Life was different when the story of Welcome Lodge first began to unfold, just prior to the beginning of the 20th century. Amsterdam had yet to see its first automobile, and there were no automatic heating systems, electric refrigerators, radios, televisions, air planes or computers. Beyond that, anyone imagining the discovery and harnessing of the atom, or the exploration of outer space, would have been considered out of their minds.
Yet in flourishing Artisan Lodge there was strong belief among some brothers that the Cause of Masonry could be strengthened by the formation of a second Lodge in Amsterdam. Several informal meetings preceded a formal meeting on January 22, 1899 in the Board of Trade rooms then located at 3 Market Street. The seventeen Artisan Lodge Masons who were in attendance for the purpose of forming the desired second Masonic Lodge in Amsterdam included: E.O. Bartlett, W.M. Bartlett, W.S. Cook, D.S. Dunlap, J.W. Haggert, E.V. Henderson, G.I. Herrick, W.E. Jenkins, J.W. Kimball, T.J. Nevelle, E.H. Parkis, J. Perkins, M.J. Serviss, H.L. Shuttleworth, H.B. Waldron, G.C. Williams and J.E. Williams.
Unanimously elected to become the first officers for the new Lodge were: David S. Dunlap, Worshipful Master, J. Edwin Williams, Senior Warden, and Edward H. Parkis, Junior Warden. It was also unanimously resolved that the name of the new Lodge should be "Welcome Lodge," in honor of Welcome U. Chase, the first Worshipful Master of Artisan Lodge No. 84.
At the next recorded meeting, on Sunday, February 5, 1899, Secretary G.C. Williams read a Petition addressed to the Grand Master asking for Dispensation to create the new Lodge. It was approved and signed by 40 members of the Craft, all of whom were members of Artisan Lodge, and all of whom, with the exception of J.W. Haggert (who moved from Amsterdam before the institution of the new lodge), became Charter Members of Welcome Lodge. The last surviving Charter Member was Franklin I. Adams, who died on July 29th, 1956 at the age of 96 after completing 70 years of continuous membership in the Fraternity. He was initiated in Cedar River Lodge No. 89, Fullerton, Nebraska, on May 17, 1886; demitted to Artisan Lodge on September 18, 1888; and affiliated with Welcome Lodge on June 12, 1900.
The first Stated Communication of Welcome Lodge on September 12, 1889, while under Dispensation, was the occasion of 14 Petitions for Membership being received and referred to a committee of investigation. The following officers were present: David Dunlap, WM; J.E. Williams, SW; Edward Parkis, JW; Willis Bartlett, Treas.; Charles Washburn, Sec'y.; Edward. Carroll, Chaplain; G.C. Williams, SD; Wilbur Jenkins, JD; E.O. Bartlett, SMC; George Stover, JMC; Fred Davey, Marshall and Fred Miller, Tyler. The first time a degree was conferred was on October 10, 1899, when Harrison Chase, Charleton Mumford, Van B. Wheaton and Arthur Campbell were initiated Entered Apprentices.
At the request of the Grand Secretary, Welcome Lodge's Dispensation was surrendered on April 10, 1900. Three weeks later, at the 119th Annual Communication of Grand Lodge, a Charter bearing the date May 2, 1900 was granted to Welcome Lodge, along with the number 829. During the 10½-year period of Dispensation Welcome Lodge Entered 22, Passed 19, and Raised 19 candidates.
On Tuesday, June 12, 1900, Welcome Lodge No. 829 was duly Instituted during very impressive and solemn services presided over by M\W\ Charles W. Mead, Grand Master. Some 250 Masons, including fully 100 from surrounding counties, were in attendance.
During its earliest years, Welcome Lodge met in the Masonic Lodge Rooms in the Sanford Homestead Building located a 3 Market Street, sharing those rooms with Artisan Lodge for more than five yeas. In 1905 the two Lodges, along with Amsterdam Chapter No. 81, Royal Arch Masons, organized the Masonic Association of Amsterdam for the purpose of acquiring and holding property for the benefit of its several allied bodies. The first Special Trustees elected by the Association were Charles Henderson from Artisan Lodge, Edward Parkis from Welcome Lodge, and William H. Kaufman from the Chapter, and were the original incorporators on May 27, 1905 of the Masonic Association of Amsterdam.
In 1920 the Association purchased the Sugden Building located at 16-18
Market Street and, after extensive remodeling, the building was dedicated
on October 15, 1921 as the Amsterdam Masonic Temple. Ceremonies were
presided over by M\W\ Charles
H. Johnson, then Junior Grand Warden. The Lodges and Chapter stayed
in the Market Street Temple for 49 years, until it had
to be given up to the Urban Renewal Agency.
In retrospect, many of the most memorable events in the history of Welcome Lodge, not soon to be forgotten by many of the older members, took place in this Temple building:
Tuesday, April 28, 1936: Nearly 500 brothers gathered for the home-coming reception for R\W\ Earl O. Stowitts, who was District Deputy Grand Master at the time.
Thursday, April 6, 1944: Masons of Amsterdam held their Debt-Free Celebration. The burning of the mortgage was witnessed by another overflow crowd that included Grand Master William F. Strang.
Saturday, October 28, 1950: Celebrated Welcome Lodge's Golden Anniversary, and once again were hard pressed to accommodate the gathering of Masons that turned out for this memorable event. The Grand Master, M\W\ Richard A. Rowlands, was the principal speaker of the evening, and on this occasion the Lodge initiated the policy of citing its 25-year members at suitable occasions.
Tuesday, April 14, 1970: The last Communication at the old Temple was held, at which time the Master Mason degree was conferred upon Brothers Harold Banta, David Singer, Hubert Townsend, and Lloyd Wagner.
Also: There were many other events, some not so formal, such as the daily lunch-time gatherings and the inevitable pool games, the Saturday Night Specials at the Masonic Club, and the Election Day get-togethers that usually featured cider and donuts.
Meanwhile, members of the Masonic Association, under the leadership of President James A. Noonan, exerted every effort to provide its' constituent bodies with a new home. Several sites were suggested and, following some debate, were turned down as being unacceptable. Finally, on Tuesday, December 19, 1972, the present site at 34 Division Street was purchased, and ground-breaking ceremonies were held the following day.
During the building of the new Temple, Masons of Amsterdam proved themselves to be an impatient lot, as evidenced by the great number of "sidewalk superintendents" who made almost daily visits to the site giving freely of their advice and encouragement.
Work progressed rapidly on the new Temple, and on the sunny Sunday afternoon
of September 9, 1973, our Grand Master, M\W\
Lloyd S. Cochran, and his staff of Grand Lodge Officers presided
over impressive but solemn Cornerstone-Laying and Dedication ceremonies.
Several hundred members of the Craft were in attendance, plus many leading
citizens of the community. Although a happy occasion, the Lodge once
again found itself in debt and already looking forward to another
Debt-Free Celebration in the not-too-distant future.
Although of greater significance to our Brethren, this was not the first time that Welcome Lodge took part in cornerstone-laying ceremonies. The Lodge was twice earlier involved in such festivities: On Tuesday, October 21, 1902, Masons participated in laying the Cornerstone for the Amsterdam Free Library on Church Street; and the Lodge was again honored by being asked to participate in the cornerstone-laying for the Amsterdam Y.M.C.A. on Division Street on New Year's Day, January 1, 1914.
The first degree to be conferred in the new Temple was on Tuesday, September 11, 1973, when Stanley W. Eno, Jr., Harmon R. Taylor, Robert L. Brumley, and Samuel Hanna were initiated Entered Apprentices. The degree was conferred by Brother Jan VanWingerden, then Junior Warden.
Since its beginning, Welcome Lodge has always been among the first in supporting and contributing to the unfortunate victims of disasters all over the world. Some of these were the San Francisco and Japanese earthquakes, the Galveston and Mississippi floods and the more recent hurricanes. Support of the Masonic War Chests of World Wars I and II, and contributions to the Blood Banks during those periods are also acts of which the Lodge is proud, as well as of the Lodge's continuing support of the Brotherhood Fund. Many members have also distinguished themselves serving in the Armed Forces of our Country during the two great wars. One of them, Brother Fred M. Mitchell, made the supreme sacrifice when he was killed in action aboard the aircraft carrier Franklin, somewhere in the Pacific Theater of Operation in 1944.
Membership-wise, the Lodge has enjoyed great success over the decades. Starting with only 39 members in 1900, there was a steady increase until 1929 when the roll contained 543 names. After the Great Depression of the early thirties, the count was down to 463 by 1935, at which time it began to rise again. With the exception of only 4 years in the late thirties, there was a steady increase until 1958, when there was a total of 585 members. Since that time --like nearly all Lodges throughout the world-- there has been a steady decline, not only in membership, but also in attendance at meetings.
Further statistics show that Welcome Lodge --as of January 1, 1995, (including the period that it operated under Dispensation)-- has held 1822 Stated, and 45 Emergency Communications. The first Emergency Communication was on September 19, 1901, when memorial services were held at St. Ann's Episcopal Church for President William McKinley, a member of Eagle Lodge No. 431 in Canton, Ohio. The last was held on December 17, 1935, when a joint Emergency Communication was held for Brother Archie Lee Kepley, a Sojourner in our area, and well known in both Lodges.
During this same period of almost 98 years, Welcome Lodge has initiated, passed or raised over 1440 members, some of whom were members of other Lodges upon whom degrees were conferred as fraternal courtesies to their mother Lodge; much the same as many of Welcome's own members, (not included in the figures above), were initiated, passed and raised in other Lodges throughout our land, mostly during the two World Wars. The Lodge has affiliated close to 200 members, and recorded over 600 deaths. A sharp eye must have been kept on the Inner Door because the records show that nearly 115 were prevented from passing through.
Welcome Lodge has been honored on several occasions by having members appointed to Grand Lodge positions in recognition of their contributions to the Craft. Over the years these have included:
Earl O. Stowitts, Appointed as DDGM
of the Fulton-Herkimer-Montgomery District.
He also served several years as editor of the Masonic Family magazine and also of the Masonic Outlook magazine. He also was cited by M\W\ Henry G. Meacham for his advice and assistance in Brother Meacham's book "Our Stations and Places," recognized as one of the finest books ever written for Lodge officers.
1942: R\W\ Frank H. Gill, Appointed Grand Sword Bearer. He also served for many years on the Grand Lodge Committee on Necrology.
1944: R\W\ Herbert T. Singer, Appointed DDGM of the Fulton-Herkimer-Montgomery District. He also served as Chairman of Grand Lodge Committee on Endowments, a position which he held from 1951 to the time of his death in 1994.
1956: R\W\ Durward S. DeGroff, Appointed DDGM of the Fulton-Montgomery Masonic District. At this time the District was composed of 10 Lodges as we know it today. Herkimer County's 8 Lodges were assigned to another District in 1948.
1958: R\W\ Frank E. Dean, Appointed Grand Steward.
1966 R\W\ Charles E. Hardies, Jr., Appointed DDGM of Fulton-Montgomery Masonic District.
1972: R\W\ Ralph Fraser, Appointed Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Vermont near the Grand Lodge of New York.
1974: R\W\ George H. Gill, Appointed Grand Steward. He also was selected to serve on the Grand Lodge Committee of 21 in 1973
1976: R\W\ Donald E. Parry, Appointed DDGM of the Fulton-Montgomery Masonic District.
1981: R\W\ William A. Wilde, Jr., Appointed Grand Sword Bearer.
1983: R\W\ Harmon R. Taylor, Appointed Grand Chaplain (Dimitted)
1985: R\W\ Russell D. Clough, Appointed Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Denmark near the Grand Lodge of New York.
1986: R\W\ Jan VanWingerden, Appointed DDGM of the Fulton-Montgomery Masonic District.
1991: R\W\ C. Wayne Brownell, Appointed Grand Sword Bearer.
1994: R\W\ John P. Hubbs, Appointed DDGM of the Fulton-Montgomery Masonic District.
William H. Johnson, Appointed Grand
Representative of the Grand Lodge of Venezuela
near the Grand Lodge of New York.
During the years of its existence, the Lodge has made many good friends; men who, although not members of Welcome Lodge, have given unselfishly of their time and talent to the Lodge's well-being. In appreciation for their efforts, Welcome Lodge No. 829, has, on eight occasions, seen fit to bestow Honorary Membership status on these good friends. They are, along with their year of election, the following:
R\W\ John Vibbard, 1919, Member and Past Maser of Fort Plain Lodge No. 433, and a PDDGM of the old 19th Masonic District.
M\W\ John W. Vrooman, 1928, Member of Herkimer Lodge No. 423, and Grand Master from 1889 through 1891.
Brother Louis Nast, 1941, Member of Artisan Lodge No. 84.
M\W\ Richard A. Rowlands, 1950, Member of St. George's Lodge No. 6, and Grand Master from 1950 through 1952.
R\W\ Harry P. McNeil, 1952, Member and Past Master of Artisan Lodge No. 84, and Past Grand Sword Bearer.
Brother Arthur C. Glamm, 1968, Member of Artisan Lodge No. 84.
M\W\ Roswell T. Switts, 1992, Member of St. George's Lodge No. 6, and Grand Master from 1991 through 1992.
Other faithful members who have given so much of themselves to our Fellowcraft Team for so long include: Luke Greene and Lauren Truax, over 40 years each; William Hope, over 30 years; Harold Meyer and Robert Preston, who have served more than 25 years each. Currently active members include Percy Fisher who joined in 1939 and Walter Frisch who joined in 1956.
During its long uninterrupted history, the Fellowcraft Team dramatized the "Legend of the Lost Word" on many occasions, not only for its own Lodge, but also for other lodges in this and neighboring Masonic Districts. On three occasions they exemplified the Master Mason degree for a foreign lodge when they were invited to visit Lodge of the Covenant No. 208 in Montreal, Canada for that purpose. Each time, in accordance with Grand Lodge regulations, it was required that welcome Lodge bring its own candidates. The first of the three visitations took place on September 21, 1946 with Carl B. Cramer and William C. McClumpha as the candidates. On the second visit, April 25, 1953, William E. and Milton V. Barkley were so raised, and on November 1, 1961, Irving G. Selbert, Robert M. Selbert and Samuel Valberg were accorded that unique distinction.
On each of the three occasions, the team was accompanied by a large group of brothers from both Welcome and Artisan Lodges, and these trips were always week-end affairs and thoroughly enjoyed by all. Our Canadian brethren reciprocated by paying us return visits, but unlike their American counterparts, they exemplified the Entered Apprentice degree, upon which they placed greater emphasis
Today, under its current leadership, the Fellowcraft Club is enjoying more activity than ever before, not only in degree work, but also in sponsoring and/or hosting many of the Lodge's social activities, and is indeed a very valuable asset to the Lodge.
In conclusion, it must be noted that no mere recital of dates, names and figures can present the true and complete history of any Lodge. The actions of its brothers, both living and dead, are necessary to complete the picture, a picture which can be seen only by Him who sitteth as the Judge Supreme. If we have built a spiritual temple worthy of Him, only then do we have a history of which we truly can be proud.
Presently, as we approach the 100th anniversary of its birth, the Lodge may well ask what the future will bring. We are in no better position to judge than were our brothers at the beginning of the century when the Lodge first came into being. We are hopeful that the Supreme Architect, in His infinite wisdom, will provide us with the imaginative and dedicated leadership so necessary for the Lodge's continued well-being, and that our basic belief in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man will continue strongly undiminished in the yeas to come. SO MOTE IT BE.
Bro. Robert L. Swanker, Secretary
Amsterdam Lodge No. 84
34 Division Street
Amsterdam, NY 12010