Our Long History
After the War of 1812, the old Native American trail following the ridge, long used as the only access to the Niagara frontier, was improved to create the first major roadway of the area. It connected the territory between the Genesee River on the east and the Niagara River on the west, following a line parallel to and a few miles south of the shoreline of Lake Ontario. The new road, now known as Route 104, brought in early immigrants, most often from New England. In 1817 work began on the Erie Canal in Rome, New York. Many Irish laborers, most of them Catholic, were brought in for the construction, causing settlements like Middleport, Gasport, and Lockport to spring up. In the same period thousands of European immigrants entered the port of New York, and took the Erie Canal west; some settling here. By mid-century the new railroads brought more people into the area, but even then habitation in rural areas remained sparse and priests were rarely seen.
The entire state at this time was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of New York, which had been established in 1808 with its headquarters in New York City. The Diocese was first divided in 1847 with the formation of the Buffalo and Albany Dioceses. The newly created Diocese of Buffalo included the Erie, Niagara, Genesee, Orleans, Chautauqua, Wyoming, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties; an area of nearly 6,357 square miles. On October 17, 1847, Rev. John C. Timon, C.M., was consecrated in ceremonies at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City as the new Bishop of Buffalo.
While the small but rapidly growing population around Cambria was able to join the recently established churches of St. Peter’s in Lewiston and John the Baptist in Lockport, their rural setting made it difficult for them to attend Mass regularly. Most had to travel miles by horseback or wagon; some had no other choice but to walk. To accommodate these worshipers, the Catholic community of Newfane was granted full status as a Catholic parish in the early summer of 1859. A one-acre plot of land on Ewing Road was donated by John Mulloy. On it, a small wood frame church was built and given the name of St. Bridget’s at its dedication on November 30 of that year. Its first pastor was Rev. Thomas Sheehan. St. Bridget’s ultimately assumed three rural missions bordering its territory: Somerset, Olcott, and Cambria. In 1859, the pastors of St. Bridget’s began to serve Catholic families in the Cambria mission, meeting in private homes such as those of Anthony Madyn and Peter Ryan of Randall Road, Cornelius Shehee and Garrett Fitzgerald of Daniels Road, and Thomas Magorien of Church Road. Mr. Magorien and his then sixteen-year-old son, Thomas H., were said to have built an addition onto their home to accommodate the number of people attending Mass regularly in their living room.
In 1861, Rev. Hugh Mulholland was appointed the second pastor of St. Bridget’s. In January of 1862, he bought a parcel of land in an apple orchard from Eliza Magorien for $75.00. This parcel would later be the location of the Cambria misson church.
The third pastor of St. Bridget’s, Rev. Patrick Malloy, served between 1865 and 1868. He completed the little wooden church at Cambria mission, most likely between 1866 and 1868. The congregation of about 75 people came in horse and buggy over unpaved roads for the 10 a. m. Mass, sheltering their horses in a shed that was attached to the back of the church.
After Father Malloy’s pastorate at Newfane ended in 1868; Father Patrick J. Cannon was the interim pastor for a few months before the arrival of Rev. Michael O’Dwyer, who remained in Newfane for four years. His successor was Rev. Thomas P. Brougham, who oversaw the 1873 purchase of 4-100ths of an acre of land from Sherman and Lucinda Elton on September 16, 1873, and another parcel next to the Cambria mission property from the Magoriens on January 9, 1875. These two properties completed the real estate holdings of the parish until 1925. Rev. John Charles Long was next appointed pastor of St. Bridget’s in July of 1877, serving as pastor for seven years. After Father Long, Rev. M. O’Shea served as pastor for two years.
The eighth pastor of St. Bridget’s, Rev. Michael J. Noonan, came to the parish in January of 1877, and served until April, 1895. The membership of Cambria mission had grown sufficiently to support a church of its own, so Father Noonan, on behalf of the mission’s parishioners, petitioned Bishop Stephen V. Ryan to make Cambria an incorporated parish. Bishop Ryan approved the request and the mission was elevated to the full canonical status of ‘parish’. The document of incorporation as a religious corporation under New York State law was filed in the Niagara County Clerk’s office on March 31, 1891, bearing the official seal of New York State and the signature of Secretary of State, Frank Rice. The full title of the new parish was “Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church Society of North Ridge, New York”. The document was also signed by Bishop Ryan, the Right Rev. William Gleeson, Vicar General of the Diocese, Rev. Noonan, and parish trustees Patrick Hartnett and Patrick O’Connell.
From 1891 to 1908, pastors at St. Bridget’s served Immaculate Conception parish and the Olcott mission. After Father Noonan’s departure in 1895, the Rev. John Francis Ryan came for a year, followed by Rev. David Joseph Ryan, who also served a one-year term. Rev. Thomas J. E. Blakeney was appointed in 1897 and served until 1902, building a new rectory at Newfane during his tenure. The Rev. John J. McMahon succeeded him for a brief time until Rev. John F. McGinn was appointed in 1903. Father McGinn’s appointment to St. Bridget’s continued until 1911. Rev. McGinn was the last pastor of Newfane to oversee the Cambria parish.
In 1908, Father Daniel R. Kieran was appointed as the first pastor of Immaculate Conception Church; he served for twelve years. With the aid of trustees George Volmer and Michael Smith, Father Kieran began a fund-raising drive to construct a new brick church that would be built next to the original wooden structure. A contractor was hired to put up the 32 foot by 64 foot building. To finance the construction, a mortgage was taken out with the Monroe County Savings Bank for $6,500 at 5% interest per year. Despite poor drainage on the low-lying site, a solid foundation was built. Many parishioners brought teams of horses to help haul stone for the basement. The church proper was roofed with slate shingles, while the bell tower was given wooden shingles. Father Kieran put beautiful finishing touches on the church, including stained glass windows of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, and several saints. He hired an artist to paint a mural of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother in the center of the sanctuary ceiling within the Gothic arch. The ceiling of the church proper was painted sky blue and decorated with angels, stars, and clouds. Records show that the total cost of the church was $10,000. On May 22, 1910, the grey granite cornerstone was laid and the new church was brought into service. Shortly afterwards, the old 1858 wooden church was removed. The congregation at that time numbered 38 families including 130 adults and 35 children.
In 1908, despite great opposition in Ransomville to a Catholic presence in the town, Father Kieran arranged for a small wooden chapel to be constructed on a parcel of land donated by John L. Brennan on North Lake Street, now Ransomville Road. The 25 foot by 45 foot structure that sat 100 people, was erected in three days by Mr. Brennan and a team of fifteen carpenters. For nearly five years, this building served as a mission chapel for Immaculate Conception Parish, but it eventually fell into disuse because the Catholic residents of the village felt isolated from the larger Catholic community. The building was moved to the grounds of the Ransomville Public School No. 6 on Main Street, now Youngstown-Lockport Road, where it was used for first and second grade classes. When the Ransomville Fire Hall acquired the property, the former chapel was used for storing lumber and supplies; it was later demolished.
At the time of incorporation, Immaculate Conception Parish covered approximately 70 square miles of land bounded by Lockport and Raymond Roads on the south; Campbell Boulevard, the Cambria-Lockport Townline Road, and Beebe Road on the east; Chestnut Road with a cut north on Cambria-Wilson Road to Braley Road on the north; and Dickersonville Road up to the Tuscarora Reservation and Walmore Road on the west. The villages of Ransomville, Pekin, and Sanborn, as well as several smaller junction settlements, were included within the parish limits. During Father Kieran’s pastorate, he reached out to the Catholics of Wilson, which became a mission of Immaculate Conception for about four years. Mass was celebrated there part time in a park pavilion and part time in a hall on Sunset Island. Later, Father Kieran began celebrating Mass every two weeks in the village’s hat store owned by Mrs. Joseph Day.
In 1915, a proposal to build a church in Wilson was started and in 1919, a lot was purchased on Cambria-Wilson Road. However, Father Kieran did not undertake the construction. That fell to Rev. Vincent George McCarthy, who succeeded him in 1920. The dedication was held on August 20, 1920, and shortly thereafter, the mission was incorporated as a parish bearing the name Our Lady of the Rosary Roman Catholic Church. For several years thereafter, the two parishes shared the same pastor with the rectory located on the church property in Wilson.
Replacing Father McCarthy in 1939 was Rev. Edward L. Roche, who served until 1943; his successor was Rev. Francis E. Crowley, and after him Rev. Christopher J. Roche followed as pastor, from 1949 to 1956. Each of them ministered to both the Wilson and Cambria parishes until Rev. Francis P. Cronin was installed in 1956 as the first resident pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, moving into a newly acquired rectory on Church Street within walking distance of the church.
By the late 1960’s the membership had outgrown its home. Encouraged by the parishioners as well as trustees Fred Faery and John Lynch, Father Cronin brought to completion the building of an entirely new church and social center on Route 429 on property donated by parish members Clement and Lillian Doyle. The new structures were dedicated on September 24, 1972. A new rectory on the property was dedicated in November of 1977.
Father Cronin retired in March, 1984, and was succeeded by Rev. Roy W. Crissy who served until 1988. Both pastors are remembered in the dedication of the largest meeting room in the social center as the Fathers Cronin and Chrissy Room.
They were followed by Rev. Herold M. Nuwer. During his tenure from 1988 to 2004, Immaculate Conception was one of the fastest-growing parishes in the diocese. Father Nuwer oversaw a $665,000 expansion of the church in 1993. The social hall was named for him in 2006. Parishioner Michael Canzoneri was ordained a Permenant Deacon in 2003 and was assigned to Immaculate Conception, he served this parish until 2010 when he was reassigned by Bishop Kmiec to St. Vincent de Paul parish in Niagara Falls. Parishioner David Harvey was ordained a Permenant Deacon in 2005 and was assigned by Bishop Kmiec to St. Brendan on the Lake parish in Wilson, Newfane and Olcott.
Rev. James O’Connor was the next pastor, serving until the end of 2008. Father O’Connor oversaw the establishment of the “Growing in Faith Together” (GIFT) program, a new way of educating Catholics in their faith. He also shepherded the parish through the Journey of Faith and Grace, the diocesan re-structuring program in which many churches were consolidated or closed. Under this program, St. Bridget’s in Newfane, St. Charles Borromeo in Olcott, and Our Lady of the Rosary in Wilson were merged in 2008 into St. Brendan on the Lake, sharing services with Immaculate Conception, which was allowed to remain an independent parish. In January of 2008, Immaculate Conception’s rectory was destroyed by a devastating fire; it was rebuilt as a parish office center and a nearby house was purchased for the pastor’s residence. In June, 2008, Immaculate Conception celebrated the ordinations of two more parishioners: James Kirkpatrick was ordained a priest and assigned as Parochial Vicar to Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Hamburg; Paul Stankiewicz was ordained a Permanent Deacon and serves at Immaculate Conception.
Rev. Joseph P. Badding, who was appointed Pastor at Immaculate Conception on February 20, 2009 and celebrated his 40th year as an ordained priest later that year. In October 2013 he became Pastor Emeritus, with the joining of Rev. Fr. James Bastian as our new Pastor.