From the Biographical Review, Volume XXXIII, located at the Durham Center Museum.
Transcribed by Celeste MacCormack
Hugh O’Neil, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Hunter, N. Y., and of St. Francis
de Sales Church, Platerkill, was born in Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland,
May 18, 1838, son of Patrick and Ellen (McSweeny) O’Neil.
first of the family to settle in Waterford was his great-grandfather, Hugh
O’Neil, who went there from Shaw’s Castle, County Tyrone.
Edward O’Neil, his grandfather, was born in Kilkenny, and was a farmer.
Patrick O’Neil, his father, who was born in Waterford and was a farmer in
early life, later engaged in the bakery business in Dungarvan. He was also a
spirits merchant, and before the advent of railroads he ran a line of carriages
known as post coaches.
He was a great admirer of Daniel O’Connell, and while taking an active
part in electing a member of parliament he contracted an illness which caused
his death at the age of fifty-two years.
O’Neil was a highly respected citizen and an able supporter of the church.
His wife, Ellen, was born in Tipperary in 1796, daughter of Thomas
McSweeny. During the Rebellion of 1798 her parents took refuge in a town in the
county of Waterford.
She was the mother of eight children, of whom the subject of this sketch
and his sister Margaret are the only survivors.
Margaret, now Mrs. O’Callahan, resides with her brother in Hunter.
She has a daughter who is the Assistant Reverend Mother in the convent at
West Troy. One of Father O’Neil’s brothers, Edward, was educated in St.
John’s College, Waterford, from which he was graduated in 1852.
He was ordained to the priesthood, and sent to Manchester, England, where
he became a Canon, and served in the capacity until his death, which occurred in
1892, at the age of sixty-seven.
O’Neil began his education in a classical school, prepared for college under
private tutors, and in 1858 went to Allhallows College, where he was graduated
in 1860. His theological studies were pursued in Waterford and St. Mary’s
College, Oscott, England, where he was a fellow-student with the late King
Alphonso of Spain and with the father of the later General Garcia, the Cuban
was ordained a priest of the Roman Catholic Church, February 9, 1867, and his
first appointment was to St. Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham, England, where he
remained nine months.
His next charge was at the village of Ilkeston, now a city, where his
duties required him to cover a circuit of forty-five miles; and during his
labors there, which extended through a period of eleven years, he erected a
church and a school building and developed the parish into a highly prosperous
routine work which he accomplished unaided is now performed by eight priests. At
this own request he was transferred to the village of Hathersage, Peak of
Derbyshire, famous as the home of Robin Hood, and with the assistance of the
Duke of Norfolk be repaired and opened an ancient church built previous to the
the expiration of four and one-half years he came to United States on a leave of
absence, arriving in New York in 1882, and, subsequently deciding to remain this
country, he severed his connection with his English parish and accepted an
assignment to a mission church in Philadelphia.
At the request of the bishop of Indianapolis he went to St.
Patrick’s Church in that city.
After that he was again stationed in Philadelphia for a short time, and
then became attached to the diocese of Albany, and was assigned to St. Mary’s
Church in Troy.
In 1887 he came to Hunter as pastor of St. Mary’s Church.
arduous duties of a widely distributed district, which included villages and
settlements within a radius of fifty miles, were zealously and energetically
performed by him for five years, or until his circuit was divided, since which
time the concentration of his labors has enabled him to accomplish results far
more visible in their effects.
Beside effecting the enlargement and improvement of St. Mary’s Church,
he erected St. Francis de Sales Church in Platerkill in 1891.
At both of these churches he officiates the year round, celebrating two
masses each Sunday during the summer season, besides holding week-day services
whenever occasion demands.
He formerly conducted service regularly at the hotel Kaaterskill during
the season, but these he was obliged to relinquish on account of his increasing
He has earnestly endeavored to promote the spiritual welfare of his
widely-scattered flock, and the zeal he displays in conducting the affairs of
his pastorate has gained for him the good will of the entire community.
He organized the Sacred Heart and Rosary societies, and he takes a lively
interest in the work of the town improvement society, of which he is a member.
At the earnest request of the people of Lexington he aided in securing
the erection of a church in that village; and he has also repaired St. Henry’s
Church, located between Ashland and Prattsville.
O’Neil began to interest himself in political affairs shortly after his
arrival in this country, and in 1884 he headed a committee who,
at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York City, presented the late Hon, James
G. Blaine with a gold-headed cane.
He is a naturalized citizen of the United States, and supports the