When De Nonville and his French army, in 1687, destroyed the Indian village of Gannagaro and Gaudougarae, the inhabitants were driven eastward and formed a village near the foot of Canandaigua Lake, which village and lake have since then borne that name. Among the Indian inhabitants in those days were many Catholics, some of them Senecas and most of them Hurons and Algonquin captives, the result of fifty years of missionary labor of the zealous Jesuits. Even in our day the beads and crucifixes given the Indians by the missionaries are still picked up on the sites of the old Indian towns.
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Following the revolution and the white settlement of western New York, Canandaigua became a prominent center of commerce and government, and no doubt many Catholics were among the pioneers. The family of Hugh Collins came as early as 1823, others followed, and there are traditions of lumber wagons leaving here Saturday afternoons to bring the people to the Sunday mass at St. Patrick’s in Rochester. About 1840 Rev. Bernard O’Reilly, of Rochester, said the first mass in Canandaigua in the Patrick Doyle house on Antis street. Mass was celebrated in various homes for the following few years. At length, in 1844, a lot was purchased by Father O’Reilly from Thomas Beals, and in the fall of 1846 the pew books give the following list of pewholders. On the south side of the church: Bernard Scandling, Bridget Garvey, Hugh Collins, Patrick White, Patrick Doyle, Michael Coyle, Catherine Hanavin, Agnes King, John Whalen, William Lysaght, Eleanor Gannon, James Ryan, Patrick Sherry, Matthew- Carroll, Hugh Keefe, James Gleason, James Cooney, Thomas Eccles, James Cass, Miss Eagan. On the north side of the church: John Classey, John Callahan, Walter Corcoran, James Coyle, Martin White, Charles Murphy, Thomas Walsh, Peter Cowan, Bernard Coyle, Maria Connell, Peter Moore, Matthew Walsh, Jerry Mahaney, William Day, Patrick Leddy, Catherine Kilkelly, John Smith, Cornelius Hurley, Neil Connelly, Connor Kelly, Jerry Noonan.
After the two brothers, Rev. Bernard and Rev. William O’Reilly, of Rochester, ceased their attendance at the Canandaigua Mission, Rev. Patrick Bradley, of Geneva, for one year took care of the little church as his out-mission. He purchased books for church records, since which time all records of baptisms, marriages and burials have been kept in tile local parish archives. In 1849 Rev. Edmund O’Connor was made first . resident pastor, and he continued in that office for nine years. He enlarged the church, established a school in tile basement, brought the sisters of St. Joseph from St. Louis, Missouri, built a rectory, and purchased tile first part of the cemetery. There was considerable anti-Catholic prejudice in those clays, and rumors of church burning caused much excitement and alarm. Father O’Connor controlled the situation with a strong hand, and gradually won the respect of all parties. St. Mary’s Academy and Orphan Asylum was founded in 1855 on Saltonstall street.
The next pastor was Rev. Charles McMullen, who officiated for a year and was then transferred to Seneca Falls. He is described as an eloquent man, of striking appearance. Then came the scholarly Father Purcell, who was a brother of Editor William Purcell, of the Rochester Union, and who is best remembered as the priest who read his sermons. Rev. James M. Early was pastor during the first days of the civil war and served for two years before being transferred to the pastorate of St. Mary’s Church in Rochester. While at Canandaigua he enlarged the old church to its present dimensions. He was a good writer and preacher, and always interested in the young people. Rev. Joseph McKenna succeeded him. and for the following six years faithfully performed his duty until an injured knee forced him to retire. He was assisted during the latter part of his pastorate by Rev. David O’Brien. Shortly after the formation of the new diocese of Rochester in 1868, Bishop McQuaid appointed Rev. Dennis English, of Penn Yan, as pastor, and for a period of years corresponding to the lifetime of our Blessed Lord, he presided over the destinies of this parish. In 1874 he purchased the Granger property on upper Main street, at a cost of $20,000, to which he transferred the new orphanage and school. The Rev. D. English was ably assisted by Rev. Thomas B. O’Brien, 1890-91, and by Rev. John H. O’Brien from 1896 to 1901. Father English lies buried beneath the great granite cross in Calvary Cemetery, in the midst of the people whom he loved.
The records of the past nine years, since 1901, are fresh in the minds of the people of Canandaigua. They include the construction of a new stone church at a cost of $90,000, a new rectory, $18,000, and a new parish hall and enlargement of the school at a probable cost of $20,000. The pastor during this time has been the Rev. James T. Dougherty (see forward), and in his work he has enjoyed the priestly co-operation of Rev. Andrew Byrne, Rev. Bernard J. Gefell, Rev. James J. Clark (deceased), Rev. John B. Baier and Rev. John E. Masseth, the present assistant. Among. the young men who have gone forth from the parish into the ranks of the priesthood are Rev. William Mulhern, Rev. John J. Donnelly, Rev. Richard T. Burke, Rev. L. Augustine Smith, Rev. Dennis J. McCormick, Rev. John A. Conway, Rev. Edward G. Widman, Rev. Daniel P. Quigley and Rev. John B. Sullivan. The parish also. has a lesser claim upon Rev. William Payne, Rev. Francis E. McCrone and Rev. John P. Brophy. Numerous young ladies have gone out from here to devote their lives to religion. Among others, the Bagley, Raftery, Caplise, Fitzgerald, Clancy, Turner, Hines, Fahy, Keefe, Casby, Wyffels, Doran, Coogan, Powers, Corcoran, Richardson and Donnelly families have been thus honored.
Canandaigua was the first place in New York state for the Sisters of St. Joseph to work_ in. Three members of the order, which had come from France in 1834 and located in Missouri, came to Canandaigua upon invitation of rather O’Connor and Bishop Timon, of Buffalo. They occupied the O’Reilly house in Saltonstall street, beginning their work. December 8, 1854, the day the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was defined at Rome. Canandaigua was for three or four years the mother house of the order, and some of her older parishioners recall the religious receptions of the Sisters, held in the old church, one of the novices upon those occasions being Miss Hendrick, of Penn Yan, sister of Mgr. Hendrick, of Ovid, and the late lamented Bishop Hendrick, of Cebu, and known in religion as Mother Aloysia. Among the early sisters were Mother Agnes Spencer, Sisters Frances Joseph, Theodosia, Stanislaus, Anastasia, Julia, Nativity, Nicholas and Alphonsus. The present teaching staff consists of Sisters Bernadette, Ambrosia, Antoinette, Albina, Florence Marie, Esther, Angelita, Miss Helen Buckley and Miss Mary McDonald.
Rev. James T. Dougherty was born in Fayette, Seneca county, New York, April 23, 1863, son of Patrick and Mary (Bannon) Dougherty, who were horn in West Meath, Ireland. Patrick Dougherty emigrated to the United States in 1846, and his wife preceded him by one year, their marriage occurring in this country. They were the parents of nine children, four of whom attained years of maturity, namely: Bernard, a resident of Waterloo, New York; Patrick and James T., twins, the former a resident of Kendaia, Seneca county, New York, and Mrs. Anna Hamilton, of Kendaia. Patrick Dougherty followed the occupation of farming. He died in 1904, and his wife in 1889.
James T. Dougherty was educated in the Miller district school, town of Romulus, and at the Ovid union school, after which he taught for one year in the Ayers district, town of Varick. He then entered St. Andrew’s •Preparatory Seminary, at Rochester, New York, and later St. . Joseph’s Theological Seminary, at Troy, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood, October 28, 1887; placed in temporary charge of Honeoye Falls and East Rush parish during the summer of 1888; assigned as assistant at St. Mary’s Church, Auburn, October, 1888; sent as pastor to Stanley and Rushville, September, 1890: promoted to the pastorate of St. Patrick’s Church, at Dansville; Holy Name, at Groveland, May, 1893; appointed to St. Agnes’ Church, at Avon, June, 1901 ; and upon the death of Father English, September, 1901, became the pastor of St. Mary’s Church, at Canandaigua. He is earnest and zealous in his work, ever looking to the spiritual and temporal welfare of his parishioners, and is greatly beloved by all who have come under his benign influence.