HISTORY OF HERKIMER LODGE, NO. 423, F. and A.M.
By William C. Prescott, 1923
Having been appointed Historian of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, F. & A.M., by our W.M. Bro. George J. Sluyter, I have been called upon to continue the history of the Lodge down to the occasion of the dedication of its beautiful Temple under the direction of Most Worshipful Arthur S. Tompkins, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, on the 26th day of October, 1923.
The History of Free Masonry in Herkimer County was given by a Past Master of this Lodge, W. Bro. Edward G. Davis, in an address delivered by him before the Herkimer County Historical Society on June 13th, 1903. This excellent address has been printed and may be found in volume three of the papers published by The Herkimer County Historical Society. Brother Davis evidently spent a great deal of time and research in preparing this paper, for it not only treats of the subject of Free Masonry in general, but it gives the history of every Masonic Lodge in Herkimer County.
Fifteen years later, on June 29, 1918, when the cornerstone of this Temple was laid, R.W. Bro. Irving R. Devendorf, then and now a Trustee of this Lodge, and then and now a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, gave a history of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, F. & A.M. I have incorporated in this History many of the facts given by Bro. Devendorf in his excellent paper.
Amicable Lodge, No. 36, was the predecessor of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423. Its Charter was granted in 1794 and it continued to hold meetings until its Charter was surrendered in 1834. The Secretary's book containing the minutes of its meetings is in the possession of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, and, it is needless to say, is highly prized.
The Charter of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, was granted on the 20th day of June, 1857. The following are the names of the Charter Members: Robert Earl, Ezra Graves, C.A. Burton, J. Addy, H.H. Lewis, J.G. Bellinger, C.H. Batchelder, William Hilts, J. Clark, H.H. Morgan, William H. Harter, E. Taylor and J.P. Rice.
The Lodge held its meetings in the third story of the brick block on the north west corner of Main and Albany streets until the year 1881. Brother Dr. George Graves has recently presented to this lodge the original lease to the Lodge of the rooms occupied by it on its organization in 1857. It is dated February 19, 1857, and was executed by Charles Spinner, John D. Spinner and others, heirs of Christian F. Spinner, deceased, and leases "the upper story of the store of the late C.F. Spinner, deceased, known as concert hall" for the term of three years, commencing April 1, 1857, at the rental of fifty dollars per year. With the right to the Lodge "to change, improve and fit up the same for a suitable and proper room for a Masonic Lodge room in such manner as they may deem to their interest, comfort and convenience."
November 1, 1881, rooms were rented in the third story of the Henderson & Devendorf block on the easterly side of Main St. At that time the Lodge had about one hundred members.
In 1897, the Lodge leased rooms in the Earl Block on the westerly side of North Main street. The rooms were dedicated May 13, 1897.
May 29, 1903, the Lodge purchased a lot on the easterly side of North Main street, formerly owned by Ezra Graves, one of the Charter Members, and in the years 1903 and 1904 erected on said lot a Masonic Temple. On October 10, 1903, the corner stone of that Temple was laid. The first meeting was held November 15, 1904, and the Temple was dedicated June 23, 1906. The membership in the Lodge at that time was 154.
February 9, 1917, a disastrous fire occurred in Herkimer which destroyed the Temple and all its furnishings and many valuable records. After this fire the Lodge held its meetings in the rooms it formerly occupied in the Earl Block on the west side of Main Street.
Immediate steps were taken to erect a new Temple, and a lot on the westerly side of North Main street, formerly owned by Bro. Abram B. Steele, was purchased May 10, 1917. A Building Committee was appointed of which W. Bro. W.W. Helligas was Chairman. Plans for the new Temple were prepared by Bro. Ross E. Sluyter and the contract to build the new Temple was let to Bros. William Lyon and Roy S. Lyon.
The corner stone of the new buildng was laid on the 20th (29th?) day of June, 1918, by M.W. John W. Vrooman, assisted by M.W. William S. Farmer, then Grand Master of Masons of the State of New York, and by M.W. Bro. Charles Smith, Past Grand Master. Bro. Vrooman officiated at the request of Grand Master Farmer.
The hope expressed by Bro. Devendorf in his paper that the new Temple would be "a monument not only to this Lodge but the the Craft generally, and that henceforth upon this site and within the walls of this building, so admirably located, the Lodge will increase in numbers and its good work continue," has been fully realized. Its membership has been increased by nearly one hundred, being now 438.
The first meeting in the new Temple was held April 22, 1919. Its membership was then 341.
The architect, W. Bro. Ross E. Sluyter, has kindly furnished the following description of our new Temple:
It is probable that a pipe organ will be installed in the near future for Bro. T. Palmer Griswold, by his will has generously given to the Lodge the sum of $2,500 to be used for that purpose.
The lot, building and furnishings cost, as shown by the report of the Trustees of the Lodge, $67,400. Every member of Herkimer Lodge is a member of the Masonic Club and is entitled to all of its priviliges (sic).
It is with pardonable pride that we place upon record mention of some members of our Lodge who have been prominent in fraternal, civil and religious affairs. The Lodge register contains the names of 733 members. Lack of time and space prevents special mention of all Brethren who have been prominent in public affairs but we will mention a few taken from the Lodge Register, giving each Brother the Lodge number given him when he became a member.
No. 1. - Ezra Graves, a Charter Member of the Lodge and its first Worshipful Master. For many years County Judge and
Surrogate of Herkimer County, member of the Constitutional Convention of 1867, State Prison Inspector.
It may be of interest to add that it was largely through his earnest efforts that the Masonic Home was located at Utica by the initial purchase of one hundred and sixty-five acres of land and he laid the corner stone of the Home in May, 1891.
Brother Vrooman served as Clerk of the Surrogate's Court of Herkimer County for ten years; Deputy Clerk of the Assembly two years; Clerk of the New York State Senate ten years, and about the same time as Secretary of the Republican State Committee. He is a Civi War Veteran and has been for a number of years on the staff of the State Department Commander and the National Department Commander Grand Army of the Republic. He is Honorary Life President of the Mohawk Valley Historic Association; President of the Herkimer County Historical Society; President of the Mohawk Valley Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, and the oldest ex-president of the Holland Society of New York.
No. 87. - Warner Miller, Member of Assembly, Representative in Congress and United States Senator.
If time and space permitted I would be glad to record also the names of our members who faithfully served in the Civil War, the Spanish War and the World War. Our Lodge records contain the names of two Colonels, one Major, two Captains, five Lieutenants and thirteen Privates who served in the Civil War; ten members who served in the Spanish War and the names of twenty-four members who served in the World War. The names of the latter are given in Bro. Devendorf's paper.
The oldest living member of the Lodge, in years, but not in membership, is Bro. Jackson Smith, who will be ninety-seven years old next February.
The oldest in membership is R.W. Bro. John C. Graves, who became a member August 20, 1861, 62 years ago. He is now an Honorary member of the Lodge.
M.W. Bro. John W. Vrooman became a member November 2, 1865, and has been an active member of the Lodge nearly fifty-eight years.
Funeral services for several of our deceased Brothers have been held in this Temple.
Since it has been located in the new Temple, Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, F. & A.M., has contributed generously to many worthy objects. $1,680 has been given to the Soldiers' & Sailors Memorial Hospital in Utica; $35.00 has been given for the Veterans' Mountain Home at Tupper Lake, and $1.040.00 for the new Herkimer Memorial Hospital. A number of books have been given for the library at Pine Crest Sanitorium. Moneys have also been given for the Old Ladies' Home at Mohawk, for the children's milk fund of the Herkimer schools and for the care of two "Buddies" at the Y.M.C.A. Camp at Fourth Lake. A liberal contribution has recently been made to The George Washington Masonic Memorial Fund at Washington.
It is a matter worthy of record that at a Special Communication to be held November 13, 1923, Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, F. & A.M., will present to each of its living Past Masters a suitable remembrance.
In behalf of the Officers and Members of Herkimer Lodge, No. 423, F. & A.M., I wish to thank M.W. Bro. Thompkins for favoring us with his presence and assistance at the dedication of our Temple.
I have annexed hereto the names of all of the Past Masters of this Lodge with the dates of their service, also the names of all the officers of the Lodge for the year 1923.
WILLIAM C. PRESCOTT,
OFFICERS FOR 1923
IRVING R. DEVENDORF
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