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From Proceedings, Page 1934-141:

By Bro. William G. Lord.

We are met here tonight to celebrate the seventy-fifth birthday of Orange Lodge A. F. & A. M., to glory in its achievements and to wish it even greater prosperity in the years to come.

The leaves of numerous autumns will have fallen on the graves of many of us ere you celebrate your centennial, and those not yet born will participate in that event, but we none the less trust that when that day shall come those of this gathering who then remain will look back to this day upon a quarter of a century of as great prosperity as you have ever known.

I shall not attempt to review the history of this Lodge — that will be done by one of the Brothers — but I will try to tell you something of the earlier Masonic efforts in this immediate section.

Although our Craft was established in Massachusetts more than two centuries ago yet it was not until the closing years of the eighteenth century that anyone in these towns sought the light. The decade from 1790 to 1800 was a period of marked advance in transportation facilities. The marked trails through the forests were transformed into turnpikes, upon which ox carts and stage coaches carried freight and passengers to and from distant places, so that these towns were no longer isolated and almost unknown outposts of civilization. Masonry was not slow in its advance and quickly followed the stage coach into these hills. Morning Star Lodge was chartered in Worcester in 1793 and three Athol men, Joseph Pierce, Hiram Newhall, and James Humphrey speedily sought the light there. Joseph Pierce was at that time a deputy sheriff in Athol — I think the second to hold that position in our town. Hiram Newhall was our Justice of the Peace and lived at the Swan place at the end of Mount Pleasant Street. By virtue of his office he was a member of the Board of Quarter Sessions, the predecessor of the present Board of County Commissioners. James Humphrey was active in the militia and was later appointed a general. He lived on Pleasant Street, nearly opposite where the Harris Lodge was organized. He was very prominent in Athol, was also a member of the Board of Quarter Sessions for a considerable time, and served Athol as a member of its Board of Selectmen the longest of any one in its history. He also represented us in both branches of the Legislature. In 1795 Republican Lodge at Greenfield was organized — likewise Harmony Lodge at Northfield in 1796, Mt. Zion Lodge at Hardwick 1800, Pacific Lodge at Leverett in 1801, and Harris Lodge at Athol in 1802.

Harmony Lodge may well be called the Mother of Masonry here, for on its rolls are the names of many Orange, Athol, and Warwick Brothers — in fact at one time, in 1814, it actually proposed to remove to Warwick that it might be more centrallv located for its membership and the Grand Lodge approved of this move.

I am told by a Brother who has been a member of Harmony Lodge for fifty-five years, that the inside story of this attempted removal was that there were a number of active Masons in Warwick while the Northfield Brothers did not take any great active interest in their Lodge. The Warwick Brothers had no idea that the Lodge could be moved advantageously to this town, but they did feel it was best to throw a scare into the Northfield contingent, therefore they packed the meeting and put this vote through. This put the Northfield Brothers on their mettle and resulted in much more activitiy in that town.

Its third Master was Amos Woodward, of Orange, a Charter member of old Orange Lodge and for a few years Orange citizens were active participants in its ceremonies. In 1801 with true missionary zeal Harmony Lodge proposed to Republican Lodge and Mt. Zion Lodge that the Festival of St. John the Baptist be held at Athol. This proposition was accepted by both the sister Lodges and on June 24, 1801, the unenlightened of Athol and all the towns around beheld the first Masonic demonstration hereabouts. Meeting at Crosby's Tavern and preceded by a band they marched a mile and a half to the meeting house where Rev. (later Rt. Wor.) Bro. Ezekiel G. Bascom, of Gerry (Phillipston), delivered the address. Benjamin Mayo, of Orange, was Junior Warden of Harmony Lodge and participated in this demonstration. Mr. Mayo lived where Rollin O. White now resides, a prominent citizen of your town. He has a descendant now living in Greenville, South Carolina. Athol citizens were at once fired with Masonic zeal and forthwith applied for a Charter for a Lodge and Harris Lodge was speedily organized. This Lodge moved after a few years to Phillipston and from there to Templeton where it died during the anti-Masonic excitement. Its records were taken to the Masonic Temple so we have no list of its members. We know of a few men from Orange active in its early years, but most of the Orange Masons remained loyal to Harmony Lodge.

Soon after Harris Lodge received its Charter it joined with Harmony and Republican Lodges in celebrating St. John's Day in your town June 24, 1803. This was undoubtedly the first Masonic demonstration ever held in Orange.

Harris Lodge removed to Gerry in 1811, then followed three years of war. As soon as this most unpopular conflict was over the local Brethren became active for a Lodge nearer home. In 1815 several Brothers here applied for permission to organize Perseverance Lodge in Orange and at the same time another group, headed by Rev. Mr. Harding, petitioned for authority to organize Golden Rule Lodge in New Salem. This immediate section was represented at that time on the Grand Lodge Board by two of the three Grand Chaplains, Rev. Ezekiel G. Bascom, of Phillipston, and Rev. Alpheus Harding, of New Salem, therefore it was but natural that the New Salem petition received favorable consideration and its rival the Orange petition, speaking in the slang of the day "got the gate." I have in my files considerable data regarding Mr. Bascom. He was the first Master of Harmony Lodge, the first Eminent Commander of Valley Encampment, Greenwich, and retained his Masonic interests through the exciting times of antagonism. In his later life he lived at Ashby, Massachusetts. Rev. Mr. Harding was probably raised in Harris Lodge, although I have no direct information to that effect, and probably was one of its earliest Masters as within a few years after the organization of that Lodge he was given the title of Right Worshipful. He was for sixty years a clergyman in New Salem, and the father of Alpheus Harding, Junior, long connected with banking interests.

The southern boundary of New Salem was then Millers River so that much present Orange territory was then in the township of the new Lodge. I remember one of its members, Maj. Warren Horr, who lived in his early years at Coolevville, later where Miss Helen Ellsworth lived in Athol, and in his last days where Mr. Purple resides at Athol Center, and know that its leader was Rt. Wor. and Rev. Alpheus Harding, a clergyman in New Salem for 60 years, but I know little else about it except that it met for a time, if not through all its life, in a house still standing east of Lake Mattowa. The Grand Lodge records show that it was often in arrears with it but like many another, it remained on the list of Lodges long after its actual death in "Morgan Times." Probably some from this village and "The Grant" affiliated with it, but as there were so few residents here it probably did not have many of your townsmen on its rolls.

In 1818 Orange Masons again applied for a Lodge and to this petition Golden Rule Lodge assented, but the Grand Lodge again refused the request. In June, 1825, a meeting of 13 Masons was held at Athol, probably in the "Factory Village," to consider the possibility of a new Masonic Lodge and a petition was forwarded to the Grand Lodge for a Dispensation for Orange Lodge. Of these 13 petitioners, 7 were residents of Athol and 6 of Orange. This prayer was granted and Aug. 10, 1825, 109 years ago last month, Orange Lodge held its first meeting at the Tavern of Justin C. Lord at North Orange, which building was its only regular meeting place. The old Lodge-room is still discernible in this old "Tavern." I have closely examined this old Lodge-room and I am satisfied from its construction that it was, at one time, arranged so that the capitular degrees could he worked there. There was at this time King Hiram's Chapter at Greenwich. Possibly they came up to do some work in this old Lodge-room but I know nothing of this other than the physical evidence in this old building.

Of the first corps of officers the Master, Junior Warden, Treasurer, Junior Deacon, and the Senior Steward were from Athol, the Secretary and Junior Steward from Royalston, and only the Senior Warden, Senior Deacon, and the Tyler from Orange. In the six years of its activity this Lodge was presided over by four Masters, one from Athol and three from Orange. Of the 41 Brothers known to have become members of this Lodge 15 were from Athol, 5 from Royalston, and 17 from Orange, leaving 4 whose residences I do not know. I wish I had time to tell you something about each of these Masonic patriarchs—of Amos Woodward, third Master of Harmony Lodge and twelve years your Selectman. He lived at the extreme north part of your town where Mr. Julian Rockmore now resides on what is commonly known as "The Mason Goddard" place— of Perley Barton, M.D., for a few years one of your Selectmen and a physician of whom there is still a very favorable remembrance among the older descendants of North Orange. He lived where Floyd French now resides (and was expelled from the Lodge in 1828)—of Jonathan Flagg the stage driver who lived in what is now the Gale Millyard (and who was likewise expelled); of Adin Holbrook, who lived in the so-called Gerry house opposite Sterrett's offices. He came to Athol from Keene at the organization of the Cotton Factory Company and was very prominent in our town for a number of years. Later he removed to Lowell, where he died at an advanced age; of Nathan Nickerson once of Cape Cod, later on of Gerry (Phillipston), and then of Athol, one of our leading citizens for a score of years. He was general manager of the Factorv Company and ran its general store where our Memorial Building now stands. There being no banking facilities in Athol, those with surplus funds took them to Col. Nickerson at the Factory Company store and got the notes of the Factory Company as evidence of their investment. In the financial crisis following the annulment of the charter of the United States Bank, Mr. Nickerson found that the Factory Company could not pay its debts. He could not bear to face his fellow citizens in his disgrace and absconded from the town, removing to Cleveland where he died two years later; of Esq. Eliphalet Thorpe, paper manufacturer and Trial Justice of Athol — who was originally of Dorchester, coming to Athol about 1814. He resided for long years at the corner of South and Freedom Streets, one of the honored citizens of our town at that period; of Amos Cheney and Nathaniel Richardson, who both affiliated with your Lodge, later with Star Lodge. Mr. Cheney was a native of Orange but had removed to Athol before the formation of your Lodge. He resided at the corner of Cottage and School Streets which is commonly known as the Hoyt house, being now owned by a grand-daughter. Mr. Richardson was a native of Swanzey — long years a machine shop operator where our Y.M.C.A. now stands, long our Town Treasurer, many times Selectman, twice our representative to the Legislature. He was one of the substantial citizens of the past generation; and of Esq. Benoni Peck, Trial Justice of West Royalston. He lived in the extreme westerly part of Royalston on the road from Blissville to the Baptist Common. I have read two sketches of his life, one of which states he was sixty years a Mason, the other states that he was seventy years affiliated with us, but as he did not take his degrees until Orange Lodge was organized and he was then upwards of forty years old, I think those obituaries were a slight exaggeration of the truth; of Rev. Asaph Merriam of West Royalston — although he had received the unbounded largess of Orange Lodge, being admitted without remuneration to the Lodge and his dues always being remitted, yet he was one of the first to repudiate Masonry when the clouds gathered around it. He was later Pastor of the Baptist Church at Athol and finally died in the service of the Church at Bolton, and manv others, but time will not permit.

Nor can we review for you the unreasoning wave of antagonism called "Morgan Times" that swept our country in 1828, suspending all Masonic activity and ending the life of many Lodges, including old Orange Lodge. This Lodge carried on until on Feb. 22, 1831, it held its final meeting, deposited the records and jewels with Bro. Zina Goodell and suspended activities which were never resumed. Mr. Goodell lived at the extreme northern part of your town on the farm south of your Poor-Farm. His grand-daughter is Miss May Goodell, living in Athol.

At this meeting 11 Brothers were present, six of whom had signed the petition for the Lodge a half dozen years before. Thus ends this sketchy story of the Masonic Pioneers of Orange and its environs. Let another tell of the awakening nearly three decades later, which awakening we are celebrating tonight.


From Proceedings, Page 1974-186:

The earliest known Masonic activities in the Orange area were centered in the northern part of New Salem, near Lake Mattawa and now part of Orange and in the Village of Orange, now known as North Orange. The names of the Lodges were Golden Rule and Orange. Both of these Lodges ceased to exist after the so-called "Morgan Affair" in the 1820's.

Orange Lodge as presently constituted, was chartered September 19, 1859 and for various periods of time met in rented halls, such as Washburn Block, Hastings Block, Masonic Block (Reynolds), Kilburn Block (now Plotkin) and Odd Fellows Block.

The new Masonic Temple in Orange was first dedicated as a Baptist church, May 13, 1874. The building was purchased by the Trustees, August 11, 1972. Since then, it has been transformed into "One of the most attractive Masonic Temples in this area." It has also been said; "You have to see it to believe it!"

In one hundred and fifteen years Orange Lodge has had sixty-seven different brethren serve as Worshipful Master. Seven of this number later were appointed District Deputy Grand Master, the first being Andrew J. Clark and the most recent, Robert A. Powers. The re-dedication of this edifice to the glory of God and the ongoing of worthwhile good works in this community is the answer to the dreams of not only those who most recently helped to bring it about, but of many others who have gone before us and who were frustrated in their desire to have a place to call their own.

We, the present custodians of this beautifully adorned temple, may be justifiably proud of what is now in our possession, but we must be equally aware of our responsibility to the past, the present and the future, so that Freemasonry, having its roots in the far distant past, may continue to grow and spread its branches of goodwill to all mankind.