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On the Hudson River, about 15 miles north of Saratoga, is the community of Corinth. On August 6th, 2005, the Church of the Immaculate Conception celebrated its 100th birthday. This is a little history of our beautiful church at Palmer Avenue (in Palmer Falls, New York, changed to Corinth in 1960).
At the home of Mrs. Mary McCarty the Holy Sacrifice was offered on two occasions by the Rev. John McMenamy, who was pastor of St. Peter's Church in Saratoga. This occurred in the early 1870's and is the first recorded evidence of Catholic corporate worship in the Town of Corinth. Subsequently, in 1874, when the Rev. James Kelly became pastor of Warrensburg, he considered Corinth and Palmer as one of his missions and visited it quarterly, offering Mass at the residence of Mr. Cornelius O'Brien.
On land donated by the Palmer Family in 1885, plans were made to erect a church, In 1886, a frame church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady was built. It had a capacity of 200 people. The Rectory was finished in 1891 and cemetery property was also purchased. The Rev. William Mahoney had been named the first pastor of this new church. He was succeeded by the Rev. Edward Brady in 1889 and the Rev. Michael Fogarty in 1901.
By this time, the congregation had grown so much that the existing church was no longer large enough. The congregation made a unanimous decision on May 8th, 1904 to erect a larger church. Funding for the new church was raised by the sale of coupons. The winner would receive an all expenses paid trip to the World's Fair. The old church building was moved 70 feet west and became our parish hall. By June of 1905 the cellar of the new church was completed, performed by the men of the congregation. The burden of this undertaking fell upon the new pastor, the Rev. Peter J. Donnelly. The Construction was begun in June 1905. Mr. O'Connor of Hudson, New York drew up the plans and John Fitzgerald, also of Hudson was awarded the contract to construct the church. On August 6th, 1905, the cornerstone was laid. Although the day was showery, more than 1,500 people attended the ceremony. In a copper plated steel box corner stone records of the day were placed. The new church would be 102 ft. long and 48 ft. wide and the ceiling 32 ft. high. The spire would rise 105 ft. The edifice would be constructed of Glens Falls brick with Bedford, Indiana bluff limestone trimmings. The underpinning would be Warsaw bluestone. Inside, the church pews and confessionals would be of oak with the altars finished in enameled white and gold with the Chancel rail of white enameled brass. On September 3rd, 1906 the dedication was held, solemnly blessed by Bishop Burke.
Father Donnelly who was 38 at this time, had just celebrated his 13th year of ordination and was greatly loved by the congregation. In his first 3 years at Corinth the membership had doubled and he had wiped out the previous debt. By 1916 members of the church numbered 716 which represented 136 families.
For years the nuns came from Saratoga to teach Cathechism in the Daly/Jacques home. This home was converted to a convent and later the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement came. These nuns served from August 1950 to September 1969. After the nuns left, there was a fire in the convent and it was eventually torn down. After this time religious education was taught by the members of the congregation and continues today.
The church also had many organists from the community who contributed their talent and time for us: Frances Buttles, Frances Cromie, Mary Jane Murphy Damberg, Kathleen Bogle Clements, Elaine Cooley Luper, Rosemarie Dashnaw and Sherry Hanley. Howard Russell also plays often during the summer months.
Holy Infancy Church had its beginning as a Roman Catholic Mission in the late 1800's.
According to 'Timber, Tannery and Tourists" (our local history book) the first Roman Catholic Mission at Luzerne was served from Saratoga Springs. In 1874 it was attached to the parish of Warrensburg, and was called the Church of the Infant Jesus.
A church building was erected on a site donated by Col. Benjamin Butler and the Parishioners were maintained by Rev. James A. Kelly of Warrensburg. During July, August and September each year mass celebrated every Sunday; for the balance of the year only once a month.
In 1890 the local parish was transferred from Warrensburg to that of Corinth. It was still a mission church, but served regularly by priests from the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Corinth. From 1890 to about the 1950's the clergy included Reverends Edward M.Brady, M.M. Fogarty, Peter J. Donnally, John E. Dignan, M.J. Mccaffrey and Joseph P. Hanlon.
Col. Butler deeded the land to Daniel O'Keefe on August 16, 1876, and the original church was built by Mr. O'Keefe and his brothers. The building held 30 people. Since there were very few Catholics, during the winter months mass was said in the parlors of the O'Keefe's and Clear's homes. Summer brought many visitors, and the small church was bulging. Anna Clear was the organist at the time, Dan O'Keefe the sexton, and Mary O'Keefe cared for the altar linens.
Holy Infancy increased its parishioners during 1929 because the Conklingville Dam was being constructed and brought several families to the area. Since the mission church held so few people, they were standing outside the building. So in 1929 the mission church was razed and the present church was erected by workers on the dam. In the interim, mass was said at Marian Lodge, site of the Elms Cottages in Luzerne. When the dam was completed and summer people departed, mass was held in the sacristy because there were so few people. As the church was being constructed, stained glass windows were donated by well-known broad way stars. Fr. Hanlon would have an auction at which they bid from $300 to $500 for an apple pie or other baked items. Eddie Cantor had a beautiful place on Fourth Lake. Many prominent people retreated to Luzerne to enjoy the natural beauty.
As the community grew, Bishop Scully decided to designate Holy Infancy as a full-fledged parish in 1956.The first pastor was Rev. John O'Grady who enjoyed the area and had a great appreciation of the mountains, lakes and boating. He was a gifted speaker, had a good sense of humor, a green thumb, and repaired whatever had to be done to the church. Under his stay the parish had profitable functions with rewarding results. At the time Fran Cromie was the organist and Holy Infancy had a choir.
In June of 1972 Rev. William Kelleher was assigned to Holy Infancy. He was a kind, gentle and compassion pastor, concerned about the needs of his parishioners. He initiated the Charismatic Mass and Folk Mass, and the parish had religious education. During his tenure the parishioners began construction of a hall.
In 1978 talks began about an addition to the church. Pledges were made, parishioners cooperated fully, and the best thing was that men volunteered to do the heavy work, while the women provided the food. It was all done in a friendly spirit. By 1983 it was completed and included rest rooms (one for the handicapped) and a kitchen. The downstairs room was to be completed at a later date. In January 1984 Rev. John D. Kirwin came to Holy Infancy as pastor. Under his guidance the church has been refurbished, feast days have been enhanced, and a variety of activities involving the community were inaugurated and held in Parishioners Hall, the name for the new addition. Fr. Kirwin introduced children’s Liturgy which still goes on, scripture sharing, and cantoring.
Also established was a group of ladies who called themselves the Bethany Guild. They provided fund raising ventures like the raffle of handmade quilts, garage sales and Christmas sales -- all monies going toward church projects. Among the many good causes, the Bethany Guild is responsible for the handicap ramp and the new cross atop the church.
No one knows how the original cross was destroyed, but it is believe that lightning struck it. Our choir director was Nancy Nevins, and organist was Sue Gleeman. Both still serve in that capacity.
Rev. Charles Gaffigan was appointed pastor in December 1991. Since he arrived, the downstairs room in Parishioner’s Hall was completed with volunteer help and is used as a religious education facility. This program is flourishing.
Parishioner's Hall was formally dedicated after 10 AM mass on December 13, 1992, by Bishop Howard J. Hubbard.
A new furnace has been installed and a new organ purchased. When the organ was installed, we had a concert followed by high tea. Since his arrival, Fr. Gaffigan has been busy visiting families in the parish.
We are sure our older parishioners have many stories to tell about the early days at Holy Infancy which would make an interesting book. The parish council plays an important part in the parish operation. Holy Infancy has come a long way since the late 1800's. Through the years the religious education of parishioners has witnessed the dedicated work of the Sisters of the Atonement, lay catechists and the Christian Brothers. There is more to be developed at Holy Infancy, and hopefully the future will see the Good News appropriately proclaimed; permeating the lives of the parishioners, and those they serve.