Father Louis Edelman
On July 1, 1911, Bishop McQuaid appointed Father Louis Edelman the first pastor of the new parish - St. Louis Catholic Church of Pittsford. As noted in a publication celebrating Father Edelman’s 50th Jubilee, he was also asked to serve the mission church of St. Catherine’s in Mendon. In those days before the automobile, traveling between his two remote assignments was difficult and time consuming.
Rev. Louis W. Edelman Pastor 1911 to 1953.
The small, still mostly Irish community of St. Louis warmly welcomed Father Edelman. As an earlier history of St. Louis recounts, “some of the ‘old-timers’ the Cullens, the Sullivans, the Zornows remember the first day the young priest came to Pittsford. So will Father Edelman. ‘Father, you’ll starve out there’ were the parting words of Bishop Thomas Hickey. And with one Sunday collection of $3.41 at the time, it’s hard to understand why he didn’t. No rectory, no treasury, and a congregation of 35 or 40 Irish families.”
The parish held a May Festival in 1914 with dinner priced at twenty-five cents a person. For an additional twenty cents, festival-goers could attend a musical and dramatic entertainment titled, “Between the Acts.” Even in the early days, sharing meals, fundraising and community building were an integral part of parish life.
For his first few years in Pittsford, Father Edelman commuted from his home in Rochester by way of the old New York Central Railroad. In July of 1914, he purchased a residence at 31 Monroe Avenue in the village. The home of former State Senator Jarvis Lord sold for a reported $6,400, and so, for a monthly mortgage payment of about twenty-five dollars, St. Louis Church had its first rectory.
A Cautious Approach to Change
Father Edelman saw a need for changes in the parish, but he approached the subject cautiously. It was an era when most pastors sought little input from their parishioners, yet Father Edelman asked for the congregation’s opinion on one of his proposed changes to the Sunday Mass schedule. Newspapers of the era, now in Diocesan archives report, “the young priest had very carefully worked out a schedule for Masses at Mendon and Pittsford, and broached the change to the parishioners. Up in the front seat stood old Tom Sullivan: ‘You’ll do no such thing.’ And Father Edelman, with a glance around, agreed with him: ‘I guess we won’t.’ Two weeks later, Sullivan approached the young priest: ‘Father, I’m eighty years old today. Here’s eighty dollars to buy a statue of Our Blessed Mother.” And so, confidences were won and the tiny rural church began to acquire some early furnishings.
The flock grew and, in the early 1920’s, so did the church building as Father Edelman oversaw the enlargement of the south sacristy. Disaster struck on February 27, 1923, when a fire caused by a defective chimney broke out in the church attic. The blaze drew a large crowd of onlookers from the village and nearby farms. Father Edelman, one of the first on the scene, swiftly removed the Blessed Sacrament and sacred vessels. Firemen from the twenty-five year old Pittsford Fire Department battled the flames for more than an hour. Their diligent efforts saved the church from extensive damage, but the fire had burned its way into a corner of the sanctuary and brought down half the ceiling. Damages totaled nearly $4,200. Fortunately, insurance covered most of the repair costs with little expense to the congregation. In 1935, to accommodate the developing need for religious education, the church was renovated to make space for instruction rooms.
Father Edelman’s Role in Village Life
A first-hand account of life in the village during the Edelman era comes to us from parishioner James G. Burdett, whose family operated a store near the rectory. “Father was always a part of life in the village, particularly the life of children,” Mr. Burdett recalls. “When we stopped by his home, his housekeeper, Miss Farrell always had a cookie for each of us. Father would take us to his camp on Lake Ontario without any regard as to which church we attended. As we got older, when Father would see us hitchhiking to Rochester, he would stop his car and tell us to hop in. He would take us to the theater of our choice and even give us money for a ticket. When we had to leave for service in World War II, Father Edelman was there to wish us well and pray for our safe return. After the war, he welcomed us home and, in my case, performed our wedding ceremony.”
25th Anniversary Celebration
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of Father Edelman’s pastorate of the parish in July of 1936, two hundred and fifty guests, including people from St. Louis and surrounding parishes as well as other friends of Father Edelman, gathered at the Pittsford Inn (today’s Phoenix Building). A chicken dinner was served and the Rev. H. J. Bortle, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, extended greetings from the Protestant congregations of the village. The principal speaker of the evening was Mr. Clyde O’Brien, a Rochester attorney, who was a member of St. Louis.
The St. Louis Chapel in Bushnell’s Basin
In 1948, Father Edelman said the first Christmas Mass at St. Louis’s new chapel at the corner of Route 96 and Thornell Road in Bushnell’s Basin. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel was part of St. Louis parish until 1962, when it was gifted to the new St. John of Rochester parish. In recent times, the building has housed a variety of small commercial businesses.
St. Louis School Begins in Historic Home
In 1949, the historic Augustus Elliot house (also known as the Hargous-Briggs house) at 52 South Main Street, was purchased in preparation for establishing the first St. Louis School. Today, referred to by the church as “the Manse,” the stately Federal structure serves St. Louis as library, classroom and meeting space.
The house built in 1812 by Augustus Elliot, today known as The Manse, was purchased by St. Louis in 1949 for use as a convent and school.
The house was built in 1812 by Augustus Elliot for his bride-to-be Jane Penfield, daughter of Daniel Penfield, the founder of Penfield, New York. The brick for the structure was made by Elihu Doud whose kiln also provided brick for the Phoenix Building. Mr. Elliot brought the impressive interior woodwork from Albany. In many respects the house was among the most gracious ever built in Pittsford.
However, it never served the purpose originally intended; Augustus Elliot and Jane Penfield never married. Elliot lived in the home as a bachelor for a brief time and later sold it to a Judge Sampson. In 1818, it became the property of Mr. James K. Guernsey. He built an elaborate system of pipes and troughs from a spring at Osgoodby Hill (the south end of Eastview Terrace in the village) to bring the first running water to a Pittsford home. Guernsey also planted extensive gardens and raised ginseng for export, which brought him much wealth and fame.
Mr. Guernsey’s carriages transported notables between Pittsford’s Phoenix Hotel and Rochester. According to Pittsford lore, General LaFayette was a dinner guest at the Guernsey home when he came through Pittsford on his triumphant tour of the United States in 1825. As recounted in Andrew D. Wolfe’s “Pittsford at 200,” LaFayette addressed the townspeople from the steps in front of the Phoenix building.
In 1849, the house was sold to the weathly Hargous family of New York City who traveled by canal boat to spend their summers in Pittsford. In 1887, in memory of their mother, the Hargous children donated the bell and clock in Pittsford’s Christ Episcopal Church.
Rumors about the role the house may have played in the Underground Railroad still provide basis for speculation. According to a popular historical account in the Sisters of Mercy archives, “Pittsford saw much abolitionist activity and it is said that limestone caverns under the village were used as hiding places for slaves on their way to Canada. The door that supposedly leads to the caverns has long been cemented closed.”
The St. Louis Parish community came together to renovate the interior of the Manse in 1993, with an eye toward maintaining an authentic, period look.
Monsignor William Shannon, who was assisting with Masses at St. Louis in 1949, tells how, when he learned that the historic house had become available for purchase, he immediately called Father Edelman who was on vacation in Panama. Father agreed that the time was right and the timely purchase of the historic structure was instrumental in the founding of St. Louis School.
Workmen began preparing the house to be ready for the first day of school in September 1950. The large building would serve as both the school and as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy who would teach there. In its first year, St. Louis School registered 158 pupils.
Monsignor Edelman Retires
In June 1952, Father Edelman became Monsignor Edelman when Pope Pius XII elevated him, on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee, to the rank of Domestic Prelate. With St. Louis School well established, Monsignor Edelman discerned that the time had come to pass his pastorate on to a younger priest. When he retired, Bishop James E. Kearney appointed Father John Reddington as the second pastor of St. Louis Church. In June 1953, Monsignor Edelman was named Pastor Emeritus of St. Louis parish. He bought a home at 3 Jefferson Circle and continued to celebrate Mass at both St. Louis and St. Jerome’s in East Rochester. He also taught at St. John Fisher College until he moved to St. Ann’s Home on October 21, 1962.