Monticello Lodge 460
Unfortunately history tells us little about Sullivan County Masonry and the events leading up to the formation of Monticello Lodge No. 460 – even from the Grand Lodge sessions on June 5. 1835, when the charter of Sullivan Lodge No. 272 was declared forfeited. We may rest assured, however, that Masonry did not die in Sullivan County during that time, as one may read from the main history.
Masons had long awaited a new Masonic era which would end the Morgan excitement, years of depression and the rift which split the craft into the Phillips and Williard Grand Lodge factions. So with internal matters settled and the anti-Masonic storm calmed the future of Masonry looked brighter at the beginning of the second part of the nineteenth century.
On September 25, 1858, Sullivan Masons who had long yearned for Masonic fellowship in the county made known their wishes to Grand Lodge. Dispensation for forming a new lodge in Monticello had been recommended by Hoffman Lodge No. 412 of Middletown. H. R. Low was recommended as Master, Alfred J. Baldwin, Senior Warden and Joseph B. Cook as Junior Warden.
Among the charter members of Monticello Lodge No. 460 were Masons who had convened in Old Sullivan Lodge when it was in its heyday. These old-time Masons included N. W. Rumsey, a Monticello farmer, Stephen Sweet, an hotelman, and James C. Curtis, an assessor, Member of Assembly from 1831 to 1832, a judge of the Court of Common Pleas by appointment in 1844 and a State Senator in 1850 and 1851. Although a resident of Cochecton, Mr. Curtis spent considerable time in Monticello where, he often visited old Sullivan Lodge in which he was raised in 1821.
These brothers lived and practiced Masonry. Men such as they were the backbone of Sullivan County Masonry in those days, but their spirits would probably have been broken if it had not been for a newer generation which was beginning to realize that Masonry could play an important part in the lives of men.
The petition for forming a lodge in Monticello was received favorably by Grand Master John L. Lewis, Jr., and acted upon by Grand Lodge at its annual session held in June, 1859. The lodge was to be known as Monticello Lodge U. D. from September 25, 1858, until the charter and number would be assigned according to a document received from the office of James M. Austin, the grand secretary.
The first meeting of Monticello Lodge U. D. was held on November 3, 1858, in the upper rooms of a structure which quartered the Watchman newspaper office and a saloon (Jewish Community Center site – circa 195). The property was then owned by George Wiggins, H. R. Low and O. T. Perry. Their bill for rent from Feb. 1, 1860, to February 1861, was $100.00.
Present were H. R. Low, Master; A. J. Baldwin, ST. Warden; J. B. Cook, Junior Warden; George Wiggins, Senior Deacon; Stephen Sweet, Junior Deacon; Eli Pelton, Treasurer, and J. B. Strong, Secretary. The meeting was short and was devoted principally to the reading of a petition for membership of A. J. Bush, who gave his occupation as a lawyer.
At the lodge’s next meeting, which was held seven days later, the secretary read a petition of Ayres B. Serry which was referred to a committee for investigation. At the same meeting a favorable report was returned on the petition of Bro. Bush, who was elected to membership by ballot. Receipt of $5 was noted by the secretary.
The warrant of Monticello Lodge No. 460 was dated June 17,1859. According to the by-laws the Tiler received $20 per annum. He was responsible for the lodge property and subject to a fine of $1.00 when absent. The initiation fee was $16.00 far men from twenty-one to fifty. The affiliation fee was fixed at $3.00. Dues for members except the secretary and Treasurer were $4.00 annually plus fifty its for Grand Lodge fees.
Although Monticello Lodge No. 460 was formed while the Civil war clouds were gathering and continued to operate during the first year of the war until December 1862, the secretary recorded little of the conflict. This omission, however, does not indicate that members of the lodge re not interested and eager to serve their country. Members of Lodge No. 460 and No. 532 which was to follow answered the call to arms and distinguished themselves as soldiers with the 52nd and 143rd regiments.
Monticello Lodge No. 460 was actually the nucleus of Monticello Lodge No. 532. It took an active part in Masonry and maintained a crowded trestle board which contained names of candidates throughout its existence. It surrendered its charter December 1862, and during that same year and month Monticello Lodge 532 held its first meeting under dispensation. Therefore only a short if any interruption Masonic intercourse occurred after Monticello Lodge No. 460 was formed in 1858, the successor to Sullivan Lodge No. 272.
The reason why Monticello Lodge No. 460 enjoyed only a short existence has not been explained with any degree of satisfaction by either Grand Lodge records or the minute book of the lodge but it hinted in the latter that harmony and good management were lacking. When Lodge No. 532 was formed some of the names on the rolls of Lodge No. 460 were carried over and the new lodge did assume responsibility for indebtedness incurred by the old lodge, and recorded a motion to “stand by the officers and masters of Lodge No. 460 who are threatened with a lawsuit”.
The page in the minute book which probably explained the difficulties of Lodge No. 460 is missing. It is interesting to note that Monticello Lodge No. 460 surrendered its charter contemporaneously with the institution of Monticello Lodge No. 532. These Masonic events can rightfully be interpreted to mean that several important problems were ironed out in 1862. During the same year the old dust-covered charter of Sullivan Lodge No. 272 was taken from its hiding place where it had been safely kept through the craft’s most difficult years and turned over with the charter of its successor.
The twenty-eight who became members of Monticello Lodge No. 460 during the period which elapsed from its first meeting on November 3, 1858, U. D. to December 1862, were Henry R. Low, Alfred J. Ba1dwin, Joseph B. Cook, George Wiggins, Stephen Sweet, Eli S. Pelton, Jarvis B. Strong, James Matthews, Orrin B. Smith, Edward C. Howard, Johnathan Fisk, Avis LeRoy, Ira Dorrance, John D. Hammond, John A. Thompson, Albert J. Bush, Bradley Hall, Fraser Marcus, Roft LeCompte, William H. Murphy, William A. Rice, P. T. Perry, Frederick A. Field, Charles R. Kelton, D. A. Crandall, A. Hoagland, A. B. LeRoy, and A. J. Wood.
R. Low acted as Master for 27 of the lodge’s 119 regular and nearly as many special communications. He was succeeded by Alfred J. Baldwin, who had acted as Senior Warden until that time. The next Master elected was James Matthews, who was succeeded by Edward C. Howard.
The first officers were elected under dispensation pending the granting of a charter to Bro. Alfred J. Baldwin. Names appearing on the petition for the new lodge other than those of the office were Stephen Sweet and George Wiggins Bros. Low, Pelton, Baldwin and Strong were the only original officers to serve under the charter. Bro. Cook, a member of Kingston Lodge No. 10, who became an affiliate of Monticello Lodge on April 8, 1864, was replaced as Junior Warden by James Matthews, a banker. George Wiggins, as Senior Deacon, was replace by Jonathan Fisk and Stephen Sweet was succeeded as Junior Deacon by Edward Howard.
Trustees elected at the December 19, 1860, meeting were Bros. H; R. Low, Eli S. Pelton and Robert LeCompte. Bros. A. J. Baldwin and J. W. Hammond were named as members of the finance committee. When Colonel Low acquired the interests Perry and Wiggins had in the hotel he showed his affections for the lodge by paying for and donating the furniture to the brethren. Perry was raised to the Sublime Degree of Masonry during [t]he February 1861, meeting, when the rent bill of Low and his partners was read.
On April 1, 1861, two men who later were to become Masters of Monticello Lodge No. 532 were raised. One was David S. Starr, the first Master of Monticello Lodge No. 532, who was a Monticello attorney. The other was Fred W. Field, whose father owned the Rosary Hotel just below Weiss Motors Garage on East Broadway. Fields [sic] was drowned in Shin Creek near Willowemoc while he was Master.
Others who were raised during the year included Solomon W. Royce and George H. Kelton, both of whom also served as Masters of Monticello Lodge No. 532. Royce was raised shortly after F. W. Johnson and Naman W. Rumsey during a meeting held under special dispensation which was attended by the District Deputy Grand Lecturer, George E. Simons.
Kelton had petitioned the lodge for membership with the understanding that the lodge charge nothing for conferring the degrees. Kelton was to perform the duties of Tiler if elected. He was raised but proved to be such extraordinary officer timber that he did not serve as Tiler.
The name of James C. Curtis was recorded in the minute book on September 4, 1861, as a visitor from Ancient Sullivan Lodge, “now extinct”. Attending this meeting was the Assistant Grand Lecturer Bro. Simons. Bros. Isaac Anderson, Adam Sander and William Rice were raised that evening.
The lodge had no summer recesses and held meetings frequently. The last meetings of 1861 were held on August 21, 28, September 4, 4, 5, 9, 9, 11, 18, and 24. During that period five were raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.
Bro. Fields offered a resolution requesting W. Bro. George W. Simon to continue to instruct the lodge in the standard work until Friday, September 13, 1861. The resolution was adopted and on September 18th Bro. Simon’s bill for $33 was approved.
The last officers elected to serve Lodge 460 were James Matthews, Master; Edward C. Howard, Senior Warden; Charles R. Kelton, Junior Warden; J. W. Hammond, Secretary; H. R. Low, Treasurer, and O. B. Smith, Tiler.
Their last recorded meeting was held in September 14, 1861, with A. J. Baldwin, Master; David G. Starr as Senior Warden; C. R. Kelton, Junior Warden; O. E. Crandall, Treasurer; James Matthews, Secretary; F. A. Fields, Senior Deacon; W. H. Murphy, Junior Deacon, and O. B. Smith, Tiler.
Bros. Matthews and Howard had answered the call to the colors and many times during their absence Bro. Simons acted as Master. Later both Baldwin and Simons engaged themselves in the service of their country along with other members of the lodge, leaving only a few who would call the lodge to order. This task fell mainly on the shoulders of Bro. D. S. Starr but despite his organizing ability and careful planning finances and other conditions imposed by the war would not permit the lodge to function. Inactivity for several months and failure to make Grand Lodge returns had placed it in a position beyond reviving. The next best substitute was a new lodge and Monticello Lodge No. 532 came into existence.
An attempt to revive the old rather than to form a new lodge is indicated by the following letter which was forwarded to Grand Lodge on May 20, 1863:
To the M. W. Grand Lodge of the State of New York:
The undersigned petitioners being Ancient Free and Accepted Master Masons having the prosperity of the fraternity at heart and willing to exert their best endeavors to promote and diffuse the genuine principles of Masonry respectfully represent that they are desirous of forming a new lodge in the Village of Monticello to be named Monticello Lodge No. 460.
They therefore pray for letters of dispensation or a warrant of constitution to empower them to assemble as a legal lodge to discharge the duties of Masonry in a regular and constitutional manner according to the original forms of the Order and the regulations of the Grand Lodge. They have nominated and recommend Brother David G. Starr to be the first Master, James Matthews the first Senior Warden and Eli S. Pelton to be the first Junior Warden of said lodge. If the prayer of the petition shall be granted they promise a strict conforming to the Constitution, Laws and Regulations of the Grand Lodge.
Monticello, Sullivan County, N. Y., Dec. 9, 1862.
JOHN A. THOMPSON
SOLOMON W. ROYCE
ELI S. PELTON
Their reason for desiring to reorganize the defunct Lodge 460 rather than to form a new lodge was mainly for financial reasons which was explained in a letter to Grand Lodge just before its June, 1863 session:
Monticello, May 20th, 1863.
To the M.W. Grand Lodge of the State of New York:
On behalf of the members of Monticello Lodge U. D. the undersigned fraternally beg leave to petition your Most Worshipful Body to remit to Monticello Lodge U. D. the amount of the feel for Dispensation and grant us the original warrant of Monticello Lodge No. 460 without fee, said warrant having been surrendered since the last session of the Grand Lodge. In addition to, the necessary expenses attending the organization of our lodge, we have been obliged to pay the sum of One Hundred Dollars in order to satisfy those to whom the said Monticello Lodge 460 was indebted; and which said amount has entirely paid the indebtedness due by the said Monticello Lodge 460, it has also depleted our treasury and as the present Monticello Lodge is not in reality a new lodge, but rather a reorganization of an old one we trust that you will grant us this relief. Bro. Geo. W. Simmons is fully acquainted with the facts in regard to our lodge; we would refer to him.
G. STARR, W. M.
M. ST. JOHN, Secy.
Grand Lodge refused to grant their request to retain the same lodge number but there is no record which indicates that the Dispensation fee was remitted.
According to the present Grand Lodge Secretary, Charles Johnson, “there were no important adjustments made in 1862 which affected the charters of all lodges. The difficulties or adjustments leading to the formation of’ the new lodge in Monticello must have been local ones in Monticello. “The Charter of Sullivan Lodge No. 272 was declared forfeited along with those of a great many others who were in financial or other difficulties during the time usually known as the Morgan period. This charter was and remained invalid from the time it was duly declared forfeited.
“Monticello Lodge No. 460 surrendered its charter in 1862 and Monticello Lodge No. 532 (1862-Present) was warranted June 11, 1863.”