The Catholic families who settled in West Flamborough Townships were first served by traveling missionaries from as far away as Toronto and Niagara. Father James Campion began ministering at the Head-of-the-Lake in 1827. Although attached to the military garrison at Niagara, he spent part of the year in Dundas, serving an area that stretched from St.
Catharines to Hamilton and northwards to Guelph –occasionally stopping in Freelton and Puslinch, where Mass was celebrated in private homes.
During the 1830s and in the decade following the great potato famine in Ireland, the northern part of East and West Flamborough Townships received a large influx of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants. Many settled along the 11th Concession of East Flamborough, in the Freelton area and along Brock Road and 6th Concession of West Flamborough. With so many of the families who settled in these areas originating from Ireland, they became known as “Little Ireland” or the “Irish Settlement.”
With no church or resident priest, the settlers in both townships tried to ensure their children received a Catholic education by building their own schools. In the early years, the children travelled to the corner of the 11th Concession and Centre Road in East Flamborough. Here, as early as 1855, there was a small Roman Catholic Academy operated by a woman named Miss Freel. A decade later, another one-room school was opened on Brock Road. Funds were solicited for materials and voluntary labour erected a frame building on property owned by innkeeper Michael Browne. The school operated until the end of the 19th century.
In 1856, a mission church, Sacred Heart of Jesus, was constructed in Morriston under the direction of Rev. George Laufhuber, a Jesuit from Berlin, Waterloo County, and regular visits to Freelton began a year later. On July 26, 1865, the site for the first Catholic church in West Flamborough Township was purchased from Freelton resident, Patrick Freel, for $500.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 17 October 2008.