History of St. Joseph's Church

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Click here for a listing of all of St. Joseph's pastors.

St. Joseph's beginnings

          St. Joseph's had its beginnings in about 1880 in the Town of Gardiner in upstate New York.  In the early 1850's the few Catholic residents of the area were served by a priest who came only occasionally from Rondout in Ulster County.  Afterward a parish was established in the town of Rosendale.  Two priests, Father O'Toole and Father Brady, offered Mass on the fourth Sunday of each month at Tuthilltown, the largest single community in the Township of Gardiner prior to the building of the Wallkill Valley Railroad in the 1860's.

          The coming of the railroad spurred Gardiner's growth, and by 1875 a large number of businesses were established in the area.  Some of the leaders of these enterprises and their families moved from the Tuthilltown area into Gardiner, and Catholic services were held in a barn owned by James Clinton.  In 1880 Father Charles Browne, the first resident priest in Gardiner, tore down the Clinton barn and used the wood from the barn in the construction of St. Charles Church at Ireland Corners in Gardiner.  An adjoining cemetery was consecrated, and the first burial took place in 1882.

A church for New Paltz

          In 1885, while Father Browne was still pastor of St. Charles in Gardiner, the cornerstone was laid for a church in New Paltz, and in 1891 it was moved to what was to become the site of St. Joseph's Church.  Father Joseph Hoey, then pastor of St. Charles, was authorized to begin construction of the new church to serve the needs of the New Paltz residents and the Catholic students at the State Normal School (now State University of New York at New Paltz).

          Construction of St. Joseph's Church was completed in 1893 and was dedicated in 1894 under Father B. F. Duffy.  At the bottom of the steps leading up to the church stood a block to which horses could be tied.  A small stream later channeled under the highway and out of view was spanned by a wooden bridge, from the end of which a country path led up to the gravel walk approaching the church.

          Father John McGrath was named pastor on October 4, 1894, and by the time Father John Morris was appointed pastor in June of 1899, the church was well established.  During the early 1900's the parish of St. Joseph's continued to grow and improvements were made to the church, including the altar area.  Father William Hopkins was pastor during World War I, during which time the automobile became the preferred mode of travel.  At the beginning of his pastorate he traveled by horse and wagon, and before he left the parish in 1922 he purchased a "Model T" Ford.  He was replaced by the Rev. Harry Curtin who was pastor until 1924, and St. Joseph's doubled in size during the two years of his pastorate.

          The Rev. William Humphrey replaced Father Curtin in 1924 and purchased a large residence, which became Newman Hall, a residence for Catholic students at the college.  He also began construction of the rectory, which was completed in 1928.  Father Christopher McCann, who took over the pastorate upon Father Humphrey's transfer in 1934, undertook the renovation of both the St. Charles and St. Joseph churches.

          In 1948 Newman Hall was renovated and in 1949 St. Joseph's School was officially opened under the direction of the Benedictine Sisters from Elizabeth, New Jersey.  The school served about 250 Catholic students from grades 1 through 8 until it closed in 1970.

A new church         

          The 1950's saw another period of substantial growth in St. Joseph's, and with the parish's increased membership, the existing church became too small.  Construction of the Butler Building addition was completed at St. Joseph's School in the late 1950's, and under the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Edward Monckton (shown with Cardinal Francis Spellman at the dedication of the new building), who became pastor in June of 1960, ground was broken for the new church on February 7, 1965.  The cornerstone was laid upon completion of the church in late 1965, and the First Mass was offered on Christmas Eve of the same year.  The new Church was officially dedicated on June 5, 1966.





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