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Fathers Patrick Ludden and John Walsh
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Chapter Four of the History of St. Peter's Parish

Father Patrick Ludden

 

In 1871, Bishop Conroy divided St. Peter's parish into two parishes, forming St. Patrick's to the north. The new parish included mainly that area known as Batestown.

 

The Very Rev. Patrick Ludden, Vicar General of Albany Diocese, and later the first Bishop of Syracuse, was made pastor in 1880. He built the present St. Peter's School at a cost of $30,000.00.    

 

During his seven years in the parish he equipped the church with steam heat, installed the high marble altar, and purchased most of the stained glass windows.

Father John Walsh
Father Walsh

Father John J. Walsh

 

Father John J. Walsh came to St. Peter's in 1887 and remained pastor until his death in 1919. He was among the most widely known and influential priests in the diocese. He was a scholar, theologian, lecturer, writer, and a man of considerable administrative ability. Dur­ing his years at St. Peter's he was elevated to the rank of domestic prelate. He came into a vigorous, populated, well-organized parish. He began immediately to repair the interior and exterior of the church. This work was in steady progress through 1890. In the meantime, the stained glass windows were completed, a new pulpit and altar railing were erected, and the side altars and stations of the Cross were set in place. The convent was completed also, at a cost of $20,000.00.

St. Peter's Bells

In 1896, St. Peter's ten-bell chime was placed in the bell tower. The bells were cast of the best Lake Superior copper and India tin by the Meneely Bell Co. At a higher level in the tower, a new Seth Thomas clock which strikes the Cambridge quarters was placed, also. The installation work for the bell company at the time was done by Edward L. Kehn and Pius Kehn, the father and grandfather, respectively, of Edward W. Kehn who keeps the chime and clock in repair today [1974]. Before their installation, the bells were arranged in the middle aisle, decorated with flowers by ladies of the parish, and then blessed at Vespers by Bishop T.M.A. Burke.

 

A week later, when the chime was in position, Chester Meneely presented a concert. One newspaper account reported thousands lis­tened in rapt attention . . . to the sounds of lingering sweetness. During the 150th Anni­versary celebrations, Sister Martha Wachtel, choir director, played the chime on several oc­casions.

 

Two years after Father Walsh arrived at the parish, the Regents awarded St. Peter's School the charter of an academy, in 1889. Father be­came principal, Sister Odilia, vice-principal and directress, and Sister Sacred Heart, librarian. The circulating library was in the Lyceum and there were over six hundred titles available at the time. In 1923, St. Peter's terminated its career of thirty-nine years as a Regents high school. Its valuable library and high school equipment were given to Catholic Central High School as part of a cooperative consolidation program. Since that time, St. Peter's has concentrated on providing the finest Elementary education to children of the parish, and, in­deed, to special students from distant parts of the area. In 1964, the alumni of Kenwood Aca­demy assumed the sponsorship of a sight-sav­ing program. For years the school enjoyed an extra share of prestige as a result of the respect this program received from educators and ther­apists alike. St. Peter's old Erban organ was completely restored in 1894. At this time, Professor Carl Durr was the organist and choirmaster. Under his leadership, St. Peter's Church became a center of the finest perfor­mances of sacred music. Feast days saw crowds packing the church, drawn by the splen­did music and the atmosphere of grandeur it helped create. Professor Durr trained a large number of parishioners and they retained their love of fine music for life, passing the gift on to their children.

 

In 1900 the baptismal font of marble, onyx, and brass was placed in the new marble bap­tistry. Later, in 1909, the sidewalls of the in­terior were covered with marble. When this work was completed, the wooden columns of the church were removed and replaced with columns of marble. These improvements made St. Peter's one of the most beautiful churches in this part of the country. The memorial gifts which made it all possible reveal the affluence and generosity of many parishioners.

 

In 1912, Msgr. Walsh began the construction of the present Gothic style rectory. It is made of Potsdam stone and cost $30,000.00 to build. Charles F. Boland was the contractor. In 1916, St. Peters was re-incorporated in conformity with New York State law. For the first time, parish temporal affairs were placed under ec­clesiastical control. Also, St. Peter's was des­ignated an irremovable parish by the Bishop. Msgr. Walsh received the degree of Doctor of Laws. On November 19, 1919, Msgr. Walsh died, at the age of 72. Crowds stood in silence out­side the rectory during the deathwatch. Condolences came into the parish from all over the world.