The St. Francis De Sales Church of Herkimer, NY
Until the year 1878 the Roman Catholics of the village of Herkimer constituted what is ecclesiastically denominated an outmission. The few Catholics who were here in the early "forties" were attended spiritually by the priests of St. John's Church of Utica. It was no common thing in those pioneer times for the people to walk from Herkimer, and even from Little Falls to Utica to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The priests of St. John's attended the scattered families from Rome as far east as Fonda, N.Y. From 1847 to 1867 Herkimer was one of the out-missions which were cared for by the pastors of St. mary's Church of Little Falls, N.Y. Among the best remembered of those pastors was the Rev. Bartholomew McLaughlin, who celebrated Mass once a month in the private homes of the few faithful, and afterward, for several years, in the old Court House in this village.
In 1867 the Rev. William Howard was appointed the first pastor of the Church of the Annunciation at Ilion, N.Y., and Herkimer then became an out-mission of Illion. Father Howard often celebrated the Divine offices of the church in the homes of the Catholics who lived in this village. In the year 1874 Father Howard, aided by the Catholics, and very materially by the Protestants of Herkimer, purchased the old Methodist Episcopal Church located at the corner of Green and North Washington Streets. The interior of this church was remodeled, and the edifice was dedicated the same year by the Right Rev. Francis McNeirney, then Bishop of Albany. The well known Father Thomas Daly, of St. John's Church, Utica, preached the sermon on the day of the dedication. The church was called St. Francis De Sales, after one of the great saints. In 1878, Rev. Father Howard, on account of advanced age and infirmities, resigned his pastorate in Ilion, and with the permission of the Bishop, came to Herkimer to live. He was an accomplished and zealous priest, one of the fine old men of the old school, and universally respected. He retired permanently in 1883, and Herkimer again became an out-mission of Ilion. In 1885, the Rev. James H. Halpin, S. T. B., of St. John's Church, Albany, was appointed the second pastor of St. Francis De Sales Church. During his administration of fifteen years the people of the church have accomplished wonderful things. A short time after Father Halpin's coming to Herkimer they purchased what was known as the Palmer property, adjoining the church property on Green Street, and enlarged the church to such proportions that it has done well for them up to the present time. They then bought the residence at the northwest corner of Mary and North Washington Strrets where the present pastor lived for many years. Calvary Cemetery, a magnivicent resting place for the dead adjoining Oak Hill Cemetery, was also purchased in that time. In 1897 they purchased the splendid site at the corner of North Bellinger Street and Bellinger Avenue, on which they have just erected a handsome new church at a cost of $30,000. The cornerstone of this church was laid on Sunday, June 10, 1900. Adjoining the new church is the parochial residence, erected in 1899 and paid for with the proceeds of the sale of the Mary Street residence. The St. Francis De Sales congregation numbers about three hundred families, or about fourteen hundred souls, all of whom, excepting twelve families, live within the village limits. Its membership includes several nationalities, but all are a unit in the support of the church. The parable of the little grain of mustard seed is here amply fulfilled. From a little grain or acorn, it has become a great and beautiful arbor, with branches of goodness and kindness stretching through all the avenues of our growing village, and bringing the blessings of the gospel of our Saviour to many expectant souls.
Copyright © 2000 Lisa K. Slaski
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