MOUNT VERNON LODGE
Chartered By: Timothy Bigelow
Charter Date: 03/09/1807 II-352
Precedence Date: 03/09/1807
Current Status: unknown; dissolved 1828, erased 1855; historical note 1875-215, and in the Historical Sketch of Masonry in Belchertown, 1983-193.
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
- Petition for Charter: 1807
- 1970 (Historical Notes in the Centenary History of Vernon Lodge, 1970-346)
- 1983 (Notes in Historical Sketch of Masonry in Belchertown, 1983-192)
HISTORICAL NOTES, JUNE 1970
From Centenary History of Vernon Lodge; Proceedings, Page 1970-346:
. . . Mt. Vernon Lodge, chartered March 9, 1807. This Lodge evidently worked and prospered for a number of years until the Anti-Masonic period, which began in 1826. According to a notation in the Mt. Vernon Lodge Bible, the Lodge was dissolved in 1828. . .
. . . Anti-Masonry even divided the Congregational Church here in Belchertown, with the Masons leaving to form a new church. Brother Mark Doolittle, a lawyer and member of Mt. Vernon Lodge, wrote in 1847 that: "There was a violence an implacability and persecuting spirit prevalent that surpassed anything that I ever before witnessed. It was manifested in town meetings, society meetings, church meetings. It began in 1829 and raged for six or more years, and its dregs are yet among us". The Anti-Masonic Party was not founded upon a firm foundation and it disappeared as a political menace almost as quickly as it appeared. By 1840 it had all but vanished, but the bitternesses left in the community after its passing took a whole generation to erase.
HISTORICAL NOTES, NOVEMBER 1983
From Proceedings, Page 1983-192:
The history of the original lodge here is lost, concealed by a veil of time. Through surviving articles and records, we are able to get occasional but only partial glimpses of the lodge and its members. We know who some of the members were, and can only conjecture on others. For instance, at the end of the revolution, the American armies camped in the Hudson Valley near West Point, Masonic Lodge meetings were held. Washington and many other leaders were made Masons in these army lodges.
Probably the returning veterans had much to do with the formation of Mount Vernon Lodge in March 1807 (named after Washington's plantation). One of of the early members may have been Dr. Estes Howe. When Lafayette (a Mason) came through town in 1825 to officiate at the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument (a Masonic function), he stopped to visit the old doctor who was a war veteran now stricken with paralysis.
This little lodge prospered for about 20 years, receiving new members and participating in the life of the community. If we look at its members, we see that a large part of the carriage industry in town belonged to this lodge. Out at the other end of New York State, in September 1826, a William Morgan (a Mason who was in debt and had announced that he was going to publish Masonic secrets) disappeared. The Masons were blamed, and many rumors and stories were started, making it difficult to sort fiction from fact. Emotions ran high, and finally it became a political issue, and engendered the Anti-Masonic Party, which could never afford to let the issue die. For the first few years it was especially strong here in New England. Businessmen were boycotted because they were Masons, men suspected to be Masons were removed from the jury list, thrown out of public office, and refused membership in the church. None of our local members was ever accused of any wrongdoing, but they were Masons and therefore persecuted. This political party leadership as not large, consisting in part of Dr. William Bridgman, Justus Forward (son of our second minister), and a few others. One of the former members of the lodge, Reverend David Pease, came back to preach against his former Brethren. The attack against Masonry was well-timed and well-executed. A notation in the Lodge Bible on the presentation page says that the Lodge was dissolved in 1828. The Anti-Masonic Movement continued unabated in this town for several years. By 1840 or so the Anti-Masonic Party faded from view nationally, and here in our own town. After closing the lodge, dividing the church, and disrupting order in government, the people had enough, and began to work toward reconciliation.
The Lodge did not reform, however, until after the Civil War, when Masonic membership was swelled by the activities of army lodges, and prejudices were subjected to a variety of views caused by large groups of men living together. By the time the Civil War was over, the Anti-Masonic Party was dead, and most of those who participated in its battles were dead also. A new generation, somewhat worldly-wise emerged, and a new era in Freemasonry was ready to begin.
- 1827 (Report on delinquency, IV-114)