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The case of Ella Twomey - Part 3

This post is part of a series. To read parts one and two, go here.

The story of Ella Twomey and John Dunn is based on true individuals of the same names and the following two articles. I happened upon them while researching another story.

Clipping from the Pittsburg Daily Post, p 4, published on May 29, 1910.

Accessed on

This article is almost identical, except for a few minor details.

Clipping from the South Bend Tribune, p 2, published on May 26, 1910.

Accessed on

What happened to John Dunn and Ella Twomey? I immediately started researching.

The Pittsburg article says 'New York' at the start, but the story actually came out of Chicago. I confirmed this with the address given - Dearborn St. where John had his restaurant. Dearborn was a main street in the 1890's and early 1900's in Chicago. Also, it mentions the World's fair and this would make sense since Chicago hosted an exhibition of the World's Fair in 1893.

I found some interesting things out about the World's Fair in Chicago. Ferris wheels are a common site for Americans. We see them at every amusement park and fairground. But the large wheel was a novelty at this World's Fair. The original wheel was created by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr, a structural engineer from Pittsburgh. He worked with Daniel Burnham, an architect, and together they hoped it would rival the Eiffel Tower, which had been built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.

Perhaps this is what Ella wanted to see when she left home in Canada and made her way to Chicago.

Image by C.E. Waterman, 1893. accessed on Google.

Video, '1893 Chicago Worlds Fair in Moving Pictures', accessed via Youtube.

Other than the newspaper clippings on the plight of Ella Twomey and John Dunn's attempt to get his wife from the asylum, very little could be found on the couple.

I did find Ella in the census records as a patient at the asylum. Her birthplace is listed as Berlin, but her nationality is listed as Irish. The age is right, putting her birth year at abt 1872 and in early 1894 she would have been 21, the age the article said she was when she married John Dunn.

She appears in the 1901 census for Barton, Wentworth, Ontario as an inmate. In 1911 she is still there. This time, it specifies Hamilton Asylum in Barton, Ontario.

Canadian Census, 1901 accessed via

Canadian Census, 1911 accessed via

The Hamilton Asylum was located in Ontario.

This picture was published on McMaster University's website. Click on the picture to visit and read more about the history of the Hamilton Asylum.

After I finished writing the story (read parts 1 and 2 here), I discoverd a census record from 1921 that suggests Ella was transfered to a different asylum in Penetanguish, Ontario. I found some information on it here.

Canadian Census, 1921 accessed via

Why she would have been moved I don't know, but I found it hard to believe that there were two Ella Twomey's as patients at mental institutions in Ontario of the same age. If it is true that she was transferred to Penetanguish, she was moved further away from John in Chicago. On the census above, Ella is the fourth entry down. In 1921, she was 49 years old, still not reunited with her husband John. Interestingly, they list her as 'S' for single and 'RC' under the column for religion, meaning Roman Catholic, which also fits with the articles I posted above. I'm quite certain this is the same Ella Twomey. But I was able to find nothing else about her.

I turned my attention to researching John. There were so many John Dunn's in and around Chicago, that I couldn't confirm anything more on the John Dunn from the story. I don't know his age or birthplace or parents. Without that vital information, it is almost impossible to track.

I wrote the ending to my fictional story with Ella being released too late and John dieing, without knowing what the truth was.

Was Ella finally released and were they able to spend their final years together? Did John die in Chicago without being reunited with his wife? We may never know. What do you think happened?

For now, we are left to the wanderings of our imaginations.

38 views1 comment


This is a great ending to the story. I too would like to know what really happened to them. Great work!

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