Cudmore: Blessed to serve St. Mary’s parish, congregation for life


Reverend John McIncrow and Monsignor William Arthur Browne were both lifetime pastors at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Amsterdam.

Father McIncrow, a Utica native, came to St. Mary’s in 1878 and was named “irremovable pastor” nine years later. Nine years after that, in 1896, he died suddenly of heart disease at age 49.

On McIncrow’s watch, the parish established its cemetery in what is now Fort Johnson. He founded the parish school, St. Mary’s Institute, and invited the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet into the city to teach at the school. In 1895, McIncrow installed chimes in the bell tower.

In an 1886 sermon, McIncrow took parents to task, “In a country where water is plenty it must be slothfulness of the parents to send their children to school dirty. If such a child should come to the institute, it will be sent home and not admitted until it comes in proper garb.”

In its regular account of the priest’s Sunday sermon, the Recorder reported that McIncrow was not pleased that parishioners employed as spinners in local knitting mills got out of control at a social function:

“In alluding to the Spinners’ Picnic, Father McIncrow asked his congregation to pray for such of its members as had had any connection with the festivities of the day before. A great number of sins were committed at the picnic, and a heavy responsibility rested upon the souls of those members of St. Mary’s Church who gave their countenance and support to the affair.”

In September 1896, McIncrow officiated at the marriage of Peter Sullivan and Elizabeth P. Smith, who went on to be the parents of one of America’s first television stars, Ed Sullivan.

Two months later, McIncrow died and throngs attended his requiem Mass on November 24, 1896.


A native of Watervliet, William Arthur Browne entered the priesthood after his brother Daniel, who had become a priest, died.

After the unexpected death of Father McIncrow, Father Browne was picked to succeed him as pastor of St. Mary’s in 1897.

There is a statue of McIncrow in St. Mary’s Cemetery, dedicated during a crowded ceremony on Browne’s watch in 1902.

Many attendees arrived by trolley car.

That same year Father Browne purchased the Abram Marcellus home on Guy Park Avenue. The building became St. Mary’s Hospital in 1903. Like the parish school, the hospital staff was drawn from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.

In 1909 Browne awarded a contract to J.J. Turner Construction of Amsterdam to build a new school building on Forbes and Maple Streets to accommodate an enrollment of over seven hundred students.

It was named Dugan Hall for its chief financial benefactor, Patrick Dugan, an Irish immigrant whose East Main Street grocery business prospered.

In 1921 St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary was formed and the first nursing school students graduated in 1923. Father Browne spearheaded construction of a hospital building which opened in 1927 with four operating rooms, an X-ray department and laboratory.

Like McIncrow, Browne was designated pastor for life. Browne served 33 years until his death at age 75 in 1933.

Over 200 priests, headed by Bishop Edward Gibbons, attended Monsignor Brown’s funeral. The late monsignor’s nephew, Reverend William Browne of St. Joseph’s in Albany, celebrated Mass.

Downtown businesses were closed as the funeral procession made its way to the cemetery. There Monsignor Joseph A. Delaney, vicar general of the diocese, blessed the grave. Delaney had grown up in Amsterdam where his father was a plumber. He became the next pastor of St. Mary’s, serving three years until his death in 1936.

Contact Bob Cudmore at [email protected] His history podcasts are at

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