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 II – 100 YEARS (1865 – 1965)
Washington Lodge No. 70 Emerges from Darkness
At the Grand Lodge session on May 9, 1866 – only a month after the close of the Civil War – Grand Master Quintard reported that during 1865, he had received a petition signed by eleven brethren then living in Windsor (Jasper Morgan, Cyrus Howe, Hiram Buckland, James McCormick, Rev. William E. Smith, Eli P. Ellsworth, Hiram Cobb, George F. Hardy, Charles W. Hathaway, William Cornwall, and John Burns, Jr.) “praying for the restoration of the charter of Washington Lodge No. 70”. Of these eleven, two (Morgan and Howe) were members of the original Washington Lodge No. 70, one (Buckland) was raised in the original Washington Lodge No. 70, four in Apollo No. 59, and one each in St. John’s No. 4, Morning Star No. 28, Manchester No. 73 and one unknown.
Grand Master Eli Quintard had doubts of his power to restore the charter as the petition contained the names of only three, rather than seven, original members. However, as he had “received favorable reports from this lodge”, he issued a dispensation in November 1865 authorizing the petitioners to congregate under the name of Washington Lodge No. 70 U. D. and named James McCormick as Master, William Smith as Senior Warden and Eli Ellsworth as Junior Warden, “with power and authority to perform all Masonic labors appertaining to lodges under dispensation”. Possibly the Grand Master was influenced in his decision by the approval of St. John’s Lodge No. 4 on June 14, 1865 of the petition of Washington Lodge No. 70 for the restoration of its charter.
Worshipful Master McCormick appointed the following officers: C. W. Hathaway, Treasurer; Hiram Cobb, Secretary; William Cornwall, Senior Deacon; George Hardy, Junior Deacon; and Cyrus Howe, Tyler. During the remainder of 1865, Cornelius Gillett, John W. Corbin, Jasper Morgan, Jr., and S. L. Smith were initiated.
Original Charter Restored
At the Grand Lodge session on May 9, 1866, the dispensation was returned accompanied by a petition signed by sixteen members – the eleven original petitioners, three of those initiated under dispensation (but not including S. L. Smith), but adding C. A. Smith and Oliver Marshall. The Committee on Charters recommended that the petition be granted. The original charter of Washington Lodge No. 70 was restored, and James McCormick was designated as Master, William Smith as Senior Warden and John Burns, Jr. as Junior Warden. The members lost no time, as on the same day, they elected: Hiram Cobb, Treasurer; Charles A. Smith, Secretary; William Cornwall, Senior Deacon; Jasper Morgan, Jr., Junior Deacon; and George Hardy, Tyler.
The Lodge meetings were held the second and fourth Mondays on the upper floor of the brick building on Central Street owned by Ellsworth N. Phelps – just west of the railroad station on the present site of the Windsor Garage. Deputy Grand Master Storer reported to the Grand Lodge that “I visited Washington Lodge No. 70 and installed the officers May 22, 1866. The old charter of this lodge has been restored after having laid concealed among the rubbish for a number of years. This lodge is now under the control and management of a generation of young, active, and intelligent Masons, and promises ere long to occupy a proud position among the subordinates of this Grand Lodge.”
At the time of the restoration of the charter, the widow of Brother James Loomis presented the lodge with property of the original lodge left in his care when the charter was surrendered in 1840; a beautiful painted Master’s carpet about 8 by 10 feet in a gilt frame, and a complete set of sterling silver jewels, including a trowel. John Burns and William Smith prepared a resolution of thanks which was presented to Mrs. James Loomis.
Initiated during 1866 were: Robert Lander, J. R. Capen, Eli B. Francis, George W. Foote, Edgar A. Mosher, Eugene Brown, Daniel Beeman, William H. Filley, and L. L. Bedortha. S. B. Minton was admitted by demit.
Lodge Hall Burned
All records of Washington Lodge No. 70, following its revival in 1865, were lost when the building burned on June 7, 1868, but fortunately, John Burns, Jr., then Junior Warden, wrote a detailed account of the lodge activities for the previous three years. His history occupies the first ten pages of the book starting with the Secretary’s minutes of June 15, 1868.
The best description of the events following the fire are those of Grand Master William Storer who reported to the 1869 Grand Lodge session, “A severe calamity befell our brethren of Washington Lodge No. 70 on last June 7. Their commodious hall was consumed by fire, together with their charter, jewels and furniture, thus leaving them without a place of shelter and entirely destitute of the proper Masonic implements for labor. Our enterprising brethren of Windsor, however, did not yield to the adverse circumstances in which they found themselves, but went to work with a hearty good will to repair their broken fortunes. Brother James McCormick, their energetic Master, called on me the day after the fire, and I did not hesitate to grant a dispensation authorizing the Lodge to continue its labor until the next meeting of the Grand Lodge, not doubting that this body would willingly give them a new charter free of expense. A temporary place of meeting was procured, and the lodge has pursued its labors with a commendable degree of energy. I most cordially recommend that a new charter be ordered for this lodge and their dues for the past year be remitted and that the Grand Lodge grant such other assistance as may be practical.” A temporary charter was granted June 8, 1868, although our present permanent charter was not issued until the next Grand Lodge session on May 15, 1869 and dated then rather than May 9, 1866.
Second Meeting Place
A meeting was held at Union Hall, which was then the Academy or Union School. This building, which stood on the very site of our present temple, was removed in 1902 to the rear of 192 Broad Street where it was used for various purposes until torn down in 1956. At the meeting, a committee appointed “to procure a suitable room in which to hold our meetings” reported a few days later that the “Misses Julia Williams and Elizabeth Francis of the Young Ladies Institute had kindly tendered the use of the gymnasium hall connected with their institute for that purpose and which has since been holden regularly”. This institute, later known as the Campbell School, at 260 Broad Street, had its Gymnasium or Seminary Hall facing Maple Avenue on the site which later became the Odd Fellows Hall. The lodge lost no time in accepting the offer of the use of the hall, as the first meeting there was held June 15 – only eight days after the fire – when after reading the dispensation granted by the Grand Lodge, it was voted “to procure a record book for use of the Lodge; a committee (John Burns, Jr. and L. L. Bedortha) appointed to write a history of the Lodge previous to the fire; the Secretary and Treasurer to report on the funds in their possession; and the Treasurer ordered to pay Phelps for the rent of the Hall previous to the fire.” At a special meeting on June 19, the Treasurer reported $101.00 and the Secretary $52.30.
Apparently the members wanted a more permanent lodge room than Seminary Hall, as on June 23, 1868, a committee was appointed to procure a hall for the lodge. On August 9, the Master was authorized to procure aprons and jewels, and on September 14, the Master and Eli Francis were appointed to procure furniture for the lodge.
It should here be noted that, although everything in the lodge room was destroyed by fire on June 7, 1868, Washington Lodge No. 70 has two articles of the original lodge; the record book of the Secretary (which was found years later in the house where the original secretary lived – although never recorded in the minutes of any meeting) and the sterling silver jewel which the Treasurer, James R. Capen, had neglected to remove from his coat at the close of the meeting before the fire. The lodge also has the elaborate apron of Hiram Buckland (raised May 18, 1826) which was presented to the lodge April 27, 1925 by his daughter, Mrs. William H. Filley; also that of Cyrus Howe, one of the charter members of the original lodge, which was presented September 28, 1953 by his granddaughter, Mrs. George J. Merwin.
Third Meeting Place
On October 14, 1868, the committee appointed on June 23 was authorized to procure a suitable hall at a rent not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00) annually. On October 26, a committee was appointed to procure subscriptions for the purpose of furnishing the hall. On November 2, it was voted that “the trustees execute an agreement with L. T. Frisbie for the lease of a hall for the term of ten years commencing May 1, 1869, or earlier if the hall is finished”. On November 9, 1868, it was voted that this committee also furnish the lodge, but it was not until August 16, 1869 that Washington Lodge No. 70 met in their new hall at 192 Broad Street on the top floor of the present King’s Electrical Co. building.
On March 4, 1867, the lodge voted a resolution on the death of Cornelius Gillett, an officer in the U. S. Army, who lost his life on December 24, 1866 while crossing a swollen river in California. Brother Gillett was the first candidate raised after Washington Lodge No. 70 was revived in 1865. Vesper Lodge in Red Bluff, California, recovered the body after twenty days search and buried it with Masonic honors. Washington Lodge No. 70 paid Vesper Lodge for money spent in the search and burial.
On January 24, 1870, Grand Lecturer C. M. Hatch visited the lodge and “witnessed a specimen of the work” and reported to the Grand Lodge that “Washington Lodge No. 70 now occupies one of the finest halls in the state and, under the guidance of their excellent Master, is in a prosperous condition. Their zeal and labors are worthy of commendation. Their work is good, though not strictly in accordance with our standard. Brother McCormick having been so long familiar with another system, and contemplating an early retirement from the chair, has left this matter as a legacy to his successor.”
At the 1870 Grand Lodge session, the Grand Lecturer reported that “all lodges in the state except three in New Haven County and five or six in Hartford County are doing the standard work and the former objections are gradually giving way so that at an early date we may look for an absolute uniformity”. He never anticipated that Washington Lodge No. 70 would be one of the few lodges in Connecticut clinging faithfully to the original Cross ritual!
At the meeting of October 9, 1871, it was voted to “send a donation of $50 to our suffering brethren in Chicago and that a like amount be raised by subscription to reimburse the treasury”. In the minutes of the November 13 meeting is pasted a letter from Dewitt Creiger, Grand Master of Illinois, thanking the lodge “for coming forward so nobly”; also two clippings from the Hartford papers, one of which states that Washington Lodge No. 70 “was the first, we believe, to respond in Connecticut and asks why the lodges in Hartford have taken no action”. The Grand Master, however, at the next Grand Lodge session, reported that Centennial Lodge No. 76 was the first lodge in Connecticut to respond by sending its contribution to him. There is no mention in his report of Washington Lodge No. 70 sending a contribution to him, as the lodge had sent it direct to Chicago.
A review of the minutes of the first years of the revived lodge show an amazing amount of money given to members in distress. For a young lodge of only 64 members to be so sincerely generous in their charity was so outstanding that at the 1872 Grand Lodge session, Grand Lecturer Hatch reported “the voluntary contribution of about $700 by the small lodge in Windsor to relieve the distress of a worthy brother this past year is an instance much to commend”.
On March 9, 1874, the lodge, in reply to the Grand Lodge request for funds to establish a Masonic Home, passed a resolution “In respect to the appeal for the Masonic Home, that during the past two years the members of this Lodge in performance of their duties to distressed brethren and families have expended a larger amount in proportion to any lodge in the state, and have a present debt of over $500 which they should pay to the holders of the loan and in spite of the present disturbed condition of the country, the Lodge has voted to support a needy brother; be it resolved that it is inexpedient at this time to attempt to raise funds for establishing a Masonic Home, but as soon as circumstances permit we will raise our proportion of money for establishing a Masonic Home”.
The 50th anniversary of Masonry in Windsor was noted in the minutes of the May 12, 1875 meeting merely as “Forty members, with wives and friends, were entertained by remarks from James McCormick and Rev. Ruel H. Tuttle and then repaired to Union Hall for a collation and thus ended the celebration of the 50th anniversary of our lodge”.
Thirty-three members of Washington Lodge No. 70 assisted the Grand Lodge in laying the cornerstone of Beth Israel synagogue in Hartford on September 28, 1875.
On January 24, 1876, James McCormick, on behalf of M. Zwicker of New York City, presented the lodge with three handsome engraved marble pedestal caps, and on April 24 the following resolution was adopted: “Whereas it has happened through the casual entertaining of a visiting brother James McCormick that this Lodge has been presented by Brother Zwicker of New York with three beautiful marble pedestal caps, be it resolved, etc.”.
At the 1878 Grand Lodge session, the proxy for the Grand Master reported “I found Washington Lodge No. 70 to be in a very flourishing condition in every particular. They have a good hall very nicely furnished, the very best of feeling prevails and they are united as one man. Their work cannot be surpassed.”
On December 28, 1878, the lease was renewed for ten years at sixty dollars ($60.00) “but if ventilation is desired it must be procured at the Lodge’s expense”.
On April 22, 1880, a Masonic funeral was held in Elm Grove Cemetery for Cyrus Howe, the last member of the original Washington Lodge No. 70, and one of the three original members who signed the petition for reviving the lodge in 1865. He was born in Windsor in 1790 and a veteran of the War of 1812. For many years, he was a firm believer in spiritualism and drafted the constitution of the Spiritual Harmonical Society of Poquonock, in which his daughter, Mrs Flavia Thrall, gained a world-wide reputation as a healer. The society built for its lectures Liberty Hall, now owned by St. Casimir’s Lithuanian Society. At his death on April 19, 1880, he was the oldest Mason in Connecticut, having been raised in New York state in 1812. The lodge, on May 24, adopted a resolution which stated, in part, that “for 67 years he shared the labors and in the darkest hours of our history was the unflinching defender of the principles of Masonry”.
During 1881 and 1882, Washington Lodge No. 70 was honored by having one of its members serve as Grand Master. Washington Lodge No. 70 will always hold in highest respect James McCormick, who was not only the leader of the group which revived the lodge in 1865, but also served as one of the top five officers for a period of 43 years. In addition, he was a most faithful and active member of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, attending every session for 49 years, during which he served on many committees besides progressing as an officer to become Grand Master.
He was born in Flushing, N. Y. on March 29, 1831, and after attending school there, engaged in the manufacture of cigars. In January of 1849, he went to Suffield, but soon moved to Manchester. Although the early records of Manchester Lodge No. 73 are lost, he was raised there during 1853 and served as Master in 1855 and 1856. He came to Windsor in 1860 to his large home on Broad Street facing Windsor Green.
He was the leader among the eleven Masons in Windsor who in 1865 petitioned the Grand Lodge to restore the charter of Washington Lodge No. 70 which had been revoked in 1840. The lodge was permitted to work under dispensation until the Grand Lodge in May of 1866 restored the original charter, with McCormick continuing as Master. He demitted from Manchester Lodge No. 73 on May 15, 1866 to affiliate with Washington Lodge No. 70, and from that day until his death on June 24, 1917, he was always very active in developing Masonry in Windsor as well as in the affairs of the Grand Lodge. As evidence of his devotion to Washington Lodge No. 70, after serving as Master U. D. in 1865, he continued in that office through 1872. The lodge being well established then, he relinquished the duties, as he was then beginning to be active in Grand Lodge affairs. He was appointed Grand Junior Deacon in 1876, Grand Senior Deacon in 1877, elected Grand Junior Warden in 1878, Grand Senior Warden in 1879, Deputy Grand Master in 1880, and Grand Master in 1881 and 1882. From 1880 through 1883, he was also Master of Washington Lodge No. 70! He served again as Master in 1887 and 1888, Senior Warden in 1889 and Chaplain in 1890. From 1890 until 1904, he was Secretary, and from 1905 through 1912 he was Treasurer. Thus for 43 years, James McCormick was most active in the affairs of Washington Lodge No. 70 – serving fourteen years as Master, fifteen as Secretary, eight as Treasurer, and six as Deacon, Warden or Chaplain.
In the Grand Lodge, he was a most devoted and active member, attending every session for 49 years (1867 to 1916) during which he served on at least eight committees (Charters, Finance, Grievances, Ritual, Masonic Charity Foundation, Grand Lodge Dues, Appropriations, and Grand Lodge Office) in addition to Bylaws of which he was chairman (1880-1888), then sole member until his death in 1917, and Jurisprudence (1890-1917) of which he was chairman after 1906. He was appointed as Representative to Quebec from 1890 to 1905 and to Ireland from 1906 to 1917. During his years as Grand Master, he was most active and among the many accomplishments were the adoption of the district deputy plan and the appointment of the committee which incorporated the Masonic Charity Foundation. From 1913 until his death in 1917, he served as Deputy Grand Secretary.
On June 25, 1906, Grand Master Havens presented him with a gold Past Master’s jewel in recognition of his long service to Washington Lodge No. 70. It consisted of two bars reading “James McCormick” and “1865-1906” and on the reverse side “Presented to our most worshipful brother, James McCormick, in thankful remembrance of 41 years of faithful service to Washington Lodge No. 70, A. F. & A. M., Windsor, Conn., June 25, 1906”. Washington Lodge No. 70 had presented him with a silver tea set on January 1, 1876 as a testimony of his appointment as Grand Junior Deacon.
In addition to his service to Lodge and Grand Lodge, Brother McCormick also served as Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in 1885 and 1886. Subsequently he served that body as Grand Secretary and as Grand Recorder of the Grand Council of Royal & Select Masters from 1895 until his death in 1917.
Masonry mourned the death on June 24, 1917 of James McCormick – the last survivor of the charter members who revived Washington Lodge No. 70 in 1865 – who had been such an outstanding Mason for 64 years. He was buried on June 27 in Palisado Cemetery in Windsor with Grand Master McKenzie and thirteen Past Grand Masters attending, besides numerous other Grand Lodge officers and many representatives of other Masonic bodies, as well as almost every member of Washington Lodge No. 70 which he had served so faithfully for 52 years.
On June 20, 1883, a special meeting was called at 6:00 a.m. to attend the 100th anniversary celebration of Montgomery Lodge No. 13 in Lakeville. In January of 1886, the Grand Master issued a dispensation for a special election “as the officers chosen at the annual communication declined to be installed”.
On March 22, the lodge voted to confer with H. Sidney Hayden regarding a new hall, but the idea was rejected on April 12.
The lodge voted $25.00 on September 10, 1888, towards the tablets erected in Grace Church in memory of Rev. Ruel H. Tuttle. The Grand Master refused a dispensation for the lodge to turn out as a lodge to attend the dedication services “as to do so was not performing some Masonic work”.
On July 10, 1889, fifty members, with the Windsor Drum Corps, participated in the parade in New Haven celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.
The lease was renewed for ten more years in the Frisbie building on December 9, 1889. The hall was refitted and $250 spent for furnishings. The lease was renewed at $75 yearly for ten years January 28, 1901, and “for the usual period” June 28, 1905. Worshipful Master Tudor White died February 26, 1892 and was succeeded by Charles Searle. The 75th anniversary was celebrated on May 14, 1900 with a supper in the Town Hall followed by speeches.
On October 8, 1908, one hundred four members of Washington Lodge No. 70 – the eighth largest delegation of the ninety Masonic lodges participating in the two mile parade of over six thousand Masons – attended the laying of the last cornerstone of the Bulkeley Bridge at Hartford.
At the 1909 Grand Lodge session, District Deputy English reported “Washington Lodge No. 70 has been heroically supporting a sick brother in California and it should have all honor for their truly fraternal and Masonic spirit which has placed them at the head of the list with no near competition”.
Fourth Meeting Place
On February 8, 1909, the lodge voted to confer with Horace H. Ellsworth and William H. Filley (both members of the lodge) relative to larger quarters on the top floor of their new building at 164-6 Broad Street. The lodge voted to accept the quarters on March 22 at $250 yearly, but on December 13 changed to $300 ▒