History of St. Vincent of Paul Church in Cape Vincent, N.Y. ++
Prior to the building of the church, Cape Vincent Catholics held their religious services at the home of Augustus Duford. That house still stands on the corner of James and Lake Streets. In the early days, priests from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and also from Watertown came to offer mass. Off and on the priests serving Rosiere attended to the needs of the people in Cape Vincent. In 1850 Fr. Louis Lapic, while still serving as an assistant to Fr. Michael Guth, the pastor of Rosiere, was ministering to the people of Cape Vincent.
Fr. Guth at the time was facing a schism in his parish. A parishioner of Cape Vincent rallied a band of discontented parishioners who resented the fact that the pastor resided at Rosiere rather than in their village. Their determination to establish their own church was weakened when Fr. Guth persuaded them to request another pastor from the diocese of Albany.
The Smith family gave the land for the construction of a church in Cape Vincent. Fr. Ancet began the construction of the present church. It was completed under the direction of Fr. Louis Lapic in 1851 at a cost of $5,000. The limestone used was donated by Louis Goler. Many local men helped to build the new church, including Peter and Ignatius Wiley who were stone masons. Thanks to them, parishioners are still able to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The church is in the gothic revival style. The main part of the church has a shallow-pitched tin gable roof. The recessed entry to the Church features a double five-panel door. The interior of the church retains the original pressed time cove ceiling, oak pews, moldings and an elevated choir loft.
During the years 1877 to 1883, Fr. James Sherry was pastor. He worked to obtain funds needed to purchase leaded stain glass windows. Several families contributed memorial gifts. Their names appear at the base of the windows. Also during Fr. Sherry’s tenure, a magnificent altar of Spanish design was built. Most of the funding for the altar came from the Peugnets, a prominent French family. During that time, a local merchant, John Grapotte, started a drive to raise funds for a church bell. Protestants, as well as Catholics subscribed and the bell was purchased for $419. The inscription on the bell reads, “With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord our King.”
The first resident pastor was Father William S. Kelly (1890-1896). In June of 1890 Bishop Edgar P. Wadhams came to confirm a class of fifty children and adults. At that time he also blessed the new cemetery east of the village. In 1896 the home of Lorenzo Kelsey located on the St. Lawrence River was purchased for the sum of $6,000 to serve, and still does, as the parochial residence. Fr. Kelly, who was also the pastor at Rosiere often had to make the trip between these parishes by hand-car on the railroad tracks.
In 1901, at the time of Rev. Damase Guilbault’s tenure as Pastor, the St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Rosiere and the St.Vincent de Paul Parish in Cape Vincent were separated.
When Fr. Robert Duford was Pastor (1920-1932), the Rectory was renovated. He also purchased the Londraville Block on Broadway, which was used as a parish hall until it was sold in 1932. The pipe organ that is still in the choir loft, was purchased in 1921 from the Chicago home of railroad tycoon, George Pullman. The organ was delivered by train to the Station off Broadway. Maurice G. Fitzgerald and his son Louis transported it to the church on a sleigh pulled by a team of horses on one of the coldest days of that winter. The total cost was $4,075, including the purchase price of $2,400. Fr. Duford had a concrete altar built at the route 12 E cemetery where mass was said on Memorial Day. Following his death in 1949, Fr. Duford was buried in a vault beneath that altar. Fr. Joseph Tierney came as Pastor in 1932 and remained until 1939. During his tenure the heating system in the rectory was changed from coal to oil and the basement was furnished to provide a place for the card parties held during the winter months. The greatest improvement he made in the church was replacing the original chandelier and globe lights with the electric lantern type lighting system. A new confessional was built and the altar was raised a foot.
Fr. Thomas Owen was pastor from 1939 until his death in 1945. He made major improvements to the rectory. In the church the kneeling benches were upholstered in green leather, adding greatly to the comfort of the parishioners. Fr. Owen is buried in the old cemetery back of the church.
Fr. Patrick Riley was pastor from 1946 to 1964. He was instrumental in having the pipe organ rebuilt at a cost of $3,000 and he purchased the chimes. Fr. Riley started an improvement fund, which was used to redecorate the interior of the church and to hire local contractor Len Gates and Son to build a sacristy of stone to match the rest of the Church. In 1947 Fr. Riley organized the ladies of the church into the Altar-Rosary Society
with 69 members. St. Vincent of Paul Church celebrated its Centennial Anniversary on July 22, 1951. The Most Rev. Bryan J. McEntegart, Bishop of Ogdensburg, presided at the Mass. Followed a pageant held on the back porch of the rectory. The day ended at the church with Solemn Benediction.
From 1964 to 1971, Fr. John Kennedy was Pastor. He made many improvements to the church and to the rectory. 1n 1965 he spearheaded efforts to build an addition to the church to accommodate the increasing number of parishioners and to provide for a parish center. The stone came from the old Luke Dunlay farm house that sat on the Louis Doyle property on Gosier Road. Local contractor Floyd Gould did the stone work.
Fr. Paul Whitmore served the parish from 1980 to 1983. As the church organ was in great need of repairs, he formed a committee chaired by Frank Peters to raise the $12,700 required for its renovation. Mark Resig was hired to convert the pipe organ into a solid/state relay system organ. Fr. Whitmore also had the new reconciliation room built.
Fr. Timothy Ladden was parish priest from 1984 to 1997. During that time the main part of the church was once again renovated. In 1988-89 Ted Docteur volunteered to repair and repaint the old wooden altar. Local contractor Todd Docteur, cousin of Ted, was then hired to do the major renovations to the body of the church. All new sheet rock was put up, the original tin ceiling repaired and painted, new carpeting was installed, the altar railing brass refurbished and the Stations of the Cross repainted. Mass was held in the Parish Hall until the work was completed. Many of the men and women of the parish volunteered their time and talents to clean and get the finishing touches done in time for the Easter Vigil Mass in 1990.
Fr. John Silver came to Cape Vincent in 1997. With hired help and the support of many volunteers, the rectory was again renovated. Fr. Silver was also instrumental in getting the stones cleaned and repaired in the old cemetery in back of the church and in having the old paint removed from the front doors to the church so that the beautiful natural wood was restored.
In 2002, Fr. Pierre Aubin, Missionary of the Sacred Heart (MSC), was appointed pastor of Cape Vincent, Rosiere and Chaumont. On July 1, 2004, with the approval of His Excellency Gerald M. Barbarito then Bishop of the Ogdensburg Diocese, St. Vincent of Paul Parish in Cape Vincent and its Mission, St Vincent de Paul in Rosiere, together with All Saints Parish in Chaumont were merged to form The Roman Catholic Community of Cape Vincent, Rosiere and Chaumont. The three churches (worship sites) and their facilities are now the property of this new legal entity.
That same year, Sister of St. Joseph (SSJ) Anne Hogan became pastoral assistant for the parish. She resided at the former rectory in Chaumont until her retirement in 2015 when she moved to the SSJ Motherhouse in Watertown. Her presence in the parish, especially in Chaumont, was greatly valued. Well known for her ecumenical spirit and her outreach to the poor and shut-ins, she continues to minister in Chaumont as much as possible.
While living in Theresa, NY, Deacon Robert Ruddy became chaplain at the correctional facility in Cape Vincent. In 2005, he and his wife moved to the rectory in Rosiere after being assigned to our parish. Two years later he built a house on the St. Lawrence River. Well known for his affability and love of the liturgy, he was a great asset to the parish. He died prematurely in 2014.
Under Fr. Aubin’s leadership many improvements were made to the church and rectory in Cape Vincent. The interior of the church was repainted and the furnace was replaced. The eight stained glass windows were renovated by Brennan Stained Glass Studio of Syracuse, NY, at a cost of $5,000 each; a plaque next to each window gives the names of the benefactors who paid for its renovation. Thanks to a donation of $50,000 by Dr. Joseph & Helen Cannella, a summer parishioners at All Saints Church, the organ was completely rebuilt by David Raville of Brownville, NY. A rededication concert was held on August 7, 2011.
In the sacristy the windows were replaced and the bathroom redone. The church hall got new tables and chairs, the kitchen was completely renovated and a new entrance was built. The church and the church hall got new roofs. New side walks and extensive landscaping were done around the church and parish center. A beautiful sign was installed near the entrance of the church as well as spotlights that illumine the front of the church every evening. At the rectory improvements included a new roof, a new garage, a remodeled kitchen and extensive landscaping. In 2015 work was done on the decorative exterior woodwork of the rectory. Also, the window frames of the rectory and the church were either wrapped or scrapped and painted.
Edited and updated by Father Pierre Aubin, Pastor 11-16-16