Huron county museum in Goderich, Ontario. This town was the headquarters
The Canada Company which controlled the land in the Huron Tract
from which John and Catherine Loughlin purchased their land in McGillvray Township



John and Catherine came to Canada during the first half of the 19th century, from County Cork in Ireland. See Appendix A. There is no record of their journey, as at that time Ireland was under British control and Canada was a colony of England. It was still many decades before Canadian Confederation in 1867, so administratively speaking the move was just a relocation within the commonwealth and as such no official records were kept beyond ship’s manifest lists which were discarded after each trip. Similarly there is no way to know exactly what prompted their decision to move. However there were a number of mitigating factors at the time which were causing thousands of Irish to risk the long and dangerous trip across the Atlantic to Canada and the United States.
Not the least of these were continual failures in the potatoes crop in areas of Ireland and the harsh penal laws imposed by the British on the Catholic majority of peasants and farmers of Ireland. There was opportunity for a new life free from persecution in Canada and at that time a huge tract of land known as the Huron Tract had been opened up by the Canada Company who were actively advertising and soliciting settlers in the British Isles
John and Catherine arrived in Canada about 1837 with their children Ellen 3 and Thomas 1. This can be pinpointed through the 1851 census for McGillivray Township in Huron County which shows the family together, with Ellen and Thomas born in Ireland and daughter Margaret born in Canada West, as Ontario was then called. A fourth child Edward was born a few years later.
While it is likely that the Loughlins moved to McGillivray upon their arrival in Canada there is no way of being certain as the first census was not taken until 1842. In that census John and his family are shown living on a lot 4 concession 2 owned by a Thomas Laughlan The only family information available was the total number of people living in the house, which was given as five. As their fourth child Edward was born in 1843, this seems to be a logical explanation, although the male/female numbers are reversed.

Extract from 1842 Huron Tract Census District

Research has been unable to determine exactly who Thomas Loughlan was with the spelling of the name slightly different in terms of his relationship with the other Loughlins of McGillivray as described below. Possibly a cousin, although brother can not be ruled out. He was active in the local government, school and church formation in the early days of McGillivray Township and is buried in section AA of St. Peter’s cemetery in London.
John Loughlin died at the age of 88 in 1884 and is buried in St. Peter’s R.C. Mission Cemetery along side his wife Catherine who predeceased him in 1870 at the age of 68. St. Peter’s R.C. Cemetery is located a few miles north of Clandeboye on Hwy. 4 on the London-Exeter-Goderich Road


John Loughlin’s grave St. Peter’s R.C. Mission Cemetery

Inscription “John Loughlin died June 22 1884 ae 88 yrs
Native of Co. Cork, Ireland”

Catherine wife of John Loughlin St Peters Mission Cemetery


This base map copied from the website of The Canadian County Atlas Digital Project

When John and Catherine came to Canada it seems likely that they were accompanied or perhaps joined later by a brother Edward and his wife Ellen. This couple appear in the 1861 and 1871 McGillivray census’s and are buried together in St. Peter’s R. C. Cemetery. Edward died in 1868, age 85 and Ellen age 82 in 1873. There is no hard evidence of the sibling relationship, but both John and Edward had sons named Thomas, both spelled their names Loughlin, and both John and Edward’s son Thomas have gravestones engraved “Native of County Cork” The Third Thomas Loughlan alluded to earlier could also have been a brother or perhaps a cousin. Edward was born in 1783, John in 1896 and Thomas in 1904, so several relationship possibilities exist.

What is today known as Huron County was named after the Huron Indians whom were first encountered by Etienne Brule one of Samuel de Champlain’s explorers around 1610 in the Lake Huron, Georgian Bay area. After the Iroquois-Huron Indian wars the British purchased the area to the south from the Iroquois in the early 1800’s. Not knowing the local history of the area, they decided to give it the same French term Huron as the Lake.
This tract of land remained unsettled for many years and it was not until the 1820’s that a group of British investors known as the Canada Company developed a settlement campaign. The Company was incorporated in the British Parliament in 1825 and given the right to develop and settle the land which comprised about 1,000,000 acres
An extensive advertising campaign was mounted in British and European newspapers promoting the Huron Tract. It was from these advertisements that most people were attracted into coming, primarily from Germany, Ireland, the British Isles and Holland.


Copy of actual Canada Company advertisement

The Loughlins were part of this migration, and would have made their way across the ocean in small ships, then down the great lakes and finally by oxcart and foot to the area. The land was known to be heavily forested and the initial work by the Canada Company involved surveying the townships and their concession lines and finally the lots
The clearing of the land for agriculture was a massive undertaking, especially with the primitive tools of the time. After the settlers had cleared a few acres and planted their crops, their attention went to the construction of a permanent dwelling made from logs cut during the land clearing
The survey of the two most southerly Townships McGillivray and Biddulph was completed around 1830 as was the main road dividing them which became known as the Front Road. This road, which was quite primitive traveled north through the other Townships to Goderich where the administrative and records headquarters was established for the Canada Company. The settlers were required to purchase their lots from the Company, paying over a period of time.

1842 map of Huron District

The earliest known land records for McGillivray are a tax assessment roll for 1836. Thomas Louglan is listed on lot 4 concession 1, the lot next to where John was living in 1842. The first Township council meeting was in 1843, and during the 1840’s the Huron tract was incorporated into the Ontario municipal structure as Huron County. Later during the fifties towns like Lucan and Exeter sprang up thoughout the County and residents of the two southern most townships McGillivray and Biddulph grew restless with the long trek to the county seat at Goderich. As a consequence these two townships were annexed into Middlesex in 1863, allowing for a more logical relationship with their more natural center of London.
The historical information given above was primarily taken from “Sure An This is Biddulph” by Jenny Raycraft Lewis 1964 and ” History of the Township of McGillivray” 1992 by the Township of McGillivray Historical Society. It is interesting to note that while the children of the three early Loughlins had over 20 children between them, there were no persons with the Loughlin(lan) name living in McGillivray at the time of the histories publication in 1992.


The article below was copied from ‘Sure An This is Biddulph”. The picture shows the second and larger church which was built in 1871

The article above goes on “Following Father Flynn the Rev. T. Kerwin, R. Dean and Rev. J.D.Ryan took charge of the parish commencing in February, 1851. The last visit of Father Kerwin was in September, 1854; Father Ryan having paid his last visit in January of the same year. Rev.A.Carayon made a few visits in 1852. Following Fr. Kerwin there came Rev.P.F.Crinnan who came from Stratford, riding on horseback. He came regularly from September 1854 to March, 1858 and a few times in 1859”
“Family names of some of the early parishioners were: Hennessy, Glavin, Curtain, Bayhen, O’Neil, McFee, O’Hara, Barry, Carroll, O’Leary, O’Brien, Thompson, Cain, Doyle, Kilgallan, Laughlan, Regan, Boyle, Flanagan, Farmer, Egan, Boland, Fogarty, Keily, Maher, Delehaye, Carey, Quinn and others”

The church was closed in 1977 and after many years of disuse and consideration of alternatives,was torn down in 1994. The cemetery and former church site as photographed by the author in 2004 is shown below.

St Peter’s cemetery. Church was to the bottom right