Brooklyn Eagle/1896/An Ancient Masonic Body
An Ancient Masonic Body. Suffolk Lodge of Port Jefferson the Oldest in the District. Its Centennial Not Far Off. Founded Nearly One Hundred Years Ago and Chartered by Chief Justice Livingstone. The Original Jewels in Use by the Present Officers. Scraps of Masonic History That Will Interest the Brotherhood. With an exceptionally good record for charitable and benevolent work extending over a period of a hundred years Suffolk lodge No. 60, F. and A. M., of Port Jefferson, the oldest and at this time one of the most progressive and influential in the First Masonic district. Is preparing to celebrate its centennial. The membership of the lodge now numbers 125 and is steadily increasing. Of late Past Master T. H. Saxton who, for a number of years has acted as secretary of the lodge, and is well versed in masonic matters in general, has spent much time in searching the many record books, the greater number of them well worn and discolored with age, to get an authentic record of the lodge. He spent much time in the work, which, he says, has been somewhat a labor of love, in order to rescue from oblivion facts which each passing year makes more difficult to obtain. From his record it is learned that on December 7, 1796, five persons. Moses Blackley, John Floyd, Ellis Carll, Charles Wheeler, William W. Gale, John Mills, Jesse Wickes and Shadrack Kelly, made application to Grand Master Robert R. Livingston, then chief judge of the state of New York, for a warrant, which was at once issued and Suffolk lodge Instituted. The first meeting was held at the house of Richard and William Blydenburgh, in Smithtown, on Thursday, March 9, at which a number of members from Huntington lodge were present, and also a visitor from Ireland, a Mr. Fagin by name. At this meeting Moses Blachley was installed master, Richard Floyd, senior warden, and John Floyd, junior warden, by Past Master William Wright of Independent Royal Arch lodge No. 2 of New York, assisted by several brethren with authority from the grand lodge to perform the duty. At the first meeting Woodhull Smith was proposed for membership, accepted and received the first degree in masonry, an interesting fact for masons today. Three weeks later the lodge met at 2 o'clock in the afternoon at the same place and Woodhull Smith, who had received the first degree at the previous meeting, was made secretary pro tem. At that time at meetings were opened on the first or entered apprentice degree, and so continued unless there was work in the higher degrees, a custom quite contrary to that of today. The lodge continued to meet at the house of the Blydenburgh brothers, at Smithtown, until September 9, 1801, when it met at the house of Phineas Smith, a member, and an inn keeper at Dix Hills. A year later it met at the house of Major Jonas Hawkins, at Stony Brook. A few months later it was moved to Coram. During the early years of its existence the lodge had no permanent abiding place. It met at the house of Isaac Satterly, in Setauket, In 1803, at the house of Jeffrey A. Woodhull, in Huntington town, and at a number of other places until 1808, when it located at the house of Thomas Hallock, at Smithtown, and meetings were held uniformly for ten years. In 1819 it again moved, and this time to the house of Isaac Jayne, at Setauket, which house is still standing, and bears the marks of British balls fired during the revolutionary war. At this house it continued to meet until its suspension, in 1826, a few years previous to which the number was changed from 60 to 57, when all the lodges in the state were renumbered. The officers today wear jewels which were in use when the lodge was first formed, and are, as might be supposed, very highly prized. One of these jewels, the master's, is made of two plumbs joined together in the form of an angle of a square and done by direction of the lodge, January 16, 1858. The lodge had authority in its early history to confer the degree of master mark mason. The meetings were generally held' In the day time either at 10 o'clock in the morning or at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. About 1825, when the famous anti-masonic excitement began in this, and to some extent in other states, Suffolk felt the effects of the trouble. It was the result of a remarkable excitement over the alleged abduction and murder of William Morgan, a tailor of Batavia, in the northern part of this state, who was said to be about to publish or betray the secrets of the masonic order, of which he was a member. He disappeared very suddenly, and his fate has never been satisfactorily explained. In a search which was made he was traced to the Niagara river near which it was found he had been in prison. The opponents of masonry declared that he had been murdered and sunk in the river, or lake. Legal inquiries followed, but nothing was proven. At that time the governor of the state, DeWitt Clinton, was a mason in high degree, and the majority of all public officers were members of the order. A wild excitement followed and the platforms of the political parties was masonry or anti-masonry. Campaigns were fought on this issue alone, and the anti-masonic party cast, in 1828, about 33,000 votes, about 70,000 in 1829 and 128,000 In 1830. Laws were passed In the state to suppress the order, and the legislature appointed John A. Spencer as a special committee to prosecute and annihilate free masonry. Suffolk suffered somewhat from this, but soon took in new blood and has steadily surged ahead since. It is related of Captain William Oldrin, one of the charter members of the lodge, that on one occasion when a British cruiser, during the war of 1812, anchored under Crane Neck, a small cannon was brought to bear on her which was sighted and discharged by him with such skill and effect that the ball cut the halyards and the sails came down by the run, which so alarmed the crew that they beat a hasty retreat. According to the records frequent calls were made upon the lodge for assistance by impecunious traveling masons. One case was that of Andrew McGovern in November, 1819. He came from Dublin, Ireland, and judging from the amount given him, $2.25, money must have had greater purchasing power in those days than now. On October 13 of the same year S. F. Norton, a physician, living at Coram, made application for a discharge from the obligation of a regular attendance upon the meetings of the lodge and gave as his reason that he had been denied an admission Into the church because he was a mason. He said that he had no scruples of the purity and correctness of masonic principals. He afterward asked to be and was made an honorary member of the lodge. In the latter part of 1855 or the early part of 1856 an application was made for a dispensation to erect a masonic lodge, or to reorganize Suffolk. Charles A. Floyd, John M. Williamson, John R. Satterly, Tuttle O. Dayton, members of other lodges, received a dispensation and on February 26, 1856, the first meeting was held in Suwassett hall, over Norton's drug store, the room being then used as a lodge room by the odd fellows. At that time it was known as Suffolk, but, No. 401, and remained so until T. H. Saxton was elected master In 1876. Through his earnest efforts the old number was restored. Tuthill Dayton remained master until the close of 1859, when W. T. Hulse was elected and served two years. Then followed in the following order as masters Effingham Tuthill, A. G. Merwin, E. A. Raynor, James E. Bayles, George Hart, G. Frank Boyles, T. H. Saxton, Allen F. Davis, Charles E. Dayton and B. P. Smith, who now occupies the chair in the east. Charles E. Dayton, who retired from the master's seat at the annual election last December, has a phenomenal record as a master equaled by few if any and exceeded by none, it Is safe to say. He has been a member of the lodge twenty-two years and has held office for nineteen years, thirteen of which he has served as master. February 20 last he was presented with a handsome gold watch by the members of the lodge as a testimonial of the high regard they had for him, both as a man and mason, and for his unselfish devotion to the interests of the lodge. Attached to the chain as a charm was $40 in gold. The presentation speech was made by Past Master T. H. Saxton. A banquet followed. Past Master Charles E. Dayton is considered one of the best informed masons in the district. He has many friends among those who are masons and those who are not. He has many friends of high degree in both this city and New York. He is a modest man. of a retiring disposition and very devoted to his lodge. He never falls to attend the annual session of the grand lodge and this year will be no exception, as he will accompany the present master, B. P. Smith, to the Masonic temple In New York next month. Suffolk now has, as in former years, a very efficient corps of officers. The lodge continued to meet in Suwassett hall until 1868, when it removed to a hall over the store of F. F. Darling, where it remained until the present meeting room was built for it on hotel square, over J. H. Davis store. The present officers of this well governed lodge are: B. P. Smith, master, W. P. Leek, senior warden; Benjamin Jarvis, Junior warden; E. A. Raynor, treasurer; T. H. Saxton, secretary; Charles S. Brewster, senior deacon; George H. Butler, junior deacon; Charles E. Gerard, senior master of ceremonies; George W. Rowland, junior master of ceremonies; John I. Miller, tiler. Meetings are held every Thursday evening from October to May, and the first Thursday In the month the balance of the year. The past winter has been a busy one, a degree having been worked on one or more candidates at each communication.