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Our Parish History

The following article appeared in the Hamilton Times, May 16, 1892.


Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Image from Flamborough Archives & Heritage Society




It is a long time since such a large number of people attended any church service or visited the village of Freelton, as was there yesterday morning at the dedication ceremonies in connection with the new Catholic Church. There was a good representation of people from all the surrounding places including Guelph and this city.

The new church is one of which the people of Freelton together with the energetic pastor, Rev. Father O’Leary, have every reason to feel proud. It is built of stone and in very becoming style of gothic architecture, and on the outside above the main entrance it has a handsome spire, which adds considerably to its appearance. The Altar which was nicely decorated with flowers, is made of pine, while the neat and comfortable pews each seating about seven persons, are made of hardwood. The windows are all of stained glass of an appropriate pattern. It is situated on the site of the former one which was destroyed by fire about two years ago.

The opening ceremonies were conducted by Bishop Dowling, assisted by Rev. Fatherr McEvay, of this city. They left here on Saturday afternoon in a conveyance and when they were about five miles from Freelton they were met by a concourse of parishioners in carriages who had come to bid them a hearty welcome. The opening ceremony commenced in the morning shortly after 10:30 o’clock. His Lordship, accompanied by Rev. Father McEvay and Rev. Father O’Leary, proceeded around the church and blessed it. On their return to the sanctuary the litany of the saints was recited in Latin. Then High mass was celebrated by Rev. Father O’Leary, while a detachment of St. Mary’s Cathedral choir of this city, under the able direction of Prof. D.J. O’Brien, furnished the musical part of the service. It consisted of Gounod’s “Mess Solenelle” and Lambilotte’s “Alleluia” and after the celebration of the mass and the Bishop’s reply to the address, the benediction of the blessed sacrament was given by Rev. Fr. McEvay and the choir sang Tantum Ergo and “O Salutaris”. The solo parts were all creditably taken by Miss Margaret Harris, soprano, Mr. James McPherson, tenor, and Mr. B. Thomas, base. The last mentioned gentleman’s singing of his solo reflected great credit upon himself. A string quartet consisting of Mr. Geo. Fox, fist violin, Prof. Baumann, second violin, Mr. George Steele, viola and Mr. Locke bass viola, was present and ably assisted in the musical part of the services. The epistle and the gospel of the day were read by Rev. Father McEvay. Immediately after the mass the gentlemen of the congregation presented the Bishop with an address. The address, which was composed by Mr. Thomas O’Hagan, M.A., of Waterdown and which reflected great credit upon the gentlemen as follows:

The following is a copy of a document found in the church records. The document is not dated and the only reference to the authors is a comment from Fr. John Dwyer, which reads: “ I would like to thank all those who worked on this project.”

As Crown Patentees of land in West Flamboro Township, the Brocks, Danile De Lisle and John Savoy, William and Irving of London, the four brothers of General Sir Isaac Brock who died at Queenston during the War of 1812, registered 824 acres in Concession 9 on October 6, 1817, consisting of lots 1, 3, 4, 7 and 8. Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and cemetery are situated on Lot 8 of this early land purchase.

Although the present church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Freelton, was constructed in 1890, the Catholic history of this district outdates this time by almost 40 years. Previous to 1857, Catholics in this area, including Morriston, were visited by pioneer missionaries on their way from Dundas to Guelph.

Nearby Morriston began to be settled in the early 1830’s by Irish, Scottish, German and French farmers. A mission church was constructed in Morriston in 1856 under the direction of Rev. George Laufhuber, S.J., who was working out of Berlin (Kitchener) and Guelph. This mission church was dedicated by Bishop Farrell, and was attended from Guelph until a resident priest was named to Freelton. Morriston continued to be administered by the Freelton pastor until it was abandoned in 1910. A small cemetery in Morriston still remains to remind one of this early mission church.

Father Laufhuber also began visiting Freelton in 1857. In the years that followed and until 1877, Freelton was attended from Guelph, later Dundas and eventually Oakville. The site of the present church was purchased for the sum of $500.00 from a Patrick Freel. Patrick Freel was one of the original settlers in the area. It was he who laid out the village in 1853. He is interred in Our Lady of Mount Carmel cemetery along with his wife, Elizabeth, and other members of his family.

Freelton received its first resident pastor, Rev. William Lillis, on August 27, 1877. His tenure of office concluded n 1882 when he was succeeded by Rev. J.S. O’Leary, who remained until 1894. It seems that a small stone church had been erected during the pastorate of Father Lillis. This original structure was destroyed by fire and replaced during Father O’Leary’s administration. Thus, the present structure was completed in 1890 at which time the present rectory was also built.

The mission of Waterdown, previously attended from Dundas, Oakville and Hamilton, became a mission of Freelton in 1876. Waterdown was erected as an independent parish community in 1950.

Successor to Father O’Leary was the Rev. George Murphy who was later transferred to Dundalk in 1901, and was succeeded in Freelton parish by Rev. E.A. Doyle, who carried out the pastoral duties until 1908. Father Doyle’s successor was the Rev. T.L. Ferguson who served from 1908 until 1909 when Father William Becker was appointed. Father Becker served as pastor for 15 years, and it was during the time (1914 –1915) that the Waterdown church was erected. It was also during Father Becker’s time that the mission at Morriston was abandoned.

From 1924 to 1927 the Rev. Michael Wiedner was pastor. He was followed by Father Michael Halm who remained as pastor until 1932 when Rev. F.J. McHugh began a 10 year pastoral charge The next pastor was Father Gordon Ryan who held the office until 1947, at which time the Rev. James A. Ford was appointed. Father Ford served the people of Mount Carmel from 1947 until his death in 1976. It was during Father Ford’s pastorate that Marian Hall was constructed.

For a brief period of time the parish was without a resident pastor following Father Ford’s death. Following Father Ford the pastors were Father H. Higgins, Father Wilfrid Murphy and Father John Dwyer.


Another report was also found in the church files and it too had no date or named author.

As you approach Freelton from Hamilton you can clearly see the big old steeple of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The church was so named, it is believed, because it is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady of Mt. Carmel isn’t the only church in Freelton but it is the only Roman Catholic church not only in Freelton but in Carlisle and the surrounding area as well. Other churches in the area include a Jehovah’s Witness church, a United church and the Freelton Fellowship Baptist church.

The land the church sits on was sold to the diocese in 1865 for $500.00 by Patrick Freel after whom Freelton is named. The first church was built in the 1860’s by Dennis McCarthy, a local stonemason. The stones are limestone and each stone was individually hand hewn by Mr. McCarthy which took two years. This church was burnt down in 1877 due to an overheated furnace pipe and was rebuilt, identically, in 1890 except that the ceiling was painted with a design by Mr. Steven Winter between the years 1951 – 1980

The original graveyard is still in use although it has been enlarged over the years. Walking around the cemetery is an interesting experience. The oldest headstone is dedicated to Joseph Freel and dated 1871 and the oldest memorial is dedicated to three young boys aged 9,11 and 13 who were lost at sea in 1856. Several of the parish priests over the years have been buried here.

Also on the church grounds is Marian Hall which was named after the Marian Day rally the church used to have to hold in the Carlisle Library until it had a building of its own. Marian Hall was built because the people of the parish had no place to hold their functions and they were tired of going to other halls to do so. The original parish hall was built around 1919, with space below for the horses and buggies. This was eventually torn down and the former stables were renovated and known as Marian Hall. This was a temporary meeting place for years until the need for bigger facilities became apparent. (This is now the library). In the 1960’s the Parish Council asked permission from Father Ford to build an new hall and in 1967, with money from the Parish Fund and donations from the parishioners, it was built for $40,000.00. by Deitrich Construction of Waterloo. In 1971 the parish added to Marian Hall again to gain more space by building it themselves for $43,000.00.

When the church was first built there were about 60 families, who had reserved pews for the one mass a week. That mass would be either at 9:00 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning. After this the priest would go down to Waterdown and have a mass there. The priest continued to do this until the two parishes grew big enough to be separated in 1950. Now there are 210 families in the parish and the full time priest holds a daily mass. A Saturday night mass and two Sunday masses for them on a first come basis.

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