Alder Brook, 1913 USGS map.  The east-west road through Alder Brook is the Alder Brook Road. To the west it connects with NY Route 3 south of Sugar Bush
  The road coming up from the south is Rock Street, which leads to Franklin Falls Road and Fletcher Farm Road
Alderbrook (also known as Alder Brook) is a hamlet one and a half miles west of Union Falls and four miles east of New York Route 3 on Alder Brook Road, formerly the Port Kent to Hopkinton Turnpike.

See also:

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 14, 1990

Vermonters, Irish settle Town of Franklin



Alder Brook experienced an influx of Irish settlers during 1848 and 1849 that was due to the Great Potato Famine of 1845 in Ireland when, from 1842-1864, some 1,600,000 emigrated to the U.S.A. During that same period, the S. & S. Rogers Company needed workers to cut timber, burn charcoal and work the forges. Like most ethnic groups the Irish chose to congregate among themselves and the early settlers, at Alder Brook bore such names as Ryan, O'Neal, Gleason, Dillon, Collins, Quirk, Tourney, McKillip, Keese, Doyle and McNamara.


Chateaugay Record, January 11, 1924

Pastor Gives Parish Lands

Saranac Lake (Special.)—Faced by a dwindling parish and the knowledge that the district must be repeopled if his church is to survive, Rev. Richard O'Donnell, pastor of Rose of Lima, today made an offer the Roman Catholic church of St. [sic] unique in church annals—he offers free land to those who will become homesteaders.

More than fifty years ago the church occupied a commanding position in the section of which it was the center. When Saranac Lake was in its infancy and most of the surrounding towns consisted of nothing but a collection of homesteads, it served as the center from which radiated the various efforts of religious endeavor. From its portals missionaries were sent throughout the locality, while the pastor in charge had supervision of several widely scattered improvised church[es] in which services were conducted for the mountaineers and hardy lumberjacks.

Now the situation has changed. Things at Alder Brook remained the same, while other communities drew strangers. Almost before the people were aware of it, they found themselves cut off from the main highways of traffic, with the result that their prosperity began to wane. The State took over some of the best land and a great portion of what was left of the forests.

Large commercial concerns, with varied interests, little by little acquired title to farm lands, whose owners were glad of the opportunity to sell. Stagnation was the result, and the little community which had given such promise at its formation, lost its vigor.

"Politics have done more to injure the community than any one living outside can realize," Father O'Donnell explained. "We have been and now are fighting complete obliteration. For years, I have been striving to have the roads passing through the valley improved by the state."

Aware of the fact that prosperity has come, but continued on its way without the slightest bitterness.

It is the divine decree, he avers, that the best years of his life have been spent in striving to attain an as ever. [sic] Must he has not given up end which seems as far distant now hope. [sic] A younger man, he thinks, will take up the work where he has left off, and eventually will accomplish what he set out to do.

"Send us men," he exclaims repeatedly. "Men who ring true all the way through. Men who are farsighted enough to realize that there is a future of great promise if they cope successfully with the situation. Give us men and we will extract enough from the productive soil to make it more than a paying proposition.

"I own 310 acres of land in this vicinity. I am willing to parcel it out free to persons agreeing to homestead on it. I am in earnest. If anyone wants to emancipate himself from the sordidness of the city, and is willing to give this place a trial, I will undertake to do the rest."

Adirondack Daily Enterprise , November 8, 2003

Alder Brook and the parish of St. Rose

You know what ...

By Howard Riley

There is a rich history of Irish Catholic culture in the North Country, originating from the pioneers that came over from Ireland in the early 1800s (most of whom came down through Canada) and settled in Alder Brook. The religious and social lives of those farm families, centered around the Saint Rose of Lima Parish when the first church was built there in 1854. It was built by the Rev. James Keveny of the parish Of Keeseville.

The Rev. Richard O'Donnell, who was born in Ballybacon, County Tipperary, Ireland in January 1862, was the first and only resident pastor to serve St. Rose. More about Father O'Donnell later.

The Laws and the Ryans were two of the big clans that settled there and had farms right across the road from each other. Now before I get into the early history and some of the other families, I have to relate two stories that were told to me first-hand.

A drink for the lads

The late Frank Ryan told me a story many years ago about him and the other young men who had to do the work on the parish farm back in the early 1940s. Frank said that one summer when they had finished the haying they got a corked and dusty bottle of whiskey out of the rectory cellar. They finished off most of it and since Father O'Donnell was away, they went into the kitchen of the rectory where there was always a pot of tea on the back of the stove (as was the case in most homes back then). They filled the whiskey bottle, corked it up and placed it back in its original spot in the cellar and even sprinkled it with dust. (Frank went into the Army Air Force, was a gunner on a B-24 Liberator Bomber and was shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans).

A few months later, as the story goes, Frank said Father O'Donnell invited pretty much the same bunch of guys to a farewell dinner as they were all going into the service. As they finished dinner, the good Father said, "Now that you lads are all going off to war I'd like to share a drink with you and toast your good health and safe return." He then proceeded to uncork a bottle and poured them all a hearty drink. Frank said, "We smacked our lips, cleared our throats and complimented him on the fine whiskey he served as we downed our glass of tea. They left a short time later and without a wink of a nod the old priest let them know that they would be puttin' nothin' over on him.

Now this next story comes to me from Emma Law Berghorn. It was common back then for many of those families to say the rosary every night ... a practice that started when there was not always a priest to say mass on Sunday so the faithful would gather at the church and "say the beads" together.

The families match in size and gender

Now not only did the Laws and Ryans live across the road from each other, but they had about the same number of kids and in the same order — girl, boy, twins, girl, boy, etc. Others say that at supper time the man of the house would hardly know who was at the table because the kids would just sit down to eat in whichever house they were in. Emma named off all the Laws except for two girls that died in infancy ... Marie, James, Margaret, John, Ray, Charlie, Francis, Stevie and herself. She and Stevie were twins. The Ryans she could remember were Ed, Joe, Phil, John, Frankie, Katherine, Elizabeth and Mary. Joe and Katherine were twins. Joe married Claire Keese, moved to Rome and had 14 children.

Emma believed the Ryans also lost children in infancy. The mortality rate was high in those days, we lost our grand-mother Elizabeth McKillip Keegan and her infant daughter Marguerite at childbirth.

There is always time to say the beads

The Laws parents were James and Mary (McCaffery) Law. So one night they were all on their knees saying the beads when a knock comes at the door and it's Tim Howard (Pat Howard's father) looking to borrow a fiddle. (The Laws were all great musicians, they say Francis could play the fiddle when he was still in his crib). Mr. Law told Tim to kneel down and say the rosary and Tim tried to beg off, saying there was someone waiting in the car. But Mr. Law would hear none of it, and it takes more than a few minutes to say 50 Hail Marys along with the Our Fathers and the Holy Ghosts in between. Emma says she thinks Tim even tried to back out the door when he saw the rosary going on, probably thinking he'd be better off borrowing a fiddle somewhere else.

[…] Thanks to Emma and Ray Law for their help with this story; they are the only two surviving in that family. Other information was taken from a history of the parish written in 1977 by Joseph P. Hafford, a family friend who I knew quite well.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise , November 15, 2003

The Good Father O'Donnell

You know what...

By Howard Riley

The history of Alder Brook and the Irish Catholic pioneers who settled there is really the history of the Saint Rose of Lima Parish, and that history is synonymous with the Rev. O'Donnell even though he did not arrive in Alder Brook until 37 years after the first church was built.

That first church was built in Alder Brook in 1854 by the Rev. James Keveny, eight years before Father O'Donnell was born on Jan, 6, 1862 in Ballybacon, Ireland, He grew up on a farm where his father raised sheep, he was educated in Ireland and ordained to the priesthood at St. Patrick's College, County Carlow, Ireland on June 15, 1886. In 1854, Alder Brook was in the Diocese of Albany. The Diocese of Ogdensburg was not established until about 1871.

He left Ireland and first served as an assistant at the cathedral in Wellington, New Zealand where the priests making sick calls had to sometimes travel as far as 100 miles on horseback. He arrived in New York City in 1890 and called at the rectory at St. Patrick's Original Cathedral which was then located in lower Manhattan, near Mott Street (now located on the corner of 50th Street and Fifth Avenue) and was assigned to work with the poor in the city. Father O'Donnell disliked the city and made his way to the Chancery Office in Ogdensburg where he was appointed by Bishop Wadhams as pastor at Black Brook and Alder Brook.

There was no rectory at Alder Brook at that time so he boarded with a family for about three years. He said Alder Brook reminded him of Ireland and bought a farm there in 1894, one mile from the church. He had the house fixed up for use as a rectory. Later, another priest was assigned to Black Brook and Father O'Donhell was given St. Paul's Parish in Bloomingdale along with St. Rose Parish, but about 1920, because of failing health, St. Rose became his only parish The church there burned to the ground in 1924 but Father O'Donnell promptly fixed up the church hall where he said Mass in the summer months and in the rectory in the winter months.

I quote Joe Hafford; "He (Father O'Donnell) not only attended faithfully to the spiritual needs of the parishioners, but also to their physical needs as well, when anyone was sick they sent for Father O'Donnell. Many people who lived in other parishes who learned that Father, had helped ailing persons came long distances, some even drove with horse and wagon from as far as Canada, and many received help."

But a long time before the church was built in 1854, mass would be celebrated in someone's home. Mass was said on a weekday by a visiting priest because he would have to say mass in his own parish on Sunday. Mr. Hafford said that mass was usually celebrated in the home of Hugh McKillip, his grandfather, because it was in the center of the locality and also because it was a frame house, the only one in the vicinity, and there would be more room than in a log house.

A St. Patrick's Benevolent Society was established in the 1800s with the purpose of giving aid to the members of the parish, financial and otherwise, in case of serious illness, death or other emergencies in a family.

Mr. Hafford quotes from the minutes of a meeting of the society which took place in the church in May 1871 ... "the following officers were elected: Darby O'Neil, president; William McKillip, vice president; Thomas Hafford, secretary; Daniel McKillip, treasurer. On July 9, the following members were present and paid their dues: Darby O'Neil, William McKillip, Thomas Hafford, D. McKillip, A. McKillip, J. Dillon, C. O'Neil, M. O'Neil, C. Dewey, M. McNamara, P. McKillip, Daniel Keese, P. Sullivan, J. O'Neil, Joseph McKillip, John Wallace, P. Kelley, William Keese, Mike Teirney, Thomas Finnegan, Charles Finnegan, Hugh Collins, Hugh McKillip, John Casey and William St. Clair."

Although Father O'Donnell died 54 years ago, there are still people around the region who knew him. On June 15, 1936, he celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest at Alder Brook and on June 15, 1946, at Alder Brook he celebrated the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. Two days later in Saranac Lake, Bishop McEntegart offered a mass in his honor, at which time a blessing from the Pope was read.

Mr. Hafford writes; "Father served the people of Alder Brook faithfully from January 1891 until his death in February 1949, a period of 58 years, He served under Bishop Wadhams, Bishop Gabriels, Bishop Conroy, Bishop Monahan and Bishop McEntegart.

We knew Joe Hafford

Bill McLaughlin and I went to visit Mr. Hafford on two or three occasions when we were reporters for the Enterprise in the 1960s. I had known since him childhood, and was probably related since his grandfather was a McKillip and my grandmother was a McKillip. He was the curator of the parish, as I recall, and lived in the old rectory across from the cemetery. He would visit with us but when we would broach the subject of accessing the archives of the parish so we could do a story about St. Rose Parish and Father O'Donnell, he would curtly end the conversation. I know there are a lot of people around who knew Joe Hafford, and can't you just hear him when he would say to us; "Now I can't have the likes of you two nosing around here in the good Father's papers"?

Well, it was said in good humor but we didn't have to look at any records or hear any stories that he eventually put into the history that he wrote in 1977 and which I have been quoting from.

Beers Franklin County Atlas, 1876

Franklin Business Notices.

MCKILLIP A., Dealer in Dry Goods, Groceries ; also Post Master ; Dist. I. P. O. Alder Brook.



2012-12-08 17:44:57   I am looking for information on William Quirk b. 1810 and Ellen(Howard) Quirk who settled in this area around 1848. They are my great great grandparents. I am trying to find out what happened to William. He is in the 1850 census but disappears after that. He is not buried with the rest at St. Rose Lima Cemetary. I don't know where they came from in Ireland or if they settled somewhere else before coming to Alderbrook and Sugar Bush areas. I have some history on Ellen's family in Alderbrook but have no records of any parents or siblings for William. If you can help with any records please contact me at [email protected].

Kelly Quirk Parrott —

2012-12-08 19:36:59   Kelly - I am sending Census infor for 1860, 1870 & 1880 - hope it helps. Stephanie —StephanieRybicki