then went to Natchez where he was taken ill with the fever and laid for weeks unconscious. Subsequently they went to Atlanta which they took and stayed there until Sherman's march to the sea. He was discharged July 14, 1865. The regiment was in charge of the Seventeenth Army Corps and its history is an account of the military service of Captain Feagan save for the period of his sickness.
When hostilities had ceased and the country no longer needed his aid, Captain Feagan returned to Sheboygan and in 1866 entered its business circles as a general merchant. He was connected with its commercial activities until 1890, most of the time at the northeast corner of Eighth street and Pennsylvania avenue. He had a well equipped store, carried a carefully selected line of goods and enjoyed a liberal patronage which in time brought him substantial success. In 1890 he retired from that business and for about ten years thereafter dealt in real estate.
Mr. Feagan was the first street commissioner of the First ward in the city, in 1853, and was chief of the fire department in 1858-9. In 1861, Captain Feagan was married in Sheboygan to Miss Josephine B. Thomas, a daughter of Peter Thomas who came to this city in the fall of 1853 from Jefferson, New York, and for many years conducted the Jefferson Hotel here. The three children of Captain and Mrs. Feagan are Sherman, Thadeus and Mary E.
Captain Feagan is now serving as county coroner to which office he has been elected for the fourth term on the republican ticket. He is a well preserved man, still actively interested in current questions and events and manifesting in his citizenship the same spirit of fidelity which he displayed on southern battlefields and which always made him a supporter of the best interests and measures of his adopted city.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL