HISTORY OF WASHINGTON LODGE #70 A. F. & A. M.
Robert Fitch Belden, PM & Lodge Historian
Slightly Edited and Reprinted by
Charles B. Fowler Jr., MWPGM, Secretary
PART I – THE FIRST 15 YEARS (1825-1840)
It will surprise the members of Washington Lodge No. 70 to learn that the formation of their lodge on August 25, 1825 was directly due to the increasing number of commercial vessels then using the Connecticut River above Hartford. The events which led to this development are most interesting, as shown by a brief perusal of the history of those days.
The Bissell Ferry – the oldest in the United States until its discontinuance in 1917 – originated in January 1648 when the General Court of Connecticut made a contract with John Bissell “to keep and carefully attend the ferry over the Great River”. This license was granted him for having made a trip to England in 1636 and purchasing cattle to replace the stock which had died during the settlers’ first winter.1 This ferry became the main route for both the Hartford-Boston and the Hartford-Springfield stage coaches, as there was no ferry at Hartford until 1682.
Bissell built the first house east of the Connecticut River and part of it became a tavern which continued an unbroken existence for many years. Later it became the East Windsor almshouse until demolished in 1904.2 In this tavern, Morning Star Lodge No. 28 was organized August 21, 1794 and there met until June 15, 1797 when “it moved up to the main road” in East Windsor Hill where it remained until 1820.
Commerce on the Connecticut River above Hartford
It is most difficult for us who scarcely ever see more than an occasional row-boat there to visualize the amazing number of commercial vessels using the Connecticut River above Hartford around 1820. Prior to the Revolution, East Windsor with its thriving ship-building industry, at the mouth of the Scantic River, was as great a commercial center as Hartford or Middletown.3By early 1800, many flat-bottomed scows regularly operated between Hartford and Wells River (Vermont) by being poled, or rowed, upstream and floating downstream. President Dwight of Yale University reported seeing in 1812 at Wells River fourteen boats destined for Hartford as well as numerous others for intermediate points.4
Eli Whitney, the inventor, was chairman of the committee which planned and constructed the first bridge at Hartford in 1810. It was built without any drawbridge so prevented sailing vessels going above Hartford, but permitted passage of scows and light draft craft. When this bridge was carried away by a flood in March 1818, a covered bridge was built with a drawbridge at the west end.5
Windsor, too, was a busy port of entry with often as many as seven vessels at the wharf located at the foot of North Meadow Road.
The War of 1812 was so disastrous to the commerce of all New England that around 1815, plans were made to revive it by making the Connecticut River navigable all the way to Canada, and even to the St. Lawrence River. Many factory sites were contemplated from Enfield to Barnet (Vermont), eleven miles north of Wells River.6
By 1820, sixty scows, averaging fifteen tons capacity, were engaged in freighting merchandise between Hartford and up-river towns. Cargoes above eight tons were unloaded at Warehouse Point and carted by oxteam to Thompsonville, where other barges carried them north. Boats with less than eight tons cargo were poled up the Enfield rapids with twelve men to a boat, besides a helper for every ton of cargo.7
Morning Star Lodge No. 28 Moves to Warehouse Point
The minutes of Morning Star Lodge No. 28 reveal numerous discussions on moving from East Windsor Hill to Warehouse Point, but the resolution to do so was not adopted until August 23, 1820. The change was undoubtedly made because Warehouse Point had become such a busy town with great activity caused by the increased growth in river commerce. This move left the Windsor members of Morning Star Lodge No. 28 without any means of attending their lodge, as no ferry existed between Warehouse Point and Windsor Locks – then only a tiny settlement of fifteen families mostly living far west of the river.8Furthermore, the only highway then north from Windsor ran up Pink Street (in Hayden’s Station) and across the plains to Suffield. The three nearest lodges – St. Johns No. 4 in Hartford, St. Marks No. 36 then in Granby, and Apollo No. 59 then in West Suffield – were all too distant for convenient travel. So it was natural that the Windsor Masons should desire to have their own lodge.
Masonry in Connecticut 1820-1825
In 1820, there were 59 lodges in Connecticut with 4,700 members. At the May, 1825 session of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, all but two of the 65 lodges were represented, and charters were granted to five new lodges – numbers 66 through 70. Masonry in Connecticut had reached a new peak of activity and prosperity. A large delegation of Connecticut Masons attended the gathering of thousands of New England Masons at the laying, with Masonic ceremony, of the cornerstone of Bunker Hill Monument on June 17, 1825.
Washington Lodge No. 70 is Born
After Morning Star Lodge No. 28 moved to Warehouse Point late in 1820, four years elapsed before the Windsor members acted to form their own lodge. However, there must have been considerable discussion among them for the November 10, 1824 minutes of Morning Star Lodge No. 28 state “It was voted that the secretary of this lodge be required to form an address to the brethren of Windsor giving our approbation to them to form a lodge in that town, if the Grand Lodge permits”. The regulations of the Grand Lodge required the approval from an existing lodge before a new lodge could be formed within ten miles distance. The minutes of St. John’s Lodge No. 4 of January 12, 1825 state it “received a communication from a number of Masonic Gentlemen in the town of Windsor desiring the approbation for an application for a charter in that town”. The matter was held over pending further information, but approval was voted May 10. The approval of these two adjacent lodges spurred the Windsor Masons into action, as at the next meeting of the Grand Lodge on May 12, 1825 “a petition was received from brethren in the town of Windsor praying for a charter for a lodge to be located in that town”. This petition was granted “on condition that said lodge be held in the First Society of said town and said lodge to be designated by the name of Washington No. 70”. Fifteen dollars was paid for the charter, plus five dollars for registering it and affixing the Grand Lodge seal.
Unfortunately, it is not recorded just who these Windsor Masons were, but they lost no time in making plans for their own lodge, as the July 27, 1825 minutes of St. John’s Lodge No. 4 state that “an invitation was received from Washington Lodge No. 70 inviting the Brethren of this Lodge to attend the installation of that Lodge in Windsor” and on motion it was voted that “the Brethren of St. John’s No. 4 attend as a Lodge the Installation of Washington Lodge No. 70 at Windsor the 25th of August next, agreeable to the invitation of the Master and Wardens of said Lodge”. Samuel G. Goodrich, who later became a famous author under the pen name of Peter Parley, was then Master of St. John’s Lodge No. 4.
The August 15, 1825 minutes of Morning Star Lodge No. 28 state “it was voted that the brethren of this lodge attend the installation of Washington Lodge in Windsor on the 25th inst. as a lodge with their sashes and jewels”.
Original Minute Book of Washington Lodge No. 70
Washington Lodge No. 70 has in its safe the book containing the original Lodge minutes from its constitution on August 25, 1825 through the annual meeting on January 27, 1831. This old book, found in an ancient cobwebbed attic, was later used to record someone’s business accounts at Lyon, N. Y. from 1848 – 1882, as well as containing frequent crude drawings by some child. Oddly, there is no record when or by whom this priceless book was returned to Washington Lodge! It should, however, be treasured forever as the authentic history of the birth of our lodge, even though some details are lost as the lower part of the first page and all of three later pages are missing. However, minutes of 38 meetings are recorded.
Washington Lodge No. 70 is Constituted
The first page of this historic book, entitled “Record Book of Washington Lodge No. 70 in Windsor, Connecticut”, states:
“At a Regular Communication of Washington Lodge No. 70, the Lodge was opened on the 1st Degree of Masonry in Due Form. We then Dispensed with this Degree for the purpose of opening on a Higher Degree. We then opened on the 2nd Degree of Masonry and the Lodge was Declared to be opened in Due Form. The 2nd Degree of Masonry was Dispensed with and opened on a higher Degree. The Lodge was Declared to be opened in Due Form on the Degree of Master MasonsAugust 25 1825 or 5825. Procession was then formed Composing Grand Lodge with its members–St. Johns Lodge 4 with its officers and members in full dress – also Morning Star Lodge with its officers and …….. in full dress besides many ……….. different Lodges …….. meeting house ……. by singing and ………. propriate…….”
(Note: …… indicates part of page missing.)
This celebration on Thursday, August 25, 1825 must have been a gala event with members of the Grand Lodge and “many different lodges in full dress” joining the Windsor Masons in the procession to the spacious meeting house, as the First Church was then called. Even though the 1826 Grand Lodge proceedings make no mention of the constitution of Washington Lodge No. 70 (or of any of the other four lodges to which charters were granted in May 1825), the occasion was undoubtedly the official constitution of our lodge and the installation of its officers, even though there is no mention who they were.
The next page is headed “List of Lodge Nov. 25, 1825” and shows the following present: John Barney, Master P. T.; Odiah Loomis, Senior Warden; William Alford, Junior Warden; John Sargeant, Treasurer; Allyn M. Mather, Secretary; David Paine & Amos Hathaway, Deacons P. T.; William L. Perkins & Augustine Drake, Tylers; Jared B. Benton, Anson B. Hayden, and Jasper Morgan. “Masters Lodge was closed in Due Form. Fellow Crafts Lodge was Closed in Due Form. Entered Apprentice Lodge was Closed in Due Form”.
Washington Lodge No. 70 was honored to have John Barney serve as acting Master at its first recorded lodge meeting, for according to the published statement of John Spargo, Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Vermont, John Barney made the greatest contribution to Freemasonry ever made by any individual! He was born in Canaan, Connecticut in October 1780, but moved to Charlotte, Vermont where he was raised in Friendship Lodge No. 20 in 1810. Although partially crippled in one leg, he worked as a tailor. His zeal for Masonry and his remarkable retentive memory encouraged his lodge to collect funds to enable him to go to Boston in 1817 where he was personally instructed in the ritual by Benjamin Gleason, Grand Lecturer of Massachusetts, and by Thomas Smith Webb who was a pupil of William Preston, the recognized authority on Masonic ritual and the most prominent Mason in England. Barney was Grand Lecturer for Vermont from 1817 until 1823 when he returned to Lakeville, Connecticut, and was elected Master of Montgomery Lodge No. 13. In 1830, he moved to Ohio where he was Grand Lecturer from 1836 to 1843. In 1844, he was active in reviving the Grand Lodge of Michigan; in 1845, he was Grand Lecturer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois; and in 1846 for Indiana; and in 1847 for Missouri.9 Thus the Grand Lodges of Vermont, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Missouri owe much to the services of John Barney. Surely, Washington Lodge No. 70 was honored by being instructed in the ritual by such a famous person! Barney died June 2,. 1847 in Peoria, Illinois, where the Grand Lodge of Illinois later erected a monument to his memory.
First Recorded Initiation
Only two days later, November 27, 1825, a regular communication was held at which “Edwin Chapman and Hiram Buckland were balloted upon and admitted to the first degree of Masonry”, at a fee of $10 each. A Master Mason Lodge was then opened and after a ballot, Anson B. Hayden was raised. Thus it appears Anson B. Hayden was the first candidate raised by Washington Lodge No. 70, although the 1826 Grand Lodge proceedings lists William S. Pitkins as the first name of those “initiated” in 1825. The fact that Hayden’s name appears on the list of November 25 indicates he – and possibly Pitkins – may have received the first two degrees before the lodge was constituted. At this November 27 meeting, it was voted that “the nightly bills for Suppers be paid for Visiting brethren out of the Lodge funds for the first and second visits by the Treasurer”; the first application was noted in the “proposition of Walter Pease, Jr. who wishes to become a member of this Institution” and the appointment of a “Committee on Buy Laws”.
In the list of members following the lengthy minutes appears five additional names – Anson Bates, Cyrus Howe and Ambrose Adams, who served as officers for the evening, and Levi Hayden and James O. Pond. Thus there were at least fifteen original members of Washington Lodge No. 70. Of these, six had been raised in Morning Star Lodge No. 28, four in St. Marks Lodge No. 36, one each in St. John’s Lodge No. 2 (Middletown) and Wooster Lodge No. 10 (Colchester), and three from unknown lodges.
The officers on December 22, 1825 were: James O. Pond, Master; William Alford, Senior Warden; JohnSargeant, Junior Warden; Levi Hayden, Treasurer P. T.; Allyn Mather, Secretary; David Paine & Amos Hathaway, Deacons; Augustine Drake, Tyler. James O. Pond was thus our first Master – even though there is no mention of his being so elected – as John Barney was recorded as Master P. T. for both the November 25 and November 27 meetings. James Otis Pond was born August 21, 1790 in Grafton, Massachusetts. He resided in Granby and represented that town in the 1825 Connecticut Legislature. He was educated as a physician and received his M. D. Degree from Yale University in 1827. He was raised in St. Mark’s Lodge No. 36 and served as its Master from 1823 to 1825. As the first Master of Washington Lodge No. 70, he served from December 22, 1825 until May 1, 1827 when he resigned! The Pond Family Genealogy (published in 1873) states he moved to New York City in 1827 and “is still a practicing physician there”. Atthe December 22 meeting, bylaws “were accepted by a unamos voat”. Unfortunately, the two following pages have been torn out, but a tiny corner of one reads “to find a …… lodge room”.
The officers during 1826 were the same as on December 22, 1825 (although various members served asTreasurer and Tyler) except that Anson Bates and Amos Hathaway were Deacons, and David Paine and Cyrus Howe were Stewards.
During 1826 – although two full pages are missing – there are details on thirteen meetings, usually on Thursdays, twice a month until July, but once thereafter. The following nine were raised: Edwin Chapman, January 19; Milton Phelps and Samuel B. Stebbins, April 27; James Loomis, May 1; Hiram Buckland and Walter Pease, Jr., May 18; Charles Woodward and William S. Pierson, June 15; and Timothy Wells, October 12.
In addition, Samuel Hollister, who had been raised in Morning Star Lodge No. 28 on July 18, 1798, was “admitted” on May 18. Horace H. Sill was initiated July 13, but was twice later voted “not clear” to be passed.
On November 9, 1826, it was voted that “a committee be appointed to collect from Webb, Cross and others approved writings and system of funeral exercises for adoption by the Lodge”. On December 14, it was voted “to accept the fourth edition of the Cross version”. Jeremy Ladd Cross was one of the most active of the pioneer lecturers on American Free Masonry who supported themselves from fees of $10 for 2-1/2 days instruction. He was a pupil of Thomas Smith Webb, and his printed ritual was the first to show pictured emblems.10 He was appointed by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut as Grand Lecturer from 1818 to 1824.
The officers on January 11, 1827 were: James O. Pond, Master; John Sargeant, Senior Warden; Anson Bates, Junior Warden; Odiah Loomis, Treasurer; Allyn Mather, Secretary; David Paine and Amos Hathaway, Deacons; Cyrus Howe and Charles Woodward, Stewards; and Timothy Wells, Tyler.
Although one page is missing, there are minutes of twelve meetings, yet only two candidates were raised: James A. Drake, August 30, and George W. Richardson, November 1. Oddly enough, the lodge voted on November 1“to give Richardson the three degrees gratuitously”, although on February 8, 1827, he hadsigned the bylaws as a Visiting Brother! On January 11, Moses P. Holt and Rockwell Hoskins wereappointed to a committee, so undoubtedly had become members.
On May 1, 1827, the Master and Senior Warden resigned! The Pond Family genealogy states that James O.Pond “moved to New York City in 1827”, but there is no clue for the resignation of Senior Warden Sargeant – unless it may have been ill health, as he died January 28, 1829. On May 1, 1827, Anson Bates was electedMaster, Charles Woodward as Senior Warden, Jasper Morgan as Junior Warden, and William L. Perkins as Steward.
On July 5, 1827, James O. Pond presented the Lodge with three gavels, and it was voted the “the Lodgeaccept the gift and that the thanks of the Lodge be transmitted to Bro. Pond and the Secretary be directed totransmit a copy of the above to Bro. Pond”.
The minutes of December 29, 1827 read only: “This evening spent in lecturing for the good of the Lodge”. This no doubt refers to the existing anti-Masonic feeling resulting from the Morgan episode.
In September 1826, William Morgan of Batavia, N. Y., who had declared his intention to publish the secretsof Free Masonry, was arrested as a poor debtor. On his release from jail, according to gossip, he was pushed into a closed carriage and driven to Fort Niagara. Great excitement followed his disappearance, and the scandal which burst upon the fraternity suddenly found all Masons the object of venomous and savage attack. Due to the prevailing prejudice, all lodges became less active, especially those recently formed.
In the light of history, it is now evident this attack on Masonry was the unscrupulous use of the Morgan incident for political purposes by ambitious men eager to grasp the reins of government position and power by inflaming the people against those Masons who were then the leaders of the party in power.11
The anti-Masonic movement, at a convention held in Hartford in February 1830, drew up a list of candidatesfor state offices. This action would have had no great influence upon Connecticut affairs had it not appeared at a time when rivalry between the older parties was becoming particularly acrimonious.12
The movement was anti-Jackson and gathered the remnants of the old Federal party together with alldiscontented racial and religious elements. The Anti-Masonic Party even nominated a candidate for President in 1832, but within a few years became a spent force and was absorbed by the growing Whig Party in 1836. If there is any lesson clearly taught by the anti-Masonic movement, it is that no party built on prejudice can long endure or hope to develop national strength.13
During this period, charters were revoked or surrendered by many of the 75 Connecticut lodges. The storm reached its peak in 1831, which no doubt accounts for the fact that the minutes of the January 27, 1831 meeting are the final entry for Washington Lodge No. 70 in its historic book.
At the annual meeting January 31, 1828, the officers of 1827 were reelected except for William L. Perkins asSenior Deacon, Edwin Chapman as Junior Deacon and Walter Pease, Jr. as Junior Steward. The first Treasurer’s report – the only one in this book – showed a balance of $2.95 after paying expenses of $11.19 during the previous year! On March 27, 1828, John Barney returned to act as Master pro tem. There were five monthly meetings (January through May), but the only candidate, David R. McElfresh, initiated February 28, is the last recorded one of this early period of Washington Lodge No. 70. On May 29, it was voted “to dispense with the communications June, July and August”, but nothing appears in the records for the rest of 1828. In fact, after this May 29, 1828 meeting, the only minutes are those of the annual election of officers in1829, 1830 and 1831 – which clearly shows the effect of the Anti-Masonic agitation.
At the annual meeting on January 29, the following officers were elected: Charles Woodward, Master; JasperMorgan, Senior Warden; Amos Hathaway, Junior Warden; Odiah Loomis, Treasurer; Allyn M. Mather, Secretary; Anson Bates, Senior Deacon; Cyrus Howe, Junior Deacon; Samuel Hollister, Senior Steward; and Walter Pease, Jr., Junior Steward.
No mention was made of the Tyler, which indicates no meetings were contemplated, as it was voted “this lodge adjourn without date, to be summoned by the Worshipful Master”.
At the annual meeting on January 7, all officers were reelected and a committee of eight appointed “to make arrangements for collecting the debts due”. Washington Lodge No. 70 was represented by Allyn M. Mather at the Grand Lodge session where the Grand Secretary reported “a large and increasing delinquency inreturns from the lodges on account of the prevailing panic now existing on the subject of Masonry” and suggested withholding publication of the meager returns.
At the annual meeting on January 27, the following officers were elected: Jasper Morgan, Master; AmosHathaway, Senior Warden; William Alford, Junior Warden; Odiah Loomis, Treasurer; Allyn M. Mather, Secretary; Anson Bates, Senior Deacon; Cyrus Howe, Junior Deacon; Samuel Hollister, Senior Steward; and Rockwell Hoskins, Junior Steward. This is the last entry in our historical book pertaining to the original Washington Lodge No. 70.
At the 1831 Grand Lodge session, it was voted that “the subject of inflicting penalties upon delinquent lodgesnot represented be postponed until next session and the Grand Secretary be instructed to urge compliancewith Grand Lodge regulations”. All pleading with the lodges to comply with Grand Lodge regulations wasfruitless, as many lodges were helpless in withstanding the relentless storm of persecution. In fact, at the1831 Grand Lodge session, every officer except the Grand Treasurer, declined further service, and at the 1832 session only the Grand Master and Grand Treasurer reported for duty.14
The Grand Lodge adopted the “Declaration of Freemasons”which was published with signatures of over 1500 Masons throughout Connecticut, but none were listed from Windsor. This declaration was a clearconcise statement refuting every charge made against the principles of Masonry. Its publication did much to allay the existing excitement, and soon the opposition began to decline.
1833 to 1839
At the Grand Lodge sessions of 1833, 1834 and 1835, there was more discussion on the delinquent lodges, and in 1836 it was voted that all such lodges “be notified to make returns, send representatives, or surrender their charters and other effects”. As there were no returns from 31 of the 75 lodges in 1837, the Grand Master appointed a committee to visit the lodges not reporting. At the 1838 Grand Lodge session, thecommittee reported that among the five delinquent lodges near Hartford, Washington Lodge No. 70 had elected officers and had promised “to make returns and be represented in the Grand Lodge”. However, the Committee on Delinquent Lodges recommended that fourteen lodges, including Washington Lodge No. 70, “be required to surrender their charters immediately, although the Grand Master was empowered to grant dispensations until the next Grand Lodge session to any of the above lodges”. At the 1839 Grand Lodgesession, three of these fourteen were restored their charters.
Our Charter Revoked in 1840
At the Grand Lodge session on May 13, 1840, – at which only 23 lodges were represented – the charters were revoked for the other eleven, including Washington Lodge No. 70, as well as 7 additional lodges, which were “required to deliver to the Grand Secretary their charters, books, papers, jewels, funds, and furniture agreeable to the bylaws of the Grand Lodge, and that those members who refuse to comply with their obligations in this particular be dealt with according to the laws and usages”. Apparently, Washington Lodge No. 70 did not completely comply with this order, as after Washington Lodge No. 70 was revived in1865, the widow of James Loomis presented the lodge with “a beautiful painted Master’s carpet and acomplete set of sterling silver jewels, including a trowel, which had been entrusted to his care when the charter was revoked”.
Such is the history of the founding of Washington Lodge No. 70 which began so auspiciously in August of1825 and showed much vitality during its first three years, only to be struck down in its thriving infancythrough no fault of its own. The lodge which started with 15 charter members had increased to 39 in 1828when the last candidate is recorded. Although the last recorded meeting was on January 27, 1831, Washington Lodge No. 70 existed legally until May 13, 1840 when its charter was revoked by the Grand Lodge. The anti-Masonic feeling faded away, and charters were later restored to many lodges, but Masonry in Windsor was dormant for 25 years before there was sufficient inspiration to revive Washington Lodge No. 70.
Meeting Places of Original Lodge
A very thorough search of all sources of information was made to locate where the original Washington Lodge No. 70 held its meetings. The place probably was not far from the First Church as the minutes of St. John’s Lodge No. 4 state that on August 25, 1825 – the day Washington Lodge No. 70 was constituted –“aspecial meeting of St. John’s Lodge No. 4 was holden at Windsor. The Lodge formed in the procession,attended the Installation at the Church and returned to the place of meeting where it was closed”.The original record book of Washington Lodge No. 70 reveals only these items pertaining to the location ofthe lodge room. Following the recorded minutes of the November 27, 1825 meeting, several pages are tornout, but on the remnant of one appears “to find a …… lodge room”. On June 7, 1827, it was “Voted that theold committee for removing the Lodge be discharged from office” and a new committee was appointed. On July 5, 1827, Brother Paine notified the Lodge “he could no longer accommodate the Lodge unless he waspaid 25 cents for refreshments”. Previously, he had received 18-3/4 cents. (See following on Sill-Benton- Paine Tavern.) The committee reported that “if Brother Paine continues here it is expedient to remove theLodge and it is their opinion the Lodge ought to be removed and recommends the house lately occupied as apublic inn on Broad Street belonging to Brother Loomis. Report accepted”. A committee was appointed “with instructions to close with Brother James Loomis and remove the furniture to his house on BroadStreet”. This house of James Loomis, built in 1822 at 208 Broad Street, is now occupied by Herbert Andrus.However, the Lodge apparently never moved to the Loomis house, as on October 5, 1827, the committeereported “it was expedient to procure another room”. A new committee was appointed “to circulate a subscription paper among the brothers for a new lodge room”. Charles Woodward was appointed “with discretionary powers to settle the account with Thomas Benton”. Although the lodge obviously continued to meet in the tavern after Paine took over Benton’s license in April of 1827, it had not fully paid its accountwith Benton.
On November 1, 1827, another committee reported “in favor of Sheldon’s back room for the present”. This is the only specific reference as to where the original lodge ever met! (See following on Bissell-SheldonTavern.)
The anti-Masonic feeling no doubt prompted the need of a secret meeting place, as on April 24, 1828, it was voted “to appoint a committee of our worthy brothers whose duty it shall be to inquire of the Grand Lodge on expediency of praying liberty to hold the lodge at any P hour in Windsor and on consultation to petition theGrand Lodge for liberty as above and at their discretion”. W. M. Bates appointed a committee of 3 members, but the lodge voted to add 2 members to it. The following meeting (May 29, 1828) is the last recorded one atwhich any business was transacted. George H. Maude told the writer that his father (George R. Maude) often stated the older members recalled that during the Morgan era, Washington Lodge No. 70 secretly met in the attic of the James Loomis house at 208 Broad Street. This may well be the “secret meeting place” after May29, 1828.
The tavern licenses in the archives of the Connecticut State Library show that in April of 1825, John Silldeclined to renew his license. Miss Florence Mills, an authority on old Windsor history, states that the Sill tavern was located between the present parsonage and the First Church, but was later removed to North Meadow Road and used as a barn. The Windsor land records (Vol. 30, page 72) show the sale of this land by John Sill to the First Society on January 30, 1826. Thomas Benton, father of Brother Jared Benton, took over Sill’s license in April of 1825 and continued it for 1826, but declined to renew it in April of 1827 “when he removed from town” – probably to Bloomfield, as Stiles’ History of Windsor states he kept a tavern for several years in that part of Simsbury which is now Bloomfield. David Paine was nominated by the selectmen to takeover Benton’s license which Paine held for 1827 and 1828. He probably moved to Rainbow, as the old atlas of Hartford County shows a “D. L. Payne Hotel” opposite the paper mill there. These facts establish the meeting place of the original Washington Lodge No. 70 in the tavern of Thomas Benton which stood on the site of the shrubbery planting now between the First Church and the parsonage. However, Benton must have had a different tavern earlier than this one, as the minutes of Morning Star Lodge No. 28 state that it “held St. John’s Day June 26, 1798 at Benton’s tavern in Windsor” and on July 18 “voted to return the thanks of this Lodge to the singers of the First Church in Windsor for assistance in that part of the worship with us”.
Here is the real mystery! Who was Sheldon and where was this “back room”? Ebenezer Bissell hadconducted a tavern for many years at 1022 Palisado Avenue, but in April of 1825 declined to renew hislicense, and it was transferred to Nathaniel Lynde. On September 28, 1827, the selectmen voted “Whereas one of the persons nominated at the annual meeting in January has removed from the place where a house of public entertainment has been kept for many years, we the civil authority judge it to be a matter of public convenience and necessity to add to the number nominated in January and do hereby nominate James Sheldon as a fit and suitable person to keep a house of public entertainment for the remainder of the current year”. Sheldon’s license was renewed for both 1828 and 1829. While it thus appears Sheldon took over theBissell tavern, a Sheldon descendant living in Suffield states that the descendants believe Sheldon’s tavern stood on the present site of St. Gabriel’s Church on Broad Street. The “Commerative Biographical Recordof Hartford County” states Gad Sheldon of Suffield conducted a hotel in Windsor for 8 years beforereturning to West Suffield, but there is no record of a license having been issued to him. The Windsor Land Records show he purchased “one acre with dwelling house and other buildings” from William Howard (Vol. 32, page 145), but this did not occur until May 19, 1830!
Therefore, it would appear that Washington Lodge No. 70 held its meetings from August 25, 1825 to October 5, 1827 in the tavern (conducted by Thomas Benton until April 1827, then by David Paine) which was located between the First Church and parsonage at 101 Palisado Avenue; from November 1, 1827 to May 29, 1828 in the tavern of James Sheldon at 1022 Palisado Avenue; and from May 29, 1828 to January 27, 1831 (and probably until 1840) in the attic of the home of James Loomis at 208 Broad Street.
1840 To 1865
Following the anti-Masonic depression, the number of lodges dropped to as low as 39 in 1851. Themembership had been greatly reduced as deaths far exceeded the number initiated; many hill towns had declined in population; and the emergence of the mill towns on the rivers attracted the foreign born. Nevertheless, a steady increase in membership began, and by 1865, there were 76 lodges with 8,992 members.
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2Stiles, Henry R. History of Ancient Windsor
3Stoughton, John A Corner Stone of Colonial Commerce
4Whittlesen, Charles Crossing and Re-crossing the Connecticut River
5Wright, George Crossing the Connecticut
6Burpee, Charles A Century in Hartford
7Trumbull, J. Hammond Memorial History of Hartford County
8Hayden, Jazeb H. Historical Sketches of Windsor Locks
9Spargo, John John Barney – Free Mason Extraordinary
10Case, James R. Jeremy Ladd Cross
11Palmer, John C. The Morgan Affair and Anti-Masonry
12Morse, Jarvis M. A Neglected Period of Connecticut History
13Bernard, David Light on Masonry
14Wheeler, Joseph K. Centennial Anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Conn.