For the next couple of weeks, I intend to use this space to reacquaint you and acquaint me to the history of St. Patrick's Parish. I find looking into the past of a family or in this case our Parish family, very interesting. I hope you will too.
Bishop Francis McNierney, third bishop of Albany, on July 11 1887, established and dedicated this new parish which also included Fort Plain and Middle Sprite. The first pastor was Reverend Mathew K. Merns. Since the parish didn't have a church, it is reported that Mass was said on the second floor of what is now the Central Hotel and also held in the Lutheran Church. This history was taken from the anniversary booklet published in 1978 on the occasion of the Parish's 90th anniversary. Father William Schoofs was then pastor.
In a book I have looked into that contains the marriage records, I found the following: written in January 1, 1888, by Reverend Mathew K Merns in large, flowing, cursive penmanship: "From the time of my coming here, which was July 11th, 1884 to January 1st 1888, there were no marriages. What leap year, 1888 will bring forth, Cupid the God of Love, only knows. Ah! November 14, 1888 Anthony Windheim and Nellie Cordilia Goeser were married. The spell is broken, the die is cast. Cupid's dart got here at last." In the corner of the page is I written by Father, "yours without a struggle". Father Merns sounds like a man with a good sense of humor.
1888, the parish realized $13.40 in collection, $32.13 at Christmas, $3.54 for the Holy Father, $4.25 for the seminary collection, $1.30 for the Negro - Indian and on Good Friday.... $1.00. I guess second collections have a long history in the life of our Church.
In 1888, St. Patrick's Church took shape and the parish had its own facilities.
What follows is a listing of the pastors: Father Merns 1884
1892, Father John Driscoll 1892-1895
Father John Brosnan 1895-1898
Father William O'Connor 1898-1908
Father John Morrissey 1908-1916
Father Joseph Thornton 1916-1919
Father John Finn 1919-1921.
Up to this time it appears that the pastors only spent three or four years.
But in the year 1921 Father Arthur Cunningham arrived and ministered here till 1938.
In 1938 Father A. Nap.
La Palme served from 1938-39.
He was followed by Father Ernest Neville 1939-1944, and Father Michael Scully 1944-1955.
I am having difficulty finding material regarding the more recent history of this Parish. I went to the Library. Dawn had told me she had a folder, with our name on it. In it was the program of the Diamond Anniversary of our Parish in 1962. Three sheets of paper! I was embarrassed when I saw the volumes of information that are present on the other churches in the area. I will include in this musing the new information I gathered, and I have a call into the Diocesan Office Archivist. The archivist is Sister Nola Brunner, a member of my religious community. So I will be certain to get a copy of what is on file there on our Parish.
The new material I found is: In the year 1871, the third Bishop of the Albany Diocese was Frances McNiemey. Bishop McNiemey, feeling the Diocese of Albany embraced too large a territory, created the Diocese of Syracuse, on November 20, 1886. In so doing he removed from jurisdiction of the Albany Bishop, the counties of Broome, Chenango, Onondaga, Cortland, Madison, Oneida and Oswego. With this reduction in size, our Bishop was able to visit the places in his new Diocese more often. He found a great need for a Church in the vicinity of St. Johnsville. Thus on July 11, 1887 , he founded a parish there and dedicated it to the Patronage of St. Patrick. In its charge he placed the settlement of Fort Plain and the people of Middle Sprite. The first parish house was located (on the other side of the street, property once used by the Rhines family.
The first confirmation took place on October 23, 1893 with 78 confirmees. Names in the parish family in those early days reflected the Irish ethnic background: Nagle, Reddy, Dineen, O'Keefe, Garrity, Fitzpatrick, O'Connor, Walrath, Hillegas and O'Bryan.
Soon Fort Plain became a parish of its own and the people of Middle Sprite went to churches closer to their area.
At the start of the 1900's a change was noted in the parish. Groups of Italian Catholics began moving into the village, and in the 1910 period, with the building of a second set of tracks by the New York Central and increased traffic on the Canal, the parish took on a new look. Later other ethnic groups became part of the parish as well: Polish, German, Slovak, Ukrainian and Lithuanian.
My part of the musings will be short this week. I have enclosed in the bulletin, the actual final letter to you from Father William Schoofs. His words will speak to you of his love for you, and his appreciation of all that you did for and with him. I love looking at old letters and hope you enjoy reading his letter as much as I did.
Let me give you a short bio about Father, so that those of you who knew him can remember and those who didn't can meet him for the first time.
Father was born in Limburg, Belgium, August 19, 1919, the son of Matthew and Helen Schoofs. Before coming to the Diocese of Albany, Father did missionary work in assam, Indian, from 1948-1966. In 1948 he applied for acceptance into the Diocese of Albany. From 1968 to 1976, Father was assigned to the parishes of Sacred Heart, Albany, St. patrick's Troy and Our Lady of Victory, Troy. In November of 1976, Father Schoofs was named pastor of St. Patrick's in St. Johnsville and served in this capacity until August of 1981 when he retired due to ill health. He died January 31, 1989 and is buried in Fort Lauderdale.
If you wish to see what he looked like, there is a framed picture in the hall. He reminds me of some movie actor, whose name I can't remember, but the actor once played superman in the movies.
What follows will be the last of my findings on the history of our Parish and St. Johnsville, for a while. I need more time to search out more recent materials. On those cold, wintry days to come, I hope to spend some time at the County's and our local lawyer's offices.
What follows is a portion of an article written by Mary Galuski. I don't know the date of the article, but she reflects about the 1900's and life in our village. She mentions names and industries that I am sure will be very familiar to most of the native people. For those of us newcomers, I hope that you find this information as enlightening and gratifying as I did.
In St. Johnsville the newcomers of both sexes usually found living commotions at a boarding house on Spring Street. It was a rambling old house owned by the Stanley Wareszak family. Mrs. Wareszak provided meals at $.15--20 cents each, plain fare but filling. A typical meal might be sauerkraut soup, Polish sausage, brown bread. The immigrants' first order of business was to find work, not an easy job when most of them spoke no English. Salaries were small; a dollar a day was common pay for long hours. Where did they work? At Taylor's Knitting Mill, or Reaney's, at Englehardt's piano factory, at the Felt Shoe, or on the railroad. Some decided to farm, a skill they knew from the old country. Some traveled to nearby towns to find employment, riding by train to do so, sometimes paying the fare but often hitching a ride on a passing freight train.
Sunday the day of rest found attendance at Church a must. St. Patrick's Church was available, but some hired a taxi to Little Falls or Herkimer where there were services in their native tongue. Who were the Poles and Ukrainians who settled in this area? The Zyznars, the Huczynskis, The Kozlowskis, the Bilobrowkas, the Pachuts, the Matuszewskis, the Perihs, the Wolinski, the Polinskis, the Osipowiczes, the Kituszes.
Several couples chose farming as their life's work. Probably the one best known was the Battisti family on Averill Hill (Mrs. Battisti was a Pinaha) which combined the Polish and Italian heritage. Others were the Moskeys; the Yastremski, the Malinowskis, and the Kardashes.
How did they all touch the lives of the community? I believe that every ethnic group made a contribution. Life was not always easy, and prejudice did exist, but these people had a strong determination to become a part of this country and to get along with their neighbors.
Through their strong work ethic, and perseverance, they were a good example to others in the community. The values they imparted and brought to their families were many: the love of God, and appreciation of a good education, love of country and neighbor and much more. They were to many, an inspiration of what hard work and determination could achieve. Their influence is evident in many aspects of community life, education, farming, village and town government, the fire fire department and ambulance corps, the medical field. All this can be attributed to those daring young immigrants who came to St. Johnsville three quarters of a century ago and with stars their eyes and strong ideals in their hearts, worked to make a new life.
(Thank you, Mary, for your words.) Sister Johanne