Wisdom

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WISDOM LODGE

Location: West Stockbridge; Stockbridge (1815); West Stockbridge (1856)

Chartered By: Isaiah Thomas

Charter Date: 06/13/1803 II-221

Precedence Date: 06/13/1803

Current Status: Active

ø Charter surrendered 06/11/1834

PAST MASTERS

  • Lewis Tyral, 1803
  • William Deming, before 1821
  • John C. Deming, before 1822; SN
  • DARK 1834-1855
  • James Van Horn, ?
  • Edward B Root, ? bet. 1857 and 1862
  • Charles W. Kniffin, 1863
  • Samual G. Lyman, 1864-1866
  • Robert B. Dickie, 1867
  • Richard Van Buskirk, 1868, 1894
  • Hiram Shook, 1869
  • William W. Leavitt, 1870
  • William F. Gale, 1871, 1872, 1874
  • Hiram N. Cooke, 1873
  • William J. Ray, 1875
  • Hayden M. Truesdell, 1876, 1877
  • George N. Barrett, 1878, 1879
  • John B. Scott, 1880, 1882, 1883, 1905, 1906
  • William L. Curtis, 1884
  • Ward L. Langdon, 1885-1887
  • Charles R. Van Buskirk, 1888, 1889, 1894
  • Julian C. Williams, 1890, 1891
  • Olney J. Carpenter, 1892, 1893
  • Clayton A. Bissell, 1895, 1896, 1898
  • Arthur E. Lyman, 1897
  • Howard E. Hastings, 1899, 1900
  • Arthur W. Bartlett, 1901-1903
  • James F. Woodruff, 1904
  • Albert H. Blake, 1907, 1908
  • J. Francis Allison, 1909; SN
  • John D. Lamont, 1910, 1911
  • William Dubois, 1912, 1913
  • J. J. Powell, 1914
  • Joseph L. Hover, 1915, 1916
  • George Rodney Root, 1917-1919
  • George D. Jastram, 1920, 1921
  • Ray C. Williams, 1922, 1923
  • John P. Smith, 1924, 1925
  • Chauncey P. Smith, 1926, 1927
  • Fred L. Schilling, 1928, 1929
  • John D. Patterson, 1930, 1931
  • Dudley F. Woodbridge, 1932, 1933
  • Malcolm F. Wheeler, 1934, 1935
  • Edward C. Bartlett, 1936, 1937
  • Walter F. Janes, 1938, 1939
  • Harold L. Fairfield, 1940, 1941
  • David L. Johnston, 1942, 1943; N
  • Elmer F. Roberts, 1944, 1945
  • Phillip T. Buck, 1946, 1947
  • Ward J. Gaston, 1948, 1949
  • Dean W. Colton, 1950
  • J(ohn). Richard Tonini, 1951
  • Charles G. Hatch, 1952
  • Raymond K. Smith, 1953
  • Howard J. Gaston, 1954
  • Voltz A. Schilling, 1955
  • David D. Dixon, 1956
  • Russell H. Wilson, 1957
  • George M. Perkons, 1958
  • Walter D. Buck, 1959
  • Milton W. Barnum, 1960, 1964
  • Charles P. Hooker, II, 1961; SN
  • Carlin M. Lipps, 1962
  • Kenneth H. Hainsworth, 1963, 1975
  • Walter P. Hainsworth, Jr., 1964-1966
  • Charles R. Moffatt, 1967
  • Samuel N. Frank, Jr., 1968
  • Robert E. Hamm, 1969, 1976; N
  • Robert C. Boleng, 1970
  • William C. Silvernail, 1971
  • Richard C. Scace, 1972, 1974
  • J. Gordon Adams, 1973
  • Lawrence D. Tonini, 1977, 1978, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1996 2010, 2011
  • Bertrand M. Codwise, 1979, 1985
  • Barry P. Depew, 1980, 1981
  • Edward E. Stannard, 1982, 1983
  • Joseph G. Staples, 1984
  • Raymond J. Dorazio, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1994
  • John G. Kastrinakis, 1988
  • James T. Donaldson, II, 1992, 1993
  • Charles B. Viall, IV, 1997, 1998
  • Lawrence P. Morse, 1999, 2000
  • Christopher A. Tonini, 2001, 2012
  • Lee B. Miller, 2003-2007
  • James E. Pshenisany, 2002, 2008, 2009

REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS

  • Petition for Charter: 1803
  • Petition to Restore Charter: 1856

ANNIVERSARIES

  • 1953 (150th Anniversary)

VISITS BY GRAND MASTER

BY-LAW CHANGES

1870 1886 1913 1916 1920 1927 1930 1935 1942 1956 1968 1970 1973 1978 1990 1994 2000 2005 2012

HISTORY

  • 1953 (150th Anniversary History, 1953-212; see below)
  • 1995 (Note in 200th Anniversary History of Cincinnatus Lodge, 1995-189; see below)

150TH ANNIVERSARY HISTORY, JUNE 1953

From Proceedings, Page 1953-212:

By Worshipful Phillip T. Buck.

We are privileged tonight to celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the existence in this small community of a great fraternal and charitable society. This period seems like a long, long time, but it is short indeed when compared to the mighty reach of time since time began. Yet it is almost a twentieth part of the world's existence since the birth of Jesus Christ. Let us marvel when we realize that Masonic ideals antedate even the birth of Christ by about six centuries, when Pythagoras organized a secret brotherhood for mutual aid, social communion, intellectual cultivation and moral progress. The Pythagorean fraternities and their successors kindled enthusiasm for the pursuit of learning, the cultivation of architecture and the fine arts; they brought new moral life into society, and contributed largely to the political stability of modern civilization. The ever widening and deepening current of Freemasonry can be traced from these sources across continents and islands around the globe, everywhere emanating the principles of religious faith, brotherly love, inflexible honor, and absolute truth. It has followed the sun in its circuit, and every day and every hour inspires to higher enlightenment. Its truths are addressed to the universal intellect; its principles underlie all relations and stations and offices of men; and its duties are the services which humanity requires.

Freemasonry was introduced into Massachusetts at Boston in the year 1733 by a commission from the Grand Master of England. This was forty-two years before the beginning of the Revolutionary War. Twenty years after the close of that war, Freemasonry found a habitation and a name in this old town. In the third year of the nineteenth century we find this excerpt from the records of a Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, held at Concert Hall on the evening of the 13th of June, A.L. 5803: "A Petition from a number of Brethren at West Stockbridge, in the County of Berkshire, for a charter to hold a Lodge by the name of Wisdom Lodge, was also granted."

This "number of Brethren" was twenty-seven, and their identities were as follows: Grove Pomroy, Philander Rathburn, Fairing Willson, Isaac Bidwell, Daniel Spencer, Isaac Evarts, Sam Barstow, Lewis Tyral, Stephens Johns, Eliphalet Smith, Jun., Elhannah Reed, Barnabas Wentworth, Job Priest, Arthur Newell, John Newell, Jun., David Crocker, Deodabus C. Whitwood, Chester Goodale, Amos Woodruff, William Crocker, Peter Jenkins, Russell Griffin, Ebenezer Pope, Barzillai Brown, James Cook, Ebenezer H. Piper, and William Priest. All too little is known relative to the personal antecedents or Masonic history of these pioneers. We do know that when the two Grand Lodges united in 1792, the records showed the existence of twenty Lodges in the Commonwealth, the tenth in seniority of which was Berkshire Lodge in Stockbridge, chartered Mar. 8, 1777. We know also that a special meeting of the Grand Lodge was called (date unknown) "To hear the petition of Seth Deane and others, praying to have a charter to erect and hold a Lodge in the town of Stockbridge, Berkshire County." This Lodge afterwards appears from the records of the Grand Lodge to have reported from Great Barrington. We also know that our sister Lodges, Evening Star (June 9) and Cincinnatus (December 9) were both chartered in 1795. Thus we may readily assume that our founders were provided with many opportunities for initiation.

It would please our vanity to be able to enumerate among these Charter Members bankers, lawyers, soldiers, and men of great report. Alas, the lapse of time and the ruthless hand of negligence forbids all this. We prefer, therefore, to think of them as being substantial, solid New Englanders, respected in their various spheres, in whose veins flowed the life blood of Freedom, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, who elected for their communal benefit to request a Charter of their own.

This original charter has become our most prized and hallowed possession. It is signed by M. W. Isaiah Thomas, Grand Master; R. W. Benjamin Russell as Senior Grand Warden; R. W. Thomas Dennie (actg) Junior Grand Warden; and Wor. John Proctor, Grand Secretary. This charter is exceptionally well preserved and may be examined upon request, if due care be exercised in the handling.

On Tuesday, the 6th of September, A.L. 5803, the Deputy Grand Lodge assembled at the request of Wisdom Lodge and opened on the first, second and third steps of Masonry in Due Form at the house of Brother Woodruff at West Stockbridge. The Brethren of Wisdom Lodge, being assembled at the house of Bro. Amos Woodruff aforesaid, after the usual ceremonies, moved towards the meeting-house in Stockbridge, where a procession was formed; and after the public exercises, being a sermon well adapted to the occasion by Rev. Oliver Ayer, with vocal and instrumental music, the Lodge was consecrated and the officers installed, publicly, in Due Form. The procession was then reversed and returned to the lodge-room, where they closed in Due Form and then partook of an elegant dinner, prepared for the occasion by Bro. Woodruff, and separated in decency and order.

The Charter Officers installed on this occasion were W.M., Lewis Tyral; S.W., Sam Barstow; J.W., Grove Pomroy; Treas., Amos Woodruff; Sec'y., David Crocker; S.D., Fairing Willson; J.D., Arthur Bristol; Stewards, Barzillai Brown and Elhannah Reed; and Tyler, Isaac Bidwell.

The above was attested thus:

"This Lodge was instituted September 6, 5803. Time would not admit of making the return on that day. The blank has left several things omitted which I requested them to insert. The members are zealous in the cause of Masonry, and I think will do honor to their profession."

(signed) Caleb Hyde, D.D.G.M. Lenox, November 1, 1803.

It was further attested as follows: "The foregoing is a true list of the officers and members of Wisdom Lodge for 5803. Attest: David Crocker, Secretary of said Lodge."

At a meeting in January, 1804, by-laws were adopted, one of which established the fees for the degrees, membership and dues. The fees for degrees were $12.00 for the first and $1.50 for the second and third. Membership was fixed at $5.00 and the annual dues were $1.00. Another by-law provided that visiting Brethren should be admitted without charge on the first visit; thereafter charged $.25 for each and every visit. It is believed that here also originated our custom of meeting on a date governed by the moon. In those days of slow travel and poor roads, it was intended to make it as easy as possible for the country Brethren to reach Lodge and return home. Wisdom Lodge is one of the few Lodges in the State that still adhere to "Moon dates."

A meeting held on June 16, 1804, is memorable for the official visit of R.W. Caleb Hyde, District Deputy Grand Master, who was received with Masonic honors and given a most cordial welcome. He complimented the officers and Brethren upon the condition of the Lodge and gave an address full of encouragement and helpful suggestion. During the years between 1804 and 1814, Wisdom Lodge was active in Grand Lodge affairs, being regularly represented.

On December 12, 1814, the Master and Wardens of Wisdom Lodge submitted a petition to Grand Lodge "praying for leave to remove said Lodge from the town of West Stockbridge to the town of Stockbridge, for reasons therein set forth." This petition was read, whereupon it was voted "That the petitioners have leave to withdraw their petition upon the ground that it is not supported by the recommendation of the D.D.G.M. and the consent of the neighboring Lodges." On March 13, 1815, another petition "from the Master and Wardens of Wisdom Lodge, situate in the town of West Stockbridge, praying for liberty to remove said Lodge from the town of West Stockbridge to the town of Stockbridge for reasons herein set forth," was presented to the Grand Lodge and read; and said petition being supported by the assent of Evening Star and Cincinnatus Lodges, and the approbation of the D.D.G.M. of the 8th Masonic District, it was thereupon "Voted, that the prayer of the petition be granted." Whatever the "reasons therein set forth" might have been, they were apparently not too secure, because on September 9, 1818, a petition from Wisdom Lodge, praying for leave to remove said Lodge to the town of West Stockbridge, for reasons therein set forth, and supported by certificates of approbation from Cincinnatus Lodge and the D.D.G.M. of the 8th Masonic District, was read in Grand Lodge and referred to a committee. On December 9, 1818, at Grand Lodge, the committee to whom was referred the petition of Wisdom Lodge "Having attended the duty assigned them, asked leave to report, that in their opinion, the prayer of the Petition ought to be granted ..." The report was read and accepted.

An excerpt from a report of the Grand Master in his address to Grand Lodge on June 14, 1820, reads ". . . Cincinnatus at Great Barrington, Franklin at Adams South Village, Wisdom at West Stockbridge, and Mystic at Pittsfield, have paid their dues, and may be presumed in a good situation."

On September 18, 1823, we learn that Brother David Heath was given a vote of thanks for "his gift to the Lodge of three matching candlesticks," indicating that the Brethren were grateful for more light. Which brings to mind the interesting commentary that, after strict search and extensive inquiry and to the best of our belief, Wisdom Lodge is the only Lodge remaining in the Commonwealth in this year of 1953 that still adheres to the practice of utilizing "three burning tapers, placed in a triangular position in the Lodge," from the opening to the closing of the Lodge, on all three degrees. With justifiable pride in this ancestral procedure, we do not propose to deviate from it.

Then came the dark days of the Anti-Masonic excitement caused by the Morgan incident, the details of which have been often related throughout the years, and with which most Brethren are thoroughly familiar. Here again lack of authentic information leaves us at a disadvantage. To what degree our venerable ancestors felt the fury of the storm, with what pressure the forces of bigotry and prejudice were applied, we know not. Suffice it to relate that at some time during this period, it was deemed prudent to suspend their activities and to surrender their Charter. Many of the Brethren were not without hope, however, and while the pulse of Masonry was outwardly extinct, they held fast to their individual integrity and collective vows. During this period of inactivity, the Bible, the regalia and some of the furniture of the Lodge was entrusted to the care of Wor. Daniel Spencer (the Mormon), a Charter Member, and was by him kept secreted in the attic of his home until his departure for Utah.

After the storm had subsided and during the calm that followed, these faithful few quietly marshaled their forces, depleted though they were, and at Boston, in Grand Lodge, on June 12, 1856, we find this:

"Whereas, a Petition signed by Brothers Andrew Fuarey, Sylvester Spencer, Hiram Cobb, Stephen L. Pope, Ebenezer Fitch, James VanHorne, Elhannah Reed and Luke Dewey, surviving members of the late Wisdom Lodge at West Stockbridge, was presented to our Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at its Quarterly Communication in Boston on the 11th day of June instant, praying that the Charter of said Lodge may be restored to them with permission to reorganize and hold the same in the town of West Stockbridge in the County of Berkshire; Therefore, I, Winslow Lewis, Grand Master, in pursuance of an Order of our Grand Lodge, aforesaid, do hereby restore the within Charter to the Petitioners above named, authorizing them to reorganize and hold said Lodge in the town of West Stockbridge aforesaid.

(signed) Winslow Lewis G. M.
Attest Chas W. Moore G. Sec'y."

The reorganization and recovery of the Lodge must have been slow but methodically sure. In 1861 it had 26 members, in 1866, 31 members, and in 1872, it had grown to 43 members and has fluctuated from 30 to 95 members in these intervening years. At present we have a membership of 80, and while we are the next to the smallest Lodge in Massachusetts, the quality and sincerity of the Masonry here exhibited is equalled by few and surpassed by none. It was some time in 1856 that the old Masonic Hall across Main Street was rented by the Lodge from C. W. Kniffen. The Lodge occupied these same quarters until January 1, 1943, a span of 87 consecutive years. During the '70's, '80's and '90's the tenor of activity was uninterrupted by any untoward incident. The Lodge pursued its usual course peacefully, but with courage and determination. We find cases where erring members were dealt with severely but justly. Masonic trials, with expulsion the reward for the guilty, were not unknown. In 1901 our membership had increased to 53, and while finances appeared to be a problem, the Lodge still struggled along.

On January 4, 1906, Wisdom Lodge was the recipient of a gift from Wor. Robert Burns Dickie in behalf of Unity Lodge in Dalton. This was our present handsome hourglass. It is one of our cherished possessions. Wor. Bro. Dickie was raised in Wisdom, was Master in 1866 and 1867, and later demitted to Unity. This added a touch of sentiment which enhanced the value of the gift.

In all the earlier years the lodge-room was lighted by lamps, and it was not until June 8, 1911, that a committee appointed to consider the matter of lighting by electricity reported that a Mr. Nichols of Great Barrington would install electric lights complete at a cost not to exceed $50. It was voted to have the installation made at once, but to maintain the old symbolic tapers.

Wisdom continued on with a fluctuating membership, reaching an all-time high of 95 in the post-war years of 1922-1925. The next milestone occurred on May 26, 1942, when Wisdom Lodge and Wisdom Chapter, O.E.S., jointly purchased our present Masonic Hall. The old quarters had reached such a stage of dis-repair and decadency that action was imperative, and it has proven a progressive step. The next several months were exceedingly busy ones. Money, men and materials were donated generously by the members. Those who had time and talents contributed freely. As a result, we held our first meeting in our new Hall on January 21, 1943.

No history of Wisdom Lodge would be complete without a brief eulogy of Wor. Charles W. Kniffen. Two years after renting the old lodge-room to the Craft, he sought the Light and was raised on March 23, 1858. He presided as Master in 1862. Shortly afterward he enlisted in the 49th Massachusetts Regiment and became a Lieutenant in his Company. On his return, he was elected Treasurer of the Lodge, in which capacity he served faithfully for many years. In May 1911, on his 53d Masonic anniversary, he was presented an ornate Past Master's jewel as a token of the great respect and veneration of the members of the Lodge. (This jewel is now worn by the eldest living Past Master of the Lodge as a symbol, and is passed on to his successor.) On October 29, 1914, Wor. Bro. Kniffen was made a Life Member of the Lodge. On October 25, 1917, he was awarded the Henry Price Medal for distinguished service. Wor. Bro. Kniffen departed on December 2, 1925, at the grand old age of 93. Wor. Bro. Kniffen undoubtedly did more for Wisdom Lodge and its members than was ever accomplished by any one individual, before or since. In any period of adversity, and these did occur, his was always the outstretched hand of brotherly love, to help and cheer. His purse and its contents were often at the disposal of the unfortunate and the depressed.

His memory will ever be enshrined in the hearts of the members of Wisdom Lodge, who will remember him as a true and loyal Mason who generously aided and dearly loved the Fraternity to which the best years of his life were devoted.

We fear not that we will create any envy or jealousy among the living Past Masters or the present Master of the Lodge, when we say that there is one Past Master to whom Wisdom Lodge, in the more recent years, owes a debt of gratitude more than to any other. We have with us tonight another patriarch and esteemed member of Wisdom Lodge. Wor. Arthur E. Lyman will celebrate his 60th Masonic anniversary in a few days, being raised in Wisdom Lodge on June 29, 1893. He served as Master in 1896, since which time his Masonic career has been one of devotion and service to his Lodge. He will be 83 years of age on July 31, and is now and has been through the years, a bulwark of dependability, knowledge and zeal. Wor. Bro. Lyman can, without advance notice, step into any chair, or any degree, and provide perfect ritual. He can and does present any lecture, on any degree, with equal proficiency and his Charge is most impressive. He is the proud possessor of the Veteran's Medal and the current holder of the Kniffen jewel. His is the wisdom of the sages and he is known and revered by all throughout the District.

Wisdom Lodge boasts seventeen living Past Masters and one Past District Deputy Grand Master, R. W. David L. Johnston, who was so honored in 1945-46.

And so, my Brethren, by diligent and persistent search among the vague mists of an almost obliterated past, as far as accurate records go, have been gathered these facts for incorporation into this historical sketch of this old Lodge. It was a labor of love, and the data acquired have been more than worth the effort. As we bring this recording of the exploits of our worthy ancestors to a conclusion, let us remember that they are still with us in spirit and that their works have followed them. They builded better than they knew. We should rejoice in the heritage they have bequeathed us and be ever mindful that we too are making history. It is for us to decide what that history may be. May we govern ourselves accordingly.

NOTE IN 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF CINCINNATUS LODGE, SEPTEMBER 1995

From Proceedings, Page 1995-189:

The lodge voted on October 20, 1802, to approve a petition to Grand Lodge for a lodge to be named "Constellation" in the Town of West Stockbridge. The name was afterwards changed to Wisdom Lodge, and we anticipate its 200th anniversary in a few years.

OTHER

  • 1806 (Petition regarding fees in New York, II-344)
  • 1814 (Petition to remove to Stockbridge denied, II-604)
  • 1815 (Petition to remove to Stockbridge granted, II-623)
  • 1818 (Petition to remove to West Stockbridge referred, III-156)
  • 1822 (Report on delinquency, III-428)
  • 1824 (Report on delinquency, III-471)
  • 1826 (Report on delinquency, IV-57)
  • 1827 (Report on delinquency, IV-71)
  • 1828 (Report on delinquency, IV-147)
  • 1829 (Report on delinquency, IV-170)
  • 1895 (Participation in the centennial of Evening Star Lodge, 1895-80)
  • 1896 (Participation in the centennial of Cincinnatus Lodge, 1896-167)

GRAND LODGE OFFICERS


DISTRICTS

1803: District 8 (Berkshires)

1821: District 8

1856: District 9

1867: District 9 (Pittsfield)

1883: District 15 (Pittsfield)

1911: District 16 (Pittsfield)

1927: District 16 (Pittsfield)

2003: District 31


LINKS

Massachusetts Lodges