History

Freemasonry in Oneonta, New York

''Needs review and consolidation.''

1814 – 1859 – 1959 – 1984 – 2009

Oneonta Lodge No.466 was chartered June 1859, but Freemasonry in this community started 45 years earlier, when on 14 December 1814, a charter was granted to Milford Lodge No. 238, to be located in the south part of the town of Milford, which township embraced nearly all of what is now the City of Oneonta.  The Petition to Grand Lodge was dated 1 September 1814 and was signed by Gloud Wands; Caleb Crandall; Joseph Westcott Jr; Storm A Becker; Henry Larue; John Banner; John Quackenboys; John S Smith; Parker Wilson and John Benet.  The charter was signed by M.·.W.·. DeWitt Clinton, Grand Master.  The officers named were Philo Andrews, Master; Gloud Wands, Senior Warden and Caleb Crandall, Junior Warden.  The Charter is in possession and displayed by Oneonta Lodge No. 466.

Timeline

||Date | Lodge Notes | Location
1814 | Milford Lodge No. 238 | Walling Tavern
1832 | Charter Revoked | 
1859 | Oneonta Lodge No. 466 | Perkins Marble Shop
1865 | | Hopkins Furniture
1871 | | Bissell Building
1882 | Oneonta Royal Arch Chapter No. 277
1892 | | 134 Main St
1895 | Martha Chapter No. 116, OES
1897 | | Stanton Opera House
1927 | Oneonta Cryptic Council No. 87
1929 | | Fairchild Mansion
2013 | Elias Light DeMolay Chapter

Lodge of Perfection
Amaranth ||{BOX}
The hamlet of about 60 souls was then known as McDonald’s Bridge. Its dozen or so buildings stretched for about a mile or more along what is now the northerly side of Main Street, from the river bridge easterly.  The only buildings on the south side of the rough road, were a school and a distillery located near the former corner of Main and Broad Streets.  It is probable that the lodge met in the tavern operated by Brother Simeon Walling on the site of the present United Presbyterian Church.

The Lodge charter was revoked in 1832 for failure to make returns to Grand Lodge.  This was the time of the Morgan episode when self-seeking politicians were whipping up feeling against the craft.  In that year the number of lodges in the state was reduced to 48.

The town of Oneonta was formed in 1850 from parts of Milford and Otego townships and in 1848 the village of Oneonta was incorporated.  By 1859 the settlement had grown to over 600 inhabitants.

Masonry was recovering from the effects of the Morgan affair and a desire for the restoration of the Lodge was being felt.  In 1858 a Petition for a new charter was made to Grand Lodge signed by Elias Light, raised in Phoebus Lodge No. 94; John F. Perkins raised in Otsego Lodge No. 138; Robert Scanling, raised in Orange Lodge No.45 and Denisen R Boyce, raised in Friendship Lodge No. 82, Pennsylvania.

A dispensation was granted and the first communication of Oneonta Lodge, U.D. was held 8 January 1859.. At this meeting only three brothers were present, “three constituting a lodge”: Elias Light, Master; John F Perkins, S.W. and Secretary; Robert Scanling, J.W.  A charter was granted by Grand Lodge and was signed on 20 June 1859 by M.·.W.·.John L Lewis, Jr, Grand Master.  Oneonta Lodge held its first communication on 30 June 1859.

By this time the Lodge had reached a membership of eleven, seven of whom had been initiated, passed and raised in the Lodge Under Dispensation.  The new Lodge grew slowly and 25 years passed before, in 1884, the membership reached 100 members.  The present membership is 125.

When first organized the Lodge occupied rooms over the marble shop of Brother John F Perkins, which stood on the northeast corner of Dietz and Main Streets.  In 1865 the Lodge moved to rooms over the furniture shop of Brother Robert W Hopkins, later the Windsor Hotel, now location of NBT on corner of Chestnut  and Wall Streets.  The next move, in 1871 was to the third floor of the Bissell Building, northwest corner of Dietz and Main Streets.  In 1892 the Lodge moved to quarters in the Hazelton Block, 134 Main Street.   In 1897 the Lodge moved to the top two floors of the Stanton Opera House Block on the northwest corner of Main and Chestnut Streets, remaining there for 32 years until 1929 when the present beautiful Temple was purchased of Sherman M Fairchild during the mastership of R.·.W.·. Edwin R Moore.  The purchase price was $50,000, towards which Mr. Fairchild donated $5,000 as well as a quantity of furniture and books.

The mortgage was liquidated early in 1949 and later that year, W.·. Earl W Ames being Master, the lodge and dining rooms were enlarged and other improvements made at a cost of $13,000.  Following the completion of this work, the Temple was rededicated on 1 September 1949, at a ceremony attended by over 600 local and area Masons.  This indebtedness was cleared on 29 December 1954.

Several Brothers of the Lodge have been honored by Grand Lodge, the most distinguished being Most Worshipful Charles Smith, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York 1912-14.  Most Worshipful Richard P Thomas, Grand Master 1990-1992 is a dual member of the Lodge.  A list of others, upon whose shoulder has rested the purple of the fraternity, appears elsewhere in this booklet.

R.·.W.·. F M H Jackson retired in 1954 as Assistant Grand Lecturer of the Otsego-Schoharie District, a position he had held for 42 years, a Grand Lodge record, in 1954 the 33° was conferred upon him; in 1961 R.·.W.·. Earl Ames was greeted a 33°; in 1965 R .·.W.·. Wilmer E Bresee was greeted a 33° and in 1975 R.·.W.·. Raymond S Morey was greeted a 33°.  Fourteen of the Brethren of Oneonta Lodge have been honored to receive the coveted Dedicated Service Award and their names are inscribed on a wall-plaque.

The Lodge has always taken pride in its members who served in the armed forces of our country in time of war.  Over 300 members have served during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean Conflict, Viet Nam, Gulf War, and in the War on Terrorists

Other Masonic bodies meeting in our Temple, with the dates of institution are: Oneonta Chapter No. 277, Royal Arch Masons, 1882; Oneonta Council No. 87, Cryptic Masons, 1927 and Martha Chapter No. 116, Order of Eastern Star, 1895.

Through the years the Lodge has participated in many cornerstone layings, including the first and second New York State Armories (now known as the Asa C. Allison City Building) and both of the Aurelia Fox Memorial Hospital ceremonies.  On 9 July 1909, the Lodge observed its Fiftieth Anniversary with M.·.W.·. Samuel Nelson Sawyer, Grand Master, in attendance.  On 13 June 1959, the Lodge observed its Centennial Anniversary with M.·.W.·. H. Lloyd Jones, Grand Master, in attendance.  On 9 June 1984, the Lodge observed its 125th Anniversary with M.·.W.·. Calvin G. Bond, Grand Master, in attendance.

The Lodge supports Little League Baseball, Youth Soccer, the Salvation Army by “Ringing Bells”, Saturday’s Bread, the Cleaning of  2½ miles of I-88 highway and other community projects

In 1967, Oneonta Lodge had an elevator installed in the building.  This is known as the “Smith-Dewar Memorial Elevator” given through the generosity of Jessie Smith Dewar, Masons and Friends of Oneonta Lodge No. 466 F & AM.

12 February 1974 was the date of record for entering the building on the National Register of Historical Places.  New York State recognized the building 20 October 1981 on its Register of Historic Places.

In 1976, a Memorial Flag Pole was dedicated to the memory of W.·. Charles H. Doyle Master of Oneonta Lodge in 1954, being a gift by his wife, Dorothy T. Doyle.  Early in 1983 the Lodge installed a new gas furnace, the oil burner was retained, thereby providing a dual capability of heating our temple.

! History of Masonry in Oneonta
A Petition to Grand Lodge, dated 2 September 1814, received a Recommendation of Approval from Charity Lodge in Harpersfield on 27 September 1814 and Gilboa Lodge #210 under date of 4 October 1814.  The location was in the hamlet of McDonald’s Bridge or McDonald’s Mills consisting of a dozen houses and a population of about sixty, much later being named Oneonta.  Following that petition, a Charter was granted to Milford Lodge No. 238 to be located in the south part of the town of Milford and was signed by Most Worshipful DeWitt Clinton, Grand Master on 19 December 1814.  The officers named being Philo Andrews, Master; Gloud Wands, Senior Warden and Caleb Crandall, Junior Warden.  That Charter is framed and hangs on the wall by the entrance to the third floor lodge room, located in the Fairchild Mansion.

Most of the territory now included in the City of Oneonta was then in Milford township. In those days, especially in small towns, lodge meetings were generally held in taverns, since only there could a large enough room be found.  Simeon Walling, a Revolutionary War Veteran, was a member of Lodge No. 238, and it is quite certain that the lodge met in his establishment, located on the corner of what is now identified as Walling Avenue and Main Street, location of the First United Presbyterian Church.  The lodge continued in activities until 1832 when its charter was revoked for failure to make reports to Grand Lodge.  The minutes of this lodge have never been found, but the ancient charter was found nearly a hundred years after in the attic of a descendant of one of the members and is now a cherished possession of Oneonta Lodge and has been framed and hung in the 3rd floor hallway.

In returns to Grand Lodge from January 1815 to June 1818, the names of forty brethren appear, the lodge being located at McDonald’s Bridge(Mills) and quite likely its meetings were held in the tavern conducted by Brother Simeon Walling, on the site of what is now the United Presbyterian Church.  Grand Lodge revoked that Charter  in 1832, when so many lodges throughout the state were thus dealt with, because of lodge reports not being received, following the Morgan episode.  In that year the number of lodges in the state was reduced to 48.  It is now difficult to realize the intolerance people had toward Masonry at that time.  Families were disrupted, merchants suspected of membership were boycotted and clergymen compelled to leave their pastorates.  

During the period of 1830-1860 the settlement had grown to nearly 700 inhabitants and the Town of Oneonta was formed in 1830 from parts of Milford and Otego.  Masonry was recovering from the effects of the Morgan episode and a desire for the restoration of a Lodge connection was being felt, and in 1858 a petition was made to Grand Lodge for authority.  

A Charter was granted during the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge held 1 June through 7 June 1859 and dated 20 June 1859, with Elias Light, Worshipful Master; John Perkins, Senior Warden and Robert Scanling Junior Warden.  The first Meeting was held on January 8, 1859, in a room over Perkins’ marble shop, on the corner of Dietz and Main Streets, where 213 Main Street is located.  The charter was dated June 20, 1859.  Elias Light was the first Master of Oneonta Lodge No. 466.  

During the period of Dispensation the Lodge met over the marble shop of Brother John F Perkins on the northeast corner of Main and Dietz Streets, and continued to meet there until 1865.  They then moved to rooms over the furniture store of Brother Robert W Hopkins, on the southeast corner of Wall and Chestnut Streets, now occupied by the NBT Bank   In 1871 the Lodge moved to the third floor of the Bissell Building located at 183 Main St., with the approach to the rooms by way of an outside wooden stairway to the second floor, an inner stairway to the ante rooms above, remaining there for the next 21 years.  In 1892 the Lodge moved to the newly erected Hazelton building, the second building east of Chestnut Street on the south side of Main Street.  In 1897 they moved to the Stanton Opera House block, at the northwest corner of Main and Chestnut Streets, where they met on the third and fourth floors.  In November 1924 The Lodge purchased two lots containing old wooden buildings on Chestnut Street, opposite the Windsor Hotel(former site of the Hopkins furniture store and subsequently the NBT Bank). 

In July 1929 the Lodge moved to the present location, the Fairchild Mansion, at 322 Main Street. Oneonta NY.  This was the former residence of Congressman George W Fairchild, and was purchased from his son, Sherman M Fairchild, for $50,000, and toward that amount, the latter presented the Lodge $5,000.00(for the down payment), together with most of the furniture and books contained in the mansion. 

Our most distinguished member was Most Worshipful Charles Smith who served as Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York 1912 through 1914.  Another distinguished Brother was Right Worshipful Wilmer E Bresee, elected Senior Grand Warden serving in 1962-1964, he also served as Grand Historian 1964-1986 and Grand Historian Emeritus 1986-1997, until the time of his death. 

! City Centennial
The first Lodge in the community, in 1814, was Milford Lodge #238, located in the south part of the town of Milford.  According to our information the Lodge met in the Tavern of Simeon Walling, located on the corner of what is now identified as Walling Avenue and Main Street, location of the First United Presbyterian Church.  The tavern was probably the only building in the community, large enough for a meeting. The Lodge met until about 1832, when the charter was revoked for failure to make reports to the Grand Lodge.  In January1859 masonry was revived in Oneonta, Grand Lodge granted a Dispensation, the first meeting was held in a room over Perkins’ Marble Shop on the corner of Main and Dietz Streets, then moving to rooms over Hopkins Furniture Store on the corner of Chestnut and Wall Streets, moving to the 3rd floor of the Bissell Building, thence to quarters in the Hazelton Block and in 1897 to the top two floors of the Stanton Opera House block, on the NW corner of Main and Chestnut Streets.

The Fairchild Mansion, located at 322 Main Street in Oneonta NY is one of the last grand houses of Oneonta, filled with many of the original furnishings and artwork.  The original 2-story portion of the house was almost square with a flat roof and in 1897 was enlarged and remodeled by the Fairchild’s, who added the Belgian-style tile roof.  The third floor held a ballroom, where several festive dances were held.  This area is now the location of the Masonic Lodge Room.  Mr. Fairchild served 6 terms in the United States Congress, and was a chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild entertained Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as guests and who stayed over several times in the 1st floor bedroom.

After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Fairchild, in the early 20’s, the house was unoccupied, except for a caretaker, until the structure became the home of Oneonta Lodge 466 of Free and Accepted Masons in 1929, when Sherman M. Fairchild sold the building to the Masons, for $50,000.  He gave the Lodge the library, expensive draperies and floor coverings, most of the furniture and art objects that adorned the various rooms. 

The members of the Masonic Lodge are most happy to be able to ‘open and make the building accessible’ on special occasions to appreciative guests to visit or see most of the 20 rooms, 3 great halls, 7 fireplaces, 6 bathrooms, and ride the elevator to the 3 floors.  The building does have a ‘full’ cellar and ‘full’ attic.  

The Mansion’s décor is unique.  In each of the entryways, the upper wall coverings are a thin brass sheet’ material, the upper wall covering in the Dining Room is a French tapestry.  Several of the rooms have beamed ceilings. Various woods have been used including, silver maple, quartered oak, sycamore, cherry, spruce, pine and mahogany. All the doors are solid, with a veneer facing, so that when a door is in the closed position, the wood of the door matches the wood trim of the room!  Intricate wood carving is found in many of the rooms, especially to be found in and around the fireplaces, and furniture. Several of the first floor rooms have inset window blinds for both upper and lower casements.  Unusual chandeliers are to be seen, energized by electricity and/or gas.  Several of the 1st floor rooms have ‘pocket doors’ between the rooms, in addition to the draperies, for privacy and to maintain interior temperatures. 
 
Oneonta Lodge #466 is very appreciative that Members of the Oneonta Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution are Docents for your visit to the Fairchild Mansion/ Masonic Lodge today, and to Helen K. B. Rees for composing this brochure.