Mary's of the Mountain
Transcribed by Joan Brower from the original Church ledger on
April 22, 1999
Cemetery transcribed by Joan and Bob Brower, May and June 1999
Additional fragments of stones found in 2003 by Sylvia, Derick and Britni Hasenkopf on other side of stream. It appears that this area experienced a forest fire as there is a layer of charcoal over the entire site. There are numerous fragments under the charcoal and leaf litter. Stones appear to have shattered with the heat of a fire. Stones found:
____atie, ___ldren of ____and Ann Brice, rest missing
_____, w/o Jame_ __iley, b. ___, Longford _____ 1806, _____ Sept 3 ____
Alice Matilda, d/o Miles and Bidelia Haines, d. April 22, 1868, 6y7m19d
__ry, _fe of ___ielvey____ rest missing
Julia ______, d. ___Feb _____ aged _____
Jo___, rest missing
____llen T., rest missing
____hs ____ Burns __ memory ___ oved husband ____burns of Killybegs___ and ___ this life
___cred __ _emory of ___lwe__, rest missing
Bedelia O. _____, wif_ ___ Miles ___, rest missing
Kate Agnes, rest missing
Mary_______, d. June 30, 1884, aged 6y11m
January 1 1879, commenced charging for grave and plots.
All burials are in St. Mary’s Cemetery Hunter, N.Y., unless otherwise noted.
There are people listed in "burial" section of ledger whose names do not appear in the index.
Many people listed in this ledger as buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery will not be found in the documented monument record in the cemetery section of this booklet; apparently they were buried with out stones or markers.
Dec 30, 2000
St. Mary’s of the Mountain Est 1837
Copied for original ledger on April 22, 1999
By Joan Brower
Ledger is approx. 12"by 7" in size, consists of alphabetical index, the pages 1-165.
"St. Mary’s Cemetery Hunter, N.Y.
1879 January 1st
Commenced charging for grave & Plotts"
All entries signed by Rev. Hugh O’Neil unless otherwise noted (came to Hunter 1887)
(Notation before index: 1879 Business account on page 102 also on pg 107)
Ink used for some entries is fading, making some names difficult to read.
Askin pg 32
Margaret Bryne pg 1
Alfred Bones pg 28
James Beckam pg 35
John Brice pg 1
Mrs. Mary Haden? Carr pg 38
____ Connely pg 35
Thomas Dunn pg 6
James Brown pg 107
Dr. Bon___? Pg 6
John Burns pg 5
Francis Byrne pg 4
Bridget Byrne pg 4
John F. Gara pg 34
Miss Julia Cahalan pg 5
Thomas Hyland pg 2
John Burns Platty Kill pg 5
Mrs. Caufield Hunter, N.Y. pg 15
John Dale pg 27
Catherine McTague pg 36
Margery Tomkins pg 40
Thomas Ford pg 8
May Fay pg 8
Owen Glennor’s child died June 30th of diptheria
John Griffen pg 23
Owen Glennor bought 5 graves the North West corner of the Church for $10 which was applied on the indebt ness for the church
Mrs. M. Haines pg 7
Philip Mc Guiness pg 20
Holenbeck p 8
Julia Henry pg 24
Bridget Hiland pg 2
Hoffman pg 11
Mrs. Ellen Hughes pg 16
Allice M. Maquire pg 12
Gillespie child = 18 months old
Gillespie William pg 3rd
Mary Gillespie do do
George Layman pg 19
Anne D. Madden pg 8
Hugh Mc Cabe pg 9
Nancy Lavery pg 9
William Lavery pg 9
Richard Lynch pg 25
Mrs. Henry Windham pg 11
John Henry pg 11
Mrs. Mary Mc Elroy
Mr. Chas. Mc Ginnis pg 20
NOPQ no entries
Spencer pg 13
Mr. Jno? Shevlin pg 17
Jas. Francis Shevlin pg 17
Straub pg 31
William Shields pg 39
Mary J. Squires pg 6
VWXYZ no entries
Feb. 16—Money rec=from Burns grave has been paid toward church interest to insurance am’t. $2.00
Margaret Byrne died on Thursday 26th day of November 1887, was buried on Saturday Nov. 28th 1887
John Brice died April 5, 1893, was buried April 7, 1893
Bridget Hiland died on 1st day of January 1888, was buried 3rd day of January 1888.
Thomas Hiland, Jr. died on Sunday March 19, 1888 was buried 21st day of March 1888
Thomas Hiland, Snr. Died 3rd October 1889, was buried October 5th 1889
William Gillespie died April 16, 1878 age 71 years buryed in the North West part of cemetery. With the r=of ch (last rites)
Mary Gillespie died on 28th day of November 1887 and was buried on the 30th 1891 and was buried October 6th 1891
Margaret Gillespie died September 13th, 1892 and was buried September 15thy 1892
August 17, Francis Byrne son of Patrick Byrne died August 17, 1885
October 4 Bridget Byrne wife of Patrick Byrne died October 4, 1885
Francis Byrne died January 15, 1890, was buried January 17, 1890
May (Mary?) Burns died March 9, 1892, was buried March 12, 1892
Mary Burns died November 8, 1892, was buried November 10, 1892
First Grave charged for by church
John Burns died January 20th 1879 age 78 buried in the western part of cemetery
Rec. R of church (last rites) on grave $2.00 has been paid to A. P. Loomis on church debt. S. J. C.
John Burns of Tannersville
April 17, 1884 Vincent ?, son of John Burns & Catherine Clasker? Died April 16th 1884 aged five months & 17 days
April 17- Two burial lots were sold to John Burns at North-west corner of church—Price $6.00 which was applied to church debt.
Feb 15 1884 Julia Cahalan died in Windham Feb. 15, was buried Feb. 19, 1884
Oct. 3, 1885 Mrs. Byrne of Platterkill died Oct. 1, 1885 was buried Oct 3, 1885
Thomas Dunn died of old age (80 yrs) January 15, 1887, was buried January 16, 1887
Mary J. Squires died May 1st, 1895, was buried May 3rd, 1895
Pricila Durocher died May 10, 1895, was buried May 12, 1895 in St Francis De Sales Cemetary, Platerkill
John Herman Mac died May 27th 1895, was buried May 28th, 1895 in St Francis De Sales Cemetary, Platerkill
Mrs. Miles Haines died October 1882 Rec’d the R of church (last rites)
One grave paid for - $5.00
Thomas Ford died January 13th, 1891, was buried January 15th, 1891
Mary Fay died April 17th 1892, was buried April 19th, 1892
Julia L. Holinbeck died May 18, 1894, was buried May 20th, 1894
Anne D. Madden died June 17th, 1894, was buried June 19th, 1894
Henry J. Madden died July 25th, 1894, was buried July 26th, 1894
Nancy Lavery died November 7th 1879 – age (not given)
Received to last Sacraments
Buried on N., West side of Cemetery, one grave
William Lavery died August 13th 1885, was buried August 15th 1885 age 70 years
Hugh McCabe died Feb. 8, 1894, was buried Feb. 11th, 1894
Catherine Hoffman, wife of John Hoffman, died October 1st, 1885, was buried October 3rd, 1885
(no year given – same hand writing as page 10, 1885?
John Henry died March 3rd, was buried March 6th, of Windham, Green Co., N. Y. paid $5.00
Mrs. Henry rec’d last rites one grave
Allice Maquere died Sep. 8th 1890, was buried Sep. 10th 1890
Spencer died Sept. 30 (age 11 mos.) 1881 $3.00
Mrs. Caufield died January 14th 1883, buried in grave next walk and church on West side Received the Sacraments all and died happy
Mrs. Ellen Hughes died December 18, 1886, was buried Dec. 20, 1886
Mrs. Jno? Shevlin died in New Jersey Sept. 29th, was buried Oct. 2, 1884 $3.00
Jas. Francis Shevlin died January 2, 1887, was buried January 4, 1887 age 19 ($3.00)
Charles Shevlin died on Saturday 16th day of January 1888, was buried on Monday 18th day of January, 1888
Bridget Shevlin died June 15th 1889, was buried June 18th 1889
Ellen Shevlin died October 25th 1890, was buried October 27th, 1890
Patrick Shevlin died June 5, 1891, was buried June 8th, 1891
George Layman died November 4th aged 3 mos. ($3.00)
Sold to Chas. McGinnis one grave lot consisting of 3 graves for $9.00
Philip McGinnis died January 29th, 1890, was buried January 30th 1890
November 16 sold to Mrs. Mary McElroy of Catskill three graves in western part of cemetery $8.00
June 30, 1884 M. Glennon, daughter of Owen Glennon died and was buried. Sold to Mr. Owen Glennon for $10.00 five graves to the N. West corner of Church
Oct. 13, 1884 James Glennon son of Owen Glennon, died October 12th aged 12 yrs.
Julia daughter of Jno. Helrey? Died March 22, 1885 aged 25 yrs. ($3.00)
March 24 Sold to Charles Lynch two graves north of John Burn’s lot, bounded on the east and south by walk. $6.00
Richard Lynch died Mach 23, 1885 age 83 yrs.
Julia Lynch died April 18, 1893, was buried April 20th, 1893
John Dale died August 16th, 1885 age 12y 5m
Alfred Boner? Died March 28, 1894, was buried March 31, 1894 in St. Francis de Sales Cemetery, Platerkill
Francis Byren died August 17th 1885 age 18 yr 5m 9d
Mary Magdelena Straub died June 24, 1887 of consumption, was buried June 26, 1887
Mary Askin died Friday March 16, 1888, was buried March 19, 1888
John Askin died January 24th, 1890, was buried January 26th, 1890
Elizabeth Askin died March 7th, 1891, was buried March 9th, 1891
Patrick W. Askin died July 3, 1893, was buried July 5th, 1893
Michael Erskine died July 26, 1894, 12 buried July 28, 1894
John B. Erskine died Sept. 28th 1894, was buried October 1, 1894
Margaret Askin died April 2, 1895, was buried April 4, 1895
Kate M. Myers died Sept. 30th, 1888, was buried October 2, 1890
Susan Hagerman died August 7, 1897, was buried August 10th, 1897
Emma C. Conner? Died January 25, 1894, was buried January 28th, 1894
John F. Garra died November 4, 1888, was buried November 7, 1888
Patrick Garra died March 7, 1889, was buried March 9, 1889
James Buchanan? Died January 14th 1889, and was buried January 16th, 1889
Catherine McTague died April 12th, 1889, was buried April 14, 1889
John Gaffney infant, died August 14, 1889, was buried in St. Francis De Sales Cem. Platterkill
Mrs. Mary Hayden Carr died Sept. 16, 1889, was buried Sept. 18, 1889
Florence M. Carr died December 12th, 1894, was buried December 14th, 1894
William Shields died October 16, 1886, was buried October 18, 1886
Hannah M. Shields died May 27th, 1893, was buried May 29th, 1893
Mrs. Margary Tomkins died October 28th 1889, was buried October 31st 1889
1879 Cemetery account Cash
John Burns one grave Paid for amt. = $2.00
James Brown 1880 – died June 24th
Mrs. James Brown had bought a Plot of 4 graves paid $12.00
Denis Brown died April 24th, 1892, was buried April 26th, 1892, St. Mary’s Cemetery, Hunter Rev. Hugh O’Neill
Lawrence McGinnis d May 22, 1878 age 60 yrs
Margaret McGinnis d Dec 12, 1895 age 76 yrs, his wife
Bridget McGinnis d Dec 28, 1878 age 19 yrs
Charles McGinnis d Feb. 7, 1907 age 81 yrs
Mary Erskine, d July 8, 1899 age 68 yrs, his wife
Anna d Sept 8, 1906 age 52 yrs
Edward Farrell d June 8m 1886 age 94 yrs
Catherine d Jan 12, 1878 age 72 yrs
Wife of Daniel Byrnes
"Erected by Michael and Margaret Farrell"
Catherine Mackelroy dau of John and Alice d ? date age 29 yrs
John O’Hara d May 24, 1886 age 67 yrs
Julia Travis d Jun 10 1901 age 81 yrs, his wife
Rosa A. d Nov 29, 1900 age 41 yrs
Mary E. d July 23, 1883 age 27 yrs
Margery J. Dibbell d Oct 28, 1889 age 19 y 2m 12d wife of D. W. Tompkins
Catherine Goggins d Oct 31, 1884 age 81 yrs, Wife of Dennis Brown she was b. Kilbrid, Co. Cork, Ire
Dennis Brown d Apr 24, 1892 age 97 yrs he was born C. Cork, Ire
Nicholas Brown d Aug. 15, 186? Age 5y 6m 2d
Agnes B. 1888 – 1909, Dau of J. J. and M. J. Carr
John Haskin 1812 – 1897
Margaret Haggerty 1818 – 1894, his wife
Susan Haskins 1859 – 1862
Mary Haggerty 1797 – 1902
In Memory of William Gillespie & Family
William Gillespie d Apr 16, 1878 age 71 yrs
May Gillespie d Nov. 28, 1887
Maurice d Oct 4, 1891 age 50 yrs
Hylan ( check #5 some names the same)
Thomas Hylan June 16, 1838 – Oct. 3, 1889
Juliette, his wife Apr 18, 1837 – Nov. 1, 1889
Martin P. Feb 3, 1874 – Sept 21, 1875
Addie M. May 8, 1865 – Apr 25, 1883
Thomas L. Apr 18, 1870 – Mar 18, 1888
William J. Mar 3, 1872 – May 16, 1896
John Burns 1805 – 1857
Mary Gara 1824 – 1902, his wife
Hugh L. 1850 – 1906
Margaret J. 1856 – 1887, his wife
William 1846 – 1906
Mary V. 1853 – 1885
Grace Burns 1842 – 1877, Wife of William Clum
James W. Shevlin 1830 – 1886
Rose A. Keenan 1833 – 1910, his wife
Josephine age 12 yrs
Sarah age 5 yrs
Charles M. age 7 yrs
Grace age 7 yrs
____section "stone laying by W. side of Church"
Thomas Shields d Aug 15, 1881 age 29 yrs
William d Oct 18, 1889 age 35 (?) yrs
Hannah M. Shields d May 27, 1893 age 47 (?) yrs
Catharine d Sept. 27, 1881 age 67 yrs, his wife
Mary Ann Gillespie d Feb. 11 (?), 1876 age 17 yrs born in Hunter
Joseph Gillespie d Nov. 9, 1882 age 25 yrs born in Hunter
Richard Lynch b June 18, 1802 in Ballymore, Co. Meath?, Ire d Mar 23, 1885 age 83 yrs.
Julia d Apr 18, 1893 age 77 yrs, his wife
Stones laying on West side of Church
2 stones - initials J. R. on one and J. C. on the other
Sarah d July 16, 1861, dau. of Thomas & Catherine O’Kelly
Intact – Lamb on top – should go with Shevlin Monument
Charles d Mar 4, 1868 age 8 yrs
Grace d July 13, 1881 age 7 yrs
Sarah d Nov 14, 1860 age 5 yrs
Broken stone -across stream- Children of Brice unreadable
Fragments and shards
Edwin Hoffman d Sept 29, 1877 age 2(?)y 5 m
John Osborn d Aug 31, 1885 age 4y 5m 4d
Nicholas Brown d Aug 15, 186_? Age 5y
Thick (about 6") upper L corner of a monument only "Michael" appears no other information
Recorded in 1997 – not found in 1999
Hughes laying flat
Sarah Hughes d Aug 1, 1887 age 20 yrs
Helen Hughes d ? 18, 1886 age 56 yrs
O’Riley – piece of stone
Julia Helrey dau of Jns Helroy d Mar 22, 1885 age 25 yrs. (Stone found lying in stream behind the church in 2003 - SH)
The Founding of Saint Mary Of The Mountain
Deep in the Catskill Mountains, at the foot of Hunter Mountain, where it has stood for nearly one hundred and fifty years, is the church known as Saint Mary of the Mountain. It is a peaceful little country church, and at first glance appears to be nothing extraordinary, perhaps not even worth preserving. But a closer look reveals that it is, in fact, a very special church. It is carved from the very mountains that surround it, the stones for its foundation, the hemlock and basswood of which it is constructed, right down to the lace on its altars, fashioned by the loving hands of those who, generation after generation, worshipped within its walls. It is the oldest Catholic church in the Catskills, and, very probably, the oldest building of any kind in the Catskills still in use for its original purpose. How it came to be, and how it weathered the seasons and fortunes of the many years, is a story well worth the telling.
Long before Henry Hudson sighted the mountains from the river that bears his name, the Indians of the region called the range which rises from the plain some ten miles west of Hudson River, Onteora, Mountains of the sky. They believed it to be an evil region, full of inimical spirits, and though they hunted its deep hemlock forest, no Indian village was ever located there. One legend has it that an ancient squaw lived deep in the rugged peaks, entrusted by Manitou with the sun and the rain. These she kept sealed in her wigwam, and let them out according to her own whim. The gentle rains or the raging storms, the warm sun or the cloudy skies of deep winter reflected her moods. Even the moon was her work: once a month she hung out a full moon which she then slowly chipped away to create stars until it was entirely gone, and then a new moon was made to replace it. Her anger was not to be taken lightly, and so the Indians kept their distance from her domain.
On the fifteenth of September in 1609, an Englishman, Henry Hudson, with a Dutch crew, and under the auspices of the Dutch East India Company, sailed his ship, the Half-Moon, up the Hudson River as far as the point where the city of Albany is now situated. They dropped anchor for the night at a spot on the river near the present town of Hudson, and claimed the lands for Holland. Except for forts constructed in New York, Roundout and Albany, no attempt was made by the Dutch to found a settlement in the region. Individual Dutchmen bought tracts of land from the Indians, which they then had titled by the Knickerbocker governor. The Dutch called the mountains the Katsbergs, the Mountains of the Wildcats, and the many streams were known as "kills". The most important, running into the Hudson, was known to them as the Katskill. Later, the English were to refer to the whole area as the Catskill Mountains, and so they are still known.
For nearly a century, the Dutch dominated the region, but around 1700, English settlers began arriving in good numbers, and the towns of the plains were established, as well as a few scattered hamlets in the mountains themselves, breaching for the first time the "Wall of Manitou". These latter slowly grew to the point of organizing municipal governments, Greensville first in 1768, Jewett in 1783, Durham and Lexington in 1788, Windham in 1790, and Hunter in 1813. The mountains were too rugged and the weather too severe for any extensive farming, and so the early settlers survived by hunting and by the sale of a crude potash made by burning the abundant hemlock.
In the late seventeen hundreds, a new industry began to grow in the Catskills, tanning. Shiploads of hides came up from South America, were carried up the Hudson, and then hauled by a circuitous route through Mink Hollow into the interior of the mountains, to Hunter and Prattsville, where, because of the abundance of hemlock bark and clear spring water, the two largest tanneries flourished. Between 1800 and 1850, nearly fifty thousand men were employed by these two tanneries alone, and it is estimated that the tannery at Prattsville itself processed twenty million hides during this fifty year period.
It was during this period that Ireland was suffering under persecution and famine. Much of her population fled to the shores of America, and many found their way to the Catskills for employment in the tanneries. To their sorrow, they were without the services of a priest. It was not until 1826 that a resident bishop, John Dubois, was established in New York, and he began organizing the scattered church of New York State. He became aware of the needs of the Irish workers in the Catskills, and beginning in 1830, a priest was sent out from Saint Mary’s Church in Albany to celebrate Mass for the tanners and their families. For lack of a church, Mass was celebrated alternately, though infrequently, in the homes of Dennis Dunn of Hunter, and of Lawrence Norton in Platte Clove. We do not know the names of these first priests, but the pastor of Saint Mary’s in Albany at the time was Father Charles Smith, and he may well have been the first to celebrate Mass in the Catskills.
On August 12, 1839, Bishop Dubois sent the Reverend Bernard O’Farrell form Saint Paul’s Church in Harlem, to organize a parish in Hunter, and to build a church and lay out a cemetery. A subscription was taken up among the residents of Hunter and Platte Clove, as well as Westfall, Shandaken and Bristol near Woodstock. The list of the original subscribers contains names that are still familiar on the Mountain Top: John Burns, Peter Carr, Michael Dolan, William Gillespie and Darby Kennedy each gave $10; Thomas Geogham and Cornelius McGuire gave $9; Martin Shields offered $6; and a long list of $5 subscribers included Michael Askin, John Brannon, James Burns, Patrick Burns, William Cannon, James Caulfield, John Dale, Roger Donnell, Michael Dougherty, Condy Fagan, William Hopkins, George Kelly, Edward Kilday, John Kilday, Martin Kilroy, Patrick Lane, Thomas Lane, Richard Lynch, John Molloy, Patrick Norton, Condy O’Donnell, James O’Donnell, Peter Quinn, John Shanley and Charles Shevlin; Dennis Dunn, whose home was used for Mass until then, gave $3; William Burns and William Lawler each donated $2; and finally Lawrence Norton of Platte Clove who had also opened his home for Mass before the building of the church, gave $1. With a grand total of $212, Saint Mary of the Mountain came into being. A plot of land was purchased from Robert Kerr on October 17, 1839, for $50. The cemetery was laid out, and work began on a simple structure, 30 feet by 20 feet, of hemlock and basswood. Before the church could be completed, the little daughter of Michael Lackey and Mary Ann Glennon, not yet three years old, was the first to be buried in the churchyard. The structure was completed in June, and on the 23rd, Father O’Farrell celebrated the first Mass in the tiny church.
In 1841, Father O’Farrell was recalled to New York City, and was succeeded as pastor by Father Michael Gilbride. His parish was expanded to include Gilboa, Ashland and Hudson, across the river. He resided in Hunter for the first year and said Mass once a month at each of his stations. In 1842, he took up residence in Hudson to oversee the birth of the church in that village. In 1843, he constructed the little church dedicated to Saint Joseph in a diocese with Bishop John McCloskey, later to be Archbishop of New York and the first American cardinal, as ordinary. Saugerties remained part of the Albany Diocese until 1864, and so, in 1847, with new organization in the diocese, Father Gilbride was named pastor of Saugerties and Hunter, continuing to serve both places until 1849.
Because of failing health, Father Gilbride retired in 1849, and was replaced as pastor by Father Lawrence Considine in 1850. The tanning industry was at its peak, and Father Considine expanded the original building to accommodate his growing parish, adding the present sanctuary, topped by a small belfry. Throughout his pastorate, he resided in Hunter, but served Ashland, Shandaken and Middletown, now Margaretville, as well. He built churches in both Albany and Middletown.
In 1854, Father Eugene Carroll followed Father Considine as pastor, and the parish was again reshaped to include Gilboa, Ashland and Margaretville. Father Carroll removed his residence to Windham Center for convenience sake, and Hunter was to be without a resident pastor until 1874. It was a troubled period, because the mountains had been nearly denuded of the hemlocks, and new chemical process was replacing the old tanneries. Many of the families moved out, and the great tanneries fell into ruin. Except for occasional foundation stones to be found along the Schoharie and Catskill Creeks, no traces of them remains. A few were made into sawmills, to process the hardwood trees still remaining after the disappearance of the hemlocks, and for about twenty years, the mountain top communities barely survived on the production of barrel hoops and chairs. Saint Mary of the Mountain, though not suppressed as a parish, came under the care of the pastors of Saint Patrick’s in Catskill, Father J. H. W. Maeyers from 1859 until 1868, during the Civil War period, Father Bartholomew Grattan, who followed and cared for Hunter until 1870, and his successor, Father Edward O’Driscoll, who provided Mass in Hunter until 1874.
During the pastorate of Father O’Driscoll, a new turn of events brought lift back to the moribund parish of Saint Mary of the Mountain. The Roundout and Oswego Railroad had run a line from the Hudson River at Kingston through Phoenicia, Shandaken, Arkville, all the way to Hobart, bringing floods of summer visitors to the area. In 1875, the Roundout and Oswego went into bankruptcy and was reorganized as the Ulster and Delaware Railroad. In 1882, the Stony Clove and Catskill Mountain Railroad, owned by the Ulster and Delaware, was built, leading across Stony Clove from Phoenicia to Hunter. The following year, 1883, the Kaaterskill Railroad, also owned by the Ulster and Delaware, was built from Kaaterskill Junction, where it connected with the Stony Clove and Catskill Mountain Railroad. It ran through Tannersville and Haines Falls all the way up to Kaaterskill Station where the already venerable Catskill Mountain House stood.
The Catskill Mountain House had been built in 1823-24, and from high up on North Mountain commanded a magnificent view of the Hudson Valley and River. In 1872, only one other major vacation hotel was in business, the Laurel House, just a short distance from the Catskill Mountain House, at the head of a deep gorge into which the Kaaterskill cascaded in graceful falls. The railroads promoted the Catskill area as a resort, cool and refreshing in the summer to those who wished to escape the heat and clamor of the city, and construction of resort hotels began at a break-neck pace. By 1884, Hunter boasted five large hotels. The St. Charles, originally called Breeze Lawn, the original Hunter House (now replaced by a later building), Central House and Prospect House all had accommodations for 200 guests. The smaller Kaatsberg Hotel on the banks of the Schoharie Creek, provided its 100 patrons with every luxury of the time. To the north of Hunter, and in Haines Falls and Tannersville to the south, more hotels and boarding houses, though with smaller guest accommodations, brought in thousands of visitors to the area. Near the Catskill Mountain House, the new Hotel Kaaterskill had been built, and between the two institutions, 1400 visitors could find rooms. The Laurel House, in 1884, catered to nearly 300 guest. In fact, in the area served by Saint Mary of the Mountain, according to the 1884 summer guide of the New York, West Shore and Buffalo Railroads (into which the Ulster and Delaware linked), there were 11, 270 beds available to visitors.
Needless to say, all this construction demanded the service of many people, and the hotels, once in business, needed to be staffed. The need was increased also by the fact that several clubs had sprung up in the areas along the Ulster and Delaware track, most notably, Onteora Club, Elka Park, Twilight and Sunset Parks. These were private reserves with summer cottages built around a central club house. A new generation of laboring class Catholics flooded the region, and it was quite obvious that a resident pastor needed to be assigned to Hunter. Father Aloysius Murphy accepted that post on May 1, 1874.
New parish lines were drawn up, which included Margaretville, Delhi, Ashland, Prattsville, Windham, Platte Clove and Stamford, where a small mission church had been built in 1871. The most immediate need was to restore the Church of Saint Mary of the Mountain, which had been much neglected for sixteen years. Father Murphy added the main entrance with its two towers, one small and the other larger, removed the small belfry from the 1850 addition and replaced it with a skylight, and added the choir section and sacristy in 1875. The Hunter church now had its present dimensions and configuration.
Father Murphy left Hunter for a new charge in Rome, New York, in 1876, and was replaced by Father Simon Canane, who remained pastor for seven years and was succeeded in 1883 by Father P. H. Delehanty. When he died in 1888, a new pastor was assigned, Father Hugh O’Neil, and the parish lines were again redrawn, to include Haines Falls, Tannersville, Platte Clove, now known as Elka Park, Lexington, and, of course, Hunter. These parish lines remain the same today.
Days Of Expansion
During his tenure as pastor, Father O’Neil built the first Saint Francis de Sales Church in Elka Park in 1891, and, in 1895, he built a church in Lexington which he also dedicated to Saint Francis de Sales. The Lexington Church remains today essentially as it was when first constructed. By 1896, Father O’Neil had gone blind, and from the Biographical Review of 1899, we have a poignant portrait of the old man making his circuit accompanied by one of the parishioners as guide, who stood beside him at the altar and read to him the words of the liturgy, which the venerable pastor then repeated aloud in order to provide his flock with the Holy Eucharist. He was the founder of the Rosary Society of the parish. By 1900, his health had deteriorated to such a degree that he decided to return to his native Ireland to await death. Unhappily, he died aboard ship before he could reach his home in Dungarvin in County Waterford. He was remembered as saintly, brilliant and not a little eccentric by the people of the parish, and it was a saddened flock that bade farewell to the sixty-two year old pastor as he left the Catskills, worn out by his labors.
Father O’Neil was succeeded by Father Arthur J. Kelly as administrator of Saint Mary of the Mountain. In 1904, another of the great figures of the past became pastor, Father William Keefe. Shortly after his appointment, Father Keefe renovated the interior of Saint Mary of the Mountain, installing electricity, new altars, the pressed metal interior walls that are now in place, and the Munich stained-glass windows of which only one remains, the small rose window of the Four Evangelists above the choir area at the south end of the church. To the immense gratitude of the parishioners, he also installed a furnace, and winter services became more a matter of piety then endurance.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the tourist trade within the parish had become immense in the Haines Falls area, with the Catskill Mountain House, the Laurel House, Hotel Kaaterskill, the Lox-Hurst, Haines Falls House and dozens of other smaller hotels and boarding houses, as well as the flourishing private resorts known as Twilight and Sunset Parks. For a short time in 1905 and 1906, Father Keefe celebrated Mass at The Antlers Hotel on Mountain House Road in Haines Falls, but in 1906, he purchased the Levi Haines property and began construction of a new church. The Hunter Review of July 12, 1907, published a lengthy description of the building and the ceremonies as Father Keefe celebrated the first Mass in the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Sunday, July 6, 1907. According to a small brochure put out by Father Keefe in 1906, the entire projected cost of the new church was $5000. Shortly after the completion of the new church, the pastor transferred his residence from Hunter to Haines Falls to the former Haines Home, which remains the rectory now.
In 1912, Father Keefe presided over the construction of the new Saint Francis de Sale Church in Elka Park. In the parish archives is deposited a document, probably written about 1959, and unsigned. It appears as an article in the 1963 edition of the Vacation Bulletin, where Clara Lackey is identified as the author. It recounts the building of this new church in such a charming manner, that it demands to be quoted in its entirely.
"The passing of the late Mr. Arthur Showers, Sr. (1875-1958) recalls the story of the building of the Elka Park Church. As all these stories connected with the history of the parish are of interest, I know you will want to hear this one.
"Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a little shed-like church building alongside the road leading to Platt Clove. At the time of my story, it had just about completely outlived its usefulness as a meeting place and had become entirely inadequate to accommodate the ever increasing congregation and the ever growing needs of the day.
"Now, also, and at the same time, there lived during the summer months in Platt Clove, a Mr. Francis H. Lewis. He was a Protestant, a very fine gentleman indeed, and one known among his intimate friends for his many beneficences.
"It so happened that one lovely spring morning, when all the world was in tune and he was feeling in his usual generous mood, that Mr. Lewis called on our then pastor, Father Keefe. He told Father Keefe that he had frequently observed the apparent devotion of the country people attending Mass at Elka Park,- that it seemed their faith deserved a better church. He proceeded to tell the very willing listener that he was personally very much interested in replacing the present structure with a proper and suitable church for the Catholics at Elka Park. His ambition was most pleasing and wholly acceptable to Father Keefe. Now, if anyone expressed a good intention to Father Keefe, he never let it get cool, but immediately let it bear fruit.
"The good pastor went into prompt consultation with Arthur Showers, describing to him in minute detail a little chapel he had much admired while visiting France. He asked the always very helpful Mr. Showers to proceed with plans and to give an early estimate of cost. Very promptly this work got under way and Mr. Showers came up with a figure of $6000. On being advised of this, Mr. Lewis told Father that he was not only willing and ready, but greatly pleased to give the entire amount; however, he felt that the parishioners should be given the opportunity to evidence their personal interest in contributing toward it. He asked Father Keefe how much he thought the people would be able to give without it being the slightest burden or strain of any kind to them. Father suggested $1000. The parishioners cheerfully raised that sum. Mr. Lewis gave Father $5000. When incidental expenses went $500 over the original estimate, Mr. Lewis gladly gave Father Keefe the additional sum.
"St. Francis de Sales Church, the gift of a fine Protestant gentleman as a token of respect for the devotion of the Catholic country folk, had been re-done through the years and conditioned as necessity required. Today it is appraised at a replacement value of $50,000.
"The vacated church building was moved across the highway and for several years was used as a parochial school for the parish.
"Mr. Showers was generous and co-operative all through
the years in construction, reconstruction, advice, help and contributions, and
the pastors here knew they would never ask in vain for anything he could do.
It was fitting that he was buried from his own little church and that so many
by their attendance there, showed the recognition and appreciation of this
parishioner and the many helpful things he had done during his life time in
this parish. Once upon a time, Mr. Showers was "a fine Protestant
gentleman" who became an outstanding convert to Catholicism and lived
happily ever after."
It should be noted that Mr. Lewis also became a Catholic in later years.
The Elka Park Church was dedicated on May 20, 1913, by Bishop Thomas Burke of Albany, and dinner provided at the old Elka Park club house. The menu shows a picture of the new church that is startlingly different in appearance from the church as it now stands. Painted in light colors with dark trim, and surrounded by rough, rocky ad untamed landscape, it awaits time and gentle care to bring it the beauty of age that it now possesses.
St. Francis de Sales, Elka Park, is the only church in the parish with bells. The three bells, a gift of Mr. Jacob Hasslacher, were cast in Troy, New York, in 1912, and named St. Elizabeth (the largest), St. George and St. Agnes, after his wife and parents respectively.
St. Mary’s To Be Restored
The oldest Catholic church in Catskill, St. Mary of the
Mountain Church in Hunter is being renovated.
The Windham Journal, Thursday, August 9, 1979.
The Reverend Francis D. Dunbar, pastor of the Catholic churches of the Mountain Top, announced this past week that work would begin shortly on the restoration of Saint Mary of the Mountain Church in Hunter, the oldest Catholic Church in the Catskills.
A campaign is currently underway to realize the $50,000 needed to complete the project, which includes removal of the present foundation and entryway of native stone. They will be replaced with materials designed to withstand the problems of weather and land drainage, and re-faced with the original stone. In addition, the building will be made level again and the walls and roof re-inforced.
The church was built in 1840 and has been in continuous use since then. During those days nearly 140 years a number of other Catholic churches were founded out of Saint Mary of the Mountain, including Saint Joseph in Ashland, built in 1843 by the pastor of Hunter, Rev. Michael Gilbride. Sacred Heart in Stamford, built by Rev. Thomas Reilly in 1871, Saint Francis deSales in Elka Park, by Rev. Hugh O’Neil in 1892, who also built the Saint Francis deSales church in Lexington in 1895. The Immaculate Conception Church of Haines falls was constructed in 1909 by the Rev. William Keefe, and the new Saint Francis deSales of Elka Park constructed, also by Father Keefe in 1912. In time the Hunter church became the mother church of all the parishes in the Catskills.
Nestled among trees and surrounded by the tombstones of some of the earliest settlers of Hunter, the church of Saint Mary of the Mountain is a familiar sight to summer visitors and skiers as they approach the village of Hunter. Since the presidency of Martin E. Van Buren, it has been a landmark, deserving the attention of historians and the interest of the residents of the Catskills.
The Hunter parish was originally formed in 1837 to serve the Irish immigrants who came to the Catskill area in the early 1800’s to work in the tanning trade. Among the names of the charter members of the parish are found those of families still prominent on the Mountain Top, such as Peter Carr, Michael Dolan, William Gillespie, Martin Shields, John Dale and Charles Shelvin. The 1840 church is built in a modified Roman - style architecture with barrel ceilings, of the local woods, then so abundant; hemlock and basswood. The original decorations and hand – carved furnishings remain along with (sentence not completed).
In 1976 faced with the fact that pressed in Fleur-de-lis in the French style. The interior was restored and repainted in one original colors in 1973, and an early 19th century reproduction of Andrea del Sarto’s "Madonna of the Harpies" was hung in the sanctuary. The interior statuary was restored in 1974.
In 1976, faced with the fact that Saint Mary of the Mountain would either have to be restored or abandoned as unsafe, the parish council of the Catholic churches of the Mountain Top voted to undertake the current project. Studies of the problems involved in restoration were made and architectural drawings submitted by Edward Luders of Elka Park, and contracts are currently being awarded. It is hoped that work can be completed by late autumn.
Persons interested in the restoration project or desiring further information are invited to contact the pastor’s residence in Haines Falls.