OLD ST. PATRICK'S CHURCH
BUFFALO, NEW YORK

All the Catholics of Buffalo attended St. Louis' Church up to the year 1837, when the church was too small to accommodate the large and fast-growing congregation.  The Germans were in the majority in the parish and they retained possession of the property, and the Irish went elsewhere to seek to build up another parish.  They first rented a building on the northwest corner of Main and Niagara Streets, and the Rev. Charles Smith was sent from Schenectady to attend them.  Father Smith came about May 1, 1837; and said Mass only once a month in Buffalo at first, and the other Sundays he held services at Java, or at one of the settlements scattered through the western part of New York.  The Genesee Valley Canal was under construction then; and thousands of Irish and German Catholics were employed, and for them Father Smith said Mass in various places along the line of operations.  The English speaking Catholics soon moved to larger quarters on the corner of Main Street and the Terrace.

Father Smith established his dwelling in Buffalo about the close of the year 1837, at the corner of Washington and Mohawk Streets.  The next year he moved to Niagara Street, below Franklin Street, and the following year he dwelt on South Division Street, east of Oak Street.

Mr. LaCouteuix conveyed property in January, 1839, to Bishop Dubois, for a church for the English speaking Catholics; but it was too far away from their homes, and they turned their attention to a more convenient locality, at the corner of Ellicott and Batavia (Broadway) Streets, and here they erected the first St. Patrick's Church.

Bishop Hughes, coadjutor of the diocese, came to Buffalo in August, 1839, and soon afterwards Father Smith urged his people to secure a site for a church for the English speaking Catholics of the city.  A plot of land on the corner of Ellicott and Batavia (Broadway) Streets was purchased from George Stephenson.  The deed conveyed the property to Patrick Milton, Maurice Vaughn, Patrick Cannon and Patrick Connolly, who jointly and severally bound themselves to pay the purchase price within ten years, and also to erect a substantial brick church on the property inside of four years.  The church edifice arose slowly.  Money was scarce; and much of the work was done by parishioners, who could give time instead of cash.  The roof was on before the winter of 1840, and the church was in use at the beginning of May, 1841.

Father Smith was called to Brooklyn before the church was finished, and the Rev. William Whelan succeeded him as pastor of the struggling parish.  Father Whelan dwelt with the family of Patrick Cannon, in the Eagle Block on Main Street, opposite Clinton Street.  Father Whelan was an enthusiastic advocate of temperance, and he administered the pledge to hundreds of laborers on the railroads, among whom the drink habit threatened to become a great evil.

Father Whelan had a Sunday School in the church, and he established a week-day school in the basement, where the Messrs. McNicoll, Kelly and Garrigan taught Catholic children the rudiments of secular and religious training.  The title to the property was transferred to Bishop Hughes, March 16, 1842.  Father Whelan bought the lot next to the church property on Broadway, on which he erected a pastoral residence.  Father Whelan died April 27, 1847.  He was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Bradley from Auburn, who remained until September of the year following.

Father Whelan owned the house in which he lived on Broadway, and this he willed to the Sisters of Mercy.  There was no parochial residence; so when Bishop Timon came he rented a three-story brick building on Ellicott Street, nearly opposite the church; and here he dwelt for some years when his many labors permitted him to reside in Buffalo.  The theological seminary was started here with two or three students.  Here the Bishop dwelt with his household until he removed to the Webster homestead, September 10, 1852, on the site of his new cathedral, corner of Franklin and Erie streets.  When the cathedral was opened to the public old St. Patrick's was turned over to the Sisters of Charity, and it became St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum.
 



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Holly Timm
Cheektowaga, New York
erie@nygenweb.com