Mr. LeCouteulx donated the St. Louis' Church property for all the Catholics of the city without distinction of nationality; but now that the English-speaking portion of the congregation was forced out, he deeded a plot of ground on Louis (Edward) and Morgan Streets to them for a church site. This was in January, 1839; and a meeting was held the same month to organize the parish of St. Mary. The following trustees were elected: Patrick Milton, Andrew McGowan, Maurice Vaughan, John Kenney, Patrick Cannon, Bartley Corcoran, Lacky Conway, Patrick Connolly and John Coleman. The people, however, thought it unwise to spend money on a site so far out in the country, and in the fall of the same year they bought a more favorable site on Batavia and Ellicott Streets.
When Bishop Timon came to Buffalo the city had already extended north and west into the territory now embraced by the Immaculate Conception parish; and he secured a new deed of the property, which had reverted to the heirs of Louis LeCouteulx. The Bishop sent the Rev. J. P. Fitzpatrick, January 1, 1849, to organize the new parish of St. Mary of the Lake. Father Fitzpatrick immediately began the erection of a little frame building for a church, and a modest cottage for a priest's house.
Father Fitzpatrick remained only three months, when he was succeeded by the Rev. B. Carraher. The Rev. M. Walsh had charge of the parish for one month, from September 22, 1849. Father Carraher labored strenuously to meet the financial obligations of the young parish. He remained until July, 1850, when the Rev. Peter Brown was appointed pastor.
Father Brown remained six years, built an addition to the frame church, and left the parish in a fairly prosperous condition. During his pastorate many other priests ministered to the people. The name of the Rev. Hugh Fitzsimmons, the Rev. John McCabe, the Rev. George Lennon, and the Rev. Francis O'Farrell are found on the records during this period.
Father Brown was succeeded in 1856 by the Rev. James Early. Father Early immediately began the erection of a brick church, larger and more in keeping with the importance of the congregation. The cornerstone was laid in August, 1856. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception had just been proclaimed, and the new church was blessed under this title, and St. Mary's of the Lake passed into history. Father Early went South in the winter of 1859 to raise funds for his heavily burdened church, and the Rev. F. J. Smith and the Rev. William F. Payne became acting rectors during his absence. The old frame church building was used for school purposes. Father Early was transferred to another parish in 1861, and he was followed at the Immaculate Conception by the Rev. M. Purcell, the Rev. P. Colgan and the Rev. T. Gleason in rapid succession. Father Gleason built a parochial residence in 1864. Then came the Rev. T. Cahill in 1865, and the Rev. D. Kendrick in the same year.
The Rev. Edward Quigley, of classic mien and courtly grace, came in 1865, and remained for three years and seven months, when ill health compelled him to seek an easier field of labor. The Rev. John O'Mara succeeded Father Quigley in July, 1869, and he reconstructed the church which had been faultily built. Services were held in the LeCouteulx Institute during the period of reconstruction. Father O'Mara was a faithful pastor, but a poor financial manager, and the Rev. James Rogers relieved him in 1877, as one well fitted for the heavy debt. Father Rogers overcame the financial difficulties, and erected a fine brick school building.
This parish was selected as one of the ten entitled to irremovable rectors in 1887, and Father Rogers was its first permanent rector. He died in August, 1893, and was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Donohue, D. D. Dr. Donohue started the stone church building in 1900. and the St. James' mission for poor children in 1902.
Dr. Donohue built the parochial residence in 1895, and he installed a fine organ in the church in 1921.
On the occasion of his golden jubilee, Dr. Donohue received from the
Holy Father the golden cross of Leo XIII for merit.