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Elmira’s Germans built a fixture in the city’s downtown

It was not that long ago that GREGORY As the Ger- Now near the center of the
one could easily find a Ger- man parish en-
man church that celebrated WITUL tered the post city, St. John became not

Christmas Mass. In Buffalo there war years it be- only Elmira’s German

was St. Mary’s and St. Ann’s, gan to modern- church, but the
Rochester was home to St. Jo- ize, afternoon “downtown” Catholic
seph, St. Boniface, and St. Mi- Masses were
chael’s, and in Syracuse one conducted, an Church as well.

could attend Assumption, Holy air conditioner

Trinity or the Tyrolean St. Ceci- Schoulepnikoff, were well on was added, The next great change for St.

lia’s. But while these cities had their way to building the church. special Red John the Baptist would come in

many options, for the German By the time the $6,000 wooden Masses for ju- 1982 when St. Cecilia was effec-

Catholics of the Southern Tier building was dedicated in 1868, rists and law- tively joined to the parish with

there was only one choice, St. the Sunday school had 80 stu- yers were held, the two sharing a priest. On Jan.

John the Baptist German Catho- dents and Father Erhardt was and Vatican II 1, 1990 SS. Peter and Paul was

lic Church in Elmira, NY. now leading the flock. alterations added and the three churches be-

Elmira’s earliest Germans As the parish grew in the first were made. came the Eastside Catholic Par-

traveled to the area in the 1790s, half of the 1870s, Fathers Von The altera- ishes of Elmira.

with the first permanent settlers Rupplin, Gruber, Bachmann, and tions would be As the 1990s progressed, the

arriving in the late 1840s. The Neibling would each take the short lived as population and economy of Elm-

community greatly expanded in helm of St. John. The appoint- an arson fire ira weakened. Soon it became

1871, as an influx of immigrants ment of Father Strelke in 1874 destroyed unsustainable for the Catholics

arrived following the Franco- brought stability to the church much of the of the city to support so many

Prussian War. The Catholics and with that stability came a church on Dec. parishes and it was decided to

amongst them attended SS. Peter parish school. In the spring of 27, 1974. De- close St. John the Baptist.

and Paul on the city’s north side. 1875, the school was built for spite the exten- On Sept. 20, 1998, through

As early as 1857, German $2,000 and staffed by the Sisters sive damage, tears and cries, the last Mass at

priests visited the city to minister of St. Francis out of Buffalo. Father William John the Baptist’s was held and

to the growing community in On the Feast of the Ascen- were present for the laying of the D. Tobin dedi- the only German Catholic parish
their native tongue. In 1866, sion 1889, the Dickson street cornerstone on May 4, 1891 cated himself to rebuilding his in New York’s Southern Tier
there were 300 German families church caught fire and was de- while the Elmira Saengerbund church, which he was success- was closed.
attending SS. Peter and Paul’s, stroyed. The congregation of St. concluded the ceremony with a fully able to do over the next Today the building is home
when a traveling priest urged John’s, now one of the largest in concert.
them to purchase property for a the city took their time to find an Guided by Father Francis year. to the New Life Assembly of

parish of their own. appropriate location for their Trautlein, designed by architect God Church.

With the permission of the new home. J.Q. Ingham, and built by con-

bishop the group incorporated After a two-year search the tractor E.A. Swan, the church
that Dec. 3, bought a lot on Dick- congregation purchased a plot in was constructed with an Elmira
inson Street, dedicated a corner the heart of Elmira at the corner blue stone foundation which held
stone, and under the helm of of Lake and Second streets. Del- a pressed brick structure, high-
trustees Jacob Klein, Andrew egates from Niagara University, lighted by Medina sandstone.
Seinhart, and Father Serge de Buffalo, and North Tonawanda The interior was frescoed and

held three altars that housed stat-

ues imported from Munich. In

time, German inspired stained

glass would adorn the interior as

well.

On May 1, 1892, Bishop of

Buffalo Ryan ventured to what

was then the outer reaches of the

diocese and dedicated the com-

pleted St. John the Baptist

church. Now near the center of

the city, St. John became not

only Elmira’s German church,

but the “downtown” Catholic

Church as well.

Despite this new focus, Rev.

Trautlein was able to maintain

the parish’s German heritage as

the church moved into the new

century. Father Francis would

also oversee the transition of

Chemung County from the Dio-

cese of Buffalo to the Diocese of

Rochester 1896.

Following Father Trautlein

was Father John Stemler who

over his tenure guided the parish

through the generational shift

from those that founded the par-

ish to their children, the First

World War, the Great Depres-

sion, and the early days of World

War Two. He added a rectory to

the parish campus, had an organ

installed, added stained glass,

and had the church remodeled a

number of times over his near 40

years there.
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