History of Irishtown

Compiled by Lawrence Gillespie & Warren Schella

Irishtown was first settled in 1812 by three IRISH immigrants, the brothers John and William Woods and Walter Crowley.  Between 1812 and 1816 more were to come and soon land was being cleared by men whose names can still be seen on mailboxes in the area.  Fitzsimmons, Larracey, Donahue, MacDonald, Hennesey, McQuade, Kennedy, O’neil and Anketell.

Later, when Moncton, or the Bend as it was called then, was just a small community more of these pioneer Irishmen came and in 1847 a shipyard in Lewisville was being worked by eight or nine men with a lilting accent. IRISHmen, who had come to build ships and fulfill a dream of a new life.  Lewisville was somewhat larger than Moncton in those days and the land north of here was all woods, pine, spruce and hardwood, vital to the shipbuilding industry.  So these hardy men who had come from so far away ventured into this Crown owned land and cut the masts and heavy timber needed for these great ships and log cabins. Thomas Simmons, James Doyle, John McGuire, John Hannigan, John Potter, John Cummings, Jimmy Walsh, Michael Moran and a Mr. Colpitts built these cabins in the woods north of Moncton and cleared land which was to become IRISHTOWN.

As years passed by, more settlers came and cleared more land to farm and raise children.  Such a family, the Turners, built a home on the intersection of the Irishtown Road and Communication Road.

The year was 1859 and later in 1907 a church was erected on this corner and was called the Union Church which still stands today and is now called the Turner House.

The history of St. Lawrence Roman Catholic Church begins with the building of a smaller church which burned in 1849. From it’s ashes came the present church which saw the vestry installed in 1864 and the first priest was Rev. Father Houlihan.

In 1870 the church itself was built by a Mr. Ward and the pews were put in the church in 1874 during the time Father Vanier from Cocagne was its priest. The land for the church was donated by Mr. Fitzgerald and the first person to be buried in the adjoining cemetery was Mr. Dennis Gallagher.

In 1871 Father Knox from Cocagne became rector and the bell which tolls on Sunday mornings was installed in 1940 under the guidance of Father Robichaud who also had the altar built and stoked the wood heating system.

The older vestry was used to hear confessions and dinner for the priest was served at Mr. Hennesey’s.  Mass was said once a month in those days.

In August 1946 Rev. Father G. A. McDevitt became the first resident priest followed by Rev. Father W. Lauzon who was appointed Pastor, October 19, 1956. He had the church remodeled somewhat, lowering the high ceiling, a baptistery build and the Sanctuary modernized.

St. David’s Church was built in 1885, then Presbyterian and joined the United Church of Canada in 1975.  Rev. J. D. Murray, Bouctouche, was the founder and first minister.

The MacDougall family were among the early English speaking settlers for which the community got its name.  Their house was the home of the Post Office until the time of Rural Mail delivery.  The cemetery is also on the MacDougall property, where rests the early settlers and the names MacDougall, Duff, MacNeil, Teed, Mugridge and others.  One tombstone bears the name of MacLean, where four of the family of the late Mr. & Mrs. Hugh MacLean, Scotch Settlement, are buried.  These four met death when the family home was destroyed by fire.

We have no record of the date of the MacDougall Settlement school, but feel it must be over 100 years old (the family names in this area remain from one generation to another, MacDougall, Murray, Teed, Stewart and Johnson).   The school is now the home of Murray McBurnie.

The school and community hall at Scotch Settlement was built in 1886.  The hall was used for Sons of Temperance Lodge, Prayer Meetings, Sunday School and many a Christmas Concert. L.O.L. and L.O.B.A, Lodge meetings, as well as the good old Square Dances.  The school served Cape Breton Settlement also.

The Mill boarding house housed the employees of the Mill which was at the brook, where there was a mill pond, built about the same year as the School and Hall.  This house for years has been the home of the Gillespie family.

A great many of the families in this area came from and had family ties in P.E.I. while the Cape Breton Settlement early settlers came from Cape Breton, N.S.      

P.E.I. family names: Henderson, Crocket, Gillespie, MacKinnon, Stewart and others.

Cape Breton family names: MacQuarrie, MacDonald and others.

Other first settlers to venture into the wilds north of Moncton were Mr. Thomas Kervin who lived at Tankville which is located just north of McEwen’s airfield, and was so named because of a large water tank erected next to the train tracks and supplied the trains with water on their run from Moncton to Bouctouche.

Water was kept in troughs all along the Irishtown Road as horse and buggy traffic would ply its way to and from Moncton and would provide a welcome relief for thirsty travelers.

The Kervins land is still in the family name.  In 1885 the first school in the area was built on McLaughlin Road and a young man by the name of R. B. Bennett taught school there and later went on to Ottawa to become the Prime Minister of Canada.

 In 1888 the Railroad line was opened between Moncton and Bouctouche, later to become a tragic news story as word of a wreck reached citizens in February of 1914.  During this month there had been several heavy snowstorms and plows were having a hard time keeping the tracks open and clear.  Frank Hall, General Manager of the railway decided to venture out from Moncton with the plow and crew to investigate the condition of the line.

The snow plow, two engines and at least one car broke through the wooden trestle at Scotch Settlement, taking Mr. Hall to his death, as well as Gideon Smith, engineer; George Freeman, fireman; and Silvain Bourque, fireman. Several men were injured including Alex McKee, engineer; William Bastarache, temporary employee; Alyre Richard, temporary employee; John McFadden, conductor; and John McClimtock, brakeman.

The Moncton and Bouctouche Railway was without locomotives for some time and the line was blocked until the bridge was repaired.

Of interest to perhaps only locals, there was a tavern at the place which was the Steeves House, known more recently as the Budd house.  This tavern was run by Crownham and Gallagher in the 1800’s.  This house was right across from the present Community Centre.  The Wilbur family lived near Mr. Lewis Girouard’s present home.

Other residents include Mr. Aberham Matthews who was Irish but not Roman Catholic and lived near the Geddes home of present.

The Dovan family lived where the L’Allée Verte Camp is and there were four families of Henneseys where presently live the Bulmers, Graves’ and Kellys.

William Larrisey occupied land owned presently by Lanctin Dysart and another William Larrisey lived where Con Simon now resides on the Scotch Settlement Road.

A Morley family settled at the site of the Happy Valley Farm and David Steeves’ farm was cleared by the Sullivans.

The area around the Happy Valley Farm once bustled with the activities of a Sawmill on one side of the road and a Grist Mill on the other.  The brook which still runs through the property once had two dams in it.       

The Donahue’s lived where the McQuaids now reside and land at the top of the hill known as the Roy property was once owned by the Cochran’s and served as a shale pit from which all the roads in this area were built.       

The First Moncton Reservoir was on the Irishtown Road.  It had then a capacity of 80 million gallons, with the feeder supply it was supposed to be sufficient for 20,000 people in a normal year.       

In the First World War, two brave men from Scotch Settlement were killed in action.  They were Leonard Crawford and Earle O. MacKinnon.       

The first cement bridge in the Moncton area was built in Scotch Settlement in 1915.       

The first telephone in this area was at the Larrisey house.       

The first store was at the Happy Valley Farm and was operated by a Mr. Cormier.       

James Larrisey operated a blacksmith shop in the same area.       

The hydro electric was put through from Shediac River, MacDougalls, Scotch Settlement and the Irishtown Road to the City limits near the Trans Canada Highway in 1938.       

The mail started as a rural route in about 1934 and came from Moncton every day in summer and 3 days a week in winter, and was first delivered by Edgar Stuart of Scotch Settlement.       

The first car was believed to be owned by Mr. McDougall or Mr. Harry Steeves.  The McDougalls first settled in the area named after them.        

During the years . . .     

Mr. Lanctin Dysart of the Irishtown Road was elected MLA for Westmorland County.       

In 1963, the Mountain View School was opened.  This school was built on the property first owned by Pat Donahue and the first principal was Pat Donague Jr., a grandson.       

In the 1950’s men from the Irishtown area cut Christmas trees and hauled them to the railroad siding where they were graded, tied and loaded for shipment to the United States market.       

Also in 1952 a fire started in a barn owned by Tom Johnson where Harry Wynberg now lives.  The fire burned all of Mr. Johnson’s buildings down and then driven by high winds and hot August temperatures raced across the Cove Road to consume house and barn of Mr. Archie Michaud, and then burnt the forest all the way to the old rail line near the home of Ross Gillespie, who with several valiant men from all over held the ravaging fire and finally snuffed it out at the brook.       

The Irish settlers brought much of the old country culture, one being the “waking of the dead”.  After the deceased was placed in the coffin (usually by neighbors or relatives), the friends gathered around to pay tribute, and the entire night was spent feasting and drinking.  An attempt was made to have the corpse join in the festivities by placing a bottle near the coffin and a pipe in his mouth.  One old gentleman in Irishtown was badly crippled with arthritis and spent the last years of his life badly bent over so that his body from the hips up was nearly parallel with the ground.  When he died the unprofessional undertakers had a job getting him in the coffin.  The problem was finally solved by fastening his feet down and placing a large rock on his chest and camouflaging it with a wreath.  During the evening there was an argument and tempers flared till someone was pushed against the coffin knocking the stone from the chest of the deceased who immediately sat up in his coffin.  The result was a fast exodus from the house, but when they assembled in the yard, courage returned and one brave soul ventured a look in the window.  “Good Lord”, he shouted to his pals, “He’s sitting up in his coffin and smoking his pipe.”       

In the winter months of 1940 a Gypsy Moth bi-plane circled a snow covered field on the Irishtown Road and as a young man by the name of Charlie McEwen peered down from the cockpit, a bit of apprehension in his mind, he nervously landed his plane on skis in the snow to make the first of many landings on what was to become McEwen’s Airfield.  With 50 acres of land bought from a somewhat reluctant Mrs. John Kervin.  Charlie started to develop the second airfield in the Moncton area.  The first hangar was built in 1946 but following a family tragedy, the airfield was sold to the Simmons brothers who suffered a fire in 1948 and sold everything back to Mr. McEwen.  A Mr. Bob Simmons who was later to gain international fame by piloting a 4 engine aircraft non-stop around the world in 1958.  The present hangar and terminal were built in 1953, a center of pilot training and air search teams.  McEwen’s Airfield is a well-known landmark in the area.