The story of St. Ann's begins with the people who worked the bluestone quarries in the Sawkill area during the 1800's. These people were largely Irish and settled in the area. Since there was no church of worship, services were held in their homes. As the population grew, so did the Catholic faith; and a church was needed.
A small parcel of land on Jockey Hill was acquired for a church to be erected. The first St. Ann's
measured about sixteen feet by fifty feet. This was not a very large building considering the churches and cathedrals of today. It was built along the lines of a quarryman's house with a one-story frame, hip roof, wood shingles, and clapboard siding.
The original St. Ann's was intended to serve the families of Jockey Hill, Morey Hill, Hallahan Hill, and Stony Hollow. It was not unusual for worshippers to travel distances of up to ten miles for service. For those who were not fortunate enough to own a horse and carriage, walking was the only other mode of transportation.
The original St. Ann's was dedicated on June 6, 1869 by the very Reverend Doctor Starrs, V.G. and served its purpose dutifully until 1878. The original church was later converted to a two-family home known as the "long shanty." There was, however, one duty that it could not fulfill and that was the need for the cemetery. That meant that all burials had to be done at the church in Rondout, St. Mary's.
Property was acquired in 1868 for a cemetery; and a second St. Ann's Church was constructed in
1878. The present site of St. Ann's was purchased specifically to fill the need for a closer place to inter the dead of outlying areas. On July 13, Peter and Mary McMahn signed the papers necessary for Reverend John McClosky, then Archbishop, to become the owner of the parcel of the land on which St. Ann’s now stands. The price paid to the McMahns was $800.00.
The church was dedicated on September 17, 1905; and from then on, records were kept. The first wedding was recorded as being on September 24, 1905; and the first baptism was on October 24, 1905. Unfortunately, this church was destroyed by fire on August 28, 1913.
St. Ann's was rebuilt the same year that it burned to the ground. The building we pass daily is the result of that effort. The first fire was believed to have been started by the carelessness of some workmen who were replacing the roof. It was thought that some hot solder from the tin roof came in contact with very dry wood, causing the fire to start. The entire structure was leveled.
On December 17, 1950, the Kingston Freemen reported that the Church of St. Ann’s was damaged again by fire. This time, the fire apparently started in the basement and traveled between the walls and the siding of the roof. Quick response from the Mount Marion-Ruby Fire Department limited the damage to between $2,000 and $3,000.
The rectory for St. Ann's was built in 1905 from land that had been purchased from Margaret Hanley. In later years, this building was enlarged to include a chapel. St. Ann's Hall was built in 1908 and became a cultural center where local talent performed and dances were held. It also served as a place for town meetings as well as a polling place for elections. These structures stood for many years until they were demolished for safety reasons in 1962.
St. Ann's became famous throughout New York, New England, and Canada. (Kingston Daily
Freeman, March 13,1883) The outdoor shrine was built in 1944 when the parish was 75 years old. Many people made pilgrimages to the shrine during the Feast of St. Ann particularly during the Novena held every year in August. Mass was celebrated outside on the stone altar, and chairs were set up on the ground for the many people who attended. It is said that a crippled girl was cured at the shrine during one of these services when she stood up from her wheelchair and walked to the altar.
In 1961, St. Ann's became a mission church of St. Catherine Laboure in Lake Katrine. This was not popular among Sawkill's citizens; and when the church was closed altogether, local residents formed a group to preserve the church and its traditions.
The 100th anniversary of St. Ann's Church was celebrated with an outdoor mass in 1969. In 1969 - 1975 the Church of St. Ann’s fell into disrepair. An attempt to paint and repair some of the damage caused by the abandonment was undertaken by Jack Duffy, his son William, and friends. After a tragic automobile accident resulting in the deaths of three of the workers, work was halted for a number of years.
In 1978, an organized effort was undertaken to repair the church. This effort became known as "The Committee to Save St. Ann's." Members painted, plastered and replaced windows. Also in 1978, the name of the group changed to "The Sawkill Church Repair Fund." It had a board of five trustees headed by Joseph Goldpaugh, Jr. The first fund-raising effort was a bazaar. This brought the group a total of $8,579 to use to cover the cost of repairs.
Over the years, many volunteers have donated their time and skills to keep St. Ann's the beautiful little chapel that we see today. This small but active group of volunteers is now known as "The Friends of Ann's." This group meets five times a year. All are welcome to be part of this effort.
Masses are offered for Memorial Day, Feast of St. Ann, All Souls Day, and Christmas. A Novena to St. Ann is offered in July for nine days. Dates are to be announced. Funeral and wedding services are also held with prearrangements with the priest.
May the legacy of St. Ann's Church continue to live on.
Story of St. Ann’s Church and Cemetery
© 2018 The Friends of St. Ann's Church