Putnam Lodge #46 AF&AM received its Charter on October 2, 1801, signed by MW Stephen Titus Hosmer, Grand Master, and delivered by General Moses Cleaveland (from nearby Canterbury. This was before General Cleaveland led his expeditions to the Midwest and settled the city which bears his name). The first Worshipful Master, Lemuel Grovesnor, and the chartering members chose to name the Lodge “Putnam” after Grovesnor’s Father-in-law, General Israel Putnam, who was also a Freemason.
General Putnam, or “ol’ Put” as he was known, was a colorful figure in early American history. Born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1718, home of the infamous witchcraft trials (in fact Israel’s uncle, Thomas, was one of the “persecutors”. Israel’s parents, Joseph and Elizabeth, were outspoken opponents of the trials.).
Israel joined the British Army at the outbreak of the French and Indian War. He rose through the ranks and had a distinguished military career, serving in the famous Roger’s Rangers, the two attacks on Fort Ticonderoga, the siege of Havana, and the relief of Detroit during Pontiac’s Rebellion. After retiring from the British Army and returning to his home in Pomfret (CT), ol’ Put joined the Sons of Liberty in the 1770’s. In April of 1775 he led the Connecticut Militia to Boston immediately following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, where he took control of the Colonial Forces. General Putnam commanded the Colonial Forces at the Battle of Bunker Hill where he is known for having told his men, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes.” Lemuel Grovesnor served at Bunker Hill as a young Lieutenant. General Putnam commanded the entire Continental Army from 1775 until 1776, when the command was taken over by General (and Brother) George Washington. General Putnam continued be a major figure during the war until a stroke in 1779 left him partially paralyzed, at which he time he permanently retired to his home in Pomfret.
Known not only for his military prowess, Israel Putnam was an important folk hero during his day. General Putnam is known in Connecticut for hunting down and killing the last wolf in the State, and was known throughout the Colonies for more fantastic accomplishments. It was said that ol’ Put could plow more fields in a day than 10 men, could clear forests and chop more wood in a day than 20 men, and that there was not a horse alive that he could not break. While these are obviously exaggerations, General Putnam is credited with introducing cigars to the Colonies from Cuba, as well as bringing tobacco seeds to Connecticut from Havana, initiating the important Connecticut Valley tobacco industry (a fact which is very important to the lodge history).
Lemuel Grovesnor was the first Worshipful Master of Putnam Lodge #46, and Evan Malbone was the first Senior Warden and Thomas Hubbard (who would later serve as the eleventh Grand Master of the State of Connecticut in 1831) was the first Junior Warden. The Lodge was originally chartered to meet in Pomfret, and in the early years met in taverns and the homes of its members in Pomfret, Eastford, Woodstock, and Ashford. The Lodge’s first permanent home was on the top floor of the main exhibition hall on the Woodstock Fairgrounds. In 1922 the Lodge took possession of an old building, which it moved to a plot of land just outside the gates of the Fairgrounds. In 1923 the Lodge began meeting in its “new” home, where it continues to meet to this day.
Putnam Lodge has many unique traditions. While so many Lodges went dark in the 1820’s and 1830’s following the infamous Morgan Affair, Putnam Lodge #46 did not (in fact, the Lodge has never missed a stated communication since its inception in 1801). Perhaps due to this fact, or perhaps due to its close proximity to Massachusetts, the Lodge uses a variation of the standard ritual known as “ancient Massachusetts ritual”, Lodge members also wear their aprons under their jackets rather than over them. The one tradition most unique to Putnam lodge is the annual fumigation.
As do all Connecticut Lodges, Putnam Lodge #46 holds its Annual Communication in December of each year. This is a very special event which draws Grand Masters and Grand Lodge Representatives from throughout New England, New York, New Jersey, and sometimes even Pennsylvania. The Annual Meeting opens at 10:00 AM, and at noon breaks for a meal of homemade oyster stew and apple pie. Following the meal, the Brothers return to the Lodge room for the annual election of officers. Before the election can begin, the Stewards pass out “ammunition” in the form of cigars. At a signal from the Worshipful Master, the Brothers all light their cigars at the same time and the election commences. During the election, Brothers rise and tell jokes and humorous stories. It is said that the Worshipful Master cannot declare the election over until the East cannot see the West due to the volume of the cigar smoke, but the installation of ceiling fans in the recent past has largely precluded such a dense haze. Ostensibly for the purpose of ridding the building of “insects, varmints, and critters,” the fumigation is a tradition which dates back to the founding of the Lodge, and is no doubt an homage to General Putnam, who received as compensation from the British Crown for his service in Cuba not only sugar cane, but cigars, as well.
Another tradition is that of being a Moon Lodge, one of only three left in the State. The Lodge meets on the Saturday on or before the Full Moon. In days gone past, before the invention of streetlights or automobiles with headlights, our Brothers found their way home after a meeting by the light of the full moon. On the March, June, September, and December Stated Communications, the Lodge meets at 10:00 AM (7:30 PM for other Stated Communications) which also makes Putnam Lodge one of the few Lodges which holds daytime meetings.Putnam Lodge has been blessed by having three of its members rise to the position of Grand Master. Most Worshipful Brothers Thomas Hubbard (1831), John H. Smith (1955), and Stanley S. Sheldon, Jr. (1998) have all served the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free, and Accepted Masons of the State of Connecticut in this station. In addition, there are also seven honorary members of the Lodge who have been Grand Masters of their respective jurisdictions.Putnam Lodge #46 is a Lodge rich with history and traditions. Brothers visiting northeastern Connecticut prior to the full moon are invited to visit and share in the comradery and brotherhood the Lodge offers.