History of St. Mary’s, Clayton
For the past 120 years, the beautiful limestone church of St. Mary's has been the center of sacramental and communal life for Catholics in Clayton. In addition, its magnificent
towers have been a navigational aid to generations of boaters on the St. Lawrence River.
The first St. Mary's Church in Clayton was built of wood. Construction began in 1842. The church was dedicated in 1844.
The construction of the gothic style stone church began in the fall of 1884. It was designed by architect Ignatius D. Flynn of Cape Vincent. The local stone was quarried and donated by Joseph Charlebois. The cornerstone was laid in August of 1885. Work was completed in the fall of 1889.
E. P. Wadhams, Bishop of Ogdensburg, presided at the dedication and blessing of the new church held in December 1889. Consecration followed in August 1902.
The original ash pews with oak finish were manufactured in the Clayton Furniture Factory. When the interior of St. Mary's was restored in 2005, the ornata, or end pieces, were retained.
The church bell was donated by Peter Fitzgerald, Sr. and manufactured by Meneely and Co. of Troy, NY. It was blessed on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1892.
The pipe organ was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Michael Theophilus and Maurice Fitzgerald. It was manufactured by E. E. Morey of Utica, NY. It was blessed and played at a grand concert and organ recital on Dec. 12, 1901. Miss Viva Frame of Clayton was the accompanist.
The stations of the Cross were made to order in France of Carton-pierre and terra cotta. They were donated by Ms. Helen C. Wall of New York City. Blessing of the Stations as held on March 1, 1899. As part of the ceremony, a few hundred names were placed in an urn and 14 names were drawn. These 14 men then carried in their hands little wooden crosses. They climbed a ladder and attached the crosses to the top of each station. The crosses can still be seen at the top of each large frame. As they descended the ladder, each dropped an envelop containing their name and an offering for the church into a basket.
St. Mary's School was established in 1913. It was located where the parish center now stands. The school was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. The school closed in 1970. St. Mary's parish center was built in 1992. It provides a place for Religious Education classes for the children of the parish as well as continuing education for adults. Parish and community groups also use the parish center for their meetings.
St. Mary's has experienced three major restorations in 1933, 1955, and 2005.