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1847 Our Beginning Years

 

Since the beginning of civilization many great and noble temples have risen majestically only to fall into decay, but our church, which is more than bricks and mortar, will dwell in the land of the living forever. Our church is the pastors and people of Good Shepherd parish, which is Roman Catholic in the Diocese of Buffalo. It forms a unique unit among the vast communion of saints - a union embodying those members on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. This vast group is composed of the past, present, and future parishioners who are earning, awaiting, or already have had, through perfect love, their first glimpse of the beatific vision.

 

Displaying faith in a supreme being who transcends the earth, attending church services on Sundays and Holy Days, participating in social events sponsored by the church or community are only a small portion of the activities of the communion of saints called our church on earth. It is, however, a vital portion of the totality of life. From the day that the first Catholic farmers in Pendleton carved out cultivating space from the wilderness, their lives were much the same as the lives of their descendants, and the descendants of those who filtered into Pendleton over the past one hundred and fifty years.

 

The early farmers, their wives, and their children rose early from a restful sleep to meet the rising sun in the East. They washed, dressed, and ate a hearty breakfast. In the forenoon they went bout their chores. The man and his barn and animals, the woman and her kitchen and chickens, e children and their school and books were interwoven in the fabric of their day. The afternoon saw the completion of their tasks and a gathering around the table for the evening meal. There they could review their work - work filled with joy or sorrow, inspiration or frustration, and love or anger. Then, as the sun set in the West, men, women, and children once again fell asleep, getting out, for a short span, all their multifaceted emotions.

 

In the daily ebb and flow of their lives, early Catholic settlers had a void to fill. They had their r faith and personal relationship with God, but they needed the opportunity to exercise the communal aspects of their faith. New babies had to be baptized, young adults had to be confirmed . Their faith, engaged couples required their sacrament of matrimony to be witnessed, and the eased had to be prayerfully interred. Just as they ate their meals to sustain their physical health, they required the Eucharistic bread to sustain their spiritual lives. They longed for communal gathering at the Sunday Mass, seasonal and weekly devotions, and occasional missions or renewal of their faith. Essential to the fulfillment of the void was the presence of their priest, ho was to them a sign of Christ's presence in their world. He not only said Mass and administered the sacraments, which they needed, but he was their teacher, preacher, and counselor. He ought out those who had not heard the gospel or those who had lost their faith; he, as the representatives of Christ, outreached to the sick and the dying.

 

In the year 1997, Good Shepherd parish, Pendleton, New York, celebrates the sesquicentennial of its beginning to fill the void embedded in the early Catholic settlers. The early history of Good Shepherd parish coincides with the development of Western New York. In 1813, the British captured Fort Niagara on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River and burned the infant village of Buffalo. Five hundred people who lived in the village fled. The event was particularly tragic because Buffalo was not considered a frontier camp. It boasted of having newspapers, taverns, a hotel, a jail, two physicians, and two druggists, as well as a relatively prosperous mercantile trade.(1) By the spring and summer of 1814, however, many of those who had fled began filtering back into the village and the surrounding area.
That section of the Niagara peninsula which today is called Pendleton, whose southern border is the Tonawanda Creek-Erie Barge Canal, is twenty-five miles southeast of Fort Niagara and twenty miles northeast of Buffalo. The area remained in its virgin state until the early 1830's, when German immigrants, settlers from Bavaria looking for good limestone soil, cut the trees and tilled the land. Along with the Germans came Frenchmen from Canada and Alsatians and Lorrainers from Europe. Irish and German laborers who had worked on the Erie Canal settled along its banks. Many of these Germans, French, and Irish were Roman Catholics. Their spiritual needs had to be served but served only with difficulty because the entire state of New York was a single Roman Catholic Diocese whose Episcopal seat was in New York City some four hundred and fifty miles to the southeast.

 

In 1836 Bishop John Dubois, native of France, émigré priest of the French Revolution, an American citizen, and third bishop of the New York Diocese, sent a secular priest, John Neumann, to Western New York, via the Erie Canal which had opened in 1825. Neumann was born in Bohemia, 28 March 1811. After studying at the gymnasium under the Paulist Fathers at Budweis, he began his studies in theology. On 21 July 1832, he was tonsured and received the four minor orders leading to the priesthood in the Catholic Church. For a time he studied at the University at Prague. After completing his courses he returned to Budweis in August 1835.(2)

 

Neumann had on several occasions expressed a desire to accept any proposal to go to America. His opportunity came when his confessor, Father Hermann Dichtl at the Budweis cathedral, suggested Neumann's name to the rector of the seminary at Strassburg, Alsace, who had sent out petitions asking young theologians to accept an offer of Francis Patrick Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to connect to America. On 8 February 1836, Neumann began his trek toward America via Linz, Altoetting, Munich, and Strassburg. Arriving at Strassburg, however, he received word that he was not wanted in Philadelphia. Without waiting to hear if Bishop Dubois of New York would accept him, he departed by caravan for Paris, France, and went by foot and stagecoach to Le Havre, France. He sailed for America aboard the ship, Europe, on 20 April 1836.(3) the ship landed at New York on 29 May 1836. Bishop John Dubois greeted Neumann heartily, ordained him, and urged him to immediately take on parish mission work among the Germans in Western New York. By 4 July 1836, Neumann said Mass at St. Mary's Church in Albany, New York, after sailing up the Hudson River. By rail, Neumann went to Schenectady, then inched his way by barge on the Erie Canal at four miles an hour until he reached Buffalo. On 13 July, he said Mass at St. Louis Church in Buffalo, the mother church, where Father Pax was the rector. On the same day, following his Mass, Neumann traveled ten miles north to Williamsville. (4) From July 1836 to July 1837, he ministered to the spiritual needs of the Germans and other immigrant settlers in Williamsville and the surrounding areas. Accompanied by his backpack and walking stick, he trudged along the roadways giving service to Catholics in North Bush, Lancaster, Sheldon, Pendleton, Transit, Swormville, Batavia, Tonawanda, and Rochester.(5)

 

By 1835, a cluster of houses had sprung up in the village of Pendleton. It had received its name in honor of Sylvester Pendleton Clark, one of the first settlers and a renegade from Grand Island who settled there in 1821. His log cabin was surrounded by a vast wilderness but he had visions that the village would grow in grandeur as the lumber trade brought prosperity to the region. On the Tonawanda Creek he built a tavern and a frame house. From 1823 until 1825 the canal between Lockport and the Tonawanda Creek was still under construction. Large rock formations had to be removed before it could be opened to the Niagara River. In these two years Clark prospered as he engaged in the portage business which he developed between Lockport and Pendleton. He had been married twice, sired 21 children, and died in 1854. He was buried in a plot adjacent to his village overlooking the Erie Canal. (6)
When Neumann visited Pendleton while stationed at his residence in Williamsville in 1836, he said Mass in the homes of Adam Koepfmger and Michael Meyer. These were two of the original Catholic Germans who came to settle the land in the vicinity of the village. Koepfinger and Meyer arrived in 1832, accompanied by Philip Woock and Joseph Schimp. Woock with his entire family came to America from Bavaria. Orin Fisk, who located on the east side of the canal, came in 1844 from his father's farm which had been purchased in the township of Royalton in 1810. John Baker settled on forty-six acres of lot sixty-seven with frontage on Mapleton Road. In 1849, William Woods, the first adventurer to reside between the canal and Transit Road, purchased twenty-nine acres on lot sixty-three with frontage on Fisk Road.(7)

 

In 1837, Bishop Dubois visited Neumann and his parishes. The bishop sent Father Lutgen, a native of Luxemburg, to Williamsville to assist Neumann. Neumann found Lutgen unworthy both in doctrinal preaching and moral conduct. Quickly Neumann had him removed.(8) After Easter, 1840, Neumann was diagnosed with a very severe case of fever which lasted for three months. Besides his sickness, he was unhappy with his inability to create the spiritual fervor which he wanted his parishioners to have. Further, for several years he had felt that he would be safer from the world's temptations, caused by the loneliness endured while worl1n~ am the missions, if he could join a religious order, preferably the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer known to many as Redemtorists Often he reflected on the pas­sage in Ecclesiastes (4: 10), If one should fall, another will help him up; but woe to the man who has no one to help him when he fall, down",
Because of his desire to live in community, Neumann joined the Redemptorists and left his little chapel headquarters in North Bush, Kenmore, which was five miles from Williamsville. On 9 October 1840, he moved first to Pittsburgh and then to Baltimore. In 1860 he was named Bishop of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.(9) After Neumann's departure, all of his parishes in Western New York had to be attend­ed to by new priests assigned by Bishop Dubois, who became incapacitated after experiencing a stroke. The direction of the diocese was then taken over by his coadjutor-bishop, John Joseph Hughes, who succeeded him in 1842. Hughes envisioned splitting the New York diocese into smaller packages, one of which would be a new diocese in Western New York.(10) It would contain the mission churches started by Neumann. Finding suitable pastoral substitutes for him was not an easy task.

 

All had not been glitter and gold, Christian and charity, or peace and prosperity in the French and German parishes. In Williamsville the laity were predominantly Alsatians; at North Bush they were mainly Lorrainers.(11) It would be mild to say that they bickered! In Williamsville, after Neumann had been falsely accused of an indiscretion with a servant girl by the Alsatians and had been undercut in his salary, which they had promised, he moved to North Bush where the Lorrainers gave him free lodging in a log cabin for a year and a half, and subsequently built him a church, and a frame cottage with a garden.(12) The parishioners in the parishes established by Neumann had also attempted to adopt European Catholicism to American republican values. The laity established themselves as the proprietors of the temporal affairs of the church. They decided the salaries of the priest and other church personnel. They controlled the property and its maintenance. Each year a group of men were elected by the parishioners to act in the capacity of trustees. In some parishes the system worked well; but, in others, there were abuses which caused great pain and suffering for the attending pastor. There was also a tendency on the part of the laity to treat the pastor as a "hired-hand."

 

Archbishop Hughes opposed the trustee system and promoted clerical control of the church, but he had difficulty in achieving his goal because many of the German churches had become incorporated according to secular laws enacted in 1813.(13) He had to find German priests who would have the right kind of chemistry between themselves and the three hundred scattered families left without a pas­tor upon the departure of Neumann. Boldly, Hughes assigned Father Michael Guth, brother of Father Francis Guth, the pastor of St. Louis Church, Buffalo, to take up the challenge.(14) After two years of ministry, Guth found the task too demanding and asked the bishop to accept his resignation. In June 1842, Hughes assigned Father Theodore Noethen, who was born on 3 February 1816 at Cologne, Prussia, to take over all of Guth's parishes. This assignment followed Noethen's short stay as assistant to Father Alexander Pax at St. Louis Church in Buffalo.

 

Like other priests, Noethen encountered the hardheadedness of some of the trustees who immediately began to 'lay down the law' to him. He was warned that he was solely assigned to Williamsville, and they refused to allow him to 'run around' to those other missions, particularly North Bush. Noethen, who also had a strong hardheaded German character, put up with such nonsense for only a little while. Soon, he was out on the road visiting North Bush, Sheldon, Transit. Pendleton, and Lancaster. Williamsville and Lancaster paid him an annual salary of $400. For service at Transit and Pendleton he received nothing. For his journey to Sheldon he received $12 each year. The parish of Transit, now known as Swormville, might rightly call Noethen its founder because he had personally purchased there approximately one hundred acres, upon which stood the old wooden church dating back to Neumann's days of service in the community.(15) Although he bought the land for himself, he even­tually sold it to the congregation. In August 1845, Noethen was transferred to the Church of the Assumption in Syracuse, New York, which at that time was called Salina. Again Williamsville, North Bush, Transit, and Pendleton needed a pastor.(16)

 

Hughes finally decided on the creation of a new diocese in New York State with headquarters at Buffalo. In 1847, John Timon, C.M.(17) was appointed the first Bishop of the new diocese which included many parts of Western New York. Pendleton was part of it. It was in this same year that Good Shepherd parish was established on the banks of the Tonawanda Creek-Erie Canal. The church was, however, not a structure; it was but a congregation of pious families called The Church on the Canal.

 

The baptismal records of the church, which begin with a 21 May 1847 entry, describe Father Peter Kramer, who can be considered the first pastor, performing two baptisms.(l8) The first two new addi­tions to the Canal Settlement were Margarita Woock and Catherina Herrmann. Martin Woock who was the father of Margarita was the proprietor of the canal store and hotel located on the north side of Tonawanda Street on the edge of the Erie Canal in the village of Pendleton. He had his home on the Niagara County side of the canal just opposite the confluence of the Tonawanda Creek and the Erie Canal.(l9) The first marriage in the new parish was between John Trabert and Elizabeth Gaensler, 25 July 1848. John Trabert was the son of Nicholas and Magdalene Trabert and Elizabeth Gaensler was the daughter of George and Magdalene (nee Mehl) Gaensler. Besides Kramer, the other witnesses at the wedding were Francis Joseph Wackerman and Francis Joseph Leuthauser. The first funeral con­ducted in the parish was for Mary Ann Herrmann, wife of Ignatius Herrmann. She died 9 May 1847 and was buried two days later.(20)

 

In 1848 Bishop Timon came to Pendleton and administered the sacrament of confirmation. It was at this time that he gave Kramer permission to construct a church, but the congregation was not financially capable of doing so.(21) Kramer remained active in the settlement until 17 September 1848 reg­ularly saying Mass on appointed days, administering the sacraments, hearing confessions, and prepar­ing the children for first communion. During his stay the records show that the following surnames are associated with several baptisms: Woock, Herrmann, Schimpf, Luft, Degan, Niederauer, Gerhart, Meyer, Braun, and Wehner. Joseph Wehner was a farmer residing on fifteen acres in lot sixty-eight, which were located directly west of the canal. His property's frontage was on the present Oakwood Drive, which as late as 1947 was known as Sauer Home Road.(22) At that time there were seven post offices servicing residents of Pendleton Township: Pendleton, Beach Ridge, Pendleton Center, Lockport, and Shawnee in Niagara County and West Wood and Getzville in Erie County.

 

In November 1848, Bishop Timon sent Peter Kramer from Pendleton to S.S. Peter and Paul Church in Hamburg, New York, where he took up the first pastor ship of that parish. It had been in existence since 1845, during which year the Catholic families of the region had purchased a meeting house from a protestant sect known as the Thilerites. They turned this frame building into a small church which was dedicated by Father Francis Guth, rector of St. Louis Church in Buffalo. It was at this ceremony in 1845 that Kramer delivered the sermon in German. On his return in 1848, he was accepted with open arms by the parishioners whose numbers had grown to one hundred families. The new congregation, however, drew up such a long set of rules and regulations for him to follow that he left one year after he arrived.(23)

At Pendleton, following Kramer's departure, Father Bernard Fritsch of the Society of Jesus took up the spiritual direction of the Catholic families. Fritsch was one of five Jesuit priests who had come to the Buffalo Diocese from Canada. With him came Fathers Lucus Caveng, Joseph Fruzzini, William Kettner, and Rupert Ebner. Although most of these Jesuits eventually served at North Bush, Williamsville, Ellysville, Transit, and Pendleton, their service in these districts was not the original rea­son for their corning to the Buffalo Diocese. When Bishop Timon first arrived in Buffalo, he took up residence at S1. Louis Church. Being Irish, he did not approve of the German trustee system of gov­ernment for a parish, and he quickly moved his episcopal seat to the Irish church, St. Patrick, which was located on the corner of Ellicott and Batavia Streets.(24) While residing there, however, he demanded that the trustees of St. Louis Church turn over to him the deed for the property on which their church had been built. They refused, and the bishop placed the entire congregation under inter­dict. No parishioner could attend Mass, receive any of the sacraments, or participate in public devotions at St. Louis Church until the bishop would lift the ban. This was most devastating to the members of the German community who were not dissidents; they had no access to another German church in the area.(25)

 

No matter how much pressure the bishop exerted on the trustees at St. Louis Church, they, in a show of force, remained adamant. The bishop then asked the Society of Jesus stationed in Canada to supply powerful speakers to come to Buffalo and preach a mission to these incorrigibles. The Jesuits were introduced to the parish by the Reverend Francis Guth, vicar-general for all the Germans of the dio­cese. For several weeks they tried to effect the obstinacy of the congregation and bring them to con­form to the bishop's wishes. They were unable to fulfill this mission and proceeded to take up resi­dence in Williamsville. Again Guth, on 30 June 1848, introduced these priests to the German congre­gation of Williamsville and the surrounding missions. The people received them with joy because they had become accustomed to having a resident priest in their midst.(26)

 

On 19 November 1848, Fritsch said his first Mass at Pendleton. Subsequently the parish had Mass every third Sunday. On Christmas Eve that year, midnight Mass was sung in the settlement as it was in the other mission communities serviced by the Jesuits. Further, in these missions the parishioners seemed to have a special devotion to St. Wendolin, and they requested that a Mass be said in his honor on his feast day. These Masses were said in the homes of the parishioners because the settlements did not have structures which one could call churches. At Pendleton Fritsch, like Kramer, baptized babies in the homes of their parents. Fritsch's first baptism was Wilhemina Wehner. In the early part of 1849, Fritsch, at the urging of Bishop Timon, proposed to the parishioners that they construct a log building, to be called The Little Church, on four acres of land which were to be purchased by the community and deeded to the bishop. The property was within the boundaries of where the present day church stands and was carved out from acreage owned by Francis Joseph Leuthauser and his wife Catherine.(27) It bordered the farm owned by John Schwab. Both Leuthauser and Schwab were early parishioners of Good Shepherd Church.(28) When this structure had been erected, there were eight Catholic families in the neighborhood. The first Mass was said in the new church on 30 December 1849.(29) Before its completion, however, Fritsch had baptized about 15 more babies.(30) He was pastor of the Pendleton Settlement from November 1848 until April 1851 with a short break in his service in 1849.(31) Again after he left the parish in 1851 he returned for a two month period in 1852.(32) Fritsch had been born in Amberg Bavaria, 15 February 1812. He entered the German Province of the Society of Jesus on 1 October 1840. After serving in Canada, Williamsville, and Pendleton, he was stationed at St. Michael's Church in Buffalo. He was one of the first Latin teachers of the then fledgling Canisius College. In August 1860, he was appointed superior of St. Ann's Church in Buffalo. He remained there until 7 August 1866 at which time his superiors ordered him to return to Europe for a short time, after which he was reassigned to a parish in South America. He remained at his mission until poor health brought him back again to Europe. On 1 May 1891, he died at ArIon, Belgium.(33)

 

Father William Kettner, who also resided at Williamsville, was asked to succeed Fritsch at Pendleton in December 1849. On 19 December, he performed his first baptism, Marianna Foegele. His last bap­tism was 23 December. His health declined so rapidly that Fritsch had to replace him near the end of December.(34) Kettner had been born in Vienna, Austria, 13 February 1821. He joined the Austrian province of the Society of Jesus 23 September 1821. Although he did not service Pendleton after December 1849, he continued to reside at Williamsville unti11851. He was then sent to Buffalo, but his health did not improve. By March 1852 he had grown so feeble that the last sacraments were administered to him. It was at this time that he renewed his vows and asked to be enrolled in the Scapular of Mount Carmel. He said, "I desire to meet my Blessed Mother in heaven with greater confidence." He died on 23 March 1852 and was buried at Limestone Hill in the Bishop's Cemetery on the feast of the Annunciation.(35)

 

During Fritsch's tenure at Pendleton in 1849, the eight families, which comprised the parish, volun­teered their labor and financial resources to erect a log structure. For five years this building served as both school and church unti11854 when, during the pastoral tenure of Father Francis Stephen Uhrich, the parishioners built a substantial brick building. Uhrich had replaced Fritsch from August 1851 until February 1852; but, before Uhrich took over the permanent duties of pastor in 1853, the parish had been tended to by two diocesan priests, Fathers Sergius Schoulepnikoff and Thomas Frauenhofer. Together their tenures covered the period from April 1852 to November 1853.(36)

 

In 1852, Bishop Timon appointed Father Sergius Schoulepnikoff, who had resided at St. Louis Church in Buffalo, to be pastor of the congregations in Pendleton and Tonawanda.(37) In Tonawanda, under the urging of the bishop, he purchased property on Franklin Street and built a frame church which he named Sacred Heart. While it was being constructed in the Spring, he resided at Pendleton but during the summer he returned to Tonawanda. He again took up residence at Pendleton during the months of September, October, and November of 1853. During his tenure as pastor he initiated the congregation to the concept that an annual salary was due to the pastor. John Gerhardt, treasurer for the Pendleton parish, took up a collection. The pastor received $64.37.(38)

 

Sergius Schoulepnikoff was a Russian of noble birth and distinguished appearance.(39) His name was so difficult for the parishioners to pronounce that he simply was known as Father Serge! He was elo­quent and eccentric, a renowned mathematician, and chess player. He wrote two books on the game. In 1856, he was named pro-vicar general for Germans and French; and, from 1864 to 1867, he served as pastor at St. Louis Church. Mystery surrounds his later life. He left Western New York and went to Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he disappeared and no trace of him has ever been reported except for the identification of a pair of his shoes which he assumedly abandoned near the railroad tracks. (40)

 

Thomas Frauenhofer had been born at Peffenhausen, Bavaria, 6 December 1817. He was ordained I July 1844 and immigrated to America in 1852. He was pastor of the combined Transit-Pendleton parish unti11853. In that year, he went to S.S. Peter and Paul in Williamsville and remained there until 1854. While there, he rendered service at North Bush. Subsequently he served at Langford and New Oregon in Erie County. Frauenhofer had a dispute with his superiors and quarreled with his parishioners. He left the Buffalo diocese and went West in 1867 because he claimed that he could not serve two mas­ters. He tenured at Sherrilsmont in the diocese of Dubuque, worked in Harper and Keokuk County in Iowa, and administered in Dansville, Wisconsin and Vennillion County, Illinois. Near the end of his life he was afflicted with a mental and physical disease which caused him to be constantly watched and cared for. He was well attended to by the Alexian Brothers in St. Louis, Missouri. According to conflicting records, he died either in 1881 or 1882. His body was placed in the cemetery of S.S. Peter and Paul Church, St. Louis, Missouri. This was the wish of Bishop Spaulding of Peoria, Illinois, in whose diocese Frauenhofer served during his last years of health.( 41)

 

The property upon which the Church on the Canal was built had a recorded deed similar to all the properties of Pendleton. As an example, consider the new subdivision of Pendale, included in the pre­sent Good Shepherd parish, located one and one-half miles southwest from the church. Pendale, formerly the Beiter farm, can trace its roots back to 1838 when Wilhelm Willink, agent and member of the board of directors for the Holland Land Company, sold the property to the Farmers Loan and Trust Company. The land was resold to Stephen Warren and his wife Margaret in 1847. The Warren's and their five children held on to the farm until 1897. Subsequently, after three exchanges in two years, the third owner, William F. Goerss, sold the land to Casper Beiter on 31 March 1914. Beiter became a prominent member and trustee of Good Shepherd Church.(42)

 

Like Pendale, the other parcels of land in Pendleton were purchased directly or indirectly by the immi­grant farmers from the Holland Land Company . The company owned approximately four million acres of land between the Genesee and Niagara Rivers which it purchased from Robert Morris who, in 1791, after serving as Finance Commissioner for the revolutionary government, had bought this acreage from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.(43) The Holland Land Company was a multimil­lion dollar Dutch syndicate headquartered in Amsterdam, Holland. Wilhelm Willink, Pieter Stadnitski, Hendrick Vollenhover, Rutger Jan Schimmelpenninckm, and Nicholas Van Straphorst, Pieter Eeghen, Gabriel Van Straphorst, Jan Willink, and Hendrick Seye were members of the board for the company. It had been formed in 1792 and sent Theophilus Cazenove to America to act as agent. He had his offices in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he appointed Joseph Ellicott to act as the chief surveyor, overseerer, and developer of the millions of acres purchased by the company in Western New York.(44) Ellicott cleared away trees, built roads along the Indian trails, and constructed bridges to span rivers, creeks, and streams. Through his endeavors as a developer the price of land tripled. In 1843 Ellicott Street in Buffalo was named for him. The end of Ellicott's life was tragic. He was admitted to Bloomingdale mental asylum in New York City and committed suicide in 1826. Prior to turning the four million acres over to the Holland Land Company, Robert Morris struck a deal with the Indians. On 15 September 1797 The Indians received $100,000 or two and one-half cents per acre for the land, and they agreed to retain and occupy three reservations carved out for them on the Niagara frontier. ( 45)

 

From 1847 to 1852, the Catholic families in Pendleton, Swormville, known also as Transita, and Tonawanda were spiritually cared for by the same priests.(46) In Tonawanda, the Church of the Sacred Heart, later to be known as St. Francis of Assisi, began a slow process of formation. In Swormville, no effort was made to build a church until 1848.(47) By May 1851, the congregations at Pendleton and Swormville had been formed into one parish with Father Francis Stephen Uhrich, appointed by the bishop, as the first pastor. During the following year, these two united congregations were served by a common pastor. During this period Uhrich resided at the home of Mr. John Stabel in Pendleton.(48) There, in 1852, Uhrich started to build a brick parochial residence adjacent to the log church-school, which had been constructed by Fritsch in 1849. Shortly after the completion of the residence the con­gregation of Pendleton made ovations to be separated from Swormville. Sixty Catholic families in res­idence along the canal wished to receive the title of an independent parish with a permanent pastor. The separation did not occur until after November 1853 when Uhrich again returned as pastor.(49) When Uhrich's new parish was separated from Swormville, it quickly took on financial stability. Work began on a new brick church in September 1854. The motivation and decision of the parishioners to build it began with a mission conducted by Father Werninger who visited the parish at the request of Uhrich.(50) It began on 28 July 1854 with a cross being placed and blessed on the grounds outside the log-church. Present for the mission were eighty men, ninety-two women, thirty-six young ladies, twenty-two young boys, and twenty-five children. At the end of the mission, the parishioners received the sacraments of Penance and Holy Eucharist. On the last day, Weminger donated $100 toward the construction of the new church.(51) On 10 September 1854, Uhrich announced at Sunday Mass that all sixty families had agreed that the church should be erected. On 25 September 1854, the foundation was laid; and, on 3 October, the corner stone was put in place and blessed by Father Lucas Caveng.
Caveng had been born in Switzerland on 25 March 1806. He entered the Society of Jesus on 5 October 1830 and was professor at the college of Fribourg in Switzerland until he immigrated to Canada. In 1847, he was active with the Canadian mission of the French Jesuit province, in a community of German immigrants at Petersburg, near Kitchener, Ontario. From that station, he and his associates, Fritsch and Kettner, tended many mission stations in the Niagara peninsula in Canada. Among them, Stevensville and Chippewa were not far from Buffalo. When the Jesuits came to Buffalo, at the request of Bishop Timon in an attempt to solve the feud at St. Louis Church in 1848, Caveng was appointed pastor of that church. After a few weeks, however, he had to abandon that post. The bishop then asked Caveng to establish the parish of St. Michael where he remained as pastor and superior of the Jesuit community until 8 September 1860. As early as 1848, Caveng and Fritsch had preached retreats to the German-speaking Catholics of Williamsville.(52) After a long illness Caveng died at St. Michael's Church on 27 January 1862.

 

Supporting Caveng (53) in laying the corner stone were: Rev. R. Creedon, St. John Baptist, Lockport, Rev. Lester, Black Rock, and Rev. Menauer, St. Mary's, Transit. Before the first snow fell on 8 December 1854, much work on the church was completed by the congregation. Adam Koepfmger was the foreman of the stone-masons. Bricks were laid by Misters Jax and Haeffner from Buffalo. The car­pentry of the roof and ceiling was completed under the direction of Jacob Blum, who followed faith­fully the design of Father Uhrich. The plastering was done by Jacob and Nicholas Donner. The brick came from the Leuthauser and Stabel Company in Lockport. Finished-stone came from the Carpenter Company and rough-stone was taken from the canal at Lockport. Included in the price of all materials was their delivery to the church, on a barge by way of the canal, unloaded, and hauled up to the build­ing site.(54) When snow came, worked stopped for the remainder of the winter but was started again in April 1855.(55) On 3 June 1855, Trinity Sunday, Uhrich blessed the church at the request of the bishop who said that he would dedicate the church at a later date.(56) On 22 August, although the bishop came to Pendleton and administered confirmation to a group of candidates, he did not dedicate the church. He preached a sermon, however, which began, "I am happy to greet you in this beautiful new church."(57) On the first Sunday of December, the congregation came to church and sat in the new pews which had been installed by Mr. August Rieffel owner of the mill at Black Rock, New York. It was announced at Mass that Sunday that a pew rent would be subsequently charged. It was fixed at $2 per year. Those parish­ioners who did not pay lost title to their seats.
A year after the Church on the Canal was finished and blessed by Uhrich, he was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Tonawanda. He was replaced at Pendleton by Zachary Heimbucher, who stayed for only a short period.(58) He was replaced by Zachary Kunze who remained for six months. Heimbucher, however, returned again in November 1858 and remained until 18 March 1860.(59) The church family was dedicated by Bishop Timon on 28 August 1859. On that day the church was given its name, The Good Shepherd. (60)

 

Adam Koepfmger, Jacob Donner, John Schwab, and John Dehn were among the most influential men of the parish. Jacob Donner owned a farm of fifty acres, lot two, with frontage on Transit Road. John Schwab's twenty-three acre farm, lot eighteen, was located just south of the Good Shepherd Church. It had land on both sides of the Tonawanda Creek Road and had frontage on the canal. Others who had farms on this lot in 1869 were George Lorich, who had leased one hundred acres from Schwab, and Henry Stauber, who had purchased three acres from Schwab.

 

It is not known if Uhrich was present in Pendleton for the dedication in 1859, but he did return to administer there for a short time in 1861 while he was pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Tonawanda. During that time, he had the old Sacred Heart Church on Franklin Street cut in half. One half of it he shipped to Grand Island and assembled into a church which he, at first, named St. Arbogast in honor of a saintly bishop of Strassbourg in Alsace-Lorraine. Later, however, he renamed it the Church of St. Stephen, honoring the patron saint whose name was given to him in confirmation. He gave service there as pastor in 1861 and 1862. After his tenures at Grand Island, Tonawanda, and Pendleton, he was credited with establishing churches in Boston, and Springville, New York. Once again, however, he returned to Good Shepherd Church and served as pastor from September 1880 until September 1884. In 1882, he requested and purchased from the Buffalo Stained Glass Works a three paneled stained glass window featuring Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He had it installed in the wall of the sanc­tuary behind the altar, paid for it from his personal savings, and presented it to the congregation as a gift. Today it is a window in the rectory, facing North Tonawanda Creek Road. (61) Following a con­troversy between himself, the bishop, and some of the parishioners, Uhrich left Pendleton in September 1884. In his last years, he was chaplain at the German Roman Catholic Orphanage on Dodge Street, in Buffalo. After a difficult illness, he died there on 23 July 1893, and was buried from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Tonawanda ten days later.(62)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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