I have become intrigued by the urban legends/ghost stories about Squire’s Castle that can be found on myriad web sites. The basic story is as follows:
In the 1890s wealthy oil executive Feargus B. Squire began to build an English style country estate on land that is now part of North Chagrin Reservation. The only building that was completed was a gatehouse. This gatehouse, however, was no little shack, but a good sized house complete with a library, trophy room, bedrooms and a great hall. Squire, the story goes, was drawn to the solitude of the country, but his wife, Rebecca, was strictly a city girl (cue the Green Acres theme) and what’s more was a nervous and fanciful woman. One night, unable to sleep, she was roaming the building, became frightened by an animal head trophy on the wall, fell down the stairs and broke her neck. The grief stricken Squire lost interest in the estate and sold the land, never to complete his country estate. But the ghost of his young wife has never left.
This makes for a terrific spooky tale, especially this time of year when a fall mist settles on Squire’s Castle, as it is now known. It is, however, a product of someone’s wild imagination.
Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1936
I had the privilege of spending some time with the descendants of Feargus Squire at their family reunion held this year at North Chagrin Reservation. They are a large family that not only love each other, but enjoy each other’s company! They gave me and two of my coworkers a warm welcome and shared family stories (and great food) with us.
After enjoying a cook out across the road at the Old River Road picnic area the family made their way to Squire’s Castle for photos. For many of the family it was their first visit to this little bit of old England that their ancestor hoped to recreate in northeast Ohio. Squire was the Vice-President of Standard Oil in Ohio, but had been born in England and did hope to create an English style country estate in his adopted land. That part of the story is true.
F.B. Squire and his wife had two children, Reginald and Irma. Irma lived to be 97 years old, but never had any children. Everyone that I met at the reunion was descended from Reginald. His grandchildren are now the oldest generation of the family. They are amused, but puzzled, by the ghost story of their great-grandmother. For one thing, her name was Louisa, not Rebecca. There is no family member by the name Rebecca in any generation. Louisa died of pneumonia, in her own bed, at her summer home in Wickliffe in 1927, when she was 73 years old. By that time, Squire’s Castle had been part of North Chagrin Reservation for over a year. Not exactly the fanciful tale circulating on the web.
Above: a very young Feargus and Louisa Squire
Below: a family portrait taken at their 50th wedding anniversary in 1926. (Photos courtesy of the Squire Family)
But it is not surprising that this remnant of a building inspires romantic stories. While we were there with the Squire family there was a wedding in progress. Another bridal party, dressed in full renaissance costumes waited their turn for photos in front of the castle. The Squire family, dressed in more casual attire, fanned out in front of the building that is part of their legacy. They laughed and hugged and teased each other as they moved about trying to arrange this large group into a suitable pose for the camera. There were tears for family members too ill to attend the gathering, but plans to share the day with them via photos. Not many people can resist posing in the windows of the castle.
It's not easy arranging over 30 people for a group shot. It involves lots of serious planning and discussion.
Willard Squire the II, III and IV. (The first Willard is the young man on the left in the back row of the anniversary photo, he was the son of Reginald Squire and grandson of Feargus)
Feargus Squire had envisioned a family estate, with homes for his children and their families. Now it serves as a place for all kinds of families to enjoy. As his descendants left the castle and headed to their homes in other parts of the country they carried with them a sense of connection to their ancestor and his dream. They left behind, not ghosts, but echoes of love and laughter.
Many thanks to the Squire Family for allowing me to post these photos!
(You can visit Squire’s Castle with your family. It is located in North Chagrin Reservation on Chagrin River Road.)