Sunday, August 3, 2008

Contact Us

Pastor - Fr. Nick Defina

Office Hours: Monday - Friday 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
(closed for lunch 1:00 pm to 1:30 pm)

Office Phone: 905-936-4266 Fax: 905-936-9266

Priest's Residence 905-936-2020 (emergency only)

St. James Parish Community is a Roman Catholic parish, located about 60 km north of downtown Toronto, in south Simcoe County, Ontario

Mailing Address
2118 Adjala-Tecumseth Townline
RR #1 Colgan, Ontario
L0G 1W0

Mass Times

Sunday Mass Schedule
Saturday 5:30pm St. Francis Xavier Church, Tottenham
Sunday 8:30am St. Francis Xavier Church, Tottenham
Sunday 9:00am St. Mary's Church, Achill
Sunday 10:30am St. James Church, Colgan
Sunday 12 Noon St. James Church, Colgan

Pioneer History

Pioneer Times

An excerpt from South Adjala 1825-1965, by George Keogh, Nobleton Press, 1965.


Early in the nineteenth century the trickle of immigration to this part of the country began to widen into a steadily-flowing stream. It was still called Canada West when they came, -- a wilderness -- beautiful but cruel.

Free land was the magnet and famine the spur when our forefathers left their beloved Ireland to settle in these sections with the strangely haunting Indian names, -- Adjala, Mono and Tecumseth. The waters of the Nottawasaga and Humber rivers were the life-line of the settlers and, dotted here and there along their many branches, weathered timbers and rusting millwheels bear testimony to the early industry of our forebears.

Now, almost a century and a half later, there has developed a wide-spread recurrence of interest in pioneer life. Perhaps it was sparked by the efforts to preserve towns and farms along the St. Lawrence when the Seaway opened or possibly the approach of Canada's own Centennial is at the root. Whatever the reasons, prosperous Ontario is taking a backward glance to its beginnings. Auction sales throughout the province are carefully scanned by dealers who find a ready market for the bits and pieces that were scattered in the wake of progress. Oxen yokes, iron kettles, hand-hewn furniture, spinning-wheels and the countless items produces of their necessity and carved by their ingenuity are now collectors' prizes.

An illustrated Atlas of Canada published in Toronto in 1880 and sold by subscription at $12.50 a copy, contains an interesting historical sketch of Simcoe County. At first the lands north of Toronto were designated as the Home District but after the Act of Union in 1841 Simcoe itself was formally proclaimed a District. A Court House was built in Barrie and representatives met in Council there from sections where the population warranted a say in Municipal affairs. Adjala, Mono and Mulmur were linked as the Cardwell District for representation until Dufferin County was formed in 1881. Mono and Mulmur were included in this newly-formed County leaving only Adjala within the confines of Simcoe.

It is interesting to note that recently, after the passing of some 84 years the Ontario Government has established new electoral districts and once again Adjala, Mono and Mulmur are linked as part of the Dufferin-Peel area.

Very soon after its formation familiar names began to appear as members of this Council. Robert Keenan, the first settler in Keenansville, which perpetuates his name, was the representative for the Cardwell District from 1846 to 1857. From 1858 we find the names of Patrick Tracey, J.T. Connor, Thomas Langley, Thomas Kidd, P.D. Kelly, Peter Small, G.P. Hughes, and Matt Ronan. In 1880, the year of publication of the Atlas, John Kelly and Joseph Wright were Reeve and Deputy Reeve.

And what of Adjala, which these civic-minded gentlemen represented, no doubt at great inconvenience to themselves, when one considers the transportation facilities of the times?

Early maps show settlements at Loretto, Athlone, Romilly, Hockley, Ballycroy, Alliston, Arlington and Colgan. In Mono, to the west, Mono Mills and Mono Centre are shown in and in Tecumseth on the east are Tottenham and Beeton.

It was a lovely land of rolling wooded hills and fertile soil -- twelve miles by five. A strip of swamp through the centre from east to west caused the only note of complaint. Its settlement dates back to the early 1820's and the pioneer names listed in the Atlas are Keenan, Kelly, Wilson, Ronan, Doyle, Deadman, Eagen, Ford, Irwin, Kidd, Hamilton, Langley, O'Leary, Ryan, Small, and Walker.


Though originally we were just a few straggling settlers in the midst of a wilderness, having communications with the rest of the world through travelling from Toronto to Newmarket on horseback or even on foot, we have come a long way since then. First the mail was brought from Bolton by stage coach to Keenansville, but when the railroad reached Tottenham in 1877 more distributing offices were opened and included Loretto, Athlone, Keenansville, Romilly, Achil, Enis, Ballycroy and Colgan. But with the coming of the rural mail delivery only a few of these were necessary. None attained a position in the commercial world except Athlone, Loretto and Keenansville, while the proximity of the church made Colgan an important centre. Athlone was one establishment in the Kidd empire which spread from Seaforth to Wiarton and even had a boat, the Josephine Kidd, which plied the Great Lakes. Loretto was always a centre quite similar to that of today, but Keenansville was a real metropolis.

Located on the Bailey River, the little hamlet had a ready solution for the acquisition of power. The semi-circular dam, studded with willow trees, enclosed a miniature lake which, besides being a source of waterpower, also provided a skating rink and the ice harvest so necessary in the days before Frigidaires. In summer the two flat bottomed boats were well patronized and many romantic tales are told of that era. A special craft, the Colleen Brown, built by our much beloved curate, Father Maurice Wilson, was the gem of the flotilla.

The water power was utilized in operating a saw mill and a three-storey woolen mill, both enterprises of Mr. Thomas Brown. Almost every farmer kept a flock of sheep to provide wool for his own needs, and spinning wheels were not rare, but the superfine products of Brown's mill were very popular, finding extensive markets. Only when substitutes were introduced by more recent manufacturers did the old mill withdraw from competition. At peak operation in the latter part of the century the advertisement in the local newspaper called for 200,000 lbs of wool.

Keenansville had two streets -- Victoria running east and west to end at Marie Street, running directly north and south. At the southern extremity, curving westward down a very steep hill to become Keenan's lane, so called because it was on the border of the Keenan farm, a good part of the town was built. The remainder of the village was part of the Morrow farm. At the foot of the hill on the south side was the saw mill, long since gone, and the boat house where the boats were stored. On the north side towered the woolen mill and on the crown of the hill stood Mr. Brown's stately residence with its lovely lawns.

Along the west side of Marie Street was a succession of business establishments, among them the residence of Mr. George P. Hughes, who, with the help of his clever family operated a general store, post office, private bank, telegraph office, conveyancing business and a printing press. Here the Simcoe Observer was born later the Cardwell Sentinel (Cardwell being the name of this municipal riding). There are extant copies printed in Keenansville in 1868. The editorial page of this paper has never been surpassed locally and world and local news filled its pages. The advertisements were striking. Our Adjala Agricultural Fair was given complete coverage. Small wonder that Keenansville had the telegraph brought from Bradford along the seventh line of Tecumseth. This service was later operated by Miss Ellie Morrow after the Morrow family took over the store and post office when Mr. Hughes removed his interests to Tottenham on the arrival of the railway there. The weekly Cardwell gradually became the Tottenham Sentinal. Some still recall the integrity and benevolence of Mr. George C. Morrow who was also an executive of the Simcoe Mutual Fire Insurance Company of those days.

Further south on Marie Street was the school of thirty pupils and in the winter many more, as the older boys and girls took advantage of their spare time to further their education. Just east of the school, on the Morrow farms, was the fair grounds, and on the southern borders of the school property stood the huge Fair buildings, a frame structure where at Fair time were displayed fancy work, crocheted goods and all manner of needle work and crafts as well as wool products, wooden ware and farm vegetables and fruits. It was the only fair within miles.

As far back as 1896 this annual event had become only a memory. In the 1890's the building was moved intact around the corner and east on Victoria Street by John Cobean, to be converted into a dwelling, cabinet factory and wagon shop. After his demise it served for a time as a Community Hall. Finally torn down, the timbers serve as frames for our present convent [ed note: now the Adjala Credit Union building] in Colgan.

A score of houses, two hotels, a blacksmith shop and a cobbler's shop were among the essential make-up of this thriving hamlet. But, lacking railroad facilities and without industries, the young folk drifted city-ward and the population dwindled until at one time there was only one resident. Now a number of summer homes are occupied and a few people have established permanent residence.

This augurs well for the future and we look forward to the day when some enterprising individual will develop a summer resort on the banks of the same Bailey River.


The prime requisite in establishing a business centre in the early days was a river to provide power for the mills to convert the forest into building material and grind wheat for food. Two of these mills flourished in Athlone, the saw mill being operated by the Hamilton family for many years. The grist mill was nearby. The hub of the hamlet was the general store of Kidd & Co. which included the post office, millinery showroom, dressmaking and men's tailoring enterprises as well as all manner of farm supplies. An extensive trade in produce flourished. A story is told of a woman walking across the fields for tea for breakfast, taking six straw hats braided the day before to trade for her purchases. There was also a blacksmith, a shoemaker and a hotel to accommodate the many agents and travellers. Two medical practitioners, Dr. C. McKenna and Dr. Hamilton, looked after the health of the area. A fine portrait of Dr. McKenna, painted by Joseph M. Kidd in 1892 is now in the Alliston Museum.


On the Humber River, had a general store, shingle and grist mills, blacksmith and machine shops. A serious fire on April 29, 1875, destroyed the village and took the lives of three young ladies who worked as milliners in the store of Mr. Peter Small. A monument to their memory is in Colgan cemetary, bearing the names: Margaret Daley - age 24 years; Mary Fanning - age 32 years; Bridget Burke - age 28 years.


Loretto got its name from the house at Our Lady of Loretto in France at the suggestion of its store owner, P.D. Kelly, but then, as now, all was not piety in Adjala and things of the world took precedence. A blacksmith's shop and two hotels were well patronized. At that time horses provided the only means of transportation and accommodation for both man and beast was very necessary at intervals on the long and arduous trips mostly by wagon. The old school is there but utilized as a garage near the old Gamble residence. The name Gamble brings to mind one of the noble women of those pioneer days, whose charity reached out to the whole country-side.

The present general store is a real live concern on the site of the Gamble Hotel and across the street a hotel serves on that busy highway today. Loretto is still noted for its hospitality and its mercantile activities.


Your streets have grown to emulate A city's thoroughfare,
The maple leaf which all adore Is blooming everywhere.

The lines quoted above were written by Henry Duggan on a visit to Tottenham after an absence of many years. They were part of a long poem which was published in the Sentinel in Nov. 1919.

Whatever the reasons, and they must be solid ones, the "Old Boys" return with astonishing regularity from all parts of the world to which they have scattered. They love to recall the exploits of their youth and the friends who shared them.

The first settlers came in 1825 but it was not until 1858 that the village got its name. The recent death of Miss Olive Totten brings to mind the meeting when the name was decided upon. Several names were suggested by this group of early fathers but when Nicholas Egan said that he thought it should be named after Alex Totten because of his help to everyone, there was immediate agreement. The "Pond" that has always been the delight and pride of the town and the location of the grist mills was dammed for the first of these by George Nolan. He operated the mill for 75 years and his son, the popular "Sink", -- Senaca, on grand occasions -- carried on the mill for another 20 years.

About a mile upstream was Egan's mill and from that site, Nicholas supplied the town with the first electric power, one of the first in the province.

No such brief account as this could do more than stir up a few memories.

Settlers listed before 1837, to name a few, were: Louis Foucar; John Childs; Tom McGoey; James Feehely; John Greenaway; N. Egan; Messers. Wilson & Potter.