Bishop John Sweeny Cairn

Johnville, NB

Bishop John Sweeny was born in Clones, County Monaghan and was one of the longest serving bishops in Saint John – from 1860 to 1901. His family emigrated in 1828 and settled in Saint John. He studied to be a priest in Quebec City and was ordained in 1845 – the first year of the Great Hunger in Ireland. He served as priest in Miramichi and Barrachois before being called back to Saint John in 1852. He served as Bishop of Saint John Diocese from 1860 to 1901.1


Living in Saint John, through the 1850’s Rev Sweeny noted the dire living conditions of many of the Irish in Saint John.  He also was aware that many were interested in being farmers and landowners rather than city-dwellers.  As a consequence he played a leading role in creating the Immigrant Aid Society in an attempt to assist immigrants in Saint John as well as help those who wished to establish themselves on land grants within the young colony.

With that in mind, Sweeny acquired large tracts of unsettled land from the colonial government and settled between 700 and 800 families on four tracts of land within the colony.2  One pf these [lanned settlements was Johnville.  In 1861, 10,000 acres of land was surveyed and divided into 100-acre lots in Carleton County.  Bishop Connolly named the community Johnville in honour of Rev. Sweeny’s hard work in having it come to fruition.  

Cairn to Bishop John Sweeny in Johnville, NB 

The Cairn is located near St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Johnville, overlooking the cemetery, whose gravestones carry many of the original settler family names. The cairn is constructed of local stone and carries the following inscription:

To the Memory
Of the Right Reverend
John Sweeny
Bishop of Saint John
Who Founded the
Settlement of Johnville
In 1861,
And to Those Good Men
And Women in Johnville
Who Now Lie Here
He Does Not Die That Can
Bequeath Some Influence
To the Land He Knows


Bishop Sweeny was a remarkable man who cared deeply for the Irish families within his charge. It is certainly fitting that a monument is dedicated to his hard work and commitment.
The Bishop Sweeny Cairn is located on the Johnville Road, northeast of Bath, NB.

[1]  Rev Dr Michael McGowan, Pax Vobis: A History of the Diocese of Saint John, Strasbourg, France, Editions du Signe, 2004, p. 22-23.
[2]  Leo J Hynes, The Catholic Irish of New Brunswick, 1783-1900, Fredericton, Privately Published, 188992, p. 206.