St. Martin’s Church
Langford, New York
In the hamlet of Langford, situated on Sisson Highway, overlooking the beautiful rolling countryside is St. Martin’s Church. It was formerly known as Sippel’s Corners and with its brewery and five inns was a favorite stopping place for the farmers on the way to the Buffalo markets. The brewery site is presently the site of the foundation walls of the church. The village of Langford was one hundred percent Catholic at that time.
The early history of St. Martin’s parish is closely linked to that of St. Mary’s in East Eden, where in 1833, the first Catholic Church was built to serve Eden, Hamburg and Collins. When Father John Nepomucerne Arrent became pastor of East Eden in 1849, a site for a cemetery was bought in Langford. The site was blessed by Bishop Timon. A frame church was then erected. Father Krautbauer was appointed assistant to Father Arrent and took charge of St. Martin’s. The first recorded Baptismal Record is dated June 1, 1851; the first burial June 4, 1851 and first marriage July 31, 1851.
In the first 28 years pastors came and went in rapid succession -- twenty different priests in all. On two occasions the parish was without the services of a priest for three months.
A Certification of Incorporation was issued to St. Martin’s Church Society of Langford on February 23, 1878. The two trustees, George Decker and Jacob Schuerer met with Rt. Rev. Bishop S.V. Ryan, Rev. William Gleeson, Vicar General, and Rev. Jacob Schneider, pastor, at the Bishop’s Home in Buffalo.
The first cemetery was located between the rectory and old church. The deceased were buried in rows in the order in which they died. There were no family lots. In 1872, the entire ground was occupied by graves so the present site was bought across the street. The Constitution of St. Martin’s Cemetery Society was adopted May 20, 1872. One amusing provision in the Articles of the Constitution was that all surplus money was to be divided among the owners of lots. In order to be entitled to a share in this, the lot had to be bought and paid for before June 1, 1872. Some bodies were transferred from the old cemetery to the new one. The cemetery was then remodeled, tiled, seeded and enclosed by an iron fence enhanced with a crucifixion group at a cost of $3,000. In 1926 a crucifix was erected on the site of the old cemetery as a testimonial to the departed of 1849-1872. In 1996 the crucifixion group was moved to the back of the cemetery to allow for expansion. Thanks to the Winter family for use of their equipment and time.
Rev. Francis Xavier Schlee served the parishes of St. Mary’s, New Oregon, and St. Martin’s for almost thirty years. He was so dedicated to the people of this area that when the Bishop wanted to make it easier for him, he asked for the favor to remain. No matter how bad the weather, how deep the mud or snow, he never failed. His first work was to remove the old school which he converted into a home for the priest’s horse and buggy. Part of the building was used for a garage. In 1897 Agnes Avery attended the school and learned German. The school house was also the home of the school-master. The school-master was also the organist and choir director. Shortly after Father Schlee’s arrival, the Sisters took charge of the school. A school-convent building with a belfry and a cross replaced the old school. His next work was the construction of the rectory which was used until the priest moved into the new covent after the Sisters left in 1970.
According to Walter Avery, the building of the Church coincided with the paving of Sisson Highway. Around 1900 George Sisson from Collins went to every house along the gravel road from Collins Center halfway to Hamburg and said if they could contribute enough money he would make a paved road which did materialize. The farmers along the road drew in the dirt fill with their horses and wagons.
In 1902, Father Schlee secured the old brewery for $800 and built the present church, a much admired Gothic structure of polished brick with stone trimming, in the attractive setting in the midst of a spacious lawn and background of ash, beech and maple trees. The new church was furnished with the reconstructed altars of the old church, new pews, communion rail, pulpit of all oak, and stained glass windows. The church and furnishings coast about $22,000. Father Schlee donated $1,200 which paid for the foundation. WIthin a few years this debt was liquidated. When the bell weighing a ton arrived at the train depot in North Collins, the farmers were asked if their team and wagon could get the bell. They all said that since it was uphill and a dirt road their team could not do it. Mr. Albert Beaver, a non-Catholic, said his team would make it and he got the bell. He was told when he died the bell would be rung. Mr. Beaver died at the age of 89 and the bell was rung and a Mass said. Mary Miller, a parishioner, remembers her grandfather, Jacob Staffen Miller, saying he helped build the new church.
Priests who served St. Martin’s from 1851-1997
June 1851 Father Krautbauer
September 1851 Father John B. Manauer
November 1853 Father John Nep. Arrent
October 1854 Father Heimbucher
April 1856 Father Neumann
January 1858 Father Stephen Eicher
July 1859 Father Michael von Schinabeck
May 1860 Father Dominique Gessner
February 1861 Father Heimbucher
November 1863 Father Pax
January 1864 Redemptorist Fathers
February 1864 Father Baenzier
January 1866 Father F.X. Kofler
July 1866 Father Hermann Boehmann
January 1868 Father J. Zoegel
March 1869 Father Ch. Winsierski
August 1870 Father John N. Arrent
April 1871 Father H. Boehmann
November 1873 Father Sebastian Gruber
October 1876 Father Jacob Schneider
May 1878 Father F.X. Fromholzer
May 1878 Father H. Reuter
Church was under interdict from June 23 to September 1, 1878*
September 1878 Father C.J. Geppert
November 1879 Father F.X. Schlee
May 1909 Father William Burchhardt
March 1916 Father Ludwin E. Winter
1929 Father Charles Schreckenberger
1943 Father Walter Heck
1952 Father Paul Eberz
1957 Father Clarence Ott
1960 Father Alfred Mosack
1965 Father Joseph Paa
March 1991 Father Lawrence Damian
A marble memorial slab with the inscription “in memory of the Rev. F.X. Schlee, pastor of Langford and New Oregon. Thirty Years Died May 27, 1909. Aged 58 years.” is in the vestibule of the church in Langford.
*Ecclesiastical censure withdrawing most sacraments and Christian burial from a district.
(Early History Taken from the Diamond Jubilee of St. Martin’s Church, Langford NY 1851-1926)
According to Walter Avery, his grandfather, Louis Andres, was the first trustee at the new church. The old wooden church was made into a hall and dinners, card parties, dances and every year after Easter a play was presented. Isca Dole and Lynn Geiger had leading parts.
From the members of the Dole Family, it was learned that Catherine Fox and MArtin Dole (their children are Lota (Miller) Naughton, Francis, Ralph Gerhard and Antoinette Emerson) were married in the old church on May 2, 1902. According to Mary Dole (Winter) her parents, John and Florence (jones) were the first to be married in the new church on October 22, 1902 (their children are Mary Dole, Martha Lousey, Arthur, Wilma Kolz, Elmer, Leo, Clarence, Florence Gentner, Edwin, Jeanette, and Barbara (Lovett) Pruszak). Several are still active parishioners of St. Martin’s today (at the time this was first written).
All the buildings were wired for lighting in 1925-26. In 1924 mosaic, imported from Innsbruck, Tyrol, depicting St. Martin giving his cloak to the beggar, was erected as a fee-will offering and outdoor shrine of the Patron Saint of the parish. This mosaic was placed by the door to the sacristy until a few years ago when it was moved to the front of the church.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of St. Martin’s Church, a play “A Hundred Year’s Harvest” was presented by the students in the school. The script was written by Sister M. Raphael from Mt. St. Joseph Teachers College. Sister Mary Raymond accompanied the children. Mt. St. Joseph Normal School furnished some of the costumes. The program was mimeographed by Kathleen (Geiger) Andolina (daughter of Lawrence and Ruth) through the courtesy of the North Collins Central School.
Plans for the new convent were prepared by Eugene Dole (husband of Mary Winter) and in 1952 this was built for the Sisters and in 1965 a church hall which included four classrooms, principal’s office and nurse’s room was built. Eventually the old school-convent building was partially demolished. The remaining section is still used today as a garage. With regret, the school closed in 1970. Sister M. Timothy, Sister of St. Joseph, was the last principal. One of the lay teacher, Anna Wittmeyer, is a member of the parish and recalls how sad everyone felt. Father Joseph Paa, pastor at that time, moved into the convent building. The old rectory was rented until it was demolished.
In 1974 the church was redecorated and by then the debt had been paid. Major repairs to the main roof of the church were completed in 1989.
When Father Joseph Paa retired in 1991, Father Lawrence Damian was appointed pastor of St. Martin’s, St. Mary’s, New Oregon, and St. Francis Cabrini, Collins Center. Fortunately, we are able to have two weekend masses at St. Martin’s. School children assist Father on the altar, as well as the Eucharistic Ministers and lectors. The Sick Ministry visits the sick and takes weekly Communion if requested. Father personally visits the sick on the First Friday of the month or upon request otherwise. The Liturgy Group prepares the weekly readings and Gospel messages.
To assist Father, a Helping Hands group was organized so parishioners would be aware of the needs of their church spiritually and physically. To support their church, parishioners hold three dinners yearly (an ongoing tradition), in addition to raffles and dances. In 1995 a side entrance and handicap ramp were added. The Altar Rosary Society is still active with a number of members. The Altar Society purchases flowers, church linens, priest vestments and items necessary for the altars. A Holy Name Society was active for many years. The CYO was reactivated and in 1996 participated in Rock-a-Thon by which they were able to pit $800 worth of food and contributed $400 to the Franciscan Center in Buffalo. In 1995 and 1996 they received the prestigious Ed Argy Award for community service because of their clothing drive and Rock-a-Thon.
A newsletter The Parish Connection was published in Advent. The name of this publication was picked through a contest to name the newsletter and come up with a logo. Our winner was Joseph Diettrich a parishioner from St. Martin’s.
In 1997 the statues of St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart, St. Timothy and two angels on the main altar were repainted by Evelyn Dole.
Trustees as of 1997 are Walter Avery and Ronald Geiger.
(history was written in 1997)