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The Catholic Church In Goderich, Kingsbridge and Clinton

Part One: St. Peter's Goderich

This follow history of St. Peter's Parish was written by Superior Court Justice Francis G. Carter (1922-2004).  Judge Carter accepted the position of County Court Judge for the County of Huron in May of 1973. For the next 20 years he served the legal community with dignity. A tireless worker he was a dedicated advocate of the separate school system. First elected as a trustee to the London Separate School Board in 1953, he went on to serve as chairman of the board and was appointed board solicitor in 1961.  He was known to be a humble man of deep religious faith. In 1962, at the request of Bishop Cody, Pope John Paul XXIII made him a papal knight with the title of Knight Commander of Pope St. Sylvester. In June of 1969 he had an audience with Pope Paul VI at the Vatican and was personally thanked for his contribution to Catholic education.  The Honourable Justice Francis G. Carter died on February 2, 2004.


The unknownauthor of the "Historical Sketch of the County of Huron" contained in Belden’s Historical Atlas of the County of Huron published in 1879 tells us that it is a tradition that Samuel de Champlain during his voyage along Lake Huron in 1615-16 camped on what is today the site of Goderich. Between that date and 1648, when the Jesuit Missions on the south shore of Georgian Bay were destroyed, fur traders and Jesuit priests visited the area; and it is interesting to contemplate that Jean de Brebeuf or Gabriel Lalemant or some of those other Jesuit martyrs, assigned as they were to Christianize the Huron Indians between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron, may at one time have walked on the banks of the Maitland River or looked at the sunsets from the site of Goderich.

Following the annihilation of the Hurons in the mid sixteen hundreds, there is no evidence that Goderich was visited by a non-Indian until 1826, when W. F. Goodwin and Frank Deschamp established an Indian trading post at the mouth of the Maitland

In June, 1827, Goderich as such was founded by Dr. William "Tiger" Dunlop and John Gait. The Tiger, who carried about a set of 12 bottles of whiskey, fondly called "The 12 Apostles", and who in his Will left some of his property to his sister "because she is married to a minister, whom (God help him!) she henpecks" and his silver tankard to the eldest son of old John rather than to old John himself because "he would melt it down into temperance medals , and that would be sacrilege" - this same Tiger had a serious side and an innate sense of fair play. In his statistical sketches on Upper Canada for the use of emigrants which he wrote in Goderich in 1832, we read:

"An elder of the Kirk, and bred in the most orthodox part of Scotland, I came to this country strongly prejudiced against catholicism and its ministers; but experience has shown me that these prejudices were unjust. I expected to find both priests and people as violently opposed to the British government here as at home.  I found them the strongest supporters of the constitution.  I had been taught to believe, that a Catholic priest was a hypocritical knave, who ruled his misguided followers for his own selfish purposes.  I have found them a moral and zealous clergy, more strict in their attention to their parochial duties than anybody of clergy I ever met in any part of the world, and not a bit more intolerant than their clerical brethren of any other sect. And I look upon this public avowal and recantation as a penance for my sins of ignorance, and I hope it will be accepted as such. I have no very particular leaning, as may well be supposed, towards the doctrine of the Church of Rome, but I merely wish, like Lord Byron,

'Justice to do to Trojan and to Tyrian,
For I was bred amoderate Presbyterian.’   "

Just what type of men did Dunlop have in mind when he wrote the above lines? At that time, Goderich was within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Kingston; when the western portion of Upper Canada was taken from Kingston, Goderich came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Toronto, and when that diocese was subdivided Goderich became part of the Diocese of London when it was established on February 29, 1856.

When Dunlop was writing, however, the Bishop of Kingston was a fellow Scot, Alexander MacDonnel, and he held him in high regard: "It is well known that, during the war (of 1812), Ogdensburg was taken by the gallant charge made, under a heavy fire from the enemy's batteries, by the Catholics of Glengarry, headed by their priest, the Reverend Alexander McDonnel, now Catholic bishop of Upper Canada..."

The first priest to arrive in Goderich after its founding was Father Lawrence Dempsey. In "A History of St. Peter's Parish,  GGoderich", written in 1927 by Thomas J. McCarthy, a Goderich native, then a student at St. Peter's Seminary, London, and now Bishop of St. Catharines, Ontario, he tells us that Father Dempsey was pastor of St. Thomas and London, who came to Goderich for the first time in 1831. The Lizars sisters tell us "In the Days of the Canada Company" that Father Dempsey was "a good man, beloved by Romans and Protestants, preaching to all alike; he married, buried and baptized them with the utmost impartiality..." This same Father Dempsey said the first mass in Stratford, having arrived there on horseback from St. Thomas in 1832.

In 1834 Goderich was placed under the care of Father Joseph Louis Wiriath (sometimes spelled Worrath) and attached the German settlements in Waterloo. Some idea of the dedication of the priests of those days and why they gained the admiration of Dunlop may be seen in the conduct of Father Wiriath. From the Wilmot line in Waterloo County in November 1835, he waIked to near Stratford, his vestments, chalice and the other materials he required to celebrate mass packed on his back. There he gave a three-day mission, celebrating daily mass. On he went to St. Columban (Irishtown) and Goderich and then returned exhausted to Stratford. As the Lizars put it, "Low shoes, thin clothing, intense cold, sleeping in his clothes, and making involuntary fasts, not prescribed by calendar but by uncertain time from one hospitable if humble board to another — all did their work of wreckage." In spite of these hardships, Father Wiriath secured a site on North Street in Goderich in 1834 and a frame church, St. Peter's, was
erected, with Hugh Chisholm being the builder. This was the first church building erected in Goderich, and as late as 1889, an unknown writer in The Signal-Star wrote that "St. Peter's, although a frame edifice, gives no evidence of having withstood the storms of over fifty-five years".

Following Father Wiriath, Father Thomas Gibney in 1836 took charge of the care of Goderich and Stratford which really meant he had the care of Huron and Perth Counties. This old Irishman was but one of seven priests who had the care of the area now
known as London Diocese comprising nine counties of Southwestern Ontario.

Up to this point in time Goderich had been cared for by visiting priests, but on the retirement of Father Gibney in 1843, the first resident pastor in the person of Father Peter Schneider was appointed, having charge also of the mission of Stratford. Father Schneider was to be pastor of Goderich until 1868 with the exception of the period 1852 - 1854.

Father Schneider was a colourful man. He was born October 23, 1806, at Schoenbourg in Alsace, France; we are told that he was a soldier in Napoleon's army, and served at Waterloo. He was ordained a priest in 1836 and served first in his native France and then became a missionary in America serving first in New York, then Montreal, then Kingston and Toronto, and finally, after it was formed, the Diocese of London. He is called "The Apostle of Huron County". One historian tells us that his countenance bore a striking resemblance to the late Pope Pius IX, while others describe him as "a tremendous man, with a plain but good face" who "strode along in his soutane as if his sabre were still clattering by his side" as "a jolly priest", a man of "pluck", as a man of "benign expression given by good living, good heart and good temper". Father Schneider too travelled from township to township, by foot and on horseback, through the bush and on trails blazed through the forests, his rotund figure emphasized by the cassock he invariably wore, to minister to his people. When the railroad came, he rode the engine to get to some of his missions.

He was a fighter. Thinking he had been promised land for church purposes in Ashfield Township by one candidate for public office, and that the promise had not been kept, it is said that on voting day each polling place sported a small note, "It is a mistake for my people to imagine that I wish them to vote for the Honourable William Cayley.

I desire them to vote for the Honourable Malcolm Cameron. — P. Schneider P.P." He was respected by all. "Once, between Goderich and Irishtown, he met the Orangemen having a walk. They opened up their ranks to let him pass through, which he did,
bowing right and left as in a progress, they saluting as he passed up the aisle made for him. To have had such a position was no small testimony to a man's worth."

He is said to have lived on the corner of Kingston and St. David’s Street when he first arrived in Goderich and later lived in a frame cottage on the site of the old separate school on North Street and Caledonia Terrace, facing the present church.

Father Schneider commenced the records that are now in the parish. In his own handwriting we read, "Record of Baptisms,  Marriages and Deaths commencing with the year 1844. Being a record for the three missions to wit: Goderich, Irishtown and

For some unknown reason Father Schneider found it necessary to leave the parish and go to Rome in 1852, a perilous journey in those days. Why he went we do not know, but in the parish records under the date of June 1852, he wrote: "Here I left Goderich and may God keep my successor to his duty faithful as I have been for nine years".

The successor to Father Schneider was Father J. J. Ryan, who was installed as pastor on June 24, 1852. His stewardship continued until 1853 and he apparently cared for Ashfield.

Little else is known of him. He in turn was succeeded by Father Robert Keleher. He was in Goderich in September 1853, and was at that time thirty-nine years of age and fourteen years a priest. Goderich was now a part of the jurisdiction of The Rt. Rev. Armand Francis Marie, Comte De Charbonelle, then Bishop of Toronto, who, during his episcopate, ran a running battle with Egerton Ryerson over the Separate School question.

Father Keleher relates that he had been ordained in 1840 by Bishop Cornelius Egan of Kerry at Maynouth, Ireland; that he had laboured in Ireland until 1845 when he sailed for America, and was accepted by Bishop John Hughes, then Bishop of New York. He then transferred to the jurisdiction of Bishop John McCloskey of Albany. In 1852, he placed himself under Bishop De Charbonelle "in that part of America known as Canada West". The last record made by Father Keleher in the Goderich records was on May 31, 1854.

Then, as mysteriously as he left, Father Schneider again comes on the scene. We have no record of exactly when, but in 1856 he records in the parish register: "Dear Reader. My mission this 13 years was Stratford, Irishtown, Goderich. This last year it has pleased the Rt. Rev. Doctor Charbonal Bishop of Toronto to take off Stratford. There now remains Goderich, Irishtown, Ashfield and Bayfield etc." It must have been shortly after this entry that the Diocese of London was formed on February 29, 1856, with Bishop P. A. Pinsonneault consecrated as its first bishop in May, 1856 - and Goderich came under its jurisdiction.

The coming of the railway to Goderich — The Buffalo and Lake Huron — which was opened in 1857 by Lord Elgin, brought large number of Catholic labourers to Goderich; as a result Father Schneider obtained an assistant, Father Auguste Wassereau, a welcome helper, described by Father Schneider in his inimitable way as "a ‘vicaire’ named Wassereau born in Phalbourg, Lorraine, France" who would ease the burden of caring for Goderich and its missions of "Ashfield, Wawanosh, Hay, St. Joseph and Irishtown". It is Father Wassereau who records the confirmation of 45 boys and 31 girls in Ashfield in 1858 by Bishop D. Farrell of Hamilton (acting as administrator of London Diocese in the absence of Bishop Pinsonneault), and of a class of 26 children at Goderich by Bishop Pinsonneault (who had moved his See from London to Sandwich) in 1860. The next bishop of London, however, Bishop John Walsh, transferred the See back to London.

Father Schneider continued on as pastor of Goderich until 1868, and as Father Wassereau was moved in 1861, he was again alone during his last seven years in the parish. The Lizars sisters' record of him, "He died in France, but masses for his soul’s rest were devoutly said in the far-away Canadian parish where he was doubly beloved".

For a short while a Father Lewis Schneider looked after the parish, but in September 1868, Father Bartholomew Boubat became pastor. Father Boubat is remembered for his care of the sick and as a builder. In 1869 he commenced building a new rectory, which was to last some 45 years. The old rectory was turned into a school. The rectory completed, he enlarged and remodeled the frame church, which was solemnly dedicated by Bishop John Walsh, on his first visit to Goderich on June 29, 1870. Then he built a convent and school, completing them in 1873. On November 4th of that year, Reverend Mother Mary Vincent, Sister Mary Francis
and Sister Mary Patricia formally opened the first convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of London, situated outside the City of London. This building, no longer used as a convent, still stands on the west side of North Street, opposite St. Peter’s Church.

In 1874, Father Boubat was succeeded by Father P. J. O'Shea. Father O'Shea was transferred to Seaforth in 1880 and was succeeded by Father B. J. Watters. In February 1881, a class of 123 children from Goderich and Hullett was confirmed by Bishop Walsh; three years later another 70 children were confirmed. During Father Watters' pastorate, he was assisted at first by his uncle, Father B. McGauran of the Archdiocese of Quebec; in 1883 by Father D. A. McRae (who was to return as pastor in 1904); and from 1884 to 1888 by Rev. Father Henry B. Lotz.

In September 1888, Father (later Monsignor) Thomas West became pastor. In 1896 he replaced the old frame church built by Father Wiriath in 1834 with the beautiful church we have today at a cost of $17,000. 00. Made of stone quarried from the banks
of the Maitland River under the supervision of Father West, its fine lines even today - 80 years later - evoke the admiration of visitors. During the 15 year pastorate of Father West 141 children were confirmed by Bishops O'Connor and McEvay, the third and fourth Bishops of the Diocese of London.

From September 1903 to January 1904, Father (later Monsignor) J. F. Stanley was pastor. It was he who substituted a silver collection for the penny collection.

Reverend D. A. McRae returned to the parish as pastor in January 1904. Father McRae was born in Ross-shire, Scotland, in 1842, and emigrated to Ontario with his father, brother and stepmother in 1848, and at the age of 11 he still spoke only Gaelic. He stayed with his father on the bush farm until he was 21. Following this, he spent several years helping farmers with the harvest, cutting and delivering wood, supplying ties for the railroads. In 1882 at the age of 40 he was ordained sub-deacon, deacon and priest all within a month. In a statement of his life, Father McRae writes, "When it is taken into consideration how I was rushed through the higher orders, as explained above, it can easily be understood that I had little time to study the rubrics, and in consequence was ill prepared for the work now required of me. This lack or want of instruction I have felt very much even to the present day."

Father McRae was pastor of Goderich for 17 years. His labours in Goderich are best described in his own words: “I left Parkhill to take charge of Goderich, Ont. I found the old brick residence built by Rev. Father Baubatt 37 or 38 years before standing on the same spot, the old frame Church removed, and a commodious new stone Church erected on the same ground. This was done by my predecessor Rev. Father West who did great work there also paying off the old debt encumbering the parish for years, and leaving only $5,000 to be paid on the new church when he left for St. Thomas. I found that the congregation had greatly decreased from the time of my curacy 23 years before. On taking my first census in 1904, I found only 93 families all told, 13 of whom were farmers, nearly all the rest being labourers. Improvement was necessary in residence, that is putting in a hot water boiler, including radiation, new stove, and, necessary utensils in kitchen, installing electric lights, improving bathroom and toilet
conveniences. The furnace in the church being burned out, I had to install two new ones, as well as increase the size of hot and cold air ducts and registers. I had to paint the church externally as well as the eavestroughs and gutters. On March 12, 1910, the church was seriously damaged by fire inside. The fire originated near the main altar which was totally destroyed, the ceiling and roof of the sanctuary greatly damaged, all the interior painting blistered, the Stations of the Cross were blackened with smoke, and, the altar rails, side altars, and, pews needed overhauling. So I gave Mr. Von Mak Detroit the contract of decorating the church in oil, and doing the necessary painting. I secured a new high altar from Mr. Rosenblatt St. Clement which with the other work cost $5,850. The insurance received was $3,300. Finding that the vestry was not in keeping with the rest of the building I removed the roof from one side, removed one side wall, rebuilt this wall 11 feet farther out, rebuilt roof on that side and thus made the vestry more in keeping with the church. This together with a cement basement under vestry and connecting it with the basement of the church cost $1,300. At the request of my Bishop M. F. Fallon D.D. in 1913 I prepared to build a new parochial residence, and this was accomplished in 1914. The old house which stood for 50 years was torn down, and the new built on the same ground on cement foundation. I supervised the tearing down of the old house so as to save brick, lumber and timbers as far as possible to serve in the new building. Hence all the new brick required - Milton pressed brick - was 20,000 for facing, the old brick serving for the rest of the walls. In the same way the other suitable materials from the old building were utilized. Hence the complete cost was only $7,000 in cash. The North Street Methodist parsonage was built the same year at a cost of $10,000 and yet the verdict of the public is that the Catholic parsonage is a better model, more spacious, and superior in every respect. During my pastorate in St. Peter’s parish, Goderich, I collected and paid out for building improvements, insurance, and interest about $21,180 and left the parish without debt as well as leaving $450.00 cash in the bank to the credit of the church and $250 for cemetery in care of my successor Father Gnam - July 15, 1921.

I may say here that in all my parochial works I have found the experience gained in connection with my different works in the world before studying for the priesthood most useful to me as parish priest, especially in building and improving."

As stated, Father McRae retired in 1921, respected by Catholic and non-Catholic alike. He was succeeded by Father P. J. Guam who continued as pastor until his death in 1926. Father Guam was noted for his solicitude for the sick. During his pastorate he beautified the Catholic Cemetery, and witnessed the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Goderich in 1923 - Mother Ingatia, the original superior of the convent when it was founded in 1873 being present for the event.

Father J. N. Campian succeeded Father Gnam, and he in turn was followed by Father L. P. Lowry in 1929. He is remembered as a "real priest" and a consoler of the needy and the unfortunate.

In 1934 Father Charles F. Nagle was named to replace Father Lowry, and almost immediately suffered a great impairment in health and was confined to the rectory almost continually until his death in 1947. In June of 1935 Father Hubert Fallon, a saintly priest, was assigned as his assistant. Father Fallon was a human saint, however, and once said that it was hard to live with a man who neither smoked, drank nor played cards. Both before coming to Goderich and after he left in 1947 Father Fallon devoted some 25 years of his priesthood as assistant to sickly priests. During Father Nagle's pastorate, the war broke out, and the establishment of the Sky Harbour Training Centre near Goderich and the R.C.A.F. Station near Clinton brought a large number of instructors and their families into the Parish.

Father Jeremiah Gleeson became pastor in 1947 and continued so until 1959. Father Gleeson was a contributor to the Catholic Press, and an outspoken but kindly man. Father Gleeson, like St. Francis , loved animals. He had a police dog which he called "Rip", but many of the tradespeople who called at the Rectory considered it a ripper.

Father Raymond Moynahan, the present pastor, succeeded Father Gleeson in June, 1959. Shortly after, in September 1960, the new St. Marys School was opened with Bishop Thomas J. McCarthy, a student of the old separate school on North Street, officiating.

Under Father Moynahan, a parish hall was excavated under the church, a feat which some years before an engineering firm advised to be impossible. The beautiful wood carved Crucifix and the wood carved Stations of the Cross were also added to the church and a new convent for the sisters, the former residence of Judge Philip Holt, was acquired during Father Moynahan’s stewardship. To him also fell the difficult task of refitting the church to conform with the new liturgy introduced by the Second Vatican Council and the establishment of the Parish Council. A constant visitor to the Alexandra Marine and General Hospital and to the Goderich Psychiatric Hospital, Father Moynahan, a lover of Latin, possesses a keen theological mind, and his austere appearance hides a kindly heart.

Such then is the history of the Catholic Church in Goderich. Of necessity it deals mainly with its pastors, but through them the ordinary Catholic people of Goderich have, along with their fellow citizens of other faiths, endeavoured to contribute to the community and make it an oasis of good neighbourliness in a very troubled world.


Part Two: St. Joseph's Kingsbridge


Brief History of St. Joseph's Parish, Kingsbridge

In the Autumn of 1839, the first eight settlers from Ireland, John Dean, John Finn, Jeremiah Flynn, Morgan King, John O'Connor, Cornelius O'Keefe, Thomas Sullivan and John Sullivan, through unimaginable hardships ended their journey by locating in what had become St. Joseph’s Parish, Kingsbridge, ON . John Knightly, John Hennessey, Simon Stiles, Patrick Long, Charles McCarthy, John Dolan Donald Brick, Henry Brown and Cornelius Desmond came into the settlement in 1842 and 1843. Within the next ten years the greatest influx of settlers were noticed, coming in singly or in groups of relatives: The Brady's, Bowlers, Buckleys, Casino, Clares, Colemans, Courtneys, Currans, Cronks, Daltons, Davises, Dineens, Doyles, Fays, Fords, Garveys, Gilmores, Griffins, Hayes, Higgins, Hogans, Howards, Hurleys, Jones, Kennedys, Kellys, Lannens, Lucys, Mahers, Martins, McCarthys, McCarrons, McGintys, McGlynns, McGrorys, McGuiness, McPhees, Murchisons, Murphys, Nulroys, O'Connors, O'Fays, O'Neils, O'Reillys, O'Rourkes, Reardons, Roaches, Sinnots, Sheas, Smiths, Sullivans, Wallaces, Walls, Welshs, and Whittys.
The magnificent "Irish" were joined by the next significant arrival of migrants from Holland and the parish officially became "multicultural". The Moerbecks were the first in 1937 but the majority arrived after the war in 1945. The surnames Shuurman, VanOsch, Hendricks, Miltenburg, Knoop, VanRooy, Van Diepen, VanDyke, VanDiepenbeek soon enriched our parish as have families from all over the world in recent years.
In 1856 Kingsbridge became known through the efforts of John King who built a bridge. In 1860 Father Wassereau came to found the Parish of St. Joseph. From the original building to the rebuild in 1887 and with the appointment of Father McCormack in March 1900, plans for a new church were established.
In September 1903 the corner stone of the present church was laid and blessed. Samuel Cooper, the contractor built on land originally donated by the Crown. The dimensions of the church (150 by 50 feet (approx.)), with seating capacity of about 700 people, were enclosed by red Milton pressed brick on a granite fieldstone base with a slate roof and a high tower contained the 2000-pound bell.
In October 1905, the opening took place, with Bishop McEvay officiating. The parishioners donated many of the beautiful windows.
A commodious hall was furnished in the church basement. A piano was procured and many pleasant and profitable evenings were spent. The "Kingsbridge Dramatic Club" was formed and the talent was admired and appreciated by capacity audiences. Father McCormack was so very proud of the boys and girls who abounded in musical talent (both vocal and instrumental) under the direction of Mrs. James Garvey (Ida Foley). He enjoyed the excellent quality of entertainment by the youthful performers up until his death in October of 1918.
Father F.A. McCardle, who had just been ordained, took charge of the parish until Father W.A. Dean was appointed in December 1918. In the spring of 1926, Father Dean was transferred and Father McCardle became pastor of St. Joseph. Father McCardle made plans to build a spacious and comfortable red brick rectory and improve the surrounding grounds containing the cemetery. In 1928, a magnificent bronze crucifix (donated by John Courtney) was placed in the cemetery. Father McCardle laboured cheerfully and successfully to promote the spiritual and temporal welfare of his flock. On May 15, 1935 he was transferred and Father J.R. Quigley came as pastor of St. Joseph. A new cross was erected at this time.
The priests and brothers from the Congregation of the Resurrection ministered from 1946 until 1963. The Missionary Society of St. Paul in Diocese of London was in charge of St. Joseph Parish for the next nine years under the guidance of various priests.
In June 1972 the Bishop Gerald Emmett Carter officially assigned the Congregation of the Resurrection the responsibility of Ministering to the parish of Ashfield. Our spiritual leaders were Father Edward J. Dentinger C.R, (1972-1989), Brother Carl Voll C.R., (1972-1992) and Father Harry Reitzel C.R. (1989-2003).
Like many of the religious communities across Canada, the Resurrectionists where no longer able to staff St. Joseph Parish and it was handed back to the Diocese for pastoral care.  In 2003 Bishop Fabbro appointed Fr. Zbigniew Sawicki as Administrator.  Fr. Sawicki was appointed at a time when all the parishes throughout the Diocese of London began its final phase of reorganization and clustering of parishes.  Effective June 2007 St. Joseph was closed as a parish and its territory absorbed into St. Peter’s Parish.  The church remains open as one of the worship sites with the parish boundaries.
*Please note that all persons responsible for attaining and publishing the above history do so from past documentation and the memories of many and may not be 100% accurate.


Part Three: St. Joseph's Clinton