The History of

Westbrook Lodge, F. & A.M. # 333

Introduction

It was A.D. 1854

These were the days Westbrook Lodge, Number 333, F. & A.M. was instituted.

Open fireplaces were used in most homes. The more wealthy people were buying Franklin stoves. Lighting was by lamps filled with whale oil. It was five years later that the first oil well was drilled and eight years before kerosene was available for household use.

Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire was the 14th President of the United States. Just four years prior to 1854, California had been admitted to the Union as the 31st State. Horatio Seymour was Governer of New York State. The population of the United States was about 35 million. It was nine years before Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Capitol Building in Washington as it is now known, begun in 1793, was nearing completion. The Niagra Suspension Bridge was under construction.

It was the golden age of American Literature. The writings of James Fenimore Cooper had already established him as an outstanding novelist and Edgar Allen Poe had won European recognition as a great writer. Contemporary 1854 writers were Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, Walt Whitman, William Cullen Bryant, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Washington Irving and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In 1854 Louis Pasteur was 32 years old and was Dean of the scientific faculty at the University of Lille in France. It was thirty years later that he developed the method of curing and preventing hydrophobia. Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were only 7 years old; Mark Twain was 19; Horatio Alger was 20 and John Philip Sousa was born November 6th of that year. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe had appeared in 1852 and was being widely read.

It had only been ten years since Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, had sent the first message over a wire, “What hath God wrought”. Great advances and improvements were taking place, not only in communications, but in agriculture, industry and transportation. Elias Howe had just invented the sewing machine and Cyrus H. McCormick a reaping machine for small grains. The swift and stately clipper ships, built by American shipyards, were sailing the seven seas. The Erie Railroad starting from New York City had lengthened its lines to Dunkirk, NY on Lake Erie. The first wood pulp paper was exhibited in Buffalo on December 26, 1854. King Cotton had extended his power over all the Southern states, and the production of cotton was breaking all records. The slave system had been greatly enlarged. The 1850’s were a boon period for the newly developed industries in the northeastern area of the country.

Political events during 1854, especially the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, signed by the President on May 30, 1854, brought about a clash of interests between the North and the South and the subsequent period of misunderstanding and war.

The Republican Party, a faction split from the Whig Party, came into existance in 1854.

On March 31, 1854, Commodore Mathew C. Perry obtained a treaty from Japan whereby trade and commerce, which had been closed to Americans, were opened to the United States and the other nations of the World.

The Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, which became the southern part of New Mexico and Arizona and gave the United States control over the lowest route across the Rocky Mountains, was ratified by the United States Senate on June 30, 1854.

Nichols in 1854 was a prosperous little community under Township government. The post office had been established on January 24, 1827. Smithboro on the recently completed Erie Railroad was the nearest railroad station. A stage ran regularly between Nichols and the station. The town had thriving saw and grist mills, blacksmith shops, tanneries, cooper shops, general stores and taverns. An elementary school stood at the southwest corner of Main and Howell Streets. A “Free Meeting House”, erected in 1830, was being used for church purposes by both the Presbyterian and Methodist congregations, one having the morning time and the other the afternoon. It appears there was an active Odd Fellows Lodge. Dr. John Everett was the community doctor and his calls were made on horseback.

Thus were the “days of old” when our founders petitioned the Grand Lodge of the State of New York for a charter.

 

Established Under Dispensation

“Abraham Westbrook, Sylvester Knapp, Orsias Higley, James Tutton, Lewis W. Lockwood, Augustus L. Smith, Edward Platt, Oliver A. Barstow and Gardner Knapp….Master Masons of Nichols in the County of Tioga, State of New York, having petitioned the Grand Lodge of this State, to be formed into a lodge, and having been recommended by Friendship Lodge, Number 153 (Owego), and by the three first officers of said Lodge, a Dispensation was on the Thirtieth Day of December, A.D. 1853, A.L. 5853, granted by said Grand Lodge…”

Most Worshipful Joseph D. Evans, Grand Master in the state of New York, granted the dispensation to these men who were Master Masons in Rural Amity Lodge, Athens, Pennsylvania. The officers as appointed are listed elsewhere in this history. The name was to be Abraham Lodge until June 1, 1854, at which time By-Laws were adopted. Brother Joshua Spaulding was the first to be raised by Abraham Lodge on March 8, 1854.

The last meeting of Abraham Lodge, and the final one under dispensation, was held on May 24, 1854.

Chartering and Instituting

Joseph D. Evans Grand Master
John L. Lewis Jr. Deputy Grand Master
Finlay M. King Senior Grand Warden
James Hyde Junior Grand Warden

We, the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, in Ample Form, assembled according to the Old Constitutions regularly and solemnly established under the Auspices of Prince Edwin at the City of York in Great Britain in the year of Masonry 4926 viz…..

The Most Worshipful Joseph D. Evans, Esq., Grand Master

The Right Worshipful John L. Lewis, Jr.Esq., Deputy Grand Master

The Right Worshipful Finlay M. King, Esq. Senior Grand Warden

The Right Worshipful James Hyde, Esq., Junior Grand Warden

Do by these presents appoint, authorize and empower our Worthy Brother Abraham Westbrook to be the Master, our Worthy Brother Sylvester Knapp to be the Senior Warden, and our Worthy Brother Orsias Higley to be the Junior Warden of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, to be by virtue hereof, constituted, formed and held in Nichols, Tioga County, State of New York which lodge shall be distinguished by the Name or style of Westbrook Lodge No. 333, and the said Master and Wardens, and their successors in office are hereby respectively authorized and directed by and with the consent and Assistance of a Majority of the Members of the said Lodge duly to be summoned and present upon such Occasions to Elect and Install the Officers of the said Lodge as Vacancies happen in manner and form as is or may be prescribed by the Constitution of this Grand Lodge, and further, the said Lodge is hereby invested with full Power and Authority upon proper and lawful Occasions, to Make Masons and to Admit Members, as also to do and have been and ought to be done for the Honor and Advantage through conforming in all their proceedings to the Constitution of this Grand Lodge. Otherwise this Warrant and the powers thereby granted to cease and be of no further effect.

Given under our Hands and the seal of our Grand Lodge at the city of New York in the United States of America, this Twenty Seventh Day of June, the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty Four, and in the year of Masonry Five-Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Four.

James M. Austin Grand Secretary
Registered in the Book of
the Grand Lodge, Page 39

With the granting of the charter, Westbrook Lodge Number 333 was instituted. At the first meeting, July 5, 1854, three brothers who had received their first and second degrees under Despensation “were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason” and Mr. Ransford B. Bailey received his Entered Apprentice degree. Brother Bailey was the first member of Westbrook to pass on to his final resting place, having died in the summer of 1857. Resolutions of Respect for him were adopted September 30 of that year and stated “that this is the first time death has entered our Lodge.”

 

Time of Meetings

Regular Lodge meetings were held monthly on the Wednesday evening on or before the full moon until January 19, 1921, when meetings were stated for the second and fourth Wednesdays. After World War I there was a great influx of new members and it was necessary to meet bi-monthly to work the degrees on those seeking membership in the Fraternity. Many of the members in the early days lived ten or more miles distant and were obliged to travel over very poor roads in horse drawn vehicles. This was a real ordeal in bad weather but their loyalty to Masonry overcame such obstacles. In the early days of Westbrook, communications stated at 6:00 p.m. in the winter months and at 7:00 p.m. during the summer.

 

Meeting Places

Main Street 1904 Nichols, NYAbraham Lodge, instituted under Dispensation December 30, 1853, held its first meeting February 1, 1854 in the rooms of Wappasening Lodge of Odd Fellows on the third floor of the white frame building at 31 Main Street, now owned by Brother Lawrence Boyle. These rooms were used by Westbrook Lodge until the fall of 1862 when arrangements were made to move to the upper floor of a brick building owned by Dr. Gamaliel Barstow located back from the street and slightly northeast of the former meeting place. This building was torn down many years ago. About 1865 the Lodge moved back to the Odd Fellows Hall at a rental of $25 per year.

Howell Block Nichols, NYIn 1868 arrangments were made with Brother John L. Howell for the erection of a building with a room 24 by 60 feet with a 9 foot ceiling at a rental of $70 per year. The Howell Block at the corner of Main and Howell Streets was completed in 1869 and on January 12, 1870, the new room was dedicated, and a public installation was held under the direction of R.E. Chester F. Page. After some years the rent was reduced to $50 per year.

On May 1, 1901, the lodge again moved to the original site at what is now 31 Main Street, but not for long. On August 28, 1901, a lease was executed between the Lodge and Bro. Dr. George M. Cady for the premise in the Cady Block at Main and River Streets. We remained there for nearly seventy two years until January 1973 when we held one communication in the rooms of Tioga Lodge at Smithboro and one on the premises of Friendship Lodge in Owego. We then move’d to the former I.O.O.F. Property on Main Street in Nichols. This we bought in 1978 and are now in our own home for the first time in our history. Needed alterations and improvements are being made and we will soon have a home to be proud of.

Cady Block Nichols, NYThe I.O.O.F. Hall, purchased in 1978, was paid off in 1980 but indebtedness for refurbishment costs were yet to be paid. The downstairs area had been largely refurbished by 1980 to accommodate the dinners that provided the funding for the refurbishment costs.

The Lodge Building was dedicated on May 11, 1996 with Grand Lodge Officers officiating and all debt associated with building purchase and refurbishment was retired.

First Officers

W. Abraham Westbrook our first Master, served during 1854, 1855 and 1856. His home was near Waverly and he, with others who were active in the organization of our Lodge, were members of Rural Amity Lodge in Athens, Pennsylvania. On January 7, 1857 he received the thanks of the brethren “for the ability and success with which he has presided over the Lodge since its organization,” and on November 25 of the same year he was presented a Past Master’s Medal. His name appears in the minutes as a frequent attendant at lodge meetings until the middle sixties and occasionally thereafter.

Our second Master was Oliver Allen Barstow who came to Nichols in 1825. He served from 1857 through 1861. He with Brother Westbrook and Brother Clapp were the only founders of the Lodge who were later elected Master. Brother Barstow was related to the prominent Statesman and pioneer, Dr. Gamaliel Barstow, who came from Sharon, Connecticut, and settled in Nichols in 1812.

Samuel C. Clapp was the third Master of Westbrook Lodge and has the distinction of holding that office for thirteen years, much longer than any other Master. He presided over the Lodge from 1862 to 1868, inclusive, and during 1870, 1874, 1880, 1881, 1886 and 1887. He met an untimely death in a saw mill at Bronxville, New York March 7, 1895. W. Allen B. Kirby and W. George Henry Horton were sent by the Lodge to bring the remains to Nichols, where burial was conducted by R..W..Fred Richardson, District Deputy Grand Master.

Brother James Tutton was one of the founders of Westbrook and was its first Secretary. He was born in England in 1787, came to America and settled in Nichols in the early 1830’s. He built and occupied the house on Main Street, just North of the Methodist Church. He was an all-around musician, who could not only lead a band but could compose music and make his own instruments as well. He organized the first band in Nichols in 1835 and directed it until his death 28 years later. He was appointed Postmaster in 1861. Brother Tutton served as Secretary of our Lodge until a month before his death in August 1863, his last entry bearing the date of July 1, 1863. His penmanship was a model of excellence.

A special communication was called for “10½” a.m., August 7, 1863 for the purpose of attending the funeral and burial of Brother Tutton. Brothers were present from Tioga, Friendship and Rural Amity Lodges.

Resolutions adopted on September 23, 1863 state “the remarkable fact that from 1854 until 1863, a space of nine years, he was never absent from his post as Secretary except on one occasion.” He was succeeded as Secretary by Brother and Dr. George P. Cady.

Brother Tutton is buried in the old Town Cemetery a half mile east of Nichols. In 1949 Westbrook Lodge placed a bronze memorial tablet on his grave.

The Reverend and Brother William C. Peck (1812-1899), Pastor of the Free Will Baptist Church at Whindham Center, Pennsylvania, was raised January 4, 1860. He was appointed Chaplain February 1, 1860 and held the office intermittently during the 39 years of his membership. He, with many others from Westbrook, was a member of New Jerusalem Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, of Owego. The brethren laid him to rest August 21, 1899. His monument in Nichols Cemetery bears the quotation “There is no death, what seems so is transition.”

Other Anniversaries

The minutes record that the 40th Anniversary of Westbrook Lodge was observed June 27, 1894, with a great number of visiting brethren attending. Brother Albert L. Rogers, who received a 50 year Medal in 1944, was made a Master Mason that night. After the closing of Lodge, tables were brought in and Caterer N. Beers served a banquet.

On June 27, 1929, a banquet was served at the Social Center by the ladies of the Eastern Star on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary. Five years later, on the 80th anniversary, a special program was presented. It included a history of the Lodge up to that time, written by R..W.. A.B. Kirby and read by R..W.. Asa M. Palmer.

Our 100th Anniversary was observed June 17th, 1954 at banquet in the Nichols Methodist Church. M..W.. Raymond C. Ellis, Grand Master of the Masons in the State of New York, was our honored guest, introduced by R..W.. Nathan Turk.

Our 125th anniversary was celebrated on June 23, 1979 with a banquet at the Nichols Country Club. W.B. Ellery Snyder served as Toastmaster for the evening with W.B. Gene Huckle as the preliminary speaker and W.B. Reid Barton as the principal speaker for the evening program.

Breakfast was served to the attending Brothers and the evening entree was roast beef with whipped potatoes and brown gravy.

A Parent Lodge

January 20, 1863, twelve members petitioned the Grand Lodge for permission to withdraw from Westbrook and to establish a Lodge at Smithboro. A charter was granted and Tioga Lodge Number 534 was established June 8, 1863. Thus Westbrook, established by members of Rural Amity and recommended by Friendship, was now able to assist in organizing another Lodge in a neighboring community.

Charities and Community Activities

The records show that Westbrook Lodge has not been lacking in acts of charity and brotherly love. Donations were made to other Lodges as well as individuals.

In 1860, donations were made to three new Lodges in the recently settled West. On May 2, 1860, $26 was given to pay the funeral expenses of Brother Nathan Mitchell. His family had been helped for several years. The minutes of September 10, 1861, state that $5 was donated for “a quarters schooling for Brother Mitchell’s children.” In 1866, at the time of the death of Brother Wheelhouse, a cash donation was made to his family, and they were moved to a house in the village, given rent, fuel adn an allowance for several years. After the death of P.H. Joslin in 1866, a marker was purchased for his grave. Later the Lodge sent Reverend and Brother William C. Peck to New York City for an operation to remove cataracts.

The Lodge minutes show that Westbrook has always responded speedily and generously in the time of disaster. Donations were made to sufferers in Galveston, Texas, at the time of the great tidal wave in 1900; the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 and the Mississippi River flood in 1927.

The record of many acts of mercy extends all through the hundred years and is something that we can look back on with satisfaction.

Westbrook awards a medal annually at the Nichols High School Commencement exercises to the student showing the highest regents standing in Geometry. In 1947, two students had exactly the same grades and two medals were awarded.

In the early days the water and food supply were not always conducive to good health and there were frequent cases of long and severe illnesses amoung the brethren. Hospitals were practically non-existent and the sick had to be cared for at home. It was customary in such emergencies for the Master to appoint three of the brethren to sit up nights with the sick member until the next Communication when three others were appointed. The rotation was kept up as long as conditions required. This form of Masonic benevolence was practiced for many years.

Generalities

There is not record of a District Deputy Grand Master visiting the Lodge in the early days, but it is indicated the Grand Lecturer John D. Wilber visited the Lodge on February 14, 1859. In 1864 the Reverend and R..W.. Beers spent several days in Nichols, February 17-22, and visited Westbrook Lodge. During this time some real work was done, degrees were conferred on candidates, not dummies, and a public lecture was given the last evening. His fee for the six days was $20.60.

R..W.. Henry Meacham, Grand Lecturer, held District Conventions in Nichols in November of 1933 and again on October 22, 1940, when there were 220 brothers in attendance, the entire district being represented by delegates.

The early records reveal that many special communications were held and often the First and Second Degrees were worked the same evening, the first two degrees on one class and the Third Degree on a class held over from a previous meeting. This differs widely from our present practice.

In the late 50’s and during the Civil War differences of opinion over political matters often led to violent arguments and broken friendships. While no mention is made in the minutes of these things, it is evident that some of the brethren became involved outside of the Lodge to the extent that their Mosanic intercourse was imperiled. In several cases the Master appointed a committee to investigate and render a decision, which was usually “complaint not sustained” or “no cause of complaint.” Thus the harmony of the Lodge was not disturbed.

Brother Robert Howell, a noted Geologist and Naturalist and friend of Agassiz and other scientists of the last century, was raised August 13, 1856. His home at the State Line, two miles southeast of Nichols, housed his large library and collection of mineral specimens. The Late Brother Charles A. Quick was a great-grandson of Brother Howell.

Brother Charles H. Price, who was raised in 1882 and died December 4, 1949, probably held membership longer than any other member of the Lodge, a period of 67 years. He was the recipient of both the 50 year medal and the 60 year palm.

THIS and THAT

The annual dues in 1854 were $1.00. In 1953 the dues were increased to $10.00, later being increased to $15 and then to $16.75. As time progressed and expenses increased the dues were increased culminating in an annual dues of $47.50 for 2004. The initiation fee has undergone similar changes, ranging from $15 at the beginning to $50 and in 1992 were increased to the current level of $100.

Westbrook Lodge has had 83 Masters during its 150 year history, with many Brothers serving more than one term. The term has been for two years since 1998 so that the Lodge Master’s term coincides with that of the Grand Master.

The oldest living member of Westbrook Lodge 333 is Douglas Buck at 88 years of age and also the member with the longest service to the lodge at 62 years. There are currently eleven life members, with all receiving a 50 year pin and five of the eleven receiving a 55 year pin plus the one 60 year pin which was awarded.

Westbrook Lodge has been honored to have three of its past members coronated as 33rd degree Masons, Brother Waldo Moulthrop, R.W.B. Raymond Corbin and R.W.B. Clifford Park served as Assistant Grand Lecturers of the Chemung-Schuyler-Tioga District.

Membership in Westbrook Lodge was 144 in May, 1979. The number has dropped to 70 Brothers as of the end of 2003 not including two honorary members.

Westbrook lost its oldest member during June of 2003. Brother Roy Hansen was 96 when he entered the heavenly portals.

An interesting item in the early minutes of the Lodge authorizes the Master “to purchase six spittoons for the benefit of the tobacco chewing brethren.”

An item in the Lodge minutes of July 5, 1854, indicates that a committee previously appointed to investigate the financial affairs of the Lodge did not report and were given until the next communication to do so with an admonition from the Master to be “more diligent and punctual in the discharge of their duties”.

Lodge minutes state that the rough and perfect Ashlars were bought in January, 1856. The Columns were purchased in 1857.

In 1860 and 1861 funds were voted for a Masonic library to enable the brethren to become more familiar with the principles of Masonry, Brother Timothy P. Alden was appointed librarian at the September 3, 1862, meeting. A number of these books still remain in possession of the Lodge.

Welcome to Westbrook Masonic Lodge #333