St. Augustine's, our little mission church, is sixty years old. I am working on a handout about the chapel's history that I am going to give out next time I am there (October 16). This is the text piece; there are a bunch of old photos related to old West Shokan, the reservoir and the church that will be on a separate page; I created it a while ago, and it is posted here.
A LITTLE PARISH HISTORY
by Monsignor Carey
March 16, 1968
by Monsignor Carey
March 16, 1968
Our acquaintance with St. John’s Parish, West Hurley, began shortly after our appointment as chaplain of the Benedictine Hospital in 1939. Father James Hearon, Pastor of St. John’s at that time, asked for our help in providing Mass at Samsonville on Sundays during the summer vacation period. This service had been carried on for some time by Father Michael Fitzgerald, our predecessor at the hospital, and we were happy to follow him in providing the residents and visitors in that area of the parish.
The Mass was offered in a one-room stone cottage on the property of the late Mrs. McCullough whose daughter, Mrs. Marguerite Singer, still maintains a home there. The seats were plain backless benches placed too closely for kneeling, except in the front row, and included some benches placed on the screened porch. The attendance averaged about seventy-five, but sometimes reached close to a hundred. The difficulties brought on by the war caused the discontinuance of the Samsonville station, but led a year or two later to the reestablishment of the West Shokan mission.
In the Spring of 1944, during the pastorate of Father Bernard Nangle, a group of residents of that area led by the late Mrs. Grace Doonan, petitioned for a Sunday Mass at West Shokan. A hall over the general store of William Colange was offered at no cost to the parish, and on the first Sunday of May, 1944 Mass was offered at West Shokan for the first time since the building of the Ashokan Reservoir had eliminated the Chapel of St. Augustine, along with the old village in which it stood. By the end of June that year it became apparent that the facilities were inadequate to accommodate the number of summer people in the area, and Father Philip Nolan, who had succeeded to the pastorate after the death of Father Nangle, put forth the idea of rebuilding St. Augustine’s.
Because the parish was not in a position to undertake a building program immediately, a period of fund raising was necessary, and in this we were greatly aided by Mr. Lawrence Kelder, who not only gave generously – and continues to do so, but also put on an individual fund raising campaign among his business and personal friends in many parts of the country which totaled several thousand dollars. In addition, he with his wife deeded to the parish the land on which the new St. Augustine’s stands. The building was erected and dedicated during the pastorate of the late Monsignor James L. Riordan, who had followed Father Nolan - now Monsignor Nolan, pastor of St. Malachy’s Church (the Actors’ Church) in New York.
The architect of the chapel was Mr. John J. O’Connor of Kingston, presently a member of Halverson Associates of Kingston, who not only contributed the plans and supervision of the construction, but with his wife donated the altar and its tester or canopy. While the chapel is essentially a very simple building of concrete block construction, it has elements that distinguish it and make evident its function. The airy interior and the sanctuary with its oak decorated scheme, its handsome carved wood statues and Stations of the Cross, and its oak and bronze candlesticks have a truly devotional effect and give a very fitting background to the sacred rites.
This little vignette of parish history will give you a picture of a small part of our parish’s history and of the sacrifices of the many who made progress possible.
From the 1951 Diary of Elwyn Davis:
September 2 Sunday 54/7am 56/12pm
Rainy night & a breakfast time thunder shower & continued dismal rainy mussy all day & evng. Miserable cold weekend holiday weather. The first Mass was said this morning at 9:30 - and attended by an estimated 200, at the nearly finished new St. Augustine’s Catholic chapel on the Watson Hollow Road. Masses have previously been held for several years in Colanges hall over the store & P.O. The new church is a successor to the pre reservoir St. Augustine’s in old West Shokan from its dedication in 1893 till torn down in June 1913.
The following article was found in the diary:
9/6/51 The first Mass in the new Chapel of St. Augustine here, was held Sunday, Sept. 2nd at 9:30a.m. An estimated 200 attended the services in spite of the heavy rain prevailing. The fine new edifice is a needed replacement to the pre-reservoir St. Augustine Church which served the locality from 1893 to 1913. The interior of the church was greatly admired by the congregation. Rev. Father Carey extended thanks to all who had in any way made the church possible. Plans for the dedication services will be announced later.
September 30 Sunday 32/7am Back to Standard Time
A general first & killing frost this morning. Arrived clear but soon became overcast and it was a very cold chilling day - Has the feel & look of snow. The new St.Augustines Catholic Chapel was formally dedicated today with a crowded attendance.