Information current as of: 11/25/97
Colorful local history makes it quite apparent why the organizers of this Lodge selected the rather unique name by which Fish House Lodge has always been known. Although the Post Office was always listed as Northampton, Fish House was, and still is, the popular name for the community in which this Lodge's organization took place. The name seems particularly appropriate inasmuch as it was used by Sir William Johnson when he built his hunting and fishing lodge in that location in 1762, thereafter always referring to the lodge as "the fish house. Thus the founder of Saint Patrick's Lodge No. 4 in Johnstown, NY unknowingly provided the name for a yet-unfounded Lodge that would be located in his hunting and fishing area.
We would be remiss not to refer to the two parent lodges of Fish House Lodge: North Star Lodge No. 162, and Golden Rule Lodge No. 284. Fortunately, the Minutes Book of the former has recently been recovered so that we have definite information regarding it's early operation.
North Star Lodge Lodge No. 162 was located at Edinburg, and held meetings there from August 28, 1807 until July 27, 1826. The differences in Lodge procedures at that time are indeed less striking than the similarities, and these similarities remind us of how much some ancient traditions persist to present times. Probably the most surprising difference is the fact that all business was conducted on the Entered Apprentice Degree, and much is to be said for the custom of permitting newly-initiated brothers to attend meetings immediately after receiving their first degree.
Information on Golden Rule Lodge No. 284 is rather sketchy. Some authorities locate it in Northville, and others believe it was at Northampton. However, the best sources lead us to believe that it held meetings, at least during part of its existence, at Osborne's Bridge, a small hamlet midway between Northville and Northampton. It is known with certainty only that it was in existence between the years 1824 and 1836.
As was true throughout the eastern States, Masonry received a serious set back during the 1830's and 40's, particularly in the rural areas. The combined efforts of misguided clerics and political opportunists needed only the spark of the Morgan incident in 1826 to label the Masonic Fraternity as anti-Church and anti-American. It required twenty years for the Craft to prove itself. In 1826 there were 480 Lodges in New York State with over 20,000 members. Just two years later there were only 75 Lodges registered with only 300 members.
Although both North Star and Golden Rule Lodges ceased to operate at this time, a brave group of Masons, inspired with the fraternal spirit, met clandestinely in another location: Their secret lodge room was in Parkville, a settlement commonly known as "The Dam," located immediately north of Northville. Their makeshift Lodge Room was, in fact, the loft of an old barn that is still in existence.
On March 4, 1853 The Grand Lodge of the State of New York granted a dispensation to Fish House Lodge to organize. Ten men were listed as charter members at the time of its institution; among them were five former members of North Star Lodge and one of Golden Rule Lodge. James Partridge, a resident of Edinburg, was one of these North Star former members who helped organize the present Fish House Lodge. He had the double distinction of having been a Mason for 59 years, and having seven of his sons become members of Fish House Lodge. Certainly this is an enviable record and one duplicated in but few Lodges.
During the brief period when the Lodge was under dispensation George Van Slyke was initiated.& Opposite his name in the register of members we find one of those isolated remarks that is so gratifying to a historian, stating that he was "one if the best Masons, for seven years Worshipful Master."
In June of 1853, the Grand Lodge session issued a warrant on June 11th that constituted Fish House Lodge as Lodge number 298.& At that time it was located in the Seventh Masonic District . Henry W. Spence had the honor of being the Lodge's first Master. During the first four years, three other former North Star members affiliated with Fish House Lodge. However, the first Northville resident did not join until 1865, and that was B. N. Lobdell who was numbered 157 on the Lodge's roster. Northampton was much the larger of the two places at that time, and yet despite the close proximity of these villages, very few Northville men applied for membership until after 1870.
Meetings had always been held on Wednesday evenings, but not until 1872 did the bylaws call for meetings to be set on the first and third Wednesdays, as at present. Following the custom of North Star Lodge, and indeed most Lodges in these early days, meetings were scheduled for 6 o'clock on the Wednesday on or before the full moon, with another meeting two weeks later. This practice was followed from October through March. The quality of artificial illumination being so inferior, it was necessary to conserve all the sunlight possible for one's vocation, especially in the farming community. Then, too, the advantages of having moonlight for the journey homeward after a meeting could hardly be neglected.
Masonry was then a more vital part of the lives of it's members than it is today, with most brethren taking its precepts very seriously. Saint John's days were seldom passed by without notice and on several occasions, at least, elaborate ceremonies were held. We are proud that nearly all the local municipal officials have their names listed on the Lodge rolls. As always, Masons were a select group, and should one be accused of unmasonic conduct, he could be brought before the Junior Warden for a Masonic trial.
Meetings on many evenings must have been very lengthy. Very often two degrees were conferred on an evening, sometimes at the time of the District Deputy's visitation or on Annual Meeting night. At one November meeting in 1865, the minutes record that a report was read on a Masonic trial, five candidates balloted upon, and all three degrees worked, along with various items of miscellaneous business.
An 1886 fire in the Lodge rooms resulted in the destruction and loss not only of many valuable records, including the minutes of meetings from 1853 to 1861, but also all the records of Golden Rule Lodge. By the end of that year a new Masonic Temple was nearly completed so that meetings could be held there.
The first recorded agitation for removing the Lodge to Northville began in 1870. Little headway was made at that time, but during the next year, in the minutes of the January 4th meeting, is found the following quote which dramatically indicates the intensity of the feeling on the matter: "Motion that Fish House Lodge No. 298 petition the Grand Lodge of the State of New York for permission to hold its meetings at Northville. Amended that the motion be laid on the table. Amendment lost. Then the Worshipful Master declared motion out of order." Later that year the proposition for establishing a new Lodge at Northville was voted upon, and resulted in a 36 to 36 tie. Applications for new Lodges to be established at Day Center and Luzerne were summarily defeated, often without the necessity of a ballot.
Again, in 1882, a vote was taken either to move the Lodge to Northville or to establish a new Lodge there. Both motions were defeated. During the next decade Northville experienced rapid growth, easily attaining a population of 1,100 by 1892. By that time enough Northville residents had managed to become members of the Lodge that in June of that year it was finally and successfully voted to move the Lodge to Northville. Inasmuch as Northampton and Northville were so close together, and both in the same Masonic jurisdiction, Grand Lodge looked with favor upon the move. The majority of the membership decided that the prosperity of the Lodge would be promoted by the move. In July, 1892 the first communication was held at Northville in the Kested and Bowman block owned by the Lodge treasurer, George N. Brown.
Although we find few references to National conflicts in our early Minutes, the effect they had on the Lodge, particularly in the case of the two World Wars, was profound. The only mention of the Civil War was the notation in 1865 of a letter received seeking aid for a destitute brother "who was pecuniarily reduced by aiding brethren who were prisoners in and near Charleston." During World War I special dispensations were received form Grand Lodge permitting degrees to be conferred at intervals shorter than usually prescribed by Grand Lodge. Leon H. Dunn received the first degree on November 6th, 1918, and the two remaining degrees on the next night. So many line officers answered the call to military service, that in 1920 there were five Past Masters installed as officers. A similar situation was repeated during World War II.
Fish House Lodge was incorporated under the Benevolent Order Law of the State in 1923. It was during that year that the home of George N. Brown was acquired, but never used, for Lodge meetings; negotiations having been started in the interim to purchase the Cole block. On the morning of Saturday, June 16, 1928, dedication ceremonies were held at the present Masonic Temple with the Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York as the principle speaker.
There has always been a mutually beneficial and harmonious relationship between the Masonic Fraternity and the Order of the Eastern Star. As early as 1866, before the Eastern Star was organized into the present Chapter system, the "Ladies Degree" was conferred by the Officers of Fish House Lodge. From that time to the present, the Lodge has not hesitated to request the ladies to serve meals for them. Our records frequently show thanks being tendered the ladies for the "generous collation" served on some occasion or other. When the local Chapter of the Easter Star was formed in 1902 every encouragement was given them by the Masons, and the use of the Lodge rooms was donated to them rent-free during the first year.
A particularly pleasant and fraternal spirit has grown from the close relationship that existed between the Gloversville and Fish House Lodges. Two former members of Fish House Lodge helped organize Gloversville Lodge in 1857, and one of them became their first Junior Warden. The altar presently in the Fish House Lodge was a gift presented by Gloversville Lodge No, 429 at the time of the dedication of the present Lodge Rooms.
Grand Lodge has honored Fish house Lodge by the appointment of four District Deputy Grand Masters. The first was Lee S. Anibal who served two terms from 1883 to 1885. The office was later held by Edgar P. Palmer in 1922-23, James Carpenter in 1937-38 and Herbert G. Corey during 1950-51. Each of these men was of the highest caliber both as man and Mason, all of whom served their Lodge and their District with exceptional distinction.
Grand Lodge having instituted the policy in 1948 of awarding 50 year medals, Brother David Sandner and Worshipful Brothers Arthur Heath and Seymour Brownell, in that year were presented with that honor. Two years later a 60-year palm was added to Worshipful Brother Brownell's medal. Unfortunately all three of these faithful brothers were called to the Celestial Lodge before the occasion of the Lodge's centennial celebration.
There have been a total of 704 brothers raised in Fish house Lodge in the course of the past century. At the present time membership is at its highest peak, there being 154 active members in our Lodge.
For further information regarding Fish House Lodge No. 298,
please contact: W\ Alfred Graham , Secretary
PO Box 136
Northville, NY 12134-0136
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