Early History of Sprig Lodge, No. 279

Norway and Newport, New York

From: Norway Tidings, Vol. 2, No. 11, November 1888

This primary source material comes from the compilation of issues of Norway Tidings, reprinted in 1987 by the Kuyahoora Historical Society. Norway Tidings was a subscription newspaper of history and current events published between January 1887 and December 1890.

"A lodge of Free Masons was organized in town in the year 1817. The following record kindly sent us by John W. Vrooman, of Herkimer, contains all the information concerning the Norway society that can be obtained at headquarters."

"June 5th, warrant issued to Stephen Babbitt, Thomas Manley and Josiah Smith to hold a Lodge at Norway, in the county of Herkimer, by the name of Sprig Lodge, No. 279"

"June 9th, 1820, Grand Lodge granted permission to Sprig Lodge, No. 279, to change the place of its meetings from the town of Norway in the county of Herkimer, to the town of Newport, in the same county."

"June 23, 1823, Livingston Billings represented Spring Lodge, No. 279, in annual session of Grand Lodge."

"June 2d, 1884 (misprint?), Peter H. Warren, proxy, represented Spring Lodge, No. 279, in annual session of Grand Lodge."

"The following named brethren were reported to Grand Lodge as member of Sprig Lodge, with the date of their admission:"

1818 -

Ira Coe
Marshall Giles
James Norton
Eleazer Giles
Jared Smith
Wilbur Rathbun
Josiah Smith
Shadrack Vincent
Pard. Tillinghast
Thomas Manley
Mitchell Hinman
Rufus Morse
Jesse Paine
Caleb Sheldon, Jr.
Jacob L. Sherwood
Alex S. Gurney
Arnold Willoughby
Hezk. B. Rounds

1819 -

William Frame
John Rogers

1821 -

Sterry Hawkins
Ephraim S. Lamb
Wise Chittenden
David Porter
Israel Weller
Henry Edmunds

"We have no record when this lodge ceased to exist."

The editors go on to state that "the above official record from the Grand Secretary we give as received." Spring Lodge was installed in Norway on January 21, 1818, the sermon being delivered by Rev. Daniel McDonald, Principal of Fairfield Academy as well as the first Rector of Grace Episcopal Church of Norway. Quite a few members were residents of Newport. Lodge meetings were held in an upper room at Josiah Smith's tavern. The editors speculated that local opposition may have accounted for the Lodge's early removal to Newport. Other prominent Norway citizens who were early members included:

Daniel C. Henderson
Azel Carpenter
William Forsyth
Wm. Reynolds (not certain)
Benjamin Nichols (not certain)

Various issues of Norway Tidings cover the extensive political and religious discussion of Freemasonry and anti-Masonic sentiment sweeping through New York State in the early 19th century. "During this agitation and excitement some Masons left the order, lodges were disorganized and discontinued, and the "Craft" for a time became unpopular."

Bill McKerrow has advised us that "Sprig Lodge, No 279, F. & A. M. was organized in 1818 and held its meetings in Norway until July 19, 1820, where meetings were held in Newport village in the third story of the hotel now kept by S.S. Bowen. June 24, 1826, the name was changed to Newport Lodge. June 5, 1834, the charter was surrendered. The Lodge was revived May 21, 1858, and number 455 given it. It was incorporated in July, 1887, and purchased a building in Main street which it occupied until February 7th, 1903, when the Temple which it now occupies was completed. On page 225, A Glimpse in Passing updates the History of Newport Lodge #455, F. & A. M. My grandfather Alexander R. McKerrow (a 50 year member) was raised a Master Mason in this Lodge on May 24, 1904. I was raised a Master Mason in this Lodge on Feb 9th, 1955. "

Bill is preparing more information about the early membership of Newport Lodge, No. 455. His current project is a listing of lodge officers for the years 1858 through 1997. Jane Dieffenbacher, Fairfield Town Historian, has written about Fairfield's local lodge, Aurora Lodge, No. 52, in her new book This Green and Pleasant Land.

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Last Updated: 5/14/97
Text Copyright© 1987 The Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society
Copyright ©1997 Bill McKerrow
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