A man of enterprise, ambition and energy, the late John McLaughlin, of Cumberland, Rhode Island, decided to go into business for himself, when he was a mere lad of seventeen years of age. Starting his business operations at that time with a very small capital, his exceptional ability and industry brought him comparatively quick success and for many years he was one of the most successful and substantial business men of his native town. Both in the lumber business and as a contractor and road builder he met with marked success, the more creditable to him because it was the result of his own unaided efforts. He was also widely known and greatly admired for his many fine qualities of heart and mind, for his kindness and generosity, and for his continuous and sincere interest in the welfare of his native town and of its people.
John McLaughlin was born in the town of Cumberland, October 14, 1852, at the McLaughlin homestead on Mendon Road near Sneechaconnet Park, a son of John and Maria (O’Neil) McLaughlin. Both his parents were natives of Ireland, from which country they had come to the United States in their youth. His father was a successful farmer, and the farm which he operated many years is still owned by one of his descendants. John McLaughlin was one of three children, the others being: James and Ellen. John McLaughlin received his early education in the public schools of Cumberland, then graduated from Bryant & Stratton’s Business College. After leaving school he was employed for about three years in the local rubber shops. In 1870 he decided to go into business for himself, and borrowing a small sum of money, he bought a pair of horses, which he chose with such good judgment that he was able to resell them two weeks later at a profit of two hundred dollars. This really was the beginning of his career, for with this small initial capital he laid the foundation of his later lumber business. He bought wood lots and commenced to operate sawmills and met with such success that he employed thirty other people. Later he engaged in road construction business and in that field became one of the largest and most successful operators in that part of Rhode Island, where he made his home throughout his entire life. Among the other enterprises which Mr. McLaughlin founded was the McDuff Coal & Lumber Company which is now one of the largest in Pawtucket. In all these business operations his brother James was associated with him. Though John McLaughlin always was deeply interested in everything affecting the welfare of his native town, he steadfastly refused to hold public office. In this attitude he only made two exceptions, at one time permitting his name to be used on the Democratic ticket for a seat in the Rhode Island Senate. He also served for many years and to within a short time before his death as a fire warden. He was a member of the Warwick Club. His religious affiliation was with the Roman Catholic Church. Having removed from the family homestead to a house in the village of Cumberland, when he was ten years of age, he continued to make this house his home from then on until the day of his death. To this home and to his family in accord with his home-loving nature, he devoted the major share of his leisure time. He was a man of the strictest honesty and integrity and was greatly admired for his strength of character and for his generosity to those in need or distressed. These qualities with which he combined a remarkable ability gained him a host of friends, who always found him a loyal and genial companion.
Mr. McLaughlin married, November 10, 1903, Elizabeth McGovern, who was born December 12, 1875, a daughter of Patrick and Mary (Blessing) McGovern. Both of Mrs. McLaughlin’s parents were born in Ireland, her father dying there, while her mother, who had come to the United States after her husband’s death, died at Providence. Mr. and Mrs. McLaughlin were the parents of four children:
- Marie M., who makes her home with her widowed mother. She received her education in the schools of Cumberland, at Dean Academy at Franklin, Massachusetts, at Bryant & Stratton’s Business College, of Providence, and later at the Lesley School, graduating from all. She is now teaching at Cumberland Hill, Rhode Island.
- Elizabeth, attended the same schools as did her older sister and obtained her Arts degree from the College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, New York, graduating in 1930. She is now a high school teacher in Central Falls, Rhode Island, receiving her appointment in June, 1931.
- John J., Jr., who graduated from La Salle Academy and then matriculated at Notre Dame University.
- Helen, a student at the Cumberland High School, class of 1932.
At his home in the village of Cumberland, corner Mendon and Sneech Pond roads, John McLaughlin died suddenly from a heart attack, March 18, 1917. His funeral, which was one of the largest ever given Cumberland, was held at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Ashton, where a solemn high Mass of requiem was celebrated. The church was filled to the doors, many of those in attendance being forced to stand during the service. A cousin of Mr. McLaughlin, Rev. John F. McLaughlin, of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Providence, was celebrant of the Mass, being assisted by several other prominent clergymen. The full choir of the church assisted at the service, at the end of which Mr. McLaughlin was laid to rest in the family lot in St. Francis’ Cemetery, Providence.
The unusually large attendance at Mr. McLaughlin’s funeral was adequate proof of the popularity and respect which he had enjoyed in such large measure during his entire life. His sudden death was a shock and great grief to his numerous friends, not only in his native town, but to the many he had made in other parts of Rhode Island and New England. Those who knew him best admired him most for his many virtues and his memory rests secure in their hearts.
Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.