RIGHT REV. CHARLES HENRY COLTON, D.D., Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, before coming to his present field of labors was for many years pastor of St. Stephen's Church, in New York City. Bishop Colton is an earnest, devoted servant of the Church of Christ, centering his powers and purposes in the fulfillment of the duties of his consecrated office, and knowing no ambition apart from the faithful discharge of the sacred trust reposed in him.
Bishop Colton is of Irish lineage, and both on the father's and mother's side comes of devout Catholic ancestry distinguished by not a few names eminent in the service of the Church. His father, Patrick Smith Colton, was the son of John Colton and Mary Smith, and was born about 1818, near Omagh, the county seat of Tyrone. When eleven years old he came to this country with his parents, the family settling in York, Pa. Later he went to Baltimore, Md., where he was engaged in business for a number of years and was an active Catholic layman. In 1845 he removed to New York City, where he opened a locksmith's shop, which he conducted many years, later forming a copartnership in the builders' hardware business, under the firm style of Colton & Mullen.
February 2, 1846, Mr. Colton married Theresa Augusta Mullen, who was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Mullen, and was born in Donegal, Ireland, July 25, 1824. The marriage was blessed with nine children, of whom six are living. The Rev. John Smith Colton, now deceased, eldest brother of Bishop Colton, was a priest of sainted life. Thomas J. Colton, the younger brother of the Bishop, is a successful business man of New York City. Bishop Colton has four sisters, Mary Teresa, now Mrs. Pentz of New York; Margaret, now Mrs.' James M. Bingham of New York; Josephine, unmarried, and Agnes, now the wife of William E. Doherty of Brooklyn. The death of Patrick Smith Colton occurred in August 1876, and his wife died April 6, 1891. Their lives exemplified consistent usefulness chastened and elevated by fervent religious faith.
Charles Henry Colton was born in New York City, October 15, 1848. In Bishop Colton's boyhood New York had few parish schools, and he began his studies at Public School No. 5. Later he attended two other public schools, and became a pupil of the Sunday School of St. Stephen's Church. When about fourteen years old he left school and took a position as cash boy with the dry goods firm of Arnold, Constable & Co., where he remained eighteen months, then finding a place with the Central Express Company. With this company and the Merchants Union Exchange, he continued five years. During this period he pursued his studies, attending the Latin School of St. Stephen's. In 1869 he entered St. Francis Xavier College, where he studied three years. In September, 1872, he became a student in St. Joseph's Theological Seminary at Troy, N. Y., where he was ordained a priest on the 10th of June, 1876.
After Father Colton's ordination, at the request of the Kev. Dr. Edward McGlynn, then rector of St. Stephen's Church, New York, he was appointed assistant pastor of that parish. He applied himself to his work with energy, giving his best support to Dr. McGlynn's labors, and in the course of ten years was advanced to the place of first assistant pastor. Besides the regular duties of the church, in all of which he shared, Father Colton for thirteen years did chaplain's duty at Bellevue Hospital. He continued his ministrations at St. Stephen's from June 27, 1876, till the latter part of 1886, when he was assigned to the pastorate of the Church of Our Lady of Mercy at Port Chester, N. Y. In January, 1887, he was recalled to St. Stephen's to assist the Rev. Arthur Donnelly, then temporarily in charge. A few days afterward Father Colton was appointed administrator, and some months later, by appointment of Archbishop Corrigan, he became rector, succeeding Dr. McGlynn. At the time when leather Colton took charge of St. Stephen's, the parish debt was $152,000, and the church had no parish school. During his pastorate the debt was lifted from the church and the rectory, and a school-house was built at a cost, including the site, of $185,000. Two residence buildings were bought for the Sisters at a cost of $20,000 each. From $7,000 to $10,000 annually was expended in maintenance of the school and the payment of salaries. The church property was kept in repair and improved. At the close of Father Colton's ministrations two-thirds of the cost of the schools and Sisters' home had been paid, and all the rest of his debts extinguished. To aid in drawing young people into the church work, social features were introduced. Evening classes were established, and much good was accomplished by the organization known as The Young Men's Club. By 1894 St. Stephen's was free of debt, and the church was consecrated on December 30th of that year, with all the attendant ceremonies carried out in full. There were present. Archbishop Corrigan, five other Bishops, and 150 Priests. One of the most important institutions of the parish is the parochial school, which has 1,200 pupils and 29 instructors. A valuable practical charity, the Presentation Day Nursery, was also established. Several church sodalities were founded. The golden jubilee of St. Stephen's was held in 1899, and on June 10, 1901, was observed the twenty-fifth anniversary of Father Colton's ordination, by the presentation of an address by the parishioners’ and a purse of $8,000.
When Archbishop Quigley, then Third Bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo, was appointed Metropolitan of Chicago, the usual steps were taken for the selaction of his successor. The choice fell upon Father Colton, the bulls being issued to him May 20, 1903, and his consecration taking place in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, on July 25, of the same year. Under Bishop Colton's ministrations the spiritual edifice of the Diocese of Buffalo has continued to be steadily and firmly reared on the broad foundations laid by his predecessors. At the present time, 1907, and four years after his coming- to Buffalo, 30 new parishes have been opened in the city and through the diocese, and the secular clergy have increased by 40, or 210 in all. Bishop Colton is a hard worker and a man of systematic methods. Though not an ascetic, he lives plainly. It has fallen to him to disburse large sums, and he is a sound economist in financial matters. His interest in his flock extends to their material concerns, and he encourages thrift. He is a man of scholarly tastes and acquirements, studying with a view to thoroughness and mastering the books he reads, at the pulpit he is earnest, convincing, not aiming for oratorical eloquence, but often attaining it by the force of sincerity and directness. In manner he is courteous, kindly and easy of approach. He is thoroughly American in his patriotism, placing love of country high in the scale of the virtues.
He is the author of two books, written since his advent to Buffalo, namely, “Seedlings," a book of pious thoughts and reflections, and “Trip to Rome and the Holy Land," which gives his personal experiences of the time he spent in both places and along the route when making his visit at ad limina in 1904.
SOURCE: Memorial and Family History of Erie County New York; Volume I