HISTORY OF FREE MASONRY IN HERKIMER COUNTY
AN ADDRESS BY EDWARD G. DAVIS OF HERKIMER
Delivered Before the Herkimer County Historical Society June 13, 1903
Source: "Papers Read Before the Herkimer County Historical Society Covering the Period From September 1902 to May
1914 Vol. Three"
The subject of Freemasonry is so broad and interesting that I cannot refrain from giving you a little general history before entering upon the subject of Freemasonry pertaining alone to Herkimer County.
All members of the craft have been taught to believe that the Ancient and Honorable body known as Free and Accepted Masons has existed since the building of King Solomon's Temple. We have been taught how and where lodge meetings were held in those early days, and, as civilization followed the rising sun ever westward, Freemasonry has followed, assisting by its pure principles to teach men to aid and protect each other.
No doubt many of you have questioned how it is that this ancient craft has stood the "lapse of time, the ruthless hand of ignorance and the devastation of war." Let me for a moment call your attention to some of its fundamental principles.
First and foremost, it is founded on the Holy Bible. It urges upon each of its members that he faithfully direct his steps through life by the light he there shall find. And so long as the thousands of lodges exist, so long will the thousands of Holy Bibles be preserved as one of the silent but powerful witnesses why this institution lives, moves and has its being. It believes in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man.
It stands becaused it teaches "Faith in God, hope in immortality, charity to all mankind."
It stands because it teaches "Duty to God, to your neighbor and yourself."
These are some of the eternal principles that are vital to its very existence and which will ever be guarded and defended by every Freemason as he would guard and defend his life. It exists in every land because it helps the needy, buries the dead, educates the orphan, cares for and gladdens the hearts of the old, and gives new inspiration to the honorable purposes of the young.
King Frederick of Prussia once wrote these words: "A society which enjoys itself only in sowing the seed and bringing forth the fruit of every kind of virtue in my dominions, may always be assured of my protection."
I quote an extract from the address of Hon. DeWitt Clinton, Past Grand Master of this state, at the installation of Stephen Van Rensselaer. He said, "Although the origin of our Fraternity is covered with darkness, and its history is to a great extent obscure, yet we can confidently say that it is the most ancient society in the world; and we are equally certain that its principles are based on pure morality, that its ethics are the ethics of Christianity; its doctrines the doctrines of patriotism and brotherly love, and its sentiments the sentiments of exalted benevolence.
Upon these points there can be no doubt. All that is good and kind and charitable, it encourages; all that is vicious and cruel and oppressive, it reprobates. That charity which is described in the most masterly manner, by the eloquent Apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians, composes its very essence, and enters into its vital principles."
The celebrated philosopher, John Locke, was much struck with a manuscript of Henry VI, King of England, in which this question was asked: "Are Masons better than others?" It was answered in this manner: "Some Masons are not so virtuous as some other men; but in general they are better than they would have been if they had not been Masons." This is unquestionably correct.
George Washington, our first president, said, "The object of Freemasonry is to promote the happiness of the human race."
Theodore Roosevelt, our present president, said, "One of the things that attracted me so greatly to masonry that I hailed the chance of becoming a mason, was that it really did act up to what we, as a government and as a people, are pledged to -- of treating each man on his merits as a man."
Now it is easy for us to understand why the greatest and best men of all ages have never deemed it beneath their dignity to unite with this order.
Washington, Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Vice President, Daniel D. Tompkins, DeWitt Clinton, and Genl. Warren who fell at Bunker Hill, were all Past Grand Masters, and nearly all of the generals in Washington's army were masons, as well as many of our presidents, vice presidents and governors. It is also very interesting to note that fifty-two out of the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence were masons.
Free masons! Free country! Not so strange; the principle taught in every lodge that all men are created equal, no doubt had its influence in prompting the spirit of independence and equality in the hearts of these great men, and the Declaration of Independence was a natural consequence of this immortal doctrine.
Therefore we find that our English and German ancestors were practicing Freemasonry long before coming to this fair land of ours, and as soon as they could, held meetings in this country, but not until the year 1730 did they deem it necessary to organize a body to be known as the Grand Lodge of the Provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
History informs us that one Bro. David Coxe, of New Jersey with several other brethren, made application to the Duke of Atholl, then Grand Master of England, to have Bro. Coxe appointed Grand Master of said Provinces. The application was formally granted under the seal of office at London June 5th, 1730.
Bro. Coxe held his office as Provincial Grand Master of the three provinces of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania until the year 1737, when on November 15th, 1737, Captain Richard Riggs was made Provincial Grand Master of New York. He held the office until some time during the year 1751 when Francis Goelet was appointed. Bro. Goelet served two years and on June 9th, 1753, he publicly installed George Harrison as his successor.
Of the official acts of Bros. Coxe, Riggs and Goelet we have scarcely any record. Bro. George Harrison served as Provincial Grand Master for eighteen years and the records show that he was a very zealous and industrious laborer with the craft. During his administration several lodges were formed, one of which is St. Patricks No. 4 of Johnstown, charter granted May 23, 1766.
Sir John Johnson succeeded George Harrison as Provincial Grand Master, but owing to his adherence to the royal cause we have but few records of his official acts. In fact we find no record of the Provincial Grand Lodge under his administration after 1776. Probably no meetings were held owing to war and his absence. Nearly all the Provincial Lodges ceased to exist.
About this time several Military Lodges were formed but the records of most of them are lost.
While the army had its headquarters on the Hudson, Washington ordered a hall to be built which was to serve as a lodge room for the military members of the craft, and when the building was finished it was joyously dedicated and called the "Temple of Virtue."
In 1781 the army lodges of the city of New York took steps to form a Provincial Grand Lodge in that city. The Rev. William Walter, an Episcopal clergyman, was elected Grand Master. He continued until September 19, 1783, when about to leave the city, resigned his office and Bro. William Cock was installed Grand Master.
From this date, therefore, dates the independent existence of the Grand Lodge of the Province of New York.
In regard to Masonic History in Herkimer County, it will be necessary to make a statement as to the size of the county at its formation, for many warrants were granted to hold lodges in Herkimer County that are now situated in other counties.
Herkimer County was erected or set off from Montgomery County, formerly Tryon, on the 16th day of February, 1791. It embraced all of that portion of the state lying west of Montgomergy County, except the counties of Otsego and Tioga which were erected at the same time and extended to the eastern boundaries of Ontario County, and covered all the territory bounded on the north by Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the north bounds of the state; easterly by Clinton, Washington and Saratoga as they then were; southerly by Montgomery, Otsego and Tioga.
Onondaga was set off from Herkimer in 1794, and Oneida in 1798.
There are now eleven counties and parts of two others, embraced in the territory first set off as Herkimer.
AMICABLE LODGE NO. 22.
On June 6, 1792, a petition was sent to the Grand Lodge then in session, for a warrant to hold a lodge in Herkimer County, and was signed by William Colbreath, John Post and Michael Myers in behalf of a number of brethren, praying that a warrant be issued for erecting and holding a lodge in Herkimer County by the name of Amicable Lodge. John I. Morgan was to be Master, John Post, Senior Warden and Michael Myers, Junior Warden.
The petition was granted and warrant issued. The lodge number was 22. Meetings were held in Whitestown and Old Ft. Schuyler. At the time of its formation this lodge had nineteen members.
The first returns to the Grand Lodge shows that they initiated twenty-five men from the 27th day of July, 1792 to the 3rd day of July, 1793. This lodge was prominent among the lodges of the county until about 1830. The records in Grand Lodge do not show when the charter was surrendered.
AMICABLE LODGE NO. 36.
On the first day of January, 1794, at a meeting of Amicable Lodge held at their lodge room in Old Fort Schuyler, it was moved by Bro. Gaylord Griswold and seconded by Bro. Thos. R. Gould (I quote from a letter sent to Grand Lodge) that a separation was wished from this lodge by the members from German Flatts and its vicinity, stating the distance was too great for them to attend this lodge, and after mature deliberation their request was unanimously granted. "We therefore recommend them to the Grand Lodge of this state as members worthy your attention."
Signed, John Post, Master. Michael Myers, Senior Warden and Oliver Collins, Junior Warden.
Dated February 5, 1794 at Lodge Room, Old Fort Schuyler.
The petition sent to the Grand Lodge was as follows:
"To the Right Worshipful Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, Wardens and Brethren of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York.
"The humble petition of the subscribers sheweth; that your petitioners are mostly members of Amicable Lodge of Free Masons held at Old Fort Schuyler in the County of Herkimer, but that their distance from that place renders it inconvenient for them to attend punctually (as they wish to do) they therefore moved for a separation, which was granted.
Your petitioners therefore pray that a Charter may be granted to them, by the name of Amicable Lodge number two or any other name which the Right Worshipful Lodge may think proper; and we will on all occasions endeavor to conduct, agreeable to the laws and constitution of Masonry. And we beg leave to recommend the Hon. Michael Myers as Master. John Roorbach, Senior Warden and Uriel Wright, Junior Warden."
Signed by eleven brethren.
It also states that they wished to hold their first meeting at the house of Bro. Captain John Gilbert.
The charter was granted and officers appointed in compliance with the petition, on April 6th, 1794, and the lodge was called "Amicable Lodge No. 36."
The secretarys book containing the minutes kept of the meetings is now in possession of Herkimer Lodge.
For some unknown reason the pages containing the records of the proceedings for the first four years have been partially destroyed.
The first meeting of which we have a complete record was held July 14, 1798.
Bro. Uriel Wright was then Master; D. Waldo, Senior Warden and John Herkimer, Junior Warden.
The meetings were held once a month at the house of some one of the members. Sometimes in Little Falls, German Flatts and Herkimer. They frequently met in the afternoon and would arrange to confer two degrees, one in the afternoon and one in the evening, taking an intermission of thirty minutes when they would partake of a lunch of crackers and cheese.
The expenses of each meeting were paid before closing and the balance, if any, was then turned over to the treasurer.
The following names appear quite frequently in the records. Myers, Herkimer, Devendorf, Clarke, Wharry, Fox, Fish, Griswold, Alexander, Feeter and Kelsey.
In the minutes of the meeting held January 6th, 1800, Bros. Joseph Herkimer, Eben Britton, Sanford Clark and Evans Wharry were appointed a committee to prepare an address upon the death of Bro. George Washington. It was ordered that those resolutions be printed in the Albany papers at the expense of the lodge.
It was resolved that the members of the lodge should wear crape on the left arm and that the Masters chair be shrouded in black for a period of three months.
Our brothers of those early days were very strict adherents to the customs of the ancient order. They always observed St. Johns day, usually having a sermon or an address appropriate for the occasion. A collection was always taken for the benefit of the poor.
In looking over the old records it is quite interesting to note the apparent fraternal feeling that existed. Good cheer and brotherly love manifested. If disputes or differences occurred among the members about lodge or business matters a committee would be appointed which, after hearing both sides, would render its decision, and I have not read of a case where the least dissatisfaction was ever expressed.
The members were frequently summoned to attend the regular meetings or give a reasonable excuse for non-attendance.
There seems to have been a chapter also in this county.
In the minutes of the meeting held September 3rd, 1810, the following resolution was passed: "Resolved that a committee of three be appointed to join a committee of five appointed by the Royal Arch Chapter to confer with Bro. Benj. Kelsey on the subject of renting a room for the two lodges."
I am unable to find any further mention of it.
The lodge from all appearances, was in a very prosperous condition for many years. It increased in numbers quite rapidly. In 1816 the return to the Grand Lodge shows that it had sixty-one members. It was regularly represented in Grand Lodge until the year 1834 when its Charter was surrendered.
AURORA LODGE NO. 52.
On the 7th day of September, 1796, the following petition was received and read in Grand Lodge, then in session. (I again quote from original papers).
"To the Right Worshipful Master, Wardens and Members of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.
The humble petition of the subscribers, Brethren in Masonry residing in the towns of Fairfield and Norway, County of Herkimer, Most humbly and respectfully sheweth: That petitioners in general reside from 10 to 16 miles distant from the nighest viz. Amicable Lodge No. 36 of which most of your petitioners are at present members. That from the badness of the roads, the great distance and consequent difficulties of attending said lodge we find it impossible to pay that attention to the craft which their duty and warmest inclinations require. That petitioners from a heartfelt zeal and the most sincere regard for the propogation and welfare of Masonry and for the maintaining that social harmony and brotherly afffection which should ever distinguish masons from the rest of mankind are desirous of having a lodge established in a more convenient place when they may have it in their power to apply themselves to the business of masonry and to pay that attention thereto which the dignity and honor of the craft requires.
That petitioners therefore most humbly solicit their Brethren of the Grand Lodge to grant them a warrant to hold a lodge in the town of Fairfield, County of Herkimer, to be distinguished by the name of Aurora Lodge and that they will constitute Bro. William Lappon, Master; Bro. William Satterlee, Senior Warden; Bro. David Underhill, Junior Warden of the same."
Signed by twenty-one of the Brethren.
The following letter of recommendation signed by Bro. Michael Myers accompanied the petition.
"To the Master, Wardens and Brethren of the Grand Lodge:
This is to certify that we, the Master, Wardens and Secretary of Amicable Lodge No. 36 are thoroughly acquainted with the said petitioning Brethren, a number of them being at present members of our lodge and the rest having at sundry times visited the same. That we know them to be worthy and respectable characters in private life and as masons useful and ornamental. That from their great esteem for the craft and from the local inconveniences under which they labor as stated in their petition, we are solicitous that their prayer be granted."
A warrant was issued November 4th, 1796, and the lodge was numbered 52.
On the 5th day of January, 1797, Jedediah Sanger, Master of Amicable Lodge No. 22, was commissioned by the Grand Lodge to install the officers named in the petition. He accordingly summoned them to assemble at the lodge rooms of Amicable Lodge No. 36 where, as he says in his letter to the Grand Master, "I proceeded agreeable to the ancient rules and customs of the craft."
On June 23, 1819 Aurora Lodge sent a petition to the Grand Lodge asking permission to change its place of meeting from Fairfield to the town of Salisbury. The request was granted September 1, 1819. Here they stayed until their Charter was forfeited in June, 1838.
STEUBEN LODGE NO. 54
On December 7, 1796, a petition was sent to the Grand Lodge asking for a warrant to erect and hold a lodge in the town of Steuben, County of Herkimer, by the name of Steuben Lodge.
The petition was granted and a warrant issued December 29, 1796, and the lodge received No. 54.
I have been able to procure but little information regarding this lodge. It was represented in Grand Lodge as late as March, 1811 for on that date they petitioned the Grand Lodge, praying for a total remission of their dues.
The Grand Secretary was directed to inform the lodge that upon payment of all dues from the 8th of January, 1806, to March, 1811, the Grand Lodge would remit all dues from Dec., 1796 to the first mentioned period. The register does not show when its charter was surrendered but I think it must have been between 1816 and 1820 because it is not mentioned in Grand Lodge proceedings at any later date.
WESTERN STAR LODGE NO. 59.
Auust 22, 1796, a petition was prepared and signed by James Kinne, Thos. Brown, Daniel Perkins, Ephraim Waldo and Joseph Farwell, members of Amicable Lodge No. 22 in Whitestown, and several brothers belonging to other lodges, asking permission to erect and hold a lodge in Sangerfield, Herkimer County, by the name of Western Star Lodge, naming as officers, James Kinne, Master; Thos. Brown, Senior Warden and Daniel Perkins, Junior Warden.
The petition was not received and read in Grand Lodge until January 18, 1797. It was recommenced by John I. Morgan, Past Master, and Jedediah Sanger, Master of Amicable Lodge No. 22.
The petition was granted and the lodge numbered 59.
The officers named in the petition were duly installed by the officers of Amicable Lodge No. 22. Jedediah Sanger, Master. In a letter to the Grand Lodge the secretary says: "On the first day of June, 1797, Western Star Lodge opened in due form at the house of Ephraim Waldo in Bridgewater, formerly Sangerfield, and proceeded to elect the remaining necessary officers."
At the annual meeting held in December the following Bros. were elected, Thos. Brown, Master; Daniel Perkins, Senior Warden and Levi Carpenter, Junior Warden. They were duly installed February 5, 1798 by James Kinne, Past Master.
This lodge continued in Bridgewater until its charter was surrendered, of which we have no official record.
WARREN LODGE NO. 155
On February _, 1807, a petition was presented to Amicable Lodge No. 36 by Bro. Rufus Crane and others from the towns of Warren and Litchfield, for their approval and praying the Grand Lodge to issue a warrant for a new lodge to be held in the town of Warren, to be called Warren Lodge, for the better accommodation of the brethren in that vicinity. Motion was made and seconded that the request be unanimously approved of by this lodge.
A warrant was issued March 4, 1807, and the lodges number was 155.
The information relative to the lodge is very meagre. It paid its Grand Lodge dues up to 1818, then for about three years it was reported at Grand Lodge as being in arrears, and I think ceased to work about this time.
OLIVE BRANCH LODGE NO. 221
The earliest record of Olive Branch Lodge No. 221, is in a form of a petition signed by Roswell Holcomb, Timothy Snow, Jonathan Butler, Theron Plumb, Daniel Aylesworth, Curtiss F. Ross, Joseph Dieffendorf, Stephen Frank, Edward Mott, Truman Merry and directed to the Worshipful Master DeWitt Clinton, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, praying for a warrant empowering them to form a lodge at Cranes Corners in the town of Litchfield, County of Herkimer, N. Y., to be named Olive Branch Lodge and nominating Bro. Homon Bush to be Master; Bro. Ralph Merry to be Senior Warden and Bro. Stephen Dow, Junior Warden. The petition was received by the Grand Lodge March 4, 1812, on the 10th day of June of the same year a charter was granted.
I will now quote from the minutes: "The first recorded meeting of the lodge was held July 16, 1812."
"Pursuant to a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, and a warrant authorizing our brother Simeon Ford, Worshipful Deputy Grand Master, to install a lodge in the Town of Litchfield by the name of Olive Branch Lodge.
The lodge assembled this day at the house of Widow Crane. The lodge was duly opened by the Grand Master and his Grand Wardens after which they moved in solemn procession to the church under the direction of Bro. John I. Pendergrast, Grand Marshall, where an excellent and appropriate discourse was delivered by Bro. Eber Cowles. The Deputy Grand Master then installed the officers.
The procession reformed and marched back to the house of the Widow Crane where the lodge was closed."
Then they repaired to a bower where they partook of a repast provided by Bro. Ralph Merry where good fellowship reigned, and which was recorded in the quaint words of the first secretary as follows: "As unity, peace and harmony are the characteristics of real masons it is useless to mention how the company returned, only to say that they retired at an early hour. Thus concluded the first communication of this lodge."
Until nearly the close of the year 1820 the lodge meetings were held at different houses in the town.
On December 19, 1820, they petitioned the Grand Lodge to move to Frankfort. The permission for removal was granted.
On October 19, 1821, it was voted to remove the lodge to the house of Peter Bargy, Jr., in Frankfort. We notice in the record of one of the meetings that it was moved and carried that Bro. Douglass Saterlee provide a barrel of cider, a suitable quantity of crackers and one cheese.
It was the custom in the early part of the century to furnish refreshments, consisting of crackers, cheese and liquids at all regular meetings and collect a certain amount from each member present, except the Secretary and Tyler, which sum was to pay for the refreshments and other expenses. This practice was continued until by enactment of the Grand Lodge the introduction of intoxicating liquors within a Masonic lodge room or any room adjoining, was forever prohibited.
This lodge has always been noted for its charity and progressiveness.
In 1822 they appropriated the sum of $50 toward purchasing shares of stock in a public library.
In 1823 they voted the sum of fifteen dollars for the purpose of erecting a steeple, purchasing a bell and painting the Baptist meeting house in Schuyler.
In the year 1825 they built a two story wooden building or hall. The lodge occupying the second story and the first was for many years used as a school house, and was also used by the Universalist and Baptist societies for holding their religious services. The building was used by the fraternity until the year 1896 when it was removed to make place for a larger and more pretentious one.
In the afternoon of September 10, 1896, the corner stone of the present edifice was laid with impressive Masonic ceremonies by District Deputy Grand Master Joseph Duncan of Fort Plain. Bro. C. E. Miller, pastor of the M. E. Church made the prayer.
In 1827 the wave of anti masonry swept over the country. Olive Branch showed the effects of the feeling against Masonry. Through timidity, members withdrew until in 1843 the lodge numbered only fifteen. How strong public opinion was against masonry may be inferred from the fact that only one man was initiated from January 29, 1828, to January 10, 1844. Yet old Olive Branch pursued the even tenor of her way, electing her officers each and every year, and was the only lodge in the county that did not surrender its charter.
On June 15, 1815, a petition, signed by several bretheren, was read in Grand Lodge praying for a warrant to hold a lodge in the town of Schuyler, Herkimer County, to be called "Clinton Lodge." The petition was referred to the Grand officers and March 15, 1816, a charter was granted, and lodge numbered 258.
I have as yet very little information regarding the workings of the lodge. Permission was given this lodge in June, 1825 to move to Deerfield, Oneida County. Its warrant was surrendered in 1836.
In the "Norway Tidings", a paper published at Norway, Herkimer County, in 1888 by Fred Smith, you will find an account of the next lodge formed in this county.
On June 5, 1817, a warrant was issued to Stephen Babbitt, Thos. Manley and Josiah Smith to hold a lodge in Norway by the name of Sprig Lodge No. 279.
June 9, 1820, the Grand Lodge granted permission to Sprig Lodge to change its place of meeting from the town of Norway, Herkimer County, to the town of Newport, in the same county.
June 23, 1823, Livingston Billings represented Sprig Lodge in Grand Lodge, and Peter H. Warren in June, 1824. June 24, 1826 the name was changed to "Newport Lodge."
There were eighteen men initiated in the year 1818, two in 1819, and six in 1821.
Among the prominent members from Norway we find the names of Daniel C. Henderson, Azel Carpenter, and William Forsyth.
On January 21st, 1818, at the installation of the lodge, the Rev. Daniel McDonald, Principal of Fairfield Academy, delivered a sermon from this text: "Let us love not in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." The discourse was thought to be a masterly production and appropriate for the occasion. I copy an extract, "Be cautious in the examination of proposed members. An evil member is a diseased limb. Better prevent trouble and disgrace than be obliged to attempt a remedy. But when necessity bids, resolutely exercise the right of purging the society of disorderly members. Reject the branches which corrupt the parent stock.
A small society, but honorable, far excels a multitude that do evil.
Rev. McDonald was an Episcopal clergyman and the first rector of Grace Episcopal Church of Norway, organized in the year 1819. He was a man of marked ability and influence. The record does not say whether he was a Mason or not, but gentlemen, I believe he possessed all of the necessary qualifications.
The lodge continued in Newport until it surrendered its charter on June 5, 1834.
On June 7th, 1822, a petition was read in Grand Lodge, and duty certified to by Amicable Lodge, which was signed by thirteen brethren living in the town of Warren, Herkimer County, asking that a warrant be issued to them so that they might form a lodge and hold meetings in a regular and constitutional manner.
In the petition they requested that the lodge be named Evergreen, and they also nominated Guy D. Comstock to be Master; Jacob Marshall, Senior Warden and Enoch Judd, Junior Warden.
A warrant was granted them on June 13, 1822. They had no regular place of meeting, but held their meetings at the home of some of the members. I have no record of the work of the lodge, but I judge they were true and worthy brothers who tried to live up to their Masonic principles, for on October 25, 1825, the Secretary, Ralph R. Treadway, informed the Grand Lodge that at their regular communication held that day they had expelled one of their members, a resident of the town of Columbia, for intemperance.
The lodge ceased to exist and surrendered its charter in June, 1831.
LITTLE FALLS LODGE
On the 6th day of October, 1823, several of the Brethren residing in the village of Little Falls and vicinity, sent a petition to the Grand Lodge praying for letters of dispensation to empower them to assemble as a legal lodge.
In the petition they recommended and nominated Gould Wilson for Master, John Dygert, Senior Warden and John McKenster, Junior Warden. It was signed by eleven Brothers, among whom we notice the familiar names of Robt. Hinchman, Peter H. Bellinger, Job Waite, Wm. Girvan, D. Petrie and others.
The prayer of the request was recommended by Amicable Lodge and duly certified to by the Secretary under the seal of the lodge. Letters of dispensation were accordingly issued, and the lodge numbered 386, and in June, 1824, they received a warrant from the Grand Lodge.
In their report to the Grand Lodge made June 1, 1825, the lodge had thirty-six members.
In June, 1834, their warrant was declared forfeited by the Grand Lodge and was surrendered to the Grand Secretary in 1837.
ZION STAR LODGE.
At the same meeting of Grand Lodge June, 1824, and pursuant no doubt to a previous petition, a warrant was issued to Henry Brown as Master, Robt. Hall, Senior Warden and Adam Hawn, Junior Warden of a lodge to be called "Zion Star No. 388" to be held in the town of Danube, Herkimer County. This, I think, was the last warrant issued prior to the anti Masonic period in Herkimer County.
I have no record of the work of this lodge. Its life was comparatively short as the warrant was surrendered in 1835.
From 1827 to about 1850 but very little Masonic work was done in this county, as you have observed, all the lodges, save Olive Branch, forfeited or surrendered their charters.
The Morgan trouble, political and religious influence all combined had a very depressing effect upon the fraternity.
Popular writers and editors, powerful politicians and some of the ablest divines of the day were openly against the order. The feeling became so intense that families were nearly broken up, quarrels were indulged in among members of churches, and the political policy of the country was largely influenced. Right in this county the Norway Baptist Society disfellowshiped Masons.
We in this county and country were not alone in the feeling against the craft, for we read that our Holland ancestors were being persecuted in a like manner. In 1735 the Grand Master of Masons of Holland was ordered before the judicial courts of the country and compelled to state publicly, that he would never again attend a Masonic meeting. A further order of the court prohibited the assemblage of Masons. Nevertheless a lodge meeting was held in Rotterdam, speedily followed by a court summons and trial.
Through faith in the justice of their cause they refused to recant, and offered, by way of answer, to initiate one of the judges. The offer was accepted and the judge made a Mason. His report to the full bench was so favorable that each member of that court was initiated and became a zealous craftsman.
It seems strange to us in these days of freedom that public sentiment could have ever been aroused against such a law abiding, public spirited and charitable institution. Some of our grandfathers must have forgotten how, in 1793, the Grand Lodge assembled in New York and demonstrated their loyalty to the government by voting to invest all the money of the Grand Lodge, seven hundred dollars, in the funds of the United States.
They had forgotten how on August 22, 1814, the Grand Lodge was again assembled by order of that noble statesman and worthy Brother, DeWitt Clinton, then Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, and following his leadership all of the lodges in the city volunteered to perform one days labor on the fortifications then in process of construction to protect their own and their sister city. And how, two weeks later they again met pursuant to a resolution and performed one more days work to complete the fort. Their work must have been well and faithfully done as it resulted in one of the forts being named "Fort Masonic." The official record states that they "diligently labored" as operative masons and loyal men. With all their zeal and loyalty to government they did not forget to be charitable or the duty they owed to God, their neighbor and themselves. They quickly realized that one of the things needed to better perpetuate the young republic was education. So, at a communication of the Grand Lodge held December 1, 1808 a committee was appointed to devise a plan for the education of the children of indigent masons.
Without going into detail as to how the plan was perfected I will say this much: The lodges of the city were to pay into the funds of the Grand Lodge three hundred dollars annually, and this amount was placed in the school committee's hands, and each lodge had the privilege of sending two children to school and the committee looked after their welfare, by way of purchasing books and clothes when needed. It is interesting to follow this committee and read their reports as to the progress made by the children.
At the same time other committees were looking after and caring for the poor and distressed worthy Brother, widow and orphan, never forgetting one of the three principle tenents of our profession, that of relief. Following these worthy beginnings came the Morgan excitement already referred to and the grasping of this opportunity by unscrupulous politicians to raise the campaign cry, "A good enough Morgan until after election."
This caused "confusion in the craft" and the further advance of Free Masonry was retarded, indeed it seemed at an end.
But my friends, the mere handful of seed sown in our Masonic vineyard, while it seemed to have been scattered and well nigh lost, was brought again to life because God, wiser than man, never permits the seed of unselfish endeavor to die. It may lie dormant for a season but will surely sprout and grow.
The seed sown by our Masonic Fathers did lie dormant, practically from 1825 to 1850, when it again took root in the hearts of other noble workmen and has ever since been putting forth leaves and bearing good fruit.
This brings us to the time when a revival of masonry began in this county.
As previously stated, Olive Branch No. 40 was the only lodge in this county that did not surrender its charter during the anti-masonic period, we shall therefore consider and treat her as the parent lodge of those now in this county.
In 1839 the Grand Lodge renumbered all the lodges in this jurisdiction that were then in good standing. This accounts for Olive Branch now being number 40.
Little Falls, No. 181, was the first lodge to ask for a return of its old charter or to send in a request for a new one.
On July 30, 1849, a petition, signed by eight of the members of the original lodge was sent to the Grand Lodge asking that their old warrant be returned to them. The Grand Master advised them that owing to circumstances beyond his control he was prevented from returning the old warrant, but he issued a dispensation to them August 10, 1849, empowering them to meet as a regular lodge. And a charter was shortly thereafter granted.
All the signers of the petition are dead. The lodge now has two hundred and ten members in good standing. Frank F. Stacey is Master.
Brothers William H. Waters and Ivan T. Burney have represented this Masonic district in Grand Lodge as District Deputy Grand Master. And Macaiah Benedict for a number of years was Master and also received Grand Lodge appointment.
MOHAWK VALLEY LODGE NO. 276
In June, 1852, a petition, signed by several brethren and recommended by Olive Branch Lodge, was sent to Grand Lodge asking for a warrant for a lodge to be held in Mohawk to be called "Mohawk Valley Lodge."
The charter was granted in August, 1852, and lodge numbered 276. Nathan Whiting was made Master; Amos H. Prescott, Senior Warden and Joseph Strauss, Junior Warden.
The charter members are all dead.
The lodge is now in a very flourishing condition, having one hundred and forty members in good standing.
Frank C. Davis is Master, and Bro. J. D. Fitch a Past Master now has the honor of being District Deputy Grand Master of the Nineteenth Masonic District.
In 1901 and 1902, the lodge erected a temple which is a credit to the lodge and an honor to the fraternity.
On the 24th day of January, 1857, a petition asking for the forming of a new lodge in the village of Herkimer, county of Herkimer, State of New York, to be named "Herkimer Lodge" was signed by S. W. Stimson, Sr., J. C. Lawton, C. D. Lounsbery, B. F. Brooks, Ezra Graves, Jacob Spooner, Charles A. Burton, G. W. Tompson, R. Earl and H. H. Morgan.
This petition was presented to Hon. John L. Lewis, Jr., then Grand Master, who granted a dispensation on the 7th day of February, 1857, upon the hearty recommendation of Mohawk Valley Lodge No. 276, Hon. Amos H. Prescott being then its Worshipful Master, and the charter was given June 20th, 1857. It is interesting to note in this connection that Ezra Graves and Amos H. Prescott were Worshipful Masters of their respective lodges at the same time and I am informed exchanged numerous fraternal courtesies and that each of these distinguished Brothers honored their lodges and this county, by serving as County Judge and Surrogate each for the space of sixteen years.
The charter members were: Robert Earl, Ezra Graves, C. A. Burton, J. Addey, 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, all of whom are now dead.
Ezra Graves was the first Master, Charles A. Burton, Senior Warden and George W. Tompson, Junior Warden.
Brother J. G. Burrill, who is now living, has the distinction of being the oldest member of this lodge. He was initiated September 15, 1857.
Herkimer Lodge has been signally favored by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York.
Brother John C. Graves held positions in the Grand Lodge as Senior Grand Deacon, Grand Sword Bearer, District Deputy Grand Master, Commissioner of Appeals and Grand Lodge Representative.
Brother Clinton Chatfield was for years appointed Assistant Grand Lecturer.
Brothers William B. Howell and William I. Taber each served as District Deputy Grand Master.
William C. Prescott served as Grand Marshall.
Referring to the Masonic record of another member of this lodge I quote from an article that appeared some time ago in the "New York Tribune":
"John W. Vrooman was made a Mason at the age of twenty-one years, in Herkimer Lodge, No. 423 and served the lodge as Secretary, Senior Deacon, Senior Warden, Acting Master and as Worshipful Master for three years. He was appointed Senior Grand Deacon of the Grand Lodge by five successive Grand Masters, then elected Junior Grand Warden two years, Senior Grand Warden two years, and Deputy Grand Master four years. At the annual session of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York held in June 1889 he was elected by a unanimous vote Grand Master and in June 1890 he was unanimously re-elected, and also unanimously re-elected in June 1891. He declined to accept this re-election.
During each year of his official service as Grand Master he personally visited each Masonic District in the State which consumed of actual time more than four months and of railroad travel more than fourteen thousand miles."
The article also contains this statement:
"It is a remarkable fact that Brother Vrooman was elected by eight hundred representatives in the Grand Lodge eleven successive years to various positions, and in no instance was a candidate named against him nor a single vote ever cast against him."
Herkimer Lodge now has one hundred and ninety-four members, and Judson Bridenbecker is Master.
The lodge has just purchased a lot of Brother George Graves upon which it contemplates the erection in the near future of a Masonic Temple.
Early in the year 1859, a petition was sent to Grand Lodge asking for a dispensation to hold a lodge in Newport, officers named therein were George W. Skinner, Master; Albert Buell, Senior Warden; William S. Benchley, Junior Warden.
A charter was granted June 10th, 1859, and the Lodge was called "Newport No. 455." Brother Edward P. Hadcock is the only one of the petitioners now living. He was formerly a member of Herkimer Lodge but affiliated in Newport on October 19, 1861.
The lodge now has one hundred eighty-seven members. Brother B. K. Brown is Master.
Brother Charles L. Fellows was District Deputy Grand Master in 1896. Brother George H. Hurlbut was secretary of the lodge for twenty-three years.
In the spring of 1902, Brother Joseph T. Wooster donated a site on which the lodge built their present Temple. The corner stone was laid July 23, 1902, and it is to be dedicated some time during the present month.
Ilion Lodge No. 591 was organized October 9th, 1865.
Dispensation issued October 19, 1865.
Charter granted June23rd, 1866.
In the petition Thomas Richardson was nominated Master, Floyd C. Shepard, Senior Warden, Albert C. Stevens, Junior Warden.
The petition was recommended by Herkimer Lodge and duly certified to by John C. Graves, Master. The lodge started with twenty-one charter members, only two of whom are now living. They are Brother S. P. Sargent, Raised March 23rd, 1859, in Blazing Star Lodge No. 11 Concord, New Hampshire, and Brother J. C. Day, Raised July 16, 1858, in Mt. Tom Lodge, Holyoke, Mass.
Brother Joseph A. Johnson represented this district as District Deputy Grand Master in the year 1876-77-78-79.
The lodge has two hundred and seventy-one members and Brother William M. Canary is Master.
A charter was granted a number of brethren to form and hold a lodge in West Winfield, June 12, 1866. It was named "Winfield Lodge No. 581".
Of the original petitioners only four are now living.
Brother James E. Lines was nominated to be and was first Master, Edward E. Walker, Senior Warden, Jerome B. Walker, Junior Warden.
The lodge has ninety-three members and Dr. John H. Stephens is Master.
To Dolgeville, the youngest of the lodges in this couty, was issued a dispensation on September 22, 1888.
The charter was granted June 6, 1889, by Brother John W. Vrooman, Grand Master, this being his first official act. The officers were A. L. Leavitt, Master; J. L. Carnwright, Senior Warden and Eli Fenner, Junior Warden.
Nearly all the charter members are living.
Through the efforts of Brother Philander Mallett the old Jewels used by Aurora Lodge No. 52 were secured and are now being used in the lodge.
Brother Mallett was the last surviving member of Aurora Lodge. He secured a demit from the Grand Lodge in 1889, and affiliated with Dolgeville. He died November 16, 1896, at the age of ninety-four years, five months, having been a Mason a little over seventy-two years.
The lodge has now one hundred and twelve members in good standing, and Carlton J. Spofford is Master.
A brief review shows us that there were twelve lodges given charters in Herkimer County prior to 1830, all of which save one, surrendered or forfeited their charter.
We now have eight in the present bounds of the county with a total membership of 1387, all working in harmony.
There are now in the state seven hundred fifty-seven lodges, with a membership of one hundred eighteen thousand one hundred eighty-five. The craft owns real and preserved property representing about three million dollars and is without any debt.
That their labor has not been in vain is evidenced by the beautiful Home and School, just over the border of our county, in Oneida County, which cost three quarters of a million dollars, where with loving attention and careful education, three hundred men, women and children are provided with a happy home and comfortable surroundings. Thus practically proclaiming to the world that the Masonic Fraternity, by doings, not sayings, does believe, "in the Brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God."
I need not cite another instance. Freemasonry no longer needs a defender; its teachings and sublime principles are before the world for inspection and criticism. It has survived all persecution because its foundation is the solid rock of the Holy Bible; its superstructure "living stones" tried by love and loyalty to God, by love and charity to man.
Our Masonic Fraternity will remain a model "of wisdom and strength" throughout all time, if we continue to live "true to our government and just to our country," to abide in "Faith, Hope and Charity," and to labor with "Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance and Justice."
Other articles about the Herkimer County Masons and Eastern Star on this site:
The Masonic history was typed for us by one of our site's long-time
volunteers Marilyn Allis. Some of Marilyn's husband's ancestors resided in Herkimer County in the early 1800s, being primarily located
in Salisbury and Little Falls. Marilyn's researching the families of direct line ancestors Allen W. and Catherine Stebbins Eaton,
whose obituaries are on Obits Board 3. All of their children were born in Little Falls:
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