Roman Catholics emigrating from Ireland in the mid-1830's settled around the First Line and 25 Side-road area.
Matthew and Honora McCann from County Meath were among the first, being joined by the Daltons, Mainys, Cealys, and Foleys. Later many other Catholics came to the area, particularly after the railway, built by Irish laborers, came through beginning in 1852 opening in 1856.
The Spiritual needs of the people of Acton were first looked after by the Jesuit Fathers from Guelph. From 1852 to 1857 infrequent Masses were held in the home of Matthew and Honora McCann until one day, the floor gave way, sliding
some of the parishioners into the cellar. Because of this accident, McCann and his neighbor John Mulholland decided to donate land for a proper church. The property was deeded to the Episcopal Corporation of the Diocese of Hamilton in 1856.
On March 18th 1857 (the eve of the feast of St. Joseph), under the direction of Fr. J. Dumortier S.J. construction was started on the first church. This church was located in "Little Dublin" about two miles from the present Church. The property at Little Dublin comprised two acres and is now the site of St. Joseph's Cemetery.
With the wide expanse of territory that the Jesuits had to care for, Mass in the church at Little Dublin was celebrated regularly but not weekly. The parishioners carried out a great portion of the work themselves in the erection of the first church. Catholics paid a rent for a family pew, which went towards the expenses of the church.
On August 1st, 1858, the first Bishop of Hamilton, the Most Reverend John Farrell administered the Sacrament of Confirmation for the first time in the new church. Burials took place around the church, thus instituting the present Cemetery. The entire cost of the Church and its furnishings was completely paid by January 2nd, 1869.
The Congregationalists at Churchill had decided to move into Acton to attract more members in 1876. They built a large, ornamental brick church in town. Only the Methodist church was brick at that time. However, the new members did not materialize and some of the old members could not pay the money they had pledged. By about 1880, they were forced to return to Churchill. They sold the church to the Salvation Army who had similar financial difficulties, and the new church went up for sale.
While most Catholics still resided at Dublin, there were 33 Catholics in Acton by 1881 according to census records.
In 1887, the parishioners in co-operation with the Jesuit Fathers managed to purchase the present church, remodeled it and paid off the debt in a comparatively short time. When they were settled in town, the old pews were removed and sold to the new Sacred Heart parish in Rockwood. The building was sold to Mr. Kirkpatrick who quickly tore it down and rebuilt it as
a private home elsewhere.
The Jesuit Fathers in Guelph conducted Mission Churches in Georgetown and Oustic, as well as many other centers. In 1893 Bishop Dowling established Acton as an independent parish and Georgetown and Oustic were attached as Mission Churches. In 1936 Rockwood was established as a Parish and Oustic was made a mission of Rockwood.
Georgetown continued as a Mission of Acton until the first Sunday of May 1956, when Georgetown was made an independent parish.
The first resident Parish Priest in Acton was Fr. Haley in 1893. He lived on Church Street about three blocks from the church. The present Rectory on John Street was purchased during Fr. Feeny's pastorate.
Compiled from various sources.
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