An Honourable Independence – Johnville, an Irish Community


2005 Johnville Picnic — Johnville’s Klondike Kate — Johnville Publications — Excerpt from the Irish in America — Newspaper Articles — Letters to the Herald

Cairn at Johnville
Founded primarily by the efforts of Bishop John Sweeney, the thriving farm community of Johnville is a fine example of the industriousness, grit and determination of the Irish immigrants to New Brunswick. Facing adverse weather conditions in an extremely remote location, the first settlers of Johnville showed remarkable strength, endurance and fortitude as they carved out their community from the deep forest of Carleton County.

Picture at (R) above: Cairn at Johnville. Text on plaque: Dedicated to the Memory of the Rt. Reverend John Sweeney, Bishop of Saint John, Whoe Founded the Settlement of Johnville in 1861, and to Those Good Men and Women Who Now Lie Here. “He Does Not Die Who Can Bequeath Some Influence to the Land He Knows.”


With the first settlers arriving in 1862, the arduous task of clearing the land, building shelters, and planting crops for their survival began. Despite these hardships, the naturally cheerful and resilient spirits of the Irish won out and around 1863 the first of many Johnville picnics was held to celebrate their fruitful labours and freehold independence. Games, music, dancing and great food filled the day. The picnic is still famous today and is attended by not only people of Irish ancestry, but also anyone who enjoys fellowship and takes pride in their own heritage.

2005 Johnville Picnic


For over 100 years the small community of Johnville has held the Annual Provincial Archives booth at Annual Johnville PicnicJohnville Picnic in early August. (see picture of Provincial Archives Booth at Annual Johnville Picnic at right.) What started as a means for neighbours to relax, enjoy each others company, and to celebrate and give thanks for another bountiful harvest, has become a time of year for residents and former residents to return to the place it all began. Children and grandchildren, friends, neighbours and distant relations, come from places widespread to reconnect with their loved ones, rekindle friendships, and to celebrate the memories of this wonderfully close-knit community.
Visitors interested in the history, heritage and genealogy of the Johnville community make the annual trek to take part in the weekend’s festivities, take in the activities on the fairgrounds, share a meal together, dance and talk to the wee hours, and celebrate their annual Johnville Mass where they will once again give thanks for all they share and the common bonds that bring them back, year after year.
The Provincial Archives makes research materials available on-site during the picnic weekend to assist the many visitors from all over the continent, and perhaps even the world. The picture to the right shows the 2005 booth of the Provinical Archives at the Johnville Picnic.
Johnville’s Klondike Kate:
The area in and around Johnville has a strong Irish heritage and may be best known as the birthplace of Klondike Kate. History Television produced a segment of their “The Canadians” series on Klondike Kate.
Johnville Publications
Even though Johnville is a small community, by anybody’s standards today, it has generated enough interest to have had its own place in the written histories of Canada. These publications include:
– An Honourable Independence: The Irish Catholic Settlers of Johnville, Carelton County, New Brunswick – by William Patrick Kilfoil and Mary Kilfoil McDevitt
– Johnville: The Centennial Story of An Irish Settlement – by W.P. Kilfoil
– The Real Klondike Kate – by Anne Brennan
– The Irish in America – by John Francis Maguire

As some of these publications may no longer be in print, please check with your library services to determine if they are available for borrowing.
For more information and an interesting look back through history, please take the time to browse through the following links for more insight into this early Irish settlement in New Brunswick:
– author J.F. Maguire, M.P.

Various Newspaper Entries
25 July 1861 – Johnville Gets Its Name
09 September 1862 – Johnville Colonization
30 September 1862 – Johnville & Glassville Settlements
20 October 1866 – The New Settlements
27 November 1866 – Johnville Prosperity
22 December 1866 – Johnville – Woodstock Sentinel
17 October 1867 – Pastoral Visit to Johnville

Letters to the Herald:
12 January 1878 – Letter from Johnville
23 February 1878 – Letter from Johnville