Cooperstown, Otsego, NY
Freemasonry in Cooperstown, Part II
The time now approaches when the prosperous career of the lodge will receive a severe check, when partisan fanaticism and ignorance will be arrayed against our beloved institution. Many of the weaker brethren apostatized from our order, and became conspicuous among its persecutors. Old Otsego lodge, like many of her sisters, came near being shipwrecked by the violent waves of persecution, but thanks to a noble few, who manfully adhered to their duty and stood by their posts, she weathered the storm, and finally came out of the conflict triumphant, although sadly exhausted and depleted in numbers. It is but justice to the honored few who stood by their beloved institution and their dear old lodge in the dark days of adversity that their names should appear on record, as an example of firmness and fortitude to their younger brethren, reminding them of that debt of gratitude they owe to those who stemmed the tide of persecution hatred, and malice of the anti-Masonic period. After the lapse of half a century their names are honored and recalled with reverence and gratitude by their successors And foremost among this noble band was the then Worshipful Master, B. E. Crandal, William Nichols, Kent Jarvis, Ariel Thayer, Seth Doubleday,Jr., William Wilson, Chas. Thurston, William Temple, William Lewis, Harvey Luce, Abner Graves, and a few others. Two out of this number are yet spared to these venerable brethren, and us (one of them in his eighty-seventh year, the other a few years his junior) retain undiminished their old love for the institution of Freemasonry, and are occasionally present at the regular meetings of the lodge.
The following is recorded by Worshipful Brother E. B. Crandall: "Towards the close of the year 1826, some few of the members of the lodge, becoming somewhat restive under the proscription of political anti-Masonry, appeared ina body and notified the Worshipful master that at the approaching regular meeting of the lodge it was their intention to move the lodge to surrender its warrant, as a step toward appeasing public opinion and allaying the political excitement then everywhere raging in the State. The Worshipful Master replied that he did not consider it a favored question, and he should refuse to entertain it before the lodge unless all its members were previously notified of the intention, and so long as he remained the depositary of the warrant, and was sustained by the constitutional number of masons; or, in other words, unless all its members unite in the proposed movement, he would never consent to surrender the warrant for such purposes. He further observed that if they concurred he would notify the meeting to be held at an early hour, and then informally consider what might be done under the then existing state of public feeling, and whatever might be determined on by the brethren cheerfully observe. Accordingly, it was afterwards informally agreed that as an experiment this lodge would cease from its labors, keep its property insured, and standing good in grand lodge, and meet only for the purpose of closing its unfinished business and of organization, by the annual election of officers, or otherwise, as circumstances might specially require."
The following is recorded in the minutes in 1837: "On the 19th day of August departed this life Brother Ezra Eaton, aged eighty-seven years. So remarkable was our venerable brother for this punctual attendance that he was elected twenty-nine times to he office of Tyler of they lodge. The brethren attended his funeral at his late residence in Middlefield, and assisted in the performance of the ceremonies at the grave."
He was the last of the charter-members. It will be observed that he filled the office of Tyler at the first meeting of the lodge, as described in this sketch.
The lodge continued to meet but once a year, for the election of officers, and thus maintained its organization, as agreed upon in 1826. Occasionally they initiated a candidate, calling it unfinished business, and other members were added by affiliation. The records were kept during this period by Worthy Brother E. B. Crandal, who was for many years secretary, and to whom the lodge is largely indebted for the careful preservation of its archives and documents. His record tell us that for nearly twenty years the lodge had not done regular Masonic work; that although in the year 1835 an attempt was made to revive its stated meetings, a vote to that effect being passed by a small majority, yet "the opposition was so strong, and so earnest, it seemed as if the time had not arrived, and the resolution was suffered to pass by inoperative."
In 1845 a strong desire was manifested by the brethren to resume labor, but time and the tide of emigration had so reduced the number residing within a reasonable distance that it was difficult at times to get together a sufficient number for the election of officers. At the election, Dec, 9, 1845, the desire among the remaining few to resume work, and revive the lodge into activity, was strongly manifested, and it was
Resolved, That when this lodge closes, it shall stand closed till the next St. John's day (Dec. 27), at two o'clock P.M., at which time shall be installed the officers elect and that our brethren Chaplain be requested to deliver a discourse on that occasion.
The officers were duly installed on the day appointed, but Brother Potter, the chaplain, being abroad at the time, the discourse failed.
During the year 1846 the regular meetings of the lodge were punctually attended, but the members were aware that their condition was one of irregularity, they not having paid any dues to, or held any communication with, the grand lodge for a number of years, and as a consequence, their warrant had become forfeitable; but such also was the condition of most other lodges in this jurisdiction, and it was expected that the grand lodge, on being appealed to, and "the true state of our situation laid before it, would hail our renovation with rapture, and again fold us in its fraternal embraces."
During the year 1847, 16 new members were added by initiation and 11 others by affiliation. Among the former were Brothers James L. Fox and Eliab P. Byram, both of whom became Masters of the lodge for a number of years, and to whom the lodge is largely indebted for its subsequent prosperity.
At the annual communication of the grand lodge of the State of New York, in 1848, the matter of Otsego lodge was referred to a committee who reported that, "in view of the facts in the case presented, and in consideration of most of its members as men of moral worth and integrity, your committee would respectfully offer the following resolution:
Resolved, that a new warrant be granted to Otsego Lodge, No. 40, in continuation of the old warrant, on payment of the constitutional fee; that Ariel Thayer be named therein as Master, James L. fox, Senior Warden, and Eliab P. Byram, Junior Warden; and under the peculiar cicumtances of the case, said lodge is also allowed to retain its old warrant, with an endorsement therein, written on its face, that a new warrant has been issued in continuation thereof."
By the new warrant Otsego lodge became No. 138. Her true numerical rank in the list of lodges in the State is No. 13, which we are prepared to prove by argument and record. These, however, would not be interesting in this place. The officers named in the new warrant were installed, and the lodge was once more launched on the sea of prosperity and usefulness, which has continued to the present day.
*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