Descendants of Irish Block immigrants can be assured that the final resting place of their ancestors is well-maintained and secure behind a new iron fence on the site of the former St. Michael’s Parish Church.
Irish immigrants began to settle in the Township of Sydenham near Annan in the 1840s. The area came to be known as the Irish Block. As in most rural settlements of the 19th and 20th centuries, life revolved around farm, family, and church. The former St. Michael’s Parish Church was the gathering place for Sunday mass, baptisms, weddings, funerals, work bees, and summer garden parties to raise funds for the maintenance of the church property.
The church was demolished in 1977. All that remains is the church bell mounted on a cairn, a grotto, and the cemetery. However, the commitment to preserve the site has lived on, and thanks to the St. Michael’s Cemetery Project Committee, $35,000 has been raised to erect a new iron fence to secure the site.
On Saturday, August 4, more than 400 guests gathered for the blessing of the bell, grotto and cemetery, and the new iron fence, with Bishop Douglas Crosby of the Hamilton Diocese officiating, and a celebration at the Traynor Homestead of 170 years-plus since the arrival of the first Irish immigrants to the area.
Key to the celebrations was the launch of the history book Down the Irish Block Road, a sequel to a pamphlet printed in 1937 that recorded families and happenings from 1847 to 1937. Down the Irish Block Road features a cover painting by Canadian artist John Doyle, whose summer residence is in the area, and a black and white sketch of the former St. Michael’s Parish Church by Father Raymond Jackson.
St. Michael’s Cemetery is now part of St. Mary’s and the Missions of Owen Sound.
Photo: Bishop Douglas Crosby of the Hamilton Diocese blessed the bell that was once part of St. Michael’s Parish Church and now sits secured to a cairn adjacent to St. Michael’s Cemetery. Bishop Crosby officiated on August 4 during the Irish Block Celebrations mass and the blessing of the bell, grotto, cemetery, and new iron fence.