Thomas and Bridget Donnelly were my great-
Bridget’s uncle, Charles O’Malley, was a resident on Mackinac Island and provided the funds for their emigration to America. Charles built the original Island House, (which is one of the major existing hotels on the Island today) in 1852. He helped many of the Irish people escape the great potato famine in Ireland to seek a new life in America.
When Thomas and Bridget arrived in America, they worked their way to Buffalo, New York and stayed until the spring, as Bridget was pregnant with their first child. After Mary (the first of seven daughters) was born, they made the voyage to the Island, where they stayed a short time before moving to Sault Ste. Marie. Thomas found work as a laborer building the first lock in 1850. When the great waterway was completed in 1855, Bridget made the first trip through the locks on the Illinois, the only steamship on the Great Lakes at the time.
The Donnelly’s moved to Chicago the next year with $500 in gold from Thomas’ work on the locks. Bridget put the gold in a local bank and that night, as the story goes, had a dream of seeing the bank’s shades pulled down and a bench overturned in front. The next morning, she was at the bank demanding her money. When they tried to give her paper currency she said, “Gold I brought and gold I’ll take.” It may have been “the luck of the Irish,” as the bank closed that very night.
Thomas and Bridget moved back to Mackinac Island and used the gold to buy the land where Cloghaun now stands. This was seven years after they had first arrived on the Island. The lot was purchased in 1859 from Mrs. Abbott whose Grecian columned house was destroyed by fire in 1856. The family, prior to the building of Cloghaun, lived in a house next door to the present home. Starting in 1880, it took four years to build Cloghaun. The wood for the house cost $700 and was hand picked in Cheboygan, Michigan and shipped to the Island.
The family had now grown as James (Jamie), Bridget, Catherine, William, Patrick, Anna, Margaret, Helen (Nellie), Adele (Dellie) and Henry followed Mary. Several babies died at birth. Jamie died when he was 12 years old from pneumonia while working on the fishing boats with his father. Patrick died of tuberculosis at age 55.
The fishing industry on the Island was booming. Thomas sold his catch of fresh fish in the summer months and in the winter packed salt fish in barrels (made in the Doud co-
Following Thomas’s death in 1882, Bridget finished the home. Some time thereafter, she began to accommodate the growing tourist population. The house was known as the Donnelly Cottage.
After Bridget’s death in 1910, two daughters, Adele (Dellie) and Helen (Nellie), took over management of the house. Their sister, Dr. Anna Kelton, widow of Major Dwight Kelton, a former officer at Fort Mackinac, joined them in 1925. Anna’s graduation certificate from osteopathic school is displayed on the second floor.
As Post Quartermaster, Major Kelton is credited for converting the upper floor of the North Blockhouse at Fort Mackinac into a water storage tank. He also ran pipe from the blockhouse to various buildings within the fort thus eliminating the necessity of hauling water. The horse-
Margaret, another of Bridget’s daughters, went to Detroit in 1881, at the age of sixteen, to receive training at Western Union and returned to manage the Mackinac Island office. Margaret married John McArdle, in 1901, after an eight-
Nellie eventually took over the Western Union office for Margaret, who was transferred to St. Ignace, and continued to manage the Island office for over twenty-
My father, James Thorpe Bond, died in 1955. Nellie died in 1958. After her death my mother, Kitty, and my Aunt Anita McDonnell managed the house during the summers and were schoolteachers in Detroit in the winter. Anita died in 1984.
Kitty had a great love of Cloghaun, Mackinac Island and its history. She died in 1991 at the age of 80 and did not see the completion of the renovation of Cloghaun, which began in 1990. I believe that she would have been proud of the improvements.
I look forward to sharing Cloghaun with you.