Sullivan Lodge 272
Monticello’s early population consisted mostly of Connecticut Yankees, the majority of whom were members of the Masonic Fraternity before they came here. Most all of the brethren of Sullivan Lodge either had taken an active part in the early conflicts in which this Country had been engaged – many of whom had served in the Revolutionary and 1812 wars – or were the sons of Revolutionary Patriots. Members of Sullivan Lodge No. 272 included pioneers. To them Masonry had shown its beneficent effects during critical times. Their brethren had been largely responsible in the formation of the United States and the drafting of a Constitution, which based on Masonic principles, has remained intact and today stands practically unadulterated. Since Monticello was founded at the beginning of a new century which also was the beginning of a new era for both political and Masonic history; those figuring most prominently in the early days of the Colonies were Masons and in no less a degree were Masons conspicuous in the early days of Monticello. As George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Peyton Randolph, DeWitt Clinton, John Sullivan and others had been made history in Colonial days so did the Jones Brothers. William Morgan, Platt Pelton, John Russell, Cyrus A. Cady, and other members of Sullivan Lodge 272 find places in Sullivan County history. Men in supervisoral and other offices of trust in the town, county and state figured prominently among Sullivan Lodge membership. Descendants of a number of these early Masons are living in the county today.
The men who petitioned Grand Lodge for a charter had built homes in Monticello long before Sullivan County was erected by an act of the Legislature in 1809. Attending its meetings were war-weary and freedom loving men of a new nation who looked to the dawning of a new day in prosperity and fraternalism. The Tory, against whom they had fought, was welcomed and animosity no longer existed. When the first Lodge meeting was held in Sullivan County, in Monticello, there were fewer than twenty log houses in the community. The forests were so dense that workmen engaged in the tanning bark industry, cabin builders and other residents often lost their way along Broadway while traveling along the tree-blazed trail which led to North Settlement and to the intersection of what was later Route 17 and 17-B. Wolves, panther, bear and wildcats roamed over the countryside to add to their hardships. Few of the crudely constructed bark thatched log cabins had cellars but all of them had ample fireplaces where pioneer families gathered after days of toil in the wilderness. During the summer, light was admitted through the door, when the weather was pleasant enough to leave it open. In the winter, the cabins were not lighted at all except for the fire necessary to warm them and by a few stray beams that found their way down the chimney through the smoke, as the cabins were primitive affairs with no windows. Wages then were from four to six shillings per day. In Winter horses slowly plodded through the wood-lanes with snow up to their bellies, sometimes plunging over the sides of a cradle hole or the concealed trunk of a tree. The Delaware-Hudson Canal was not yet in existence and supplies were hauled from Newburgh and Montgomery. When food stuffs and other essentials finally reached their destination, the former, including potatoes and other vegetables were stored in holds in dirt cellars close by the cabins. A goodly mound of earth was heaped over these depositories, which usually were favorite resorts for the wolves which were often observed on moonlight nights. The wolves were a great terror to women and children especially when they broke the still of the wilderness by their howling. It was under these trying conditions that the members of Sullivan Lodge practiced Masonry. They braved the dangers of the wilds to walk at night guided by the stars and an occasional tree marking to their crudely constructed meeting place. Here by candlelight they found courage and devotion for their fellow-men and swapped yarns of their hunting and other every day as well as war time experiences. Before Sullivan Lodge erected its temple the brethren met at the Curtis Lindley Tavern. In the early eighteenth century in both England and America taverns and inns were used generally as social centers by all manners of groups. The Old Lindley Tavern was crudely constructed, drafty and poorly furnished but nevertheless it was modern when compared to the average Monticello residence. The main part of the structure was built in 1805, but a growing need for a place to hold Court and Supervisoral sessions induced Lindley to modernize the structure by adding a dining room on the first floor and an upper story for meeting rooms. The Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions held the first terms in the old tavern in October, 1809, with William A. Thompson and Samuel F. Jones presiding. On the same day and place the Board of Supervisors, including Brother John P. Jones, of Thompson; Darius Martin, of Liberty, and Br. Livingston Billings, the Board Clerk, held their first session. Only five towns had at that time been organized. They were Thompson, Liberty, Neversink, Mamakating and Lumberland.
Bro. John P. Jones often met with the brethren and related the story of how he an his brother, Samuel F. Jones, had discovered the mountain community while exploring the forests west of the Mamakating Valley in 1802 for a feasible route for the newly chartered Cochecton-Newburgh turnpike. Natives of Litchfield County, Conn., the Jones Brothers left their father’s farm there to settle in Monticello in 1804. Expecting a great influx of settlers with the completion of the road. The brothers purchased 1,415 1/2 acres of land in Great Lot 14 and 445 1/2 acres of land in Lot 13. Samuel engaged in construction of the turnpike while John P. set out to establish a capitol for the newly opened country. He came to Monticello with eleven men, most all of whom were Masons. The men and their families who became Sullivan Lodge members had come to Monticello with Samuel F. and John P. Jones in 1804 to cut through dense growths of underbrush and rhododendron and lay out streets for a village. These early settlers visioned a future of peace, prosperity and security and the Church and Masonry figured prominently in their plans. Methodism was established contemporaneously with the arrival of the first settlers in 1804 and a supply Presbyterian preachers were appointed as early as April 25, 1807. Neither of the Jones brothers was a communicant of any church when they laid out their public square and designated sites for a Presbyterian Church and a Court House, but they were Masons and obviously realized the importance of both the Church and Masonry. Bro. John P. Jones had distinguished himself as the first Clerk of the County after its erection in 1809, was Supervisor of the Town of Thompson, postmaster for 38 years, a State Senator and a Presidential elector.
Their names were among the ten that appeared on a petition dated May 14, 1811 which was presented to Grand Lodge for the formation of a Masonic Lodge to be known as Sullivan Lodge. With the petition went the recommendation that Samuel F. Jones be the first Master of the Lodge. Brother Jones served as Master of the Lodge during the greater part of the six years which elapsed before the Lodge was warranted in 1817. The traitor of the craft who disappeared after he had divulged the secrets of Masonry is known in history as William Morgan and ironically enough the same name appeared at the head of those who petitioned for the establishment of Sullivan Lodge. The difference in the character of these two men, however, was as great as the similarity of the names. One was resigned to exploit Masonry for the material good it could bring him while the other was endued with its pure principles and sought its furtherance by the establishment of Masonry within the newly inhabited community. The William Morgan of Sullivan Lodge was a man of principle rather than wealth and was not related to the William Morgan of Batavia who had neither. He was supervisor of the Thompson Township when the petition was signed and that is probably why his name appeared first. The other signers were Caleb Howell, Lewis Rumsey, John Wilson, Samuel Barnum, the Jones brothers, Solomon Royce, Johnathan P. Raymond and Amos C. Brown.
The petition was endorsed by Edward Ely, Master of Montgomery Lodge. The petitioners had visited the Montgomery Lodge on several occasions and had listened to stories about Military Lodges which General George Washington had attended along the Hudson. Among the signers were men who had attended a session of the American Union Lodge on the banks of the Hudson near Newburgh on June 24, 1782, where Revolutionary soldiers had erected “The Temple of Virtue.” (The March installment of this most interesting Masonic history will contain a list of the officers and members of the first Lodge together with their biography). [Editor’s note: This text, written by Wor. Bro. Alvin O. Benton around 1942, then an officer of Monticello Lodge No. 532, originally appeared as a series of articles in The Republican Watchman.].
The warrant was signed by Dewitt Clinton who was then Grand Master, and John Wells, the Grand Secretary. Dewitt Clinton had just started the first of three terms he was to serve as Governor when the petition was presented in 1811. He had served in many important state offices prior to 1811 and between that time and the issuing of the Sullivan Lodge warrant on January 2nd, 1817 he was an unsuccessful candidate for president of the United States (1812); served as Mayor of New York City, (1808 to 1810, 1811 to 1815) and was Lieutenant Governor of New York State, (1811 to 1813). He had the honor of serving as Mayor and Lieutenant Governor at the same time. He was one of the few highest Masons in the Union during the Morgan affair, the fury of which threatened the very existence of the craft.
The first Sullivan Lodge officers installed by Benjamin Lewis, a Past Master of Hiram Lodge No. 131 of Newburgh were John E. Russell, Master; Livingston Billings, Senior Warden; Peter F. Hunn, Junior Warden; Cyrus A. Cady, Treasurer; and Jessie Towner, Secretary. Its members were drawn from the townships of Bethel, Liberty, Mamakating and Thompson and comprised the leading men of the community.
The Lodge’s first return showed a membership of 45 and listed their names as follows: John E. Russell, Elisha Heycock, William Morgan, George Vaughn, Levi Barnum, Cyrus A. Cady, Seth Allyn, John P. Jones, Alex Sterret, James Joseph Coit, Darius Martin, Samuel Barnum, Thomas Crary, Joseph Pinkney, Asa Baker, Jessie Towner, Asa Hall, Nathan Couch, Solomon Royce, Luther Wood, Richard R. Norris, Moses Stoddard, Livingston Billings, John M. Towner, William Cochran, Peter F. Hunn, Asa McKee, Platt Pelton, Dudley Champlin, Thomas Adgate, Richard D. Childs, Daniel Niven, Lemuel Johnson, William White, Sylvester Wheeler, John W. Osborn, Alpheus Dimmick, Richard Thurston, William Roberson, Malacchi Isaac Foote, James McCroskry, Robert Nathan, Caleb Howell, Seymour Armstrong, Samuel Jones, Andrew Comstock and Isaac Brown.
SOME OF THE MEMBERS’ HISTORY DISCOVERED:
Daniel Niven was born on the west coast of Scotland in 1767. He had become a Mason in Scotland at the age of 21 in 1788. Three years later; He left his native land in a sailboat and landed in New York in 1791 after a rough voyage across the Atlantic ocean. After settling in Sullivan County and engaging in the business of farming at Wurtsboro from 1812 until 1816 he moved to Monticello and began to help in the organization of Sullivan Lodge 272 (1817-1835). He was strongly attached to the Fraternity until his death at the age of 100 in 1867 when he was the then oldest Mason in the United States.
John Russell was a merchant of Monticello and was associated in business with William E. Cady a son of Cyrus Cady who was one of the charter members. Russell was one of the first Wardens of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Monticello. He and William Thompson, Sullivan County’s first Judge, were largely responsible for the organization of the church. The church was organized on November 11, 1816 with Reverend James A. Thompson, a brother of the Judge, the first pastor. Bro. Russell brought honor to Monticello as Presidential Elector and performed the duties of his office by casting his vote for Andrew Jackson, one of the most prominent Masons of the day who had served as Grand Master of Masons in Tennessee during 1822 and 1823. True to his convictions and loyal to his Lodge, Sullivan Lodge’s first Master contributed liberally of his time and sound advice throughout the Lodge’s prosperous as well as its lean years. He died on September 4, 1830.
Livingston Billings, the first Senior Warden of Sullivan Lodge was admitted to practice as attorney and counselor of the courts of the county at a session of the Court of Common Pleas and General Sessions held in October 1809. He served at County Surrogate in 1810 and 1813, as Judge of the Court of Common Please in 1823 as Clerk of the Board of Supervisors in 1824. Billings came to Monticello from Poughkeepsie before Sullivan was a county or Monticello much more than a forest. It is said that he came to Monticello on horse back, expecting to find a thriving village, and that he rode through the Main street and over the westward hill without suspecting that he had passed the place. He opened his office in a building on the site which is now (circa 1942) occupied by the Jewish Community Center on Broadway.
If Sullivan County Masonry ever had a Benedict Arnold it was Peter F. Hunn. As Arnold had saved the country he later tried to ruin, so Hunn had helped Sullivan County Masonry in its infancy only to betray it later. Hunn was a lawyer who came to Monticello from Newburgh not long after the organization of the County. He was the first Junior Warden of Sullivan Lodge and later served as its Senior Warden and Master. When the dark clouds of the Morgan Episode descended over the State , and into Sullivan County in 1826 and a Sullivan County Anti-Masonic party was formed: Hunn was one of the first to desert the fraternity. Peter F. Hunn, was then referred to as a traitor to the craft, also wielded a mighty pen and furnished’ leading editorials for the Sullivan County Herald, together with persuasive anti-Masonic letters to the other county newspapers. His efforts undoubtedly had a great effect upon the welfare of Old Sullivan Lodge. The Anti-Masons, led by Hunn and others including former Mason and County Sheriff David Hammond became a powerful political body in the County. They elected their candidate, Hiram Bennett, to Foster for County Clerk [sic], and Nathan W. Horton for Sheriff in the Fall of 1831. [Editor’s note: At this point in the text, a line of type appears to be out of place, which states: “the Assembly, their nominee Jesse M.”] Following the election Anti-Masons Hiram Bennett, Harley B. Ludington and Daniel B. St. John were satirized in the columns of the Republican Watchman for their conduct in a celebration which followed the election. The Watchman’s editor Frederick A. Devoe continued his attacks during the next Winter and Spring disturbing them to such an extent that the wealthier Anti-Masons provided funds sufficient to organize the Anti-Masonic Sullivan County Herald. Hunn became the first editor and demonstrated his intellectual culture and acknowledged talent in reply editorials directed at Devoe. The latter, however, held to Masonic principles rather than the anti-Masonic fanaticism championed by Hunn and emerged the victor. Devoe’s editorials were so convincing to Hunn that he deserted the Herald in 1838 as hastily as he had the Masonic fraternity more than a decade before. Hunn realized his grave mistake and wanted to help restore that which he had attempted to destroy but the bitterness he had shown for the fraternity while an Anti-Mason could not be forgotten by those who had remained loyal to the craft through the trying days. The Charter of Hiram Lodge 131 in Newburgh was seized in September 1842 and its number was changed to 92. Hunn was well acquainted with members of Hiram Lodge and it was on his invitation that Benjamin Lewis, a Past Master of the Newburgh organization came to Monticello and installed Sullivan Lodge’s first officers. Hiram Lodge had suffered a great loss in membership during the Morgan period and became inactive. In 1842 Masonry was experiencing brighter days that had not fully recovered from the setbacks it had experienced during the ten years which followed 1826. Hunn was installed Master of Hiram Lodge under its second charter and worked diligently for two years ton continue the old Lodge. His efforts bore no fruit, however, and in 1844 the charter was surrendered. Although he had no Lodge to call his own from 1844 until his death in 1847 during this brief period he lived as an upright man and Mason doing good whenever possible and left a pleasant memory to his associates. Hunn served in Sullivan County as Master and Examiner in Chancery, Surrogate of the County, Clerk of the County Board of Supervisors, and as Justice of the Peace. He died in Newburgh during the summer of 1847 leaving a wife and several children.
Cyrus A. Cady was a practicing physician when he became the Lodge’s first Treasurer. He had been a resident of the town since 1810 and was the father of William E. and Henry V. Cady. The first was a merchant who was associated in business for several years with John Russell.
Sullivan Lodge’s first secretary was Jesse Towner who for many years was Treasurer of the County. Hew as very accurate and careful in his work as secretary of the Lodge as well as the County’s chief financial officer. A deficit in his predecessor’s accounts, amounting to a large sum had escaped the close watch by the Board of Supervisors but it was detected by Mr. Towner and a full investigation resulted.
Petitioning for a Masonic Lodge was not the only important step taken in 1811. Prior to that time the settlers who lived in the interior of Sullivan County were obliged to travel or send to Montgomery, Orange County, to mail or receive mail. There was no a mail route or a post office in the County. James Madison was serving his first term as President of the United States when the Jones Brothers asked for a Post Office in Monticello. On his order a post route went into operation from Newburgh to Ithaca through Monticello. On request of Monticello residents a post office was established in the mountain community with Bro. Samuel Jones the first postmaster.
As Sullivan Lodge members had taken the lead in blazing the trails in the mountain wilderness they likewise continued in its development. Brothers John E. Russell, Cyrus A. Cady and Levi Barnum helped organize St. John’s Episcopal Church. William Morgan and others of the Craft were instrumental in the founding of the Presbyterian Church as well as active in various important civic functions.
The community’s first school was established in 1807. The second teacher was Bro. Asa Hall, whose knowledge of Masonry not only assisted him greatly in his Lodge work but also gave him a substantial background for the task of instructing the children of the forests. Bro. Hall taught the first school in this section, in Bridgeville.
The Lodge had three physicians among its members. They were among the early settlers and had come to Monticello for the purpose of bettering their financial conditions by making real estate investments rather than to practice their professions. Other than Bro. Cyrus A. Cady, mentioned earlier, they were Malachi Issac Foote, who came to Monticello about 1809, and Bro. James Joseph Coit, who came here about the time the Cochecton-Newburgh turnpike was completed. Bro. Foote came from Connecticut and brought a tract of land about one mile west of Bridgeville where the County alms house was once located.
Bro. Coit was a native of Litchfield, Connecticut, the early home of the Jones Brothers. He became the owner of considerable land North of Monticello which he bought from the Joneses for ten dollars an acre. He served as Sullivan Lodge’s secretary and his name was signed as such under a notice advertising the laying of a cornerstone for the Masonic Temple at the corner of Pleasant Street and Broadway in 1819. This was the year before Monticello was incorporated as a village. Coit was well educated in his profession but was considered too infirm in health to practice. He erected a store on the site now occupied by the National Union Bank (circa 1945) but never opened it for trade. About 1835, with health failing, he joined the Revolutionary Army of Texas as a surgeon and was bitten soon afterwards by a poisonous reptile and died. Bro. Coit served as Junior Warden, and is assumed to have served as Master; but there is no record of his ever having served as Master.
Bro. Elisha Heycock, who was Justice of the Peace in the Lumberland Township in 1809 was Senior Warden. Sometime during the nearly eighteen years Sullivan Lodge existed it is more than likely he served as Master.
Bro. Nathan Couch commenced work carding and cloth dressing in 1810. Sheep not only supplied wool for clothing but also provided mutton when the early settlers desired to change from wild game which was found in abundance by the hunters. Most of the settlers kept a flock which required constant guarding from blood-thirsty panther, wolves and bear.
Bro. Andrew Comstock had a prize ewe among the flock yarded behind a barn nearly opposite his house. One morning Bro. Comstock was saddened to learn that a bear had entered his fold during the night and killed and partly devoured the prize of his flock. He was the colonel of the local militia and displayed all the brilliancy and gayety of his rank as he mounted his steed to pursue the culprit. Tinseled in lace and feathers he was said truly to have the martial bearing when at the head of his regiment. In making his exit from the sheep pen the bear took with it a large steel trap and the log to which it was fastened. The Colonel accompanied by some neighbors who joined in the hunt did not go far before the Bruin was discovered. With a well-charged “horse pistol” in either hand the Colonel took careful aim and fired. The bear dropped, apparently dead, and with a jubilant shout the Colonel jumped astride the carcass. Although careful with his aim he was not careful in his diagnosis of the creature’s ability to revive. With a snort and a grunt the bear arose with Bro. Comstock on its back. All military bearing so conspicuous at the beginning of the hunt was immediately substituted by soiled and torn clothes, disheveled hair and great disorder. His companions then immediately dispatched the bear.
While the tanning bark industry provided income for most of the Masons who belonged to Sullivan Lodge, fur trapping and logging occupied the time of others. Logs were taken to Thompsonville or to the mill of Bro. John W. Osborn. Bro. Osborn operated the mill in partnership with a man named Baker. The mill was located in the Clark and Grassy Brook road at Katrina Falls and is believed to have been erected immediately after the opening of the Sackett road. If this is true a Mason established the first mill in the Town of Thompson. The mill was on the table rock of the falls and slabs from it were thrown into the gulf below.
Bro. Samuel Barnum erected another mill in 1802 or 1803 on the farm now occupied by William Fitzsimmons (circa 1945). Town records show this was the third mill in the town. Bro. Barnum was elected supervisor in 1807 and 1808, was preceded in that office by Samuel F. Jones, the Town’s first supervisor and succeeded by Bro. John P. Jones.
While Sullivan Lodge members were among the first to start mercantile and other business in Monticello, Bro. Richard D. Childs was not far behind in Thompsonville. He was the second merchant there having succeeded David Reed. He was succeeded by others including Bro. Johnathan Stratton, an ancestor of Wor. Bro. Earl Stratton. Bro. Johnathan Stratton is believed to have been a member of Sullivan Lodge but unfortunately there are no records to verify it. But whether he was or not, he was highly respected and an asset to the community, having been honored by President John Quincy Adams with an appointment which made him Thompsonville’s first postmaster.
Among the few buildings constructed of local saw mill lumber; a hotel was constructed at Bridgeville in 1806-1807 by Bro. Caleb Howell and his brother, Peter. The building was situated on the west side of the bridge. The old hotel was destroyed in 1871.
No less devoted to Masonry was Platt Pelton, whose descendants have worked faithfully for the craft until the present day (circa 1945). Perhaps the cornerstone never would have been laid or a temple erected had not Mr.Platt Pelton become interested in the Lodge and its progress. Bro.Pelton, a Putnam county tanner, came to Monticello in the summer of 1804 and built the second house in this village. He was an energetic, useful and highly respected citizen who had held several offices of trust and responsibility, including that of County Judge, and was one of Monticello’s most distinguished residents until his death in 1858. Bro. Pelton is credited with building Monticello’s second house. He showed his devotion to the fraternity not only by giving wise council, time and effort but he also gave the fraternity the lot at the corner of Pleasant Street and Broadway upon which Sullivan Lodge laid its cornerstone in 1829 and built its own temple.
Guided by his intellectual background and remarkable foresight the Lodge had weathered many storms. Mr. Pelton was one of the Charter members who had worked hard and long for the success of the Lodge and did not wish the fruits of his labors to fall into other hands, even those of Grand Lodge, so he exercised care in preparing his deed to the Lodge. It is obvious that he conceived the possibility of something happening which could cause the lodge to lose its charter. In the event of such an occurrence the possessions of the Lodge normally would automatically become the property of Grand Lodge. His better judgment told him to hold the deed in trust for the Lodge. Bro.Pelton conceived the idea of establishing for the Lodge a meeting place of its own and to start the project purchased a plot 55 feet long and 24 feet in width. The grounds on which the Victoria Hotel once stood were then presented to the Lodge. The description of the plot which he purchased; and the instrument conveying the rights of this property to the Lodge were recorded in the County Clerk’s office as follows:
“This indenture made the first day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, between Randall S. Street and Cornelia, his wife, and Apollos B. Hanford and Maria, his wife, of the Village of Monticello and County of Sullivan, parties of ‘the first part and Platt Pelton of the place of the second, WITNESSETH, that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars to them in hand paid, by the said party of the second part the receipt whereof is hereby confessed and acknowledged, hath devised, released and forever quit claim unto, the said party of the second part, in his actual possession now being and to his heirs and assigns for ever all that tract of land situate in the, Village of Monticello in the Town of Thompson beginning at the intersection of the North side of the village street at present laid out with the Westerly side of the road leading to Pleasant Pond settlement, thence running Northerly along said West line fifty-five feet, thence westerly and parallel to said Village street twenty-four feet thence Southerly and parallel to said North line of said road fifty-five feet to the North line of said Ville street thence Easterly along the same twenty-four feet to the place of beginning……. “To have and to hold the said lot to the said party of the second part, his heirs and assigns., to the sole and only proper use, benefit and behoof of the said party of the second part, his heirs and assigns, for ever. In witness whereof, the parties to these presents have hereunto interchangeably set their hands and seals the day and year first, above written. A.B. HANFORD, L. S., MARIA HANFORD, L.S., RANDALL S. STREET, CORNELIA STREET. Sealed and delivered in the presence of Peter F. Hunn.
“State of New York, Sullivan County, on this first day of January, 1828, before me, Peter F. Hunn, a commissioner to perform certain duties of a Judge of the Superior Court personally appeared Randall S. Street and Cornelia, his wife, Appollos B. Hanford, Maria, his wife, known to me to be the persons described in and purposes herein mentioned and the said Cornelia and Maria being examined by me in private and separate and apart from their husbands declared that they executed said indentures freely and without fear of or threats or compulsion from their said husbands. There being in said indenture no alterations I allow it to be recorded. P.F. Hunn, Sullivan County Clerk’s office recorded at seven o’clock P. M. on the first of January, 1828, “The within described premises having been purchased for the purpose of erecting thereon a Masonic Hall I, Platt Pelton, the grantee within named, do hereby declare that the within deed and the premises therein described have been recorded by me in trust for Sullivan Lodge No. 272, deed also in trust to Mortgage the same for the purpose of raising money to build and complete a Masonic Hall on said premises, in case a loan of money for that purpose shall become necessary, and the same be authorized by the said Lodge and also in trust to suffer and permit Sullivan Chapter No. 65 to receive an equal benefit and advantage from the use and occupation of the said Masonic Hall and said Sullivan Lodge.
“Witnesseth my hand and seal this first day of January one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, P. Pelton, L.S. In presence of P. F. Hunn, State of New York, Sullivan County: on this first day of January 1828 before me personally appeared Platt Pelton, well known to me to be the person described in the above in denture and who executed the same as his voluntary act and deed for the uses and purpose therein mentioned. Let it be recorded, P. F. Hunn, Comm. to perform certain duties of a Judge of Superior Court, Sullivan County Clerk’s Office Recorded at 7 o’clock, Jan. 1, 1828.”
If moving picture cameras were in existence in those days and if it were possible to flash the pictures of the recording of these instruments in the County Clerk’s office you would probably see Platt Pelton, an ardent Mason, devoted to and fighting for his Lodge, presenting a paper to further its success to Peter F. Hunn, a lawyer, once loyal to the craft, but then became its arch-enemy, who by virtue of his office as Master and Examiner in Chancery was compelled to take the instrument and guarantee its validity by making it a public record.
In a Masonic notice which announced that Sullivan Lodge would celebrate St. the Baptist’s Day in the Village of Monticello in conjunction with Royal Arch Chapter No. 65, then active in Monticello, Coit signed as secretary. The celebration took place on June 25, 1828. The notice also stated that the cornerstone of Sullivan Lodge would be laid at that time. Each year thereafter similar notices appeared and’ St. John the Baptist Festivals were held until the Grand Lodge declared the warrant of Sullivan Lodge No. 272 forfeited.
Sullivan Lodge No. 272 experienced its brightest days during most of the first decade it was warranted and then suffered three years of continual attack by those opposed to Masonry but nevertheless its lights continued to burn. Thrown into the abyss of the problems the order had faced for nearly a decade, brethren failed to rally their support to the dying lodge. With depleted ranks and darkness spreading over the Masonic world members of Sullivan Lodge carried on, however. They had faith in their hope and in their future and the generosity of those who could give and the willing hands of those who possessed health, strength and ambition but little of the world’s goods, soon made the new Masonic temple a reality; and on June 25, 1829, with appropriate ceremonies the cornerstone was laid for a new Masonic Hall for Sullivan Lodge. In June of the same year Sullivan Lodge made its last return to Grand Lodge. Long before this eventful day many Masons had withdrawn from Sullivan Lodge to join the ranks of the Anti-Masons and as such looked with disdain upon the activities of the craft.
Six years later on June 5th 1835, the charter of Sullivan Lodge was declared forfeited and Sullivan Lodge was no longer existent but nevertheless under the covenants of the deed Mr. Pelton was the rightful owner of the temple. Little is known about the Hanfords and Streets whose name appear on the deed given to Mr. Pelton but the Streets were very prominent in the early days of Monticello. Randall S. Street, district attorney of the Third District under the Constitution which was in force in 1821, was a Mason, and a charter member of Sullivan Lodge, who attended an early Grand Lodge session. He was educated and a leader in his day. General Street came to Monticello in 1825 and established a law practice. He was the father of the famous poet, Alfred B. Street, who immortal passages were born by the natural beauties of Sullivan County by which he was inspired in his early days.
Up until 1835 Masons, who had given financial and physical aid, had received little use of the structure’s rooms and in order to validate their interests chose to hold the Lodge’s charter for presentment as their certificate of authority as far as Mr. Pelton was concerned. Shortly after Sullivan Lodge’s charter was declared forfeited the politicians and churches began to modify their attacks and throughout the country brethren were experiencing a new era in Masonry. Although there was no lodge in Monticello from 1835 until 1858 ( Monticello Lodge 460 ) old documents reveal that Masons met quietly and patiently awaiting the day when they would emerge publicly from the seclusion in which they had been kept.
Platt Pelton died in May, 1859, still holding in trust the deed for the plot upon which the temple was built. Twenty-four years had elapsed since the old Lodge had authority to convene in the Lodge rooms. In a legal sense there was no organization to own the building and to occupy it in accordance with conditions under which use of the property was granted. Court and other records give no mention of litigation over the sale of this property by the executors of Platt Pelton’s will but it is more than likely that failure to return the Lodge’s charter in 1835 when it was declared forfeited was not unintentional. Records of Monticello Lodge 460 instituted in 1858 would indicate that this question was settled before Mr. Pelton’s death for this Lodge held none of its meetings in the old quarters. It is therefore obvious that the Masons had no rights to the building at that time.
On October 19, 1859, Charles M. and George Pelton, of Poughkeepsie, and Eli S. Pelton, of Monticello, the executors of the Platt Pelton estate sold the property to Mary Mapes and Charlotte Sherwood for $1,100. Shortly thereafter the women contracted to sell it to Thomas Curley, a forty-niner, who received his deed in 1866. Extensive remo0deling and reconditioning began immediately after Mr. Curley contracted to purchase the property. Upon removing the upper floor the workmen discovered that the space beneath was filled with tan bark to a depth of about fifteen inches. Mr. Pelton, the tanner, is believed to have supplied this material which, in 1829, was worth $3,000 a cord. The bark had been placed between the ceiling of the room beneath and the Lodge floor to prevent cowans and eavesdroppers from overhearing and learning the secrets of the Craft.
Men have come and gone since the old cornerstone was laid and the temple erected, and ravages of fire and weather have laid waste to the structure of yesteryear. Modernization and improvement of what remained of the temple after the fire of 1874 have created a new building bearing little or no resemblance of the old meeting place. But through the storm and tempest and fires which have laid waste to the Village of Monticello itself, the old cornerstone still remained intact. It eventually became the prized possession of Bro. Herman Albrecht the owner of the Victoria Hotel which is now operating on the old Temple grounds (circa 1945). Just before erection of the next Masonic Hall for Monticello 532 in 1910 [at 5 Bank Street, Monticello], an effort was made to remove the old cornerstone for the purpose of placing it under the new structure. Owing to the immense weight of the large stones above the block which was the main support of the Victoria Hotel, the owner would not consent to its removal at that time on the ground that it would have a tendency to weaken that corner. The project was abandoned and the old stone kept its original resting place until Bro. Albrecht became owner of the premises. It was he who consented to removal of the historic cornerstone.
After approximately 18 Years (1811-1829 ?) Sullivan Lodge 272 began to fade into obscurity, and the Charter of Sullivan Lodge was eventually forfeited to Grand Lodge on June 5, 1835. If the struggle for existence of Sullivan Lodge could have continued for another five years it is quite possible that the lodge would have been able to weather the storm and reawaken the Masonic spirit then latent because of the Morgan and anti-Masonic issues the Brethren faced.