Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Freemasonry in Cooperstown, Part I
By Holice and Debbie

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In the year 1975, a number of brethren residing in Cooperstown and towns adjacent, petitioned the Grand Lodge of the State of New York for a warrant empowering them to assemble according to the usages of the "Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons," and in due time the grand lodge granted the warrant, which reads as follows:

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 of the City of York, in Great Britain, in the year of Masonry 4926, viz., the Most Worshipful, the Honorable Robert R. Livingston, Esq.,. Chancellor of the State, Grand Master; the Right Worshipful Jacob Morton, Esq., Deputy Grand Master; the Right Worshipful James Scott, Esq., Senior Grand Warden; the Right Worshipful De Witt Clinton, Esq., Junior Grand Warden; Do by these presents, appoint, authorize, and empower our Worthy Brother Elihu Phinney to be the Master, our Worthy Brother Rowland Cotton to be the Senior Warden, and our Worthy Brother James Fitch to be the Junior Warden of a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, to be by virtue hereof constituted, formed, and held at Cooperstown, in the county of Otsego, and State of New York, which lodge shall be distinguished by the name, or style, of "Otsego Lodge No. 40."

After which is enumerated certain duties and privileges pertaining to said lodge. This warrant is dated "the fourteenth day of August, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-five, and in the year of our Masonry five thousand seven hundred and ninety-five," and signed "John Abrams, Grand Secretary."

By appointment, Brothers Phinney, Cotton, and Fitch made a special journey to the city of Albany, and were there duly installed by Right Worshipful Brothers Peter W. Yates, Esq., Past Senior Grand Warden, on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 31, 1795.

The first meeting of the lodge was held at the dwelling-house of Worshipful Brother Phinney, in Second street (now Main street), Cooperstown, on Thursday, the first day of March, 1796, the following officers and brethren being present: Elihu Phinney, W. M.; Rowland Cotton, S. S.; James Fitch, J. W.;Benjamin Gilbert, Treas.; Richard Edward, S. D.; Lewis Edson, J. D.; Stephen Ingalls, S.S.; Levi Collar, J. S.; Ezra Eaton, Tyler. Nathaniel Gott, Zerah Tanner, Joel Draper, and P. Parker.

At this meeting, Elijah Holt, Esq., Timothy Morse, Esq., Thomas Whitier, and Anselm Williams applied for the degrees, and were subsequently initiated. During this year fifty-four members were added by intitiation, and four other by affiliation. Among those new members appear the names of citizens distinguished in the annals of Otsego County, viz., Dr. Joseph White, Joseph Tunnicliff, Geo. Jacob Morris, James Averill, Paschall Franchot, Richard Cory, Erastus Root, and others.

In July preparations were made to move the lodge from the house of Wor. Bro. Phinney, and in August the meeting was held in the lodge-chamber in he house of Bro. Huntington, southwest corner of Second and West streets (now Main and Phinney). On the occasion of the festival of St. John the Evangelist (Dec. 27), the day was observed with suitable ceremonies by the craft. A discourse was delivered by Rev. Bro. Camp of Canaan, Columbia county. Bro. Huntington spread the table of refreshments, around which some sixty or seventy brethren assembled, besides several distinguished visitors, among whom was the Rev. Dr. Nott. In the following year (1797) twenty-eight members were added by initiation, and one by affiliation, among whom we find the names of Samuel Crafts, F. Herrick, and other. During this year a contract was made for a building for the use of the craft. A lot was selected on the northeast corner of West and Front streets, and, pursuant to a resolution of he lodge, "Masonic Hall" was raised on Saturday, June 24, that day being the festival of St. John the Baptist. Tradition relates that "not a loud word was spoken upon the ground on this interesting occasion, not a metal tool used."**

At the annual communication--Dec. 5, 1797--it was resolved to celebrate the festival of St. John the Evangelist, and dedicate the hall on the same day. "The ceremonies on this occasion were performed in a most satisfactory manner. In his usual happy style, Wor. Bro. Phinney composed a dedication song for the occasion."

In the next year, 1798, fifteen new members were added to the lodge, which we find working prosperously and harmoniously. There are occasionally causes for masonic discipline, such as suspensions or expulsions for intemperance and other unmasonic conduct. On June 4, at a stated meeting, a committee was appointed to wait on his honor, Judge Cooper, and return him the thanks of Otsego Lodge for the donation of the lot on which the Masonic hall stands.

The year 1799 shows a condition of prosperity in the lodge, and a goodly addition to its membership. At the stated meeting held on Jan. 7, 1800, the death of our worthy and illustrious brother, General Washington, was duly announced by Wor. Bro. Phinney, when, after reading and adopting certain resolutions passed by the Most Worshipful grand Lodge of the State of new York on this mournful occasion, it was unanimously.

Resolved, That the members of this lodge were mourning for the term of six months as tribute of respect for the masonry of their illustrious and well-beloved brothers, General George Washington, who left this terrestrial for the Celestial Lodge December 14, anno lucis, 5799.

Resolved, That the lodge room be clothed in mourning during the term aforesaid.

And whereas, The Congress of the United States have, by resolution "commended to the people of the United States to assemble on the twenty-second day of February next, in such numbers and manner as may be convenient, publicly to testify their grief for the death of General George Washington by suitable eulogies, orations, and discourses, or by public prayers," therefore,

Resolved, That the members of this lodge be notified to assemble at the lodge-room on the twenty-second day of February next at 12 o'clock m., for the purpose so recommended, and that Bro. Eli Parsons be requested to deliver an oration before this lodge on the solemn occasion.

According to appointment the lodge was held on February 22, there being a large attendance of the brethren, and Bro. Parsons delivered an eloquent oration suitably adapted to the occasion.

The minutes of the lodge record harmonious work for a series of years. Every year the brethren celebrate the festival of one of their patron saints, on which occasion it was their custom to walk in Masonic procession to one of the churches, preceded by a band of music, and after listening to an appropriate discourse by a reverend brother, return to the lodge-room. The remainder of the day would be spent in convivial enjoyment, indulging in "the feast of reason and the flow of soul"

It appears that at a regular meeting on Jan. 4, 1806, this lodge voted to recommend Brother Joseph White for Master, Brother Peter Magher for Senior Warden, and Brother Alijah Holl for Junior Warden of a lodge to be established at Cherry Valley, and to be known by the name of trinity lodge.

On July 13, 1813, a number of brethren attended the funeral of Right Worshipful Brother Elihu Phinney. On returning to the lodge it was voted, "that as a testimony of respect for the memory of our brothers and principal founder of this lodge,--Elihu Phinney, Esq.,--that this lodge be clothed with mourning for the term of three months from this date."

The lodge continued ina steady prosperous course, its meetings well attended, and its councils harmonious. Death had been unsparing here, as elsewhere, and the minutes record many occasions when a departed brother had been laid in his final resting-place with Masonic ceremonies, and the customary resolutions of regret and eulogy were passed on these occasions. The charter members had nearly all been summoned by the Grand Architect to the Celestial lodge above. One of the last, Brother James Fitch, whose name appears in the warrant as Junior Warden, died in March, 1822. He was borne to the grave by his younger brethren, and his remains interred with due Masonic honors. (The History of Otsego, NY, by Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young

December 24, 1999

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