Shelby County
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John D. Loughlin

John D. Loughlin

Male 1852 - 1909  (57 years)

 

Bunnyconnellan Castle by Darren Waters




Bunnyconnellan Castle

by Darren Waters

photo submitted by Mike Kramer

This beautiful castle inspired home has overlooked downtown Sidney since 1886. For those of us who have called Sidney home, at any time of our lives, we have looked up at and to this castle as being one of the town gems. It sits high on a hill, just a few blocks to the northwest of downtown Sidney on Walnut Avenue. The life and the story of this historical structure is much like any real castle on a Irish countryside. It has been home to many powerful men, it has been misunderstood and rumored about for decades, it has seen kingdoms fall, and has been overtaken and plundered by hostile enemy forces,  and left to die and decay. Much of this story has been known for years as being "what we know of the castle". After years of interest and much research I have several things to add to her story.

photo submitted by Mike Kramer

(click photo to enlarge)

Above photos from the Shelby County Historical Society.

 Click here to view their page.

Here is this beautiful lady's story...

She was built by John Loughlin, also known in Sidney history for founding the Sidney School Furniture Company and the Mary L. Poultry Company. John moved to Sidney and purchased the ground she reins from for $5000 on November 17,1884.

 Construction began in 1885 and it was finished in 1886, said to have cost $10,000 to build. She has 22 rooms, each downstairs room finished extensively with beautiful hand crafted walnut, cherry, mahogany, or maple wood. Each room being different in grain, color, or design.

The woodwork throughout the home was done by highly skilled wood artisans of the time, the majesty and detail in each room are Smithsonian class masterpieces. On the main level a unique free standing staircase of wood magnificence leads to the second floor. On the second floor there is a spiral staircase that leads to the roof.

 She is widely known as Bonnyconnellan Castle. And the story goes that she is believed to be patterned after a castle in John's homeland of Cork County, Ireland.

John lost the house in 1904 when the German American Bank failed, and upon closing its doors all depositors lost their holdings. The castle was then sold to Col. J. B. Tucker in 1907. John left the area after losing his empire and is said to have died penniless in 1917.

That's pretty much the story of the castle and how it got here according to past researchers. Not much more is known about John except small bits and pieces, it is said he was born in Columbus Ohio and was a wise businessman who lost it all with the failure of the bank.

Having done genealogy for many years now, and having a love for history, the above story just wasn't enough for me. There are to many holes in it and so many missing details. Things like who were John's parents, and where did all the money come from?

Him being a good businessman is based on what is known of his existence in Sidney. I wanted to know what happened before he came to Sidney. Where did this talented businessman get the $5000 to buy the land, $10,000 to build the castle, and who knows how many tens of thousands it cost to build the Sidney School Desk Factory.

So I myself set off on a quest, a quest to find John before Sidney. Learn about him and his family. And set the record straight on just how we came to be blessed with our unique castle-like building. Here is what I found....

Ship manifest of the Niagra arriving in New York on Feb. 12, 1849

(click to enlarge)

John's Parents were Timothy and Elizabeth Loughlin. Timothy and Elizabeth had a small family of two boys, James and Joseph, and a baby on the way. It was 1849, at the height of the Irish potato famine. Potatoes were the main stable of the Irish food palate. Families were starving all across their country.

It was decided that in order to give their family a chance at a better life, that they should do as many Irish families were doing, and that was to go to America. So as was customary in this situation, Timothy left his family behind and went off to America to make things ready for their passage. Timothy arrived in New York onboard a ship named the Niagra on February 12, 1849. (see ship manifest to the left) Also on this manifest is Timothy's occupation, stone mason.

 

In August of 1850, nearly a year and a half later Timothy appears for the first time in the U.S. Census pages. He is living in Lockport, Niagra County, New York.

Lockport was a small town mainly consisting of Scottish and Irish immigrants, brought in to work on the Erie Canals.

During this time in New York Timothy saved every penny he could to arrange for the passage of his wife and now 3 children, since Mary was born in 1849 after he left for America, he had to save to get them from Ireland to America. He also had to save up for lodging and travel and the new beginnings of his family.

 

1850 census of Lockport, Niagra County, New York

(click to enlarge)

1860 census of Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio

(click to enlarge)

By 1851 Timothy had his family in America with him and he was able to start planning passage down into the heartland of America. And the family was now growing as Elizabeth was pregnant. In 1852 while on the journey from New York to Columbus John was born, technically born in Canada, his first home was in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio

In 1860 the Timothy Loughlin family can be found living their American dream of a life in a land of no famine. By this time the family has grown to a family of eight, with the additions of Elizabeth and Agnes. You can see in this document that Timothy is working as a stone mason.

They may have been living the American dream, but you can bet they were missing and dreaming of their homeland. The lush beautiful green countryside of Mayo County, Ireland. Their homeland with all of its majestic and historic castles. Timothy being a stone mason from Ireland had probably often as a child admired those castles. And more than likely wasn't impressed with all of the clean lined square boxes people called houses in this fairly new and evolving country. He would tell the children of the huge magnificent castles in their homeland.

 

In 1865 Joseph moved to Indianapolis and can be found in the city directory as being a bricklayer. It appears Joseph followed in his fathers footsteps and carried the trade thru another generation. (see directory page to the right.)

The family is dealt a huge blow in 1866 with the death of Timothy. The family is now without the man who got them this far, all alone in this country. Joseph convinces Elizabeth to move the family to Indianapolis. Elizabeth can be found as a widow in the 1867 directory of Indianapolis, Indiana. (see directory page to the far right.)

 

 

Joseph Loughlin in the 1865 Indianapolis directory

(click to enlarge)

Elizabeth Loughlin in the 1867 Indianapolis directory

(click to enlarge)

In 1870 you can find Elizabeth as a widow with her family. John is listed as being employed as a moulder. A moulder is someone who creates the molds that cast iron and brass are poured into.

John quickly moved up the ladder and learned the ropes as he went. He took on the challenges of life just as his father did, with his strong Irish hands and a pocket full of determination.

After the death of his mother in the early 1870's John moved to Hamilton, Ohio when the company he worked for, the Variety Iron works of Indianapolis, moved its foundry to Hamilton in 1873. John was the superintendent at the Variety Iron Works of Hamilton. Variety Iron Works was knows for making castings for school furniture.

It's here in Hamilton that John meets the love of his life, Eliza Perry, a widow who moved to Ohio from Indiana after the death of her husband.

 

I have yet to see anyone say anything about Eliza and her part in our castle. I'm not sure why they haven't, but I'm going to change that. She was after all, the queen of that castle, and here is her story.

Eliza was born in Pennsylvania in 1834, the daughter of Henry Rider and Susan Messmore. before 1850 the census pages were just tally marks in columns indicating ages and genders.

In 1850 Eliza first appears in the census pages. You can find her in the home of her parents at the age of 16. Her brother Isaac and his family live next door. Eliza's Father and her brother are listed as being merchants. Nellie from Little House comes to mind. Henry's home is valued at $2000, roughly the equivalent of $200,000 in today's time.

 

 

It appears a family tragedy happened in the 1850's because Eliza's brother Isaac is no longer found in any of the records. Isaac, his wife, and his daughter all disappeared. Isaac's son Henry is the only one of his family that made it thru the 1850's. He can be found in the 1860 census in the home of Eliza's parents.

Eliza's father, Henry, is still listed as a merchant. His home is valued at $3000 and personal belongings at $7000. Henry was a very successful merchant, that was quite a bit of money back then.

 

In 1860 Eliza can be found with her own family. Her husband Russell Perry, and children Leonidus, Cortez, and Byron. Russell is listed as being a Lawyer. His home is valued at $500 and his personal belongings at $1200.

In 1861 Eliza lost her father. Henry died on January 5, 1861, leaving behind his wife Susan, his daughter Eliza, and a grandson Henry.

Russell was a successful and well liked attorney and he entered the political ring. in 1863 he can be found in the Indiana House of Representatives, representing Fayette and Union counties.

In 1870 Russell and Eliza are still in Brownsville, Indiana. Russell is listed as an Attorney at Law. His home is valued at $1200 and personal belongings at $1500. A week after this census was taken Russell died. It was after Russell died that Eliza moved to Hamilton according to the "History of Shelby County, Ohio" by A.B.C. Hitchcock.

There she met a young ambitious Irish man, John Loughlin. They had so much in common, they had  both been thru a lot of hardship, they needed each other soulfully. Even though he was 18 yrs younger, he who would sweep her off her feet with talks of being the queen of his Irish castle.

 

In 1876 John and Eliza joined forces and were married. By 1878 they were living in Sidney, Ohio with dreams of building their own lives together and Eliza was pregnant with their child.

In the 1880 census you can find John and Eliza with their newest addition, a 2 year old little girl named Mary. Also in the house is Eliza's son William Perry, as well as Eliza's mother Susan Rider.

John is listed as a school desk manufacturer even though his new business was still under construction. The Sidney School Furniture Company would begin production in February of 1881.

The Sidney School Furniture Company quickly became one of the top school desk manufacturers in the country. The business did so great that in 1882, only a year after opening the doors, they built an addition to meet their growing needs.

In November of 1884 John purchased some land on a hill overlooking Sidney. Having grown up in his Irish family of stone masons and brick layers he knew the dream was possible. He would build that castle his father and brothers always talked of building. He would accomplish his father's dream. And at the same time he would making Eliza the Queen of his castle like he had always promised her.

In the spring of 1885 construction would begin. John would build the most majestic and most magnificent home around and it would overlook all of Sidney, he could even see the roofs of his factory from his front porch. In 1886 the dream became reality when construction was completed and they moved in.

I have seen this castle called a few different variations of Bonnyconnellan. And there are just as many claims to it being named by a friend or named after a castle in Cork County, Ireland. I am going to add another theory to the pile, one that I think holds the best angle of them all.

 The name Loughlin comes in many Irish variations. Loughlin, Laughlin, Mcloughlin, Mclaughlin, O'loughlin, O'laughlin, & others. In the mid 1800's the Loughlin surname were mainly concentrated in the County of Mayo in Ireland.

I believe the real name has been lost in translation and human error. In the County of Mayo, Ireland is the only place on the map you can find anything close to Bonnyconnellan. It's a town called Bonniconlon. The proper Irish spelling is Bunnyconnellan. Homeland of Timothy?

   
   
   

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