— A Brief History of Our Parishes —
The first recorded Mass in the area was celebrated at Pine Knott Camp on Long Point, Raquette Lake, by Fr. James Kelly of North Creek in 1875. He did so at the invitation of Adirondack developer William West Durant, who would go on to build St. William’s Church at Long Point for the use of the area’s Catholics. The church was incorporated by Fr. J.B. Legrand in 1890. From 1891-1896, St. William’s was a mission of Wells, served by Fr. Hugh Byrne, who also visited Old Forge every few weeks to celebrate Mass in the schoolhouse. His successor, Fr. John G. Fitzgerald, continued this ministry in both public buildings and private homes, and extended its reach to Big Moose and, eventually, to Inlet as well. In 1897, Fr. Fitzgerald had Saint Bartholomew’s Church of Old Forge incorporated and became its first resident pastor. A church was built and dedicated on August 27, 1899. Holy Rosary Church in Big Moose was dedicated the very same day. During that period, St. William’s became a mission of Old Forge and remained as such until receiving its first resident pastor in 1911.
It was in 1911, beginning with Fr. Henry Thameling, that the Franciscan Friars (O.F.M.Conv.) arrived at the invitation of Bishop Henry Gabriels to care for the spiritual needs of the Catholics in Raquette Lake and its newly acquired missions of Blue Mountain Lake, Big Moose, and Inlet. Franciscan Fr. Alphonse Vollmer was appointed to care for the communities in Big Moose and Inlet in 1913. Due to the hamlet’s growth as a summer resort, it was under Fr. Vollmer’s direction that the first St. Anthony’s Church was completed in 1915. In 1919 St. Anthony’s became a freestanding parish under the care of the Franciscans, with Big Moose now its mission church. The first St. Anthony’s Church burned in 1928 and was replaced by the current structure in 1929.
Over the years, the water-locked community on Long Point migrated to its present location in the village of Raquette Lake. When the rectory on Long Point burned in 1938, it was decided to build not only a new rectory but also a new church, both of them in the village. The new St. William’s Church was dedicated in 1939. Both churches remained in use (at least during the summer months) for a number of years. In 1979, due to shifting populations and changing assignments among the Franciscan clergy, St. William’s became a mission of St. Anthony’s—a church it had earlier founded. Changing demographics also affected Holy Rosary, which was consolidated with St. Anthony’s and the building dismantled in 1991. Earlier that same year, due to the old building’s age and now inadequate size, the new St. Bartholomew’s Church was dedicated, having been built on the site of its predecessor.
Beginning in 1992, with the departure of the Franciscan Friars, a single priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, Fr. Lawrence E. Marullo, was assigned as pastor of St. Bartholomew’s, St. Anthony’s and its mission at St. William’s. In 1993, the original St. William’s on Long Point—which had been used for some time by the Franciscans as a summer retreat—was incorporated as a private institution to assure its historic preservation and continued public use. Having already begun to serve as a seasonal chapel, St. William’s in Raquette Lake began its canonical and legal consolidation with St. Anthony’s in 2004, together taking on the new name of St. Anthony of Padua Parish of Inlet and Raquette Lake.