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Archives Marker serves as reminder of Champlain school

Sept. 19, 2018

By Shawn Ryan
NCC Contributing writer

CHAMPLAIN – When the former St. Mary’s Academy in Champlain burned down in January, 2015, it was a blow toHistorical Marker both the parish and community that many still feel. Now, through the work and dedication of one dedicated trustee, an historic marker now sits on the site reminding passer byes of the 106 year tradition of the hulking stone school.

The history of a parish school in Champlain goes back well before the 1906 opening of St. Mary’s. In 1877 Reverend Francois Xavier Chagnon opened a school to serve the Catholic community in Champlain. That school was later closed, but it would re-open in 1906 after the arrival from France a year earlier of several of the Daughters of the Charity of the Sacred Heart, religious women whose mission was to teach in Catholic schools.
A massive stone school building was built in 1909 which included an area for boarding students and teachers alike. That structure served students up until 2012 when it was finally closed.

From the time of its closure until the 2015 fire the school remained important to the community, serving as a meeting place for groups like the local Boy Scouts among others.

“There was a lot talk in the Village, everyone was depressed because we lost the school. We talked about a memorial garden,” said Trustee Linda Seymour, who spearheaded the campaign for the historic marker.
In September of 2016 Seymour applied for a grant with the help of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation to finance the marker.

That grant was approved in January of 2017, and in the summer of 2017 the marker was unveiled.

“She did all the work,” said Reverend Clyde A. Lewis, pastor of St. Mary’s. “It’s mainly for the people of the Parish. The school did so much for the Parish community when it was open.”

Many noted members of today’s Parish community as well as the greater Clinton County area got their start as students at St. Mary’s School, among them Clinton County Clerk John Zurlo and Village Historian Celene Pauquette, according to Seymour.

The school property, which sits on a small prominent rise in the center of Champlain, does still play a role in the life of the community.

The Village holds its annual bazaar on the site, and there are long term plans to build a parish center there.
For the time being parishioners can be comforted in knowing that the memory of their school, now etched in a blue steel marker for all to see, will not be forgotten.

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