The founders of St Peters have long since passed away, several succeeding generations have passed away, still their labors and sacrifices and achievements live on in our midst even as the souls of these faithful live on in eternal glory.
The record of St. Peters cannot be depicted adequately by the printed word alone. It is more eloquently demonstrated in the lives of its faithful children for the decades it was of service to them. It is impossible to recount the names and deeds of all the people of St. Peters throughout the decades. But all of these people and all of their deeds have coalesced to create their heritage. This history summary is dedicated to the devoted priests and loyal laity, living and long passed, who have given us this noble heritage of faith.
The Early Years
The Catholics living in New Bremen before 1850 were visited irregularly by priests who traveled long distances to bring them the sacraments. The names of two saintly men adorn the annuls of the early history of the State. They are Rev. J. Stephen Raffeiner and Rev. Francis Guth. Rev. Raffeiner, born in Tyrol in 1785, came to the United States in 1833, and began his apostolic work among the German Immigrants.
Not only did this priest labor in parts of New Jersey and Massachusetts, but also attended all the Germans of the entire state of New York as far North and West as Rochester, and Carthage, Mohawk Hill, and Croghan. He was, most probably, the first priest who said Mass for the people of Mohawk Hill and Croghan, who seemed to have received special care from him, for it was under his instruction that they built the first churches in their respective places.
At the time of his death, over thirty churches in the State of New York owed their origin and progress to Rev. Raffeiner’s zeal. He died on July 16, 1861, as pastor of Holy Trinity Church, Brooklyn, in which city he had built ten churches between 1850 and 1861.
Rev. Raffeiner was assisted in his care of the German missions in Northern New York by Rev. Francis Guth. Rev. Guth arrived in Northern New York as Rector of the Theological Seminary in LaFargeville, New York, a short lived institution encouraged by Bishop DuBois of New York, who encountered severe opposition to creating a Seminary in New York City.
During his stay as Rector, Rev. Guth attended to the Catholics in the Northern part of the State. He was particularly devoted to the Catholics of Lewis County who were, because of the language barrier, in an unfortunate isolation. He labored among these good people from 1835 to 1844, as is evident from church records of St. Stephens Church, Croghan, New York. After many years Rev. Guth returned to New York, leaving behind him a reputation of devotedness and piety of the highest order.
Such were the men who, in the years between 1833 and 1844, gave the best part of their lives to this severe labor for the salvation of souls, carrying hope and consolation to those dauntless men and women who had dared to pierce the wilderness.
Rev. Guth was followed by Rev. F.J. Kopf, who administered to Catholics of Lewis County from 1844 to 1850, and by Rev. Henry Tappert who had charge of the scattered Catholics from 1850 to 1852.
St. Peters Church
Up to this time, Catholics of New Bremen had to travel to Croghan for Mass. Feeling this burden very much; they resolved to build a church in their own village. In 1834 the road connecting Lowville with Crystal Lake had been opened, and it was decided then, that a site on this road would prove move suitable for the little building they had planned.
Not until 1851 was timber cut from the woods of John and Christopher Feisthamel, John and Christopher Rubar, Claude Ruprecht, John Wagner, John Thenis, and John and Nicholas Bach to build their church. So enthusiastic was the response of the local Catholics that the tiny chapel seemed to rise up from the ground as if by magic. The humble edifice, dedicated to St Peter, Prince of the Apostles, was 30 feet by 60 feet, and bore as yet a flat ceiling. Around the church enough ground was cleared to serve as St. Peters Cemetery.
In 1851, when the actual work on the church building had begun, the following families belonged to New Bremen: Tillmont, Schong, Raab, Ossant, Terrillion, Smithling, Bach, Rubar, Hopsieger, Talbolt, Lomber, Lalyer, Mathis, Altmyer, Boyer, Ruprecht, Feisthamel, Losan, Wantz, Wagner, Thenis, Kirch, Karp, Reneaux, and Bardo.
The first trustees were John Thenis and Christopher Feisthamel. Mr. Strife was overseeing the carpenter work, while John and Christopher Rubar and John Wagner were building the church. The first altars were made by John and Christopher Rubar. In 1853, Right Reverend John McCloskey, Bishop of Albany (established as a Diocese in 1847) visited Croghan, administered Confirmation, and blessed the church in New Bremen.
From this time on, Mass was celebrated occasionally in the new church of St. Peters, New Bremen by Rev. J.W. Herbst, 1852-1853; Rev. Henry Feddermann 1853-1854; Rev. Heimo 1854-1857; Rev. Ph. Hicolas 1857-1858; and Rev. Clement Mutsaers, OMC, 1858-1861, who came from Utica. He was succeeded by Rev. Ladislaus Korten, OMC, 1861-1863. From 1863-1865 Rev. Clement returned as shepherd of Catholics in and around Croghan. He was succeeded by Rev. Joseph Lesen, OMC, 1865-1867; and then came Rev. James Smith, 1867-1868 and Rev. Gabriel Volkert 1868-1874.
It was at this time that the Diocese of Ogdensburg was created by Pope Pius IX on February 15, 1872, the first Bishop being Right Reverend Edgar Philip Wadhams. Father Volkert was followed by Rev. John Conlon in 1875 and by Rev. Thomas Field, OSA of Carthage 1875-1876
The Franciscan Period
With the coming of the Franciscan Fathers from the Provence of Thuringia, Germany to Croghan, St. Peters got its first regular pastor, Father Maurice Sander who served from 1876-1882. A new vestibule was built, and a new organ and new pews installed during his pastorate.
Father Sander was the first in a long and impressive line of dedicated Franciscans to serve the people of St. Peters.
It would be impossible within the scope of this parish history to cite all the achievements of the individual Franciscan priests. They not only have given the people of the parish the unique and enduring treasures of Franciscan spiritual guidance and pastoral care, but also have reached deep into their hearts and won their gratitude, admiration, and love. Here we offer only a chronological list of the names of the pastors and mention a few highlights. Many other accomplishments will be fondly remembered as the names are reviewed; memories of other names will also be stirred, all these priests and the good they have done beyond memory, lives on in our heritage.
- Fr Fidelis Kircher, OFM, 1882-1883
- Fr Alberrt Stroeble, OFM 1883-1884
- Fr. Joseph Weiard, OFM, 1884-1888. During his pastoral stay, the Sanctuary was arched, the high altar built, a room to the rear of the church added, the church painted, and the Cemetery expanded.
- Fr Fidelis Kircher, OFM, 1888-1892
- Fr. Anselm Kennedy, OFM, 1892-1896. Fr Kennedy was a native of Maple Ridge, Lewis County. During his pastoral stay, the interior of the church was renovated; ceiling arched, and stain glass windows installed. He also completed the tower, 78 feet high, put on a new roof, and added new clapboards to the outside of the church.
- Fr. Damian Kehr, OFM, 1896-1897
- Fr. Eusebius Schlingmann, OFM, 1897-1901
- Fr. Hilary Reinhold, OFM, 1901-1908
- Fr. Eusebius Schlingmann, OFM, 1908-1909
- Fr. Aloysius O’Mallery, OFM, 1909-1912
- Fr. Aloysius Buschmann, OFM, 1912-1913
- Fr. Nicholas Reagan, OFM, 1913-1915
- Fr. Ferdinand Heckmann, OFM, 1915-1917
- Fr. Clement Raab, OFM, 1917-1927. Fr. Clement was pastor when the church observed its Diamond Jubilee with a three day celebration July 3 to July 5 1921. During his pastorate many improvements were made including having the entire church raised two feet with a new foundation wall installed.
- Fr. Charles Loeffelholz, OFM, 1927-1928
- Fr. Bartholomew Timlin, OFM, 1928-1929
- Fr. Richard Harold, OFM, 1929-1931
- Fr. Cuthbert Cotton, OFM, 1931-1937
- Fr. Hyacinth Barnhart, OFM, 1937-1943
- Fr. Ermin Klaus, OFM, 1943-1946
- Fr. Francis Kearney,l OFM, 1946-1949 During His pastorate, a new high alter was built
- Fr. Sixtus O’Connor, OFM, 1949-1951 St Peter’s centennial celebration was held during this period.
- Fr. Conrad Schomske, OFM, 1952-1953
- Fr. Alphonse Trabolt, OFM, 1953-1958
- Fr. Pancratius Halstrom, OFM, 1958-1960. During this pastorate, the purchase of Segovis Grove, adjacent to the church, was made for $9500.00 and renamed St. Peters Grove.
- Fr. Flavian Colligan, OFM, 1960-1964 Fr. Flavian had the church repainted, paid off the debt on St Peters Grove purchase, revived the Holy Name Society, and introduced the Children of Mary Society.
- Fr. Leo Brown, OFM, 1964-1969. During this period of time which Fr. Leo was Pastor, the changes instituted by Pope Joh XXIII and Vatican Council was beginning to be implemented at St Peters. The first changes introduced by the Council were concerned with liturgical renewal. Fr. Leo had the larger Sanctuary altars removed with a more simple Table of Sacrifice installed, where the Priest would now face the congregation during Liturgy. In addition to this, the lower sides of the church and back of the Sanctuary were covered with wood paneling. The church was carpeted and pews refinished. In the new spirit of the lay participation, congregational singing was introduced by Fr. Leo as well.
- Fr. Patrick Callaghan, OFM, 1969-1974 With Fr. Patrick’s guidance, St Peters grasped the spirit of Vatican Council changes and continued to evolve with not only greater participation during liturgical celebrations, but also in administration of parish affairs. Fr.Patrick created a democratic Parish Council where members of the Council were elected by the parishioners. A new organ was purchased and refinishing of the pews completed. In the Sanctuary new back drapes were installed, the area was painted and carpeted, and a new 43 inch hand carved crucifix from Germany purchased for the Sanctuary. New vestments, a chalice, and ciborium were procured. New hymnals and liturgical banners were introduced. A new public address system was installed; new light fixtures and lighting system were installed in the church as well as automatic flood lights installed for the parking area. Fr. Patrick also increased the number of altar servers from six to twenty two. Folk Masses were introduced, and the basement of the church was renovated into a classroom for religious instruction and meetings. In St. Peters Grove, two new stands were erected. And the hall painted with new drapes added to the windows. In 1970, twenty two headstones in the Cemetery were removed, new foundations laid and the stones repaired. A new cross was erected and the Cemetery expanded. A new fence was erected to separate the Cemetery from the road and new Poplar trees planted along the side.
St Peter’s’ is now designated an Oratory. The status of Oratory designates a church that is no longer a parish or mission and which no longer has regularly scheduled services; although the church building can be used for special liturgies such as a funeral of a long-time parishioner or to celebrate the oratory’s patronal feast. The church and cemetery remain a part of the extended church facilities of St. Stephens in Croghan.
St Peters Parish has cared for its people over the years, from fostering the Christian education of its youth, to administering the Sacrament of the Sick, from birth and baptism to death and burial. So while time is a witness of many changes; a person’s life is measured in terms of the many changes the years record. There is continual renewal and rebirth which gives continuity from generation to generation from grace to grace, even to eternal life.
As was said in the beginning, the record of St. Peters could not be depicted adequately by the printed word alone. It has more eloquently been demonstrated in the lives of its faithful children for the decades it was of service to them. It has been impossible to recount the names and deeds of all the people of St. Peters throughout the decades. But all of these people and all of their deeds have coalesced to create their ongoing heritage. This history is dedicated to the devoted priests and loyal laity, living and long passed, who have given us this noble heritage of faith.