Brattleboro Lodge No 102

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Columbian Lodge

From all accounts Freemasonry in Brattleboro goes back 194 years when nineteen Master Masons, residents of Brattleboro and Guilford, submitted a petition dated March 27, 1812 on behalf of themselves and twenty other Masons for the formation of a lodge.

 

The petition was presented to then Grand Master of Vermont Freemasons John Chipman. The petition prayed that a dispensation be granted allowing them to assemble as a regular Masonic Lodge on the last Tuesday preceding the full moon of the month until which time a charter could be granted them by the Grand Lodge. The petition also contained the nomination of Lemuel Whitney as the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge, along with Abram Kingsbury as Senior Warden, and Almerin Tinker as Junior Warden, and that the lodge be named Columbian Lodge. In turn the petition was granted by Grand Master Chipman on May 5, 1812.

 

Meetings over the next several years alternated between Brattleboro and Guilford. They were first held in Guilford until December 20, 1814, then in Brattleboro starting on December 24, 1814 until November 30, 1819. They then started meeting at the East Parish in East Guilford, known to people now as Algiers. Between 1824 and 1829 the meetings were returned to Brattleboro.

 

Unfortunately, the charter for old Columbian Lodge, Number 34 was lost. As a result of the political upheaval that prevailed in the nation following the Morgan affair, a vote of the Vermont Grand Lodge in 1833 called upon all lodges in Vermont desiring to do so could surrender their charters. Grand Lodge had no record of Columbian Lodge ever surrendering their charter. However, in 1849, when the lodges of Vermont were given the opportunity to résumé work Columbian Lodge Number 34 was declared extinct on January 10th of that year.

 

During its tenure the lodge meetings were held in the afternoon. Communications were opened on the first degree to transact business, accept for the balloting for new members and the conducting of Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees where by the lodge would be opened on each of those degrees. The dues were $12.50 cents including those only holding EA and FC degrees and by visiting brothers after the first visit.

 

During these early days of Columbian Lodge one person stood out among all the rest of the founders and early members of the lodge; his name was Lemuel Whitney, the first Master of Columbian Lodge. He was prominent in both Masonic and public affairs. He served as Grand Junior Warden in 1812 to 1813, Grand Senior Warden 1815 to 1817, as well as serving as District Deputy Grand Master of Masonic District 8; Deputy Grand Master in 1814, and Grand Master of Vermont Freemasons from 1818 to 1821. As important as his service was to Vermont Freemasonry so was his service to Brattleboro, Windham County and the State of Vermont. He was a ten term representative to the Vermont Legislature, served twenty years as County Clerk, twelve years as Judge of Probate, and was a Justice of the Peace for fifty-seven years. As a businessman he operated a stage line with his brother-in-law, Samuel Dickinson, which ran between Brattleboro and Dartmouth College. He also owned a mercantile establishment called Lemuel and Co. During the Anti-Masonic period of the 1830s he was among those who called for the maintenance of some kind of Masonic Grand Lodge in Vermont, which enabled Vermont Masonry to rebound again in the 1840s.

 

As the result of another petition presented on behalf of the extinct Columbian Lodge, Vermont Grand Master Philip C. Tucker on January 4, 1855 issued to the petitioners from Brattleboro a warrant of dispensation allowing them to meet once again under the name of Columbian Lodge until the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Vermont in 1856. Appointed to Worshipful Master was E.J. Carpenter, Charles Cummings; Senior Warden, and Louis Frust; Junior Warden.

 

In January of 1856 Columbian Lodge was granted its official charter as well as its number 36.

 

During the Civil War the area where Brattleboro Union High School now stands was used to train and prepare Vermonters to be soldiers, assigning them to the various regiments they would serve in during the war. While stationed in Brattleboro a number of Vermont soldiers were conferred the degrees of Masonry by request of the lodges in Vermont who had elected them.

 

During its existence Columbian Lodge had several homes including the Willston Stone Block on Main Street, Retting’s Building on High Street, Pratt’s Granite Block on Main Street, and the Market Block on Elliot Street.

 

The hall in Pratt’s Block was dedicated to Masonry on December 27, 1869 by acting Grand Master Charles A. Miles. Then in December of 1887 Columbian Lodge took up residence in a new hall in the Market Block on Elliot Street and was dedicated by Grand Master Alfred A. Hall. The last move was to the present location for Brattleboro Lodge at 196 Main Street in Brattleboro, which was dedicated on May 31, 1911.

 

In the summer of 1880 various members of Columbian Lodge, feeling that Freemasonry could be better served by establishing another lodge in Brattleboro, petitioned for their demits from Columbian lodge. Following that they petitioned Grand Master Lavant M. Read for a dispensation to hold meetings and to do their Masonic work under the name of Brattleboro Lodge. Under the leadership of William Vinton, Worshipful Master, Columbian Lodge gave consent by vote on September 14, 1880 for the establishment of a new lodge.

 

Following a dispensation granted the petitioners by Grand Master Lavant Read on December 14, 1880, Columbian Lodge, at the request of Worshipful Master Vinton, voted to give the use of its aprons, working tools, furniture and other paraphernalia to Brattleboro Lodge until they were able to obtain their own.

 

During Columbian Lodge’s history throughout the 19th century, they had a reputation of not being afraid to cast a black cube against prospective members for the fraternity. On the whole members had been selected from the best citizenship within its jurisdiction.

 

Among Columbian Lodge’s Past Worshipful Masters was Kittredge Haskins, who served in that position for eight years, longer than anyone else. Haskins had also been an officer in the Civil War and a veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg. While a member of Columbian Lodge he was also a member and Past Master of Social Lodge in Wilmington. In addition to serving as the head of all the York Bodies and Commander of the Vermont Commandery of the Knights Templar he held several Vermont Grand Lodge positions. He served as Grand Junior Warden 1889 –1890, Grand Senior Warden 1891- 1892, Deputy Grand Master 1893-1894, and Grand Master 1895 – 1896.

 

Brattleboro Lodge

On June 16, 1881 Brattleboro Lodge Number 102 Free and Accepted Masons received its official Charter from the Grand Lodge of Vermont. However, it was another twenty-eight years before the members of Brattleboro Lodge, in conjunction with Columbian Lodge and the appendent bodies of the York Rite, purchased property belonging to Dr. F. H. O’Connor, on Main Street in Brattleboro, in May of 1909. The cornerstone was laid in October of 1910.

 

The lot on which the Masonic Lodge Building was to rest had a frontage of 73 feet, and a depth of 238 feet The original intent was to completely replace the O’Connor home with a new building for the Masonic Center. It was thought that the home could be moved back behind the future lodge building and either used as a residence or for other Masonic purposes.

 

To build a Masonic Center the Masonic Building Association was incorporated in 1906 with a capital stock of $10,000.00. The lodge charter was amended to increase its borrowing capacity. In the beginning two lodges, Columbian and Brattleboro along with the Fort Dummer Chapter of Royal Arch Masons and the Beauseant Commandery of Knights Templar contributed $100.00 each, and with enough other money added to the fund in addition to interest amounted to $1900.00.

 

The original officers of the association were: President, William H. Vinton; Vice-Presidents, J.A. Taylor and Arthur P. Simonds; Clerk, James B. Randall; Treasurer, Ferris R. Vaughn; Auditor, Clarke C. Fitts; Directors; William B. Vinton, Herbert E. Taylor, Edward B. Barrows, H.F.C. Toedt and Fred W. Putnam.

 

Original Design

 

The original design for the lodge building; but not the one that was eventually built, was created in 1909 by Harry K. White of Wilder and White; Fifth Avenue, New York City. Mr. White was a graduate of Brattleboro High School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

The design was for a four story building with an imposing exterior in an Italian style of architecture constructed of gray brick, with marble or limstone trimmings; completely different from anything that had been built in Brattleboro or Vermont to that time. The estimated cost of the building was between $45,000.00 and $50,000.00 not including furnishings. The Masonic Center would have been similar in size to the Federal Building and Post Office that was constructed just down from the lodge at the corner of Grove and Main Streets during the 1920s.

 

The planned dimensions for the building were 130 feet by 60 feet. The basement was to contain bowling alleys on the south side, a hall running down the center, with card and billiard rooms on the north side. The hall would lead to a banquet hall in the rear, with kitchen and serving rooms connected.

 

The first floor would provide suites for professional offices in the front and an assembly room in the rear. This room would be 50 by 60 feet in size, with a stage and gallery overlooking the room from the second floor area. It was intended that the hall would be rented for entertainment, lectures, and other purposes of particular interest to the general public.

 

The second floor would also have suites for professional use and would somewhat duplicate the first floor.

 

The Masonic Bodies would be located on the third floor, with the main lodge room on the north side taking up 37 by 58 feet in size. Connected to the lodge room would have been a council chamber, tyler’s room, ante room, Eastern Star room, four property rooms, an unclassified room and a living apartment for the janitor and his family.

 

The fourth floor would have formed the upper part of the lodge room, with gallery, armory and two property rooms. It was also thought that a garden could be constructed on the roof to the rear of the building.

 

Change of Plans

 

For whatever reason, the Brattleboro Masonic Building Association chose to change architects and selected A. F. Haynes of Watertown, Mass. to prepare new designs for the Masonic Temple that would incorporate the former O’Connor home.

 

Hayne’s plans for the new Masonic building allowed for the use of the house for club rooms, as well as quarters for reading, reception, and smoking rooms, while a two story addition was placed on the rear of the house. The addition includes a banquet hall on the first floor 38 feet by 50 feet, and a billiard room 20 by 41 feet On the second floor is the main Masonic Hall 38 by 57 feet, with a gallery at one end, two rooms adjoining; one 20 by 30 feet and the other 10 by 34 feet, as well as commodious property rooms for each of the Masonic Bodies. The third floor of the O’Connor home was set aside for the armory, with a bowling alley placed in the basement of the rear addition.

 

William Cushman was hired as the contractor who set April 1, 1911 as the date the building would be ready for occupancy. W.J. Pentland, Jr. was hired to install the plumbing, and Horton D. Walker was contracted to do the electrical work.

 

Laying of the Corner Stone

 

Corner Stone of Brattleboro LodgeOn Tuesday afternoon at 2:30, October 25, 1910, 50 Knights Templar's in full regalia, 100 Freemasons including members of Columbian and Brattleboro Lodge, and several hundred Brattleboro towns people gathered for the laying of the new Masonic Center’s corner stone on Main Street.

 

The event started when the officers and members of both Columbian and Brattleboro Lodge open the special session in the main Masonic Hall, Officers of the Grand Lodge of Vermont opened in the council hall adjoining, while Sir Knights of the Beauseant Commandery formed their lines in the Masonic Banquet room. By three o’clock they joined the First Regiment Band outside on Elliot Street by the old lodge headquarters. Following the band in line was the Templar Knights, followed by the officers and members of both Brattleboro lodges, with the officers of the Grand Lodge of Vermont bringing up the rear led by Grand Master Henry L. Ballou.

 

The procession moved out Elliot Street and up Main Street to the site of the new Masonic Center between the First Baptist Church and the Brooks Library Building. Upon arriving at the site lines were formed comprising of the Knights Templar's and Freemasons on the north side of the building, while the First Regiment band was formed on the west side. Officers of the Grand Lodge occupied a raised platform at the northeast corner of the building, where the corner stone was suspended in readiness to be lowered into its permanent position. Grand Master Henry Ballou called upon Rev. Roy M. Houghton, Chaplain of Columbian Lodge to offer prayer, and then opened the proceedings explaining to the public the significance of the ceremony they were about to witness.

 

President of the Brattleboro Masonic Building Association William H. Vinton presented Grand Master Ballou the trowel and principal working tools of the Craft. W. Alfred J. Hough of Proctorville, Grand Chaplain pronounced the invocation. Grand Treasurer Charles W. Whitcomb, of Proctor deposited in the receptacle beneath the corner stone a copy of the Vermont Phoenix and Brattleboro Refomer, Brattleboro Masonic Directory, Brattleboro Building Association News, Brattleboro telephone directory,  Masonic Handbook, Masonic Ritual Book, Digest of Masonic Law, proceedings of the Grand Lodge for 1910, and a copy of an original poem read for the occasion.

 

The corner stone was lowered into its place and the mortar was applied with the trowel by the Grand Master. After “The Heavens are Declaring” had been sung by the Brattleboro Masonic Quartet, the working tools of the Craft; the square, level, and plumb, were presented to the Grand Master by William H. Vinton, who in turn gave one each to the other Grand Officers in line; the Deputy Grand Master, the Grand Senior Warden, the Grand Junior Warden. The working tools were then applied to the corner stone by the three officers, after which they reported that the stone had been laid in accordance with the ancient usage of the Craft.

 

Then the ceremony for the consecration of the cornerstone took place using the elements of corn, wine, and oil. A blessing was then invoked by the Grand Master and after his announcement that the stone had been properly tested he called upon brethren to join with him in giving the public grand honors.

 

Grand Master Ballou then presented the contractor William Cushman the square, level and plumb and directed him to take charge of the construction of the temple. Then W. John E. Piddock of Saxton’s River, acting Grand Marshal proclaimed, “Brethren take notice that Brother Henry L. Ballou, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for the state of Vermont has this day, at this place laid the corner stone of the new Masonic Temple……wisdom, strength, fraternity.”

 

After the ritualistic address for the occasion was delivered by the Grand Master, the Grand Chaplain, W. Alfred J. Hough read a poem written especially for the dedication of the Brattleboro Lodge Building entitled, “The Master Builders Burden.”  Then the Masonic Quartet sang “Sanctus” followed by the Grand Chaplain’s pronouncement of benediction. To the music of the Regimental Band the procession was reformed for the march back to the old Masonic Hall.

 

Submitted by Steve Farrington, WPM, 32°

 

 

 

 
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