John E. Rowlands, one of the well known, prominent and successful representatives of the real estate and insurance business in Racine, has concentrated his efforts upon this field of activity since January, 1907, when he retired from the position of register of deeds. He was born in Mount Pleasant Township, this County, December 18, 1856, a son of David W. and Mary E. (Jehu) Rowlands, both of whom were natives of Wales and when young people came to the new world, being married at Southport, Wisconsin. The latter was a daughter of Thomas Jehu, who about 1839 brought his family to the United States and east in his lot with the pioneer residents who were reclaiming this region for the purposes of civilization. He was one of the founders of the Welsh church on Villa street and was otherwise actively and helpfully connected with the early progress and improvement of the district. David W. Rowlands arrived in Racine County about 1840 and devoted his life to the occupation of farming, making his home for many years in Mount Pleasant Township, where eventually he passed away.
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After obtaining a public school education John E. Rowlands became a student in a private academy at Sharon, Wisconsin, and afterward spent two years in attendance at Beloit College. He worked his way through school, providing for the necessary expenses by his labor through the summer months, the winter season being devoted to the acquirement of his education. The elemental strength of character which he thus displayed was an indication of the substantial qualities which he has since shown in every relation of life. He took up the profession of teaching, which he followed in the rural schools for a period and later he went to Oshkosh. Wisconsin, where he studied veterinary surgery under the direction of his brother, Dr. D. W. Rowlands, with whom he continued for a year and a half. On the expiration of that period he went upon the road as a traveling salesman, representing the woolen mills of Appleton, Wisconsin, and subsequently he traveled out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for a men’s furnishing goods and notions house. He was afterward employed in the same capacity for the firm of Bloom Brothers of Chicago and then secured a position with the Troy (N. Y.) house that handles the Anchor brand of collars and cuffs. Still later he was traveling representative for Alschuler Brothers, overall manufacturers of Racine, Wisconsin, spending altogether eight years upon the road, and each change he made marked a substantial advance in his business career. In 1894 he purchased the old family homestead in Mount Pleasant Township, after which he engaged in buying and selling all kinds of live stock.
The same year Mr. Rowlands was elected chairman of the board of supervisors of Mount Pleasant Township on the republican ticket and occupied that position for eight years. In 1904 he was elected register of deeds and removed to Racine, selling his farm the following year. He occupied that position in an acceptable manner until January, 1907, and at the close of his term opened a real estate and insurance office at No. 526 Monument Square, where he remained until 1915, when he removed to his present location at No. 211 Sixth Street. He conducts a general real estate and insurance business and is thoroughly informed concerning property values. He has negotiated many real estate transfers and has secured a large clientage, so that the volume of his business brings him an excellent financial return.
On the 3d of July, 1890, Mr. Rowlands was united in marriage to Miss Lottie McCoy, of Mount Pleasant Township, a daughter of S. D. and Mahala McCoy, who were early settlers of this County. They have become parents of three children: Stewart S., who is now in business with his father; Robert D., a student in the State University at Madison; and Wallace W., who died aged twenty-six months. The family is well known in Racine and the hospitality of many of the best homes is cordially extended them. Mr. Rowlands is identified with various fraternal organizations, including the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Knights of Pythias, the Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Independent Order of Foresters and the Royal Arcanum. He is also a member of the Kymric Club and of the Commercial Club and his political allegiance is given to the Republican Party, of which he has long been an active worker and earnest supporter. Mr. Rowlands has truly earned the proud American title of a self-made man, for he started out in life empty handed and had to provide the means that enabled him to acquire his education. He realized, however, the worth of mental training as a preparation for life’s practical and responsible duties. He realized, too, the value of industry and integrity in business affairs and, using those qualities as a foundation, he has builded thereon a substantial and well deserved success.