The History of Friendship Lodge

The Governor Marcus Holcomb House
Home of Friendship Lodge #33
Since 1933

The following was written in 1895, for the Lodge's Centennial Celebration, by Rev. John C. Breaker, formerly pastor of the Southington Baptist Church. Transcribed from Francis Atwater's 1924 History of Southington Connecticut, it is included here with minor corrections and covers the first one hundred years of Friendship Lodge.



To trace the history of Friendship Lodge, No. 33 F. & A.M., for the last one hundred years, is to follow the fortunes of Freemasonry in the town of Southington from it's first appearance in this community to the present time. That history, like the experiences of a human life, has not been uniformly even; there have been seasons of trial-of misrepresentation without and misunderstanding within; and there have been seasons of good fellowship, of mutual forbearance, of brotherly love and helpfulness, of prosperity as well as adversity.

In May, 1795, a charter was issued by the most Worshipful William Judd, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Connecticut, to a company of men living in the town of Southington, for the purpose of forming a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. This charter was attested by the Right Worshipful John Mix, then, and for twenty-five years afterwards, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge. Samuel Pardy was installed as the first Worshipful Master; Josiah Root as Senior Warden; and Herman Atwater as Junior Warden. There were nineteen charter members, their names being: Elizur Andrews, Daniel Frisbie, Samuel Andrews, Stephen Johnson, Herman Atwater, Immer Judd, Joel Brockett, Hart Lewis, Ithuriel Clark, Elihu Morse, Martin Cook, Daniel Pardy, Nathaniel Cook, Samuel Pardy, William Dickenson, Joel Root, Solomon Fisk, Josiah Root, Amizi Stanley. Where these men were made Masons it does not appear. It is possible that some of them belonged to Temple Lodge No. 16, of Cheshire. Seven of them were present at the Special Grand Lodge on December 30, 1794 held at Hamden for the purpose of installing Day Spring Lodge, No. 30, vis: Elizur Andrews, Samuel Pardy, Herman Atwater, Martin cook, Nathaniel Cook, Joel Root, Josiah Root. There is no record, however as to the lodge these men hailed from.

Nine of the nineteen were registered as "freemen" of this town within three years of it’s incorporation, i. e. between 1779 and 1783.

Five of the nineteen charter members were solders in the Revolutionary war and it is possible they were connected with some of the military lodges of that period. The names are: Samuel Andrews, who marched with the "hundred men" to the relief of Boston; and is claimed was in the battle of Bunker Hill.

Solomon Fisk, who attained the rank of Captain.

Samuel Pardy, who received a commission as 1st seargeant in the 1st Co. of New Levys , and ordered to join the command of George Washington in New York. His commission bears date October 16, 1776.

Daniel Pardy, and Josiah Root, who held the position of Apothecary General.

The charter being granted, the lodge was installed in the ball room of the tavern kept by Joel Brockett, on the corner of Main street and South Main street, in Plantsville. Here on the 15th of December, 1795, the first candidate, John Webster, was initiated. Verry little can be discovered of the experiences and workings of the lodge for twenty-two years after its formation, owing to the incompleteness of it’s records. The roll of members published in 1875 shows that one hundred and two candidates were received as brothers and fellows from 1795 to 1819.

About the year 1810 certain "By-Laws" were adopted which reveal to some extent the habits and customs then prevailing, e. g.:-

Article 3. Any brother that has anything to offer in lodge, shall rise and addressing himself to the master shall not presume to speak until he has obtained leave; nor shall any private committee be held during lodge hours; nor any whispering , or ridiculing one another; nor shall any move from place to place, but shall keep his seat, that the beauty and harmony of the lodge may not be desturbed.

Article 4. Any brother who is known to have spoken disrespectfully of the society in general or of this lodge in particular, shall not be admitted as a member or even as a visitor, until he has made such satisfaction as may be thought necessary.

Article 5. As nothing has a more direct tendency to bring the craft into disrepute than keeping late hours on lodge nights, tha master shall be acquainted by the senior warden when it is nine o’clock, and he shall immediately proceed to close the lodge unless urgent business is before the lodge; and any member who is not a traveler or a lodger in the house, remaining in the house more than one hour after the lodge is closed shall forfeit the sum of twenty five-cents for each and every offense, unless his or their reasons be by the lodge thought sufficient to dispence the law, and it shall be the duty of the treasurer and stewards to see this paragraph put in force.

Article 7. No person shall be suffered or admitted to be made a Mason in this lodge, or if a Mason to be a member thereof unless well known to one or more members to be a man of virtuous principles and integrity, and not a bond man, and such as by their own consent desire to become brethren.

Article 13. That no persons do presume to swear profanely, or come into the lodge intoxicated, or any way disguised with liquor; but addressing himself to the master or wardens, who if they think fit or necessary, will give their orders accordingly; any person infringing this rule shall for each and every offense pay one dollar.

Article 6. No liquor drank out of the lodge room (except for makings, etc.) shall be paid by the lodge.

Article 3a. No liquor shall be drank in the lodge room at the expense of the lodge after half an hour after closing the lodge.

From these "By-Laws" it is evident, that only such men as were well known to one or more members of the lodge, to be freemen, virtuous men, men of integrity, were received or admitted into the lodge; that being admitted they were to conduct themselves in a respectful, deferential manner; they were to abstain from profanity, the excessive use of wines and liquors, and the keeping of late hours.

It is not quite clear where the lodge held its communications during the period of 1819 and 1830. From what appears in connection with the burial of brother Nathaniel J. Root, on January 13, 1820, it would seem that the place of meeting was the "Lewis Tavern." This was a tavern and store kept by Selah Lewis and situated a little south of Oak Hill cemetery on the east side of the tavern in Plantsville, cannot be certainly ascertained. That from the appointment in 1825 of a committee of seven to procure "new furniture," and "to dispose of the old at their discretion." Whether the lodge lacked complete confidence in the discretionary powers, or in its sense of the lodge’s need, does not appear, but at the next communication, it was "Voted, That there be three quart decanters and one dozen tumblers provided for this lodge."

Occasionally such an entry is found as the following: "Voted, that the expenses of this day be paid out of the box, supper included.’ This seems to have arisen from the custom of holding the communications in the afternoon, beginning sometimes as early as two o’clock. When it is recalled that all three of the degrees were conferred on candidates at the same communications, it is not to be wondered at that the brethren needed supper before the lodge separated. They were not always extravagant in the matter of suppers, for after working the first degree one winter’s night in 1822 the J.D. was instructed to "provide one dollar’s worth of crackers and cheese proportionate;" this was apparently intended to satisfy the hunger of fourteen men. This was three years before the resolution about the decanters and the tumblers.

Between 1819 and 1826 twenty-one candidates were received, among them one who was to become well known and highly esteemed by the Craft. On January 2, 1823, John E. Jones, was made a Mason. He was a descendant of Col. John Jones, who was one of the thirteen judges of King Charles I, of England, that were executed in Charing Cross, London, in 1660, by command of Charles the II, as regicides. About the time that Charles the II landed at Dover, a son of Col. John Jones, who had been educated a lawyer, left England in the company of Dixwell, Goffe and Whalley, the three regicides who escaped to this colony. This William Jones settled in New Haven, and was the great-grandfather of Bro. John E. After his initiation Bro. Jones made good progress in Masonic knowledge, passing into several offices of the lodge, the duties of which he discharged with fidelity and honor. He remained true during the troublesome times of the Morgan excitement and anti-Masonic movement. Through his labors in after years Friendship lodge regained its forfeited charter. For fifty-six years he was a respected member of the order, his death taking place on August 6, 1879.

During this first half of the decade of 1820 to 1830 there were some murmurings of the storm that was to break with such fury upon the fraternity. One brother proving recreant to his vows, was expelled from the lodge "and all the privileges and benefits of Freemasonry." At another time a committee was appointed to investigate the business of a brother who had been a Master Mason only two months. What the committee found the record does not say, though it is a significant fact that the brother’s name never again appears on the record.

During 1830-1835 the lodge seems to have been held part of the time at the tavern kept by Shubal Moore, who was a successor to Joel Brockett as proprietor of the tavern in Plantsville, where the lodge held its first communication; and part of the time in the house of Amzi J. Barnes, situated on the west side of South Main street in Plantsville, and probably not far from the corner of Main street. The last entry in the minute book was December 3, 1835, recording the election of officers for the ensuing year and signed by William Wightman as secretary.

In 1836 Brother John E. Jones represented Friendship lodge at the Grand Lodge held in May in the city of New Haven. The next year Brother Samuel Hitchcock performed that duty. In 1838 the lodge was not represented in the Grand Body nor were any returns made. The next year the lodge was reported by the Grand Secretary as delinquent. In 1840 a motion was carried in the Grand Lodge revoking the charter of Friendship Lodge for "having failed to comply with the regulations of the Grand Lodge for several years past."

In 1842 Brother John E. Jones presented to the Grand Lodge a petition signed by some of the brethren in this town, praying for a restoration of the forfeited charter. This petition was referred to the committee on delinquent lodges.

This resolution was unanimously adopted, and the lodge restored to good standing in the Grand Body.

The "spirit of lethargy," however, had not entirely disappeared, for in 1846 the Grand Lodge again "annulled and revoked" its charter, and the officers were notified to return their charter and jewels, records, funds and furniture, to the Grand Secretary, on pain of expulsion. The record of the Grand Lodge further says, "none of the effects of said lodge have been returned, and no answers received from them."

Four years afterwards, May, 1850, Brother Jones, whose faith in the future of the lodge had remained firm, went again to the Grand Lodge with a petition for the restoration of the charter. The committee to whom the petition was referred recommended: "That said lodge be required, in the first place, to surrender their charter and effects, agreeable to the by-laws, and that the Grand Master then exercise his discretionary powers, and give them the necessary dispensation to work until the next communication of the Grand Lodge, if in his judgment the good of the order will be promoted thereby."

On May 23, 1851, the brethren assembled in a hall over the store kept by Mr. John Gridley on the corner of Main street and Berlin avenue and were presented with the charter which had been restored to them, by the Right Worshipful E.G. Storer, the Grand Secretary, who under the warrant of the M.W. Grand Master, installed the officers who had been elected, viz; N.H. Byington, W.M.; O.K. Norton, S.W.; Austin W. Bradley, J.W.; John E. Jones, secretary. The first candidate received after the resuscitation of the lodge, was Ira Huff, who was made a Mason June 26, 1851. There is a tradition which declares that "the entrance to the hall over the store of Mr. John Gridley was by means of a stairway running beside the large chimney; that on a certain occasion an ‘eavesdropper,’ stealthily making his way up these stairs, suddenly heard the clash of steel, and saw sparks of fire, and became so frightened thereat that the lodge was never again troubled by any of like disposition."

The three years of 1851, ’52 and ’53, were prosperous ones. The lodge met frequently to perfect itself in the work of the degrees. The opposition of anti-Masonry had practically died out. In his annual address the Grand Master in 1847 said: "The wild storm of fanaticism and prejudice, which for a time swept over our entire country, has spent its force, and a pleasing ad healthful calm has succeeded that outburst or bigotry and passion. In no age of the world, probably, has a better opportunity been afforded for our ancient brotherhood to display the peculiar beauties of its fundamental principles. We have stood and outlived the envenomed shafts of malice that have been aimed at our beloved institution; and as an admiring world has had abundant evidence of the impregnability of our principles and our organization, so it becomes every member of the order to prove by his life and conduct, that those principles exist not merely in name, but that they are cherished in the affections and practiced in the daily walk of every good Mason."

During the three years mentioned, 41 men were made Masons; the lodges of the adjoining towns and cities occasionally visited the brethren. The lodge procured new furniture for its Lodge room. The brethren sought and found more convenient quarters, first in the hall over the store of A.R. Thompson, where the Methodist Episcopal church now stands; and then over the store of Brother Amon Bradley on Main street, west side of the park, now occupied by Brother W. S. Gould. The first communication held in the latter place was on St. John the Baptist’s Day, 1852, and the first business recorded as having been transacted in that hall reads: "Voted, that no person be allowed to smoke in the hall."

At a communication held on the 1st of July that year there was received a letter which is trancribed in whole, because it discloses the standing of the lodge in this community. It is addressed:-

To the Honorable Masonic Lodge of Southington:


Permit me to second the invitation of my colleagues, to your honorable body, to unite with us, and our fellow citizens without distinction of party in celebrating our national independence on Saturday of the present week. We sincerely regret that objections should have been expressed to embarrass, or reverse your acceptation of that invitation. After what has occurred we feel it essential, to the harmony and success of the object we have in view, that you should be with us on that occasion. It is believed that the objections are confined to a few persons. The general and anxious desire now is that you should be present, indeed it made a condition of the presence and aid on the part of many. Permit me again gentleman to urge the reconsideration of your declinature, and to unite with your fellow citizens in a carrying and celebrating the day, to the defeat of the narrow and restrictive spirit of party and of sect, that should be forgotten on that glorious occasion.

Subscribed with sentiments of high esteem,

Isaac Burritt,
Of the Committee of Arrangements

Southington, July 1, 1852

What action was taken by the lodge the record does not say, but it is safe to infer that the brethren accepted this invitation signed by the brother of the "Learned Blacksmith."

The stress of the hard times began to be felt in Southington in the fall of 1852, and the lodge, true to its principles, passed a resolution to the effect that at each communication the members should contribute such sums as they felt disposed for the purposes of charity.

The experiences of the lodge from 1852 to 1854, owing to the absence of the records, cannot be traced. The roll of membership, however discloses the name of a brother who has a wide reputation. Jesse Olney, the geographer and educator, was made a Mason in Friendship Lodge in 1853. He was a descendant of that Thomas Olney who in ’31 accompanied Roger Williams to this country. Ezekiel Olney, the father Jesse, after the war of the Revolution, in which he had served as captain in the army, moved to Union, Tolland Co., Conn., and here Jesse was born Oct. 12, 1789. He taught school in Hartford for twelve years. He was the author of a series of textbooks in arithmetic, history, and reading. He was the pioneer in a new method of teaching geography. Instead of beginning with a reference to astronomy, he began with the immediate surroundings of the child. Upon this principle his geography and atlas were prepared, and accounts in part for the wonderful popularity of that work in the public and private schools throughout the United States, for a period of thirty years. For ten terms he was a representative in the Connecticut Legislature, and for two terms was comptroller of the State. His legislative and official powers he used to build up the system of Connecticut common schools. He died in Stratford in 1872, being nearly 74 years of age.

In 1863 the lodge changed its place of meeting to the hall over the store of Brother M.N. Woodruff on High street. The building stood on the north side of the street, near where his dwelling now stands. Here the lodge continued to labor for ten years, growing in influence and numbers.

During the month of July, 1864, the brethren made a successful effort to free themselves of the burden of a debt that had been accumulating until it had reached the amount of $450. The money was raised by subscription, and at the communication of July 18, it was put into the hands of the first three officers of the lodge, who together with three brethren were instructed to visit the creditor "and pay him in full this evening."

When the war of the rebellion broke out, six members of the lodge answered the call for national defenders; their names are: Elnathan Atwood, who served in the 20th Conn. Vol.; Edwin N. Stannard, who served in the 20th Conn. Vol.; Seth W. Hotchkiss, "Henry M. Beecher, who served in Co. A., 1st Conn. Cav; who served in Co. A., 7th Reg.; William W. Norton, who served in the 5th Infantry; Henry A. Seward, who served in the 12th Regiment."

Each of these regiments saw a great deal of fighting, and the men distinguished themselves for heroism, self-sacrifice and endurance, while on the march and in the thick of the battle. During the progress of the war one of the citizens who had served a year at the front, returned to Southington, was made a Mason in Friendship Lodge, then re-enlisted and served till the close of the war. Since the disbanding of the army that was called into being in 1861 a number of the men who served at the front have become brothers in the fraternity.

In December, 1872, occurred the first, and so far as the records show, the only death of a principal officer of the lodge in the hundred years of its history. In that month the Senior Warden Brother Henry J. Hubbard, was suddenly summoned from the duties of his office, and the activities of his earthly life, to give an account of his labors to the Supreme Grand Master above. He had been a Mason about four years, yet he had made such good use of his time that one year he had been in the South to observe the sun at meridian, and almost another year in the West, rendering assistance to the Worshipful Master.

During the decade of 1863 to 1873 one hundred and nine men were made Masons. It was a period of harmonious labor, and of activity in matters other than the working of the degrees. There was an appeal for aid from Charlestown, S.C., which came through the M.W. Grand Master, to which the lodge responded. There was also a worthy ambition to obtain more prominent quarters, and a more pretentious lodge room. An effort was made in 1871 to secure a lodge room in the town hall, which was then in the process of erection. Failing in this effort, a committee was appointed to select a site for a lodge building, and if thought best by them to procure plans and estimates for the same. The lodge also received several visits from the Grand Lecturer, and was complimented by him on the proficiency of its work.

October 22, 1873, the hall occupied for the last twenty-two years, was dedicated by the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge, Brother J.K. Wheeler, to "Freemasonry, Virtue and Universal Benevolence." The occasion was a very pleasant one, and after the ceremonies of dedication there was a banquet in the new town hall, prepared by the wives, daughters and lady friends of the fraternity. In 1888 the hall was refitted, recarpeted, lighted and decorated, at an expense of something over $400. In this hall the larger part of the present membership of the lodge have been initiated, passed and raised. It has served well the purposes of the fraternity, and for a long time to come will be associated in the minds of the Craft with some of the most enjoyable hours of fraternal intercourse and Masonic friendship.

At the annual meeting of the lodge in 1874 the Worshipful Master made a report in the form of an address to the officers and brethren. In it he says:

"I believe nearly the same degree of harmony and good feeling has prevailed as in other years, with possibly one exception, and that I trust is now amicably arranged."

This reference seems to apply to the expressed opinion of some of the brethren that the prosperity of the order would warrant the formation of a new lodge. The opinion, however, was not shared by a majority of the members present at the meeting, at which the question was tried, and so it fell through.

In December, 1877, Noah H. Byington, who was elected and installed Master of the lodge upon the restoration of its charter in 1851, was "removed by that transition called death." The record says "He was distinguished by zeal and steadfast adherence to the principles of the order." Four times he served the lodge as presiding officer. The interests of the fraternity had in him a thoughtful and responsive friend.

The lodge has at all times been very careful to select only those men for membership whose record was good, and who gave promise of maintaining the principles of the institution. Hence it is that so few instances are recorded of discipline for immoral and un-Masonic conduct.

In 1878 the Most Worshipful Grand Master directed the attention of the lodge to the destitution of the brethren in the South, an to the fact of the devastating presence of yellow fever there. To this appeal, as to the subsequent appeals made through the same channel for the relief of the suffering brethren in Michigan and in Texas, the lodge responded generously.

In 1875 there was organized a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, known as Friendship Chapter. For a number of years it flourished, held its meetings in Plantsville, and counted among its members the wives, daughters and sisters, of many of the resident Master Masons. In 1889 it was deemed best to surrender the charter, and Friendship Chapter, O.E.S. passed out of existence.

In December, 1890, another chapter was organized, and is known as Harmony Chapter, O.E.S. Its meetings are held in the Masonic hall, Southington. It is doing good work with a membership of about 40.

In 1878 a number of the brethren belonging to Friendship Lodge were organized into a chapter of Royal Arch Masons, under the name of Triune Chapter, No. 40.

The relation existing between these two bodies has always been the most cordial. They have carried on their work in the same hall, and some of the brethren have held office in both at the same time. So interwoven have been their interests that in 1880 a resolution was presented and carried in the "Blue Lodge" and is so recorded in the minute book of the "Blue Lodge:" "Resolved, that the installation of officers in Blue Lodge and Chapter be in this place, at the same time." And the record of the installation of the officers of the "Blue Lodge" reads: "Lodge called from labor to refreshment for the purpose of witnessing the installation of the officers of Triune Chapter, No. 40.
Between 1884 and 1895 the lodge has been favored with six official visits of the District Deputy Grand Master, and on each occasion he has been pleased to speak in commendation of the work exemplified. About the years 1885 and 1886 the lodge enjoyed several unofficial visits from R.W. Bro. John W. Mix, G.S.W. On November 21, 1888, the Most Worshipful Grand Master, and the District Deputy Grand Master, paid an official visit to the lodge, and witnessed the working of the third degree. On this occasion also they expressed themselves pleased with the manner in which the degree was conferred.

The following is a list of the Past Masters of Frienship Lodge, from 1795 to 1895:

Samuel Pardy, Benjamin Galpin, Heman Atwater, Ambrose Hitchcock, George Mitchel, Martin Cook, John E. Benjamin, Seth Clark, Isaac Shepard, Samuel Hitchcock, jr., Ralph Pearl, Noah Byington, Oswald K. Norton, Austin W. Bradley, Edwin N. Stannard, Moses W. Beckley, Dennis P. Finch, Solomon Finch, Walter S. Merrell, Webster R. Walkley, Henry Lowrey, Jackson Martin, Charles G. Sutliff, John H. Swift, James H. Osborne, Foster A. Whitney, William Y. Otis, Wallace O. Camp, Levi C. Newell, E. Denton Bingham, Fred W. Pender, Chas. M. Bishop, Henry D. Battis, Freeman A. Mann, Levi E. Southworth, John Griffiths, Samuel E. Cowles, Wilfred D. Roy.

The last decade of the ten embraced in this address has been as prosperous as any of the nine preceding it. It has been free from internal strife, and from outward persecution; it has seen the growth of the Masonic spirit; it has seen the principles of the order recognized and accepted by some of the most prominent men in the community; men prominent as manufacturers, as business men, as professional men, as educators, as leaders of public thought and opinion. Never in its history has Friendship Lodge stood higher in the respect of the community, in the esteem of the fraternity, in the affections of its members, than in this year which marks the ten times ten of its life, and completes a full century of useful activity.

Rev. John C. Breaker, 1895