Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Pioneers, Ploughs, and Politics: New Brunswick Planned Settlements

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Johnville Introduction Colonial Saint John

The Rt. Rev. John Sweeny
The Johnville colonization scheme was the dream of the Rt. Rev. John Sweeny, of Saint John. Born in Clones, Ireland, in 1821, Sweeny immigrated to the port city with his family in 1828. After completing classical courses at St. Andrew's College, Prince Edward Island, and seminary studies at the Grand Seminary, Québec, he was ordained priest in 1844. Sweeny served in four New Brunswick parishes and several administrative posts before being named Bishop of Saint John in 1859. He was consecrated in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Saint John on 15 April 1860. Bishop Sweeny would hold that post until his death on 25 March 1901.
In July 1859, then the Rev. John Sweeny approached the colonial government with his plan to relocate a large number of Roman Catholics on crown lands. In addition to Carleton County, Sweeny considered tracts in Westmorland, Albert, Northumberland, Sunbury, Queens, and York counties. He was convinced that poor Irish families, particularly those living in deplorable conditions in Saint John, would benefit greatly by moving to rural areas. Here they could own their own farms and offer their children a good education and a safe, healthy, and godly environment in which to grow up. His Johnville pioneers would come from the United States, several New Brunswick counties, and other points in British North America, about one-third of them hailing from the burgeoning city of Saint John.