The Rev. John G. Fitzgerald, or “Father Fitz,” as he was known to contemporaries, was the first resident Roman Catholic priest in Old Forge. He is fondly remembered as a missionary to the widely scattered working people of the region and as a prolific builder of churches. His obituary in 1925 and local histories rightly focus on his time in Old Forge, but Father Fitzgerald had a significant career prior to that. His early assignments reveal a resourceful and energetic clergyman who made an impact across the Adirondacks and North Country. He served the people of northern New York State for a total of 49 years providing faith, culture, and kindness.
John Gerald Fitzgerald was probably born November 19, 1850 in Deptford, Kent, England (now part of Greater London). His parents, Patrick Fitzgerald and Joanna O’Connor, were both born in Ireland. John was educated in Catholic schools in England, namely: Blackheath; Sedgley Park in Wolverhampton; and St. Edmund’s in Ware, Hertfordshire. Records from St. Edmund’s show that a John Fitzgerald attended the school from 1868 until 1871. Soon after, John emigrated to the United States where he attended St. Joseph’s Provincial Seminary in Troy, NY. He was sponsored by the recently established Diocese of Ogdensburg. At seminary, John served as choirmaster and developed what would become a lifelong interest in music. He was ordained at Troy by Bishop Bernard J. McQuaid of Rochester on June 10, 1876. » Continue Reading.