Submitted by PHGS Brenda Painter Foley
| Taken from a booklet prepared and
edited by Family Life Committee
of the Parish Council in 1983
If we could look back at West Salamanca as it was over 100 years ago, we would see a little settlement called Bucktooth. In the settlement we would see some frame and some log houses, a couple of stores, a tavern, sawmills, and a ferry across the river that was used when trading with the Indians. At that time the Atlantic and Great Western Railroad extended its road from Jamestown on to Bucktooth to form a junction with the Erie Railroad which had completed its road from New York to Dunkirk. Many more people came to live in Bucktooth, among them quite a number of Catholics.
The early Catholic families came to this part of Cattaraugus County in the 1850's because they had been attracted by the forests with their possibilities for lumbering and by the river for shipping goods. Consequently, lumbering was the principal occupation and some of the younger men worked as Allegany river pilots.
Father McKeevers, from Ellicottville, visited the families occasionally and attended to their spiritual wants. The pastor of the Catholic Church in Jamestown became very interested in the little settlement. So, occasionally , a priest would come from Jamestown, say Mass in a private home, or a bit later in a small public hall. As a result of that missionary work, Bishop Timon, first bishop of our Diocese, in 1860, directed that a parish be organized in Bucktooth, (by that time renamed Salamanca), to be served by Jamestown clergy.
The first pastor was Father Patricio Byrne or as usually called, Father Patrick Burns. He came for services regularly once a month from Jamestown where he resided. In 1862 a neat church built of wood, 32 ft. by 50 ft., was erected in the northern part of the village, just beyond the Indian Reservation limits. It was called St. Joseph's Church and served about 300 parishioners.
Catholics from Killbuck and Little Valley began to attend Mass there. Need was eventually felt for a resident priest; and a rectory was built. The entire church property had a valuation of about $3,000.
Other priests who served in the parish each for a short time were Fathers Cahill, McMullen, Bloomer, and Baxter. Then in 1870 Rev. John Byron was assigned as pastor. West Salamanca, as it is called today, was beginning to decline and Salamanca, formerly called Hemlock and then East Salamanca, began to grow because the railroads, desiring more yard space, had transferred their business up to town. Also, a tannery had been established and two lumber mills were operating, one in the vicinity of today's lower Sycamore Ave. and the other at the end of River Street.
Consequently, in 1875 Father Byron leased a plot of land on River St. and, in 1876, erected St. John's Church. It was a plain, wooden hall 34 ft. by 72 ft. with a seating capacity of 400. The entrance was on Williams St. Services were held there regularly and the West Salamanca church was closed. A neat rectory was purchased near the church (where the convent is now). In 1879 the property valuation was $4,000 and there were 130 families in the parish, with 50 attending Sunday school.
By 1882 the Catholic population had so largely increased that St. John's Church was no longer suitable. Therefore, during that year, the present St. Patrick's Church was erected at a cost of $18,000. A newspaper item stated…."It is a brick structure and one of the finest churches in the county. It is patterned, in a small way, after St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City."
There was very little money in the church treasury at that time, less than $25. However, Father Byron had complete trust in God's help and there was a good staunch Catholic faith. Farmers in the vicinity brought their horses and stone boats, men who were stone masons came, and, refusing any pay, they and other men laid the foundation for the new church. The brick work was done by Martin Maloney and his helpers. The 6 ft. by 10ft. cross for the top of the steeple and the interior woodwork was done by the O'Connor Brothers, a contracting firm. The former St. John's Church was then turned around with the entrance on River St. and, for some time, was used as a parish hall for entertainments, etc.
Under the supervision of Father Byron, a frame church was erected in the village of Little Valley. Also a frame church was built at Killbuck, in what is now the Killbuck Catholic Cemetery. That church was later closed and the people attended St. Patrick's.
Father Byron was very saintly, worked tirelessly and was often spoken of by the old settlers as "the man of the poor", for shopkeepers told of the many pieces of clothing, baskets of food, etc. that he paid for and had delivered to those families in need, regardless of their religion. His health failed and he died in Buffalo on May 31, 1889.
The next priests assigned here were Fathers Dunn, Haire, and Connery. Then, on May 1, 1890, Rev. Peter Berkery became the pastor. Like Father Byron, he was a hard worker and a good business man. In 1892 he built a parochial school at the cost of $10,000 and he brought the Sisters of St. Joseph from Buffalo to staff the school which consisted of grades one through eight. From that time on, boys and girls of St. Pat's Parish have received a splendid secular education as well as a thorough knowledge and training in their Catholic faith.
The parochial residence was given to the sisters as a convent and a new rectory purchased for the pastor and was used until October 1981 at which time is was completely demolished due to the overall deterioration, run down condition, and high operating costs. Interesting is the fact that it was the first brick house in this part of Salamanca. It was erected around 1894 as a home by Andrew Krieger who was an early hotel owner here. One of the Krieger family, John, became City Attorney in later years.
Rev. Thomas Barrett succeeded Father
Berkery. In 1903,
he built the present convent. The old wooden convent had
burned and was moved back on Allegany St. and later used as a
tenant house. The new convent of brick and stone, with fine
and a beautiful chapel, was and still is, considered one of the finest
convents in the Diocese.
During the time Father Barrett was pastor of St. Patrick's, a fine young priest, Rev. John Weismantel, was appointed as the first assistant pastor. He did a great deal for the young people of the parish, strengthening the organization of the Children of Mary, etc.
When Father Barrett was moved to St. Stephen Parish in Buffalo, Rev. John Dealy became our pastor. He was not well and died in 1915.
When the new pastor, Rev. Robert Walsh arrived, he found everything in good shape, being cared for by the fine young assistant, Irish born Rev. Lawrence O'Farrelly. During World War I Father O'Farrelly took a very active part in community affairs, especially the work of the Red Cross. He was loved by both non-catholics and catholics, and he, in turn, loved Salamanca second only to his Ireland. Before he died on July 22, 1924, at the age of 41, he requested that he be buried here in Calvary Cemetery, and that is where his grave is. Father Leo Geary then became our assistant.
In 1928, Father Walsh was moved to St. Mark's Parish in Buffalo. The new pastor , Rev. Charles Maxwell, was here but a short time. He was succeeded by Rev. Peter Berkery, who as a young lad, had often visited his Uncle, Rev. Peter Berkery, and was called "Little Peter". He, like his uncle, was a sincere priest and a good business man. However, he suffered a severe illness. Apparently regaining his health, he went South for a brief visit and died very suddenly in Atlantic City as he was returning to Salamanca (May 24, 1929)
In July 1929 the Bishop assigned Rev. Michael Colligan as pastor here. The assistant was Rev. Richard Deasy, who within a few months was changed. Then, for short periods, Father LeBlanc and Father Norman O'Meara served as assistants.
In the spring of 1930 Rev. James J. Kirby was moved from assistant in Jamestown, to assistant at St. Patrick's. During that year plans were drawn for a new school building facing Allegany St. This addition was deemed necessary because the enrollment in the school had greatly increased.
The parish tenant house was moved across the street to the rear of the church and construction of the new building was begun. It was of brick, one story in height. It ontained two classrooms and a large hall which could, when needed, be converted into two classrooms. The building was opened for use in January 1931.
In 1932, while Father Colligan was on a trip to Rome and the Holy Land, Father Kirby had some landscaping done on the church grounds and some rooms in the rectory repapered. For Christmas of 1938, a new pipe organ was installed.
Father Kirby was deeply loved by the elderly and people who were ill because of the encouragement and pleasure he gave to them by his frequent visits. In the course of time, Father Kirby was transferred to St. Louis Parish in Buffalo. He died on June 18, 1949 at the age of 52. Like Father O'Farrelly, next to his native Ireland, he felt that Salamanca was his home. He wished to be buried here. His request was granted and he was laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery next to Father O'Farrelly.
It is noteworthy that this first parish history was researched and written by Helen Wright, a long-time parishioner of St. Pat's who ended her research with this little verse:
"A better parish there never was,
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