Founding of St. Peter's Parish
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St. Joseph's Church- Troy, New York
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Chapter One of the History of St. Peter's Parish
St. Peter's First Church Building
St. Peter's First Church

The small portion of the inhabitants of the City of Troy . . . known to the Christian world as Roman Catholics . . . now ac­quaint the citizens of this community . . with their inten­tions of erecting a church.


These were the words of the Catholic Com­mittee published on June 22, 1826. Since 1824, this small portion of Irish immigrants, who, according to their own, moving announcement, were induced by sufferings and persecutions to become voluntary exiles, had been gather­ing for Mass in an old school house at Second and Ferry Streets. Father Patrick McGilligan was their pastor.


The Catholic Committees appeal produced sufficient financial subscriptions from a sym­pathetic community, and the trustees were in­structed to secure a site in the northern part of the city. About October 28, 1828, John D. Dickenson and several other grantors, all heirs of the original Vanderheyden patroon, deeded to the trustees, for the consideration of six cents, lot 214 on the northeast corner of North Second Street (now Hutton Street and Fifth Avenue).


The deed stipulated that the ground was for the purpose of having a meeting house for re­ligious worship built and forever continued on it, and also that a clock and bell should within a reasonable time after the building of the first meeting house, be placed, put, and continued thereon. In case these conditions were not fulfilled, the property was to revert to the original grantors. Shortly thereafter, a small, forty by sixty feet, weather-boarded, frame church building was begun there.


On March 12, 1827, the church was incorpo­rated in the name of the Trustees of St. Peter's Church in the City of Troy. The Trustees were: Keating Rawson, Patrick Irwin, Edward Lawler, Patrick Mooney, Patrick Cole, George Donlevy, Phillip Quinn, Michael Egan, and James Cantwell. By that time, Mass was being celebrated in a room in the old Court House and continued there until the church was built.


In 1827, before the new church was complet­ed, Father John Shanahan became the next pastor, second in a long succession of priests around whom the history of St. Peter's Church is written. Indeed, sixteen priests have served as pastor. They extend from the papacy of Pope Leo XII to that of Pope Paul VI, bringing St. Peter's into the post-conciliar era of Vatican Council II.


The Councils Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests refers to this indispensable presence of the priest in the community: No Christian Community can be built up unless it has its basis and center in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist.


In Father Shanahan's time, there were only two other Catholic churches in New York State: St. Peter's in New York City, and old St. Mary's in Albany. He and some of his successors served a virtually limitless parish, traveling on horseback throughout northern New York and east into Vermont and Massachusetts.


According to A. J. Weise's history of Troy's first hundred years, Father Shanahan distin­guished himself during an ugly incident on St. Patrick's Day in 1837. A festering anti-Irish feeling came to a head while the devout, sentimental Irishmen were honoring the feast day of their patron saint. To ridicule the Irish, cer­tain townspeople strung up many effigies of St. Patrick throughout the city. The Irish com­munity was outraged and gathered reinforce­ments to tear them down. Wildest disorder pre­vailed. There was much bodily injury and prop­erty damage. Stones were thrown, windows broken, and guns fired. At least three people were shot and seriously wounded before the riot was quelled. The mayor's order to disperse was ignored, and he called out the Troy Citi­zens Corps, bearing arms, to restore order. In the meantime, Father Shanahan was moving among the fighters on the Irish side, urging them to desist and to return to their homes. It was his peacemaking efforts which finally pre­vailed, and the fighting stopped.


The first St. Peter's Church building was completed in 1830. According to church rec­ords, it was consecrated that year by the Rt. Rev. John Dubois, Bishop of New York. Four years later, a forty-foot brick section was add­ed, and, in 1836, the original parish house was built. The earliest financial report is dated 1837. Provision was made for the pastor and his assistant to receive $400.00 per year and a house. At the same time, it was agreed that the sextons salary should be $1.00 a week. For this wage he was to keep the church clean, saw the wood for the stoves, and do everything which belongs to a sexton. The bills for that year included one item of $3.00 to S. Parker for putting up the stoves, and another of $1.00 to Peter Casey for taking down the stoves. The expenses of the year amounted to $2,075.23 and the income was $2,078.26, leaving a balance of $5.03 in the treasury.


Father Shanahan was pastor for fifteen years. He saw the completion of the original church building, the addition of the brick ex­tension, and the construction of the Rectory. Further improvements included the installation of lamps in 1840. Also, an organ was purchased from Christ Episcopal Church and paid for in installments. Up until that time, the choir accompaniment was a flute. The Trustees voted that collections at Vespers would be used to pay for the organ.