John O’Laughlin, who died July 15, 1913, was well known as the head of the John O’Laughlin Stone Company, owning quarries at Racine, Waukesha and Waterloo, Wisconsin. His business reached extensive proportions and in its management he displayed unfaltering enterprise and keen discernment. He was born at Taycheedah, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, in 1856, a son of Andrew and Ellen (O’Gorman) O’Laughlin, who were natives of County Clare, Ireland. The paternal grandfather, Michael O’Laughlin, was a wealthy resident of Ireland and had a family of nine sons, six of whom were surveyors. One of these, Peter O’Laughlin, engaged in surveying in Fond du Lac County for many years. Another son became a civil engineer and laid out the Northwestern Railroad between Fond .du Lac and Green Bay. A cousin of these brothers became governor general of New South Wales in the early ’60s. Michael O’Laughlin married Susan Talty and they spent their entire lives in Ireland, passing away at an advanced age. John O’Gorman, the maternal grandfather of John O’Laughlin of this review, was also a native of the Emerald isle, where he became owner of valuable farming lands, on which he had a number of tenants. Andrew O’Laughlin, the father of John O’Laughlin, came to the United States in 1846 and settled in Taycheedah, Wisconsin, whence he removed to La Salle County, Illinois, in 1866. There he purchased and cultivated a large tract of land until 1881, when he retired from active business life and removed to Chicago, where he passed away in 1885, at the age of seventy-four years. His widow survived him for but eight months and was sixty-six years of age at the time of her death. Both were members of the Catholic Church, and in politics Mr. O’Laughlin was a liberal democrat. They had a family of nine children.
John O’Laughlin was reared in Fond du Lac County to the age of ten years and then went with his parents to La Salle County, Illinois, where he was reared to manhood upon the home farm. He pursued his education in the district schools and in St. Francis College of Milwaukee and for a time engaged in teaching school. In 1880 he went to Chicago and became interested in the stone business. He was employed for three years at the Union Lime Works, of which he was superintendent for a time, and subsequently he filled the responsible position of general superintendent with the Keys & Thatcher Stone Company for five years. He did general contracting work in building streets and sewers and in laying water pipe through rocks, being the only one to whom a license was issued to blast rock in the streets of Chicago. He was thus engaged for seven years, at the end of which time he leased the Keys & Thatcher quarries and established the Artesian Stone & Lime Works, which he sold in 1894. He then spent about a year in Europe and upon returning to the United States, while on his way to Milwaukee, he noticed an old abandoned lime kiln at Ives, Racine County. He left the train and soon made arrangements to buy the land, upon which he erected a large and very complete plant for crushing stone. It was Mr. O’Laughlin who originated the present plan of stone crushing which is now largely used throughout the United States and Europe. From the beginning his business grew rapidly and he employed several hundred men at this plant. He also owned the Portland granite quarries, near Waterloo, and the Waukesha quarries, where two hundred men are employed. In that undertaking his son Joseph J., became interested with him. The stone is all used in street paving and buildings, and the business has grown continually and rapidly. The granite quarries furnish stone for street paving and building blocks. Mr. O’Laughlin had various other business interests, constantly extending his efforts along lines which contributed to the material growth and prosperity of the localities in which he operated as well as to his individual success. His plans were always well formulated and carefully thought out and then were promptly executed. He possessed excellent ability as an organizer, added to initiative and industry, and he combined seemingly diverse interests into a unified and harmonious hole which produced splendid results.
In 1880 Mr. O’Laughlin was married to Miss Mary Casey, a daughter of John and Mary (Malouney) Casey. They became the parents of eight children, namely: Joseph, Mae. Helen, Frances, George, Margaret, John and Robert Fergus
Mr. O’Laughlin was a member of the Catholic Church, of which his widow was also a communicant and he held membership with the Knights of Columbus and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. In politics be was a democrat, yet did not consider himself bound by party ties and often east an independent ballot. His home at No. 834 Main Street, which his widow yet occupies, is one of the most beautiful in Racine. Throughout his entire life Mr. O’Laughlin displayed a spirit of unfaltering industry and worked his way upward through close application and persistency of purpose. He was at all times actuated a spirit of laudable ambition and when one avenue of opportunity seemed closed to him, he would carve out another path whereby he might reach the desired goal. His plans were always clearly defined, and he readily recognized opportunities, which he wisely and carefully utilized, so that splendid results were achieved.