HISTORY OF ST. PATRICK'S AND ST. JOHN'S PARISH
By: Rev. F. J. Toolan
Pastor of St. John's Church
From: History of Newport, N. Y., 1906
This article about the early history of Newport's Churches was graciously submitted by Paul T. McLaughlin.
The erection of the first Catholic Church in the town of Newport was facilitated by the generosity of Patrick Martin who, in his will dated February 8, 1834, bequeathed to the Catholics of what is known as the Irish Settlement his farm of fifty acres; of this land one acre was to be reserved for a cemetery, hence the old St. Patrick's Cemetery.
Before the erection of the Church the Catholics of Newport were accustomed to attend St. John's Church, Utica, and among those who may be considered the pioneer Catholics in the early days of the nineteenth century, in this locality, we find the names of James Cullen, Patrick McLaughlin, James Gartland, Patrick Martin, Bernard McCall, John McMahon, Thomas McLaughlin, Michael Mahardy, Charles Spain, Phillip Ward, Mrs. Elizabeth Daly, Luke Boylan, John Clark and Thomas Fox.
The corporation to be known as St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Society of the towns of Newport and Schuyler was formed October 15, 1834. The incorporators were: Rev. Walter J. Quarters, John McMahon, moderators; James Cullen, Martin Gartland, Michael McLaughlin, Luke Boylan, trustees. The Church was begun in the month of October, 1839, and was ready for divine service in the spring of 1840. The first mass was celebrated by Rev. Walter Quarters, pastor of St. John's Church, Utica, N. Y. Services were held here once a month, the officiating clergymen coming from St. John's, Utica. Of these were Rev. David Bacon, who afterwards became Bishop of Portland, Maine, Rev. George McClosky, who became Vicar General of the diocese of Louisville, Ky., Rev. Joseph Stokes, Rev. Father Burke and Rev. Father Shanahan.
From 1845 to 1850 Rev. John McMenomy, pastor of St. Mary's Church, Little Falls, attended St. Patrick's congregation. From 1850 to 1854 the priests of St. John's, Utica, again had charge. Among those who officiated are the names Rev. Frances P. McFarland, who afterwards became Bishop of the diocese of Hartford, Conn.; Rev. William Coghlan and Rev. Joseph H. Herbst. The latter seems to have been a missionary priest, having charge of the towns of Newport, Trenton, Grant, Gray and Morehouseville. Father Herbst took up his residence in the village of Newport in 1858, residing for a short time on Norway street and afterwards on Mechanic street. In his residence on Mechanic street he held services for the Catholics of Newport village, Norway, Fairfield and Middleville, also going to the hill Church once a month. About this time the Catholics were growing in numbers, especially in the neighboring towns of Norway, Fairfield and Middleville and the need of a Church more centrally located was felt. The first impetus given for the more central location of the Church was by that famous band of missionary fathers, Walworth, Hecker and Baker. They, through the kindness of the members of the Universalist Church, who gave the fathers the use of their Church, a mission was given in the village of Newport in the month of December, 1860. On that occasion the fathers spoke of the necessity of having the Church within easy access of all the members of the congregation, and left for the erection or purchase of a Church the sum of one hundred dollars.
On March 5, 1864, Father Herbst purchased the brick Church on Main street. The building was erected in 1842, and was a union church, being used by the Methodist and Presbyterian denominations. Father Herbst, worn out in body and mind by long laborious years in the ministry, resigned in 1865. He died in the Sisters' Hospital, Troy, N. Y., February 17, 1885. Rev. William Fitzgerald was the next pastor, from July, 1865 to November, 1867. Father Howard of Ilion supplied the parish from December, 1867 to November, 1868. The next resident pastor was Rev. Thomas Keating, who took charge November 1, 1868, and remained until December, 1871. During Father Keating's time, the church was dedicated, October 2, 1871. He held services in the village church and also in the hill church. The old St. Patrick's church property was sold March 8, 1871, and with the proceeds of the sale the former parochial residence on Washington street, this village, was purchased March 14, 1871. Father Keating was transferred to Hudson, this state, in December, 1871.
Father Thornton came here January 1872 and died here in December 1873. Rev. Charles Reilly was pastor from March 1873 to October 1873.
The next pastor was the genial, whole-souled Rev. William J. Bourke, whose memory is yet held in commemoration. For eighteen months he was pastor, from October 1, 1873 to April 5, 1875.
Rev. Henry Herfkins was appointed pastor April 15, 1875, and remained until August 15, 1892. For nearly eighteen years he labored faithfully for the people of this mission until, incapacitated by old age and hard work, he resigned in August 1892, and took up his residence in Middleville, where he died December 23, 1899, respected and honored by all who knew him. Father Herfkins left he parish free of debt and with a small sum in the treasury. He also built the beautiful church in Middleville.
The present incumbent, F. J. Toolan, was appointed pastor August 2, 1892 and took charge August 20, 1892. In these years a complete change in sites of church and residence has been made.
The land on which stands the present church and residence was purchased from Mrs. Mary Griswold in August, 1894, and on it the new parochial residence was built, at a cost of $4,500.
The first shovel of dirt for the excavation of the new church was removed April 3, 1902, by Mr. James McLaughlin, one of the oldest and best respected members of the congregation; the second shovel full by the pastor.
The corner stone of the new church was laid by Rt. Rev. Thomas Burke, Bishop of Albany, assisted by the neighboring clergy, June 22, 1902. The preacher on the occasion was Rev. William White of St. Mary's Church, Little Falls.
The first mass was celebrated in the new church June 28, 1903, by the pastor; Rev. Dr. Maguire, Deacon; Rev. F. A. Greagan, subdeacon. The sermon was by Dr. Maguire.
The dedication of the church and consecration of the beautiful marble alter took place November 8, 1903, Rt. Rev Bishop Burke officiating. The sermon was delivered by Rev. John Talbot Smith, LL.D. Father Smith was at one time a member of this parish.
The new church was erected at a cost of about $25,000. The value of our church property at present is about $82,000, on which there is a mortgage of only $7,000.