UNION LODGE No. 45, LIMA By William R. Clarke
Union Lodge #45 F. and A.M. has had a long, interesting, and remarkable life span whose history has been preserved for 162 years in spite of three fires that have destroyed records and lodge appurtenances.
Masonry began in Lima in 1809 when a dispensation was granted to Benjamin Cook, Asahel Warner, and Cyrus Wells to start a Trinity Mark Lodge #59. Failure to pay dues to Grand Lodge dissolved this Lodge in 1814. It met in Asahel Warner’s attic with four steps to the Worshipful Master’s chair.
On June 14, 1815, 22 Brothers petitioned for the formation of a new lodge. Just a year later, on June 11, 1816, a charter was granted. Probably one of the most interesting and historic facts is that the charter was signed by Most Worshipful Grand Master DeWitt Clinton, ten years before he was Governor of New York State. At the time the charter was #261, but in 1839 it was changed to #45 due to renumbering after the Morgan affair when many lodges turned in their charters. The original charter is still in possession of Lima Lodge, and a copy is on the walls of the meeting room. The warrant named as the first officers: Justin Smith, Master; Smith Weeks, Senior Warden; and Asahel Warner, Junior Warden.
The Masons composing this Lodge were men of energy and integrity – loyal to their duty – and their Masonic descendants have carried on this work so well begun. Smith Weeks, the first elected Master, a Methodist Circuit Rider and a cooper from Honeoye Falls, delivered a yearly discourse on St. John’s Day. Asahel Warner, the first Junior Warden and a 1794 pioneer of Lima, was a major in the militia and for several years a State Assemblyman for Ontario County, in which Lima was situated at that time. Levi Hovey, the first treasurer, was one of the judges of the Court of Common Pleas and clerk of Livingston County. Samuel Daniels, the first secretary, was a physician of note in Livonia, who lies buried in Lima cemetery. Other appointed officers included a colonel in Warner’s Militia and was the first to die, a sign painter, a manufacturer, and a farmer. The first meeting place of Chartered Union Lodge was also in Asahel Warner’s attic.
In the early days the Lodge met frequently in the morning for the first degree and later after dinner presented the second and third degrees, which sometimes lasted until late in the evening. The meetings were set to be “on or before the full moon.”
Access to Asahel Warner’s attic was by an outside stairway. There may have been a secret inside stairway. The men sat on benches covered with straw filled pallets. Almost unbelievably, this meeting place is still in existence with the benches, the Master’s and Officers’ chairs intact and with four steps leading to the dais. In commemoration of the first meetings held there and for the sesquicentennial of Union Lodge in 1966, a meeting was convened once again in the attic in the afternoon, and the brothers conferred the first section of the first degree. The balance of the degree was held in the evening in the regular Lodge rooms.
In 1816 three men were the first initiates: Zebina C. Hovey; Elias Clark; and Alanson Brown, who was the first to sign the by-laws. Since 1816 the by-laws have been preserved with the signature of every Mason who has joined. During the first 19 years, 59 candidates were initiated.
Masonry became so much a part of Alanson Brown’s life that he was elected Worshipful Master for 24 years during the period between 1824 and 1855. He was not elected in 1853, for he opposed the formation of a new lodge in Honeoye Falls. Alex Martin was elected in his stead for a year as he favored the breakaway of Honeoye Falls. On December 31, 1856, on his 40th anniversary as a member, he was honored at a special meeting with the presence of 38 members of Union Lodge #45 and several grand officers including Most Worshipful John L. Lewis Jr., Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. Most Worshipful Lewis, who took his seat as presiding officer gave a short address and afterwards presented Alanson Brown with a gold Past Master’s medal. In 1872, Mr. Brown’s daughter presented a picture of him to the Lodge saying of him: “… in the full strength of manhood and in his declining years, he was a member with strength of manhood and in the dark hours of trial (the Morgan affair) a champion of the time-honored order to which you belong.” Surely, Alanson Brown was a model of everything Masonry stands for.
From 1816 (and probably even from 1809) to 1825, the meetings were held in the Warner attic. They were then moved to Sines Tavern in West Mendon, now called Honeoye Falls, until 1834 when the meeting place burned. The lodge then returned to Lima, where it has been ever since, occupying first the Town House on Rochester Street. It later moved to the Yellow Wasp Tavern about a mile west of the village. The American Hotel on the four corners in Lima was its next home. In 1853 it moved to the Godfrey building on Rochester Street, which burned December 16, 1865. It has been in the present building at 1893 Rochester St. ever since.
At the meeting of May 19th, 1866, the Worshipful Master was authorized to buy the building and to pay off the mortgage of Sybil Cargell. He was further authorized to take a new mortgage for $4100 to Adolphus Watkins at 1-1/4% interest for the full purchase price. Dues were then raised to $2.00 per year.
On July 21, 1866 the Masons sold the two lower floors for business places for $2000. One hundred and one years later they repurchased them on May 11, 1967 for $17,000.
In the 1865 fire, all records before 1849 were lost. In a stroke of providence, the Secretary took with him the Minute Books from 1849 to December 1865 along with the by-laws (with signatures) and the new Minute Book started that evening, at the last meeting before the fire, December 9th. He also accidentally wore his Secretary’s apron. These were the only mementos of the fire. The apron is now displayed on the lodge walls.
There are also no records from 1861 to 1865. It is possibly most of the members were involved in the Civil War. There were Masters elected for these years, however.
After the 1865 fire, the Brothers immediately set out to remodel and furnish the new meeting hall, purchasing a rug ordered December 25, 1865, which still sits on the floor to this day. How many feet have trod on that carpet! The furniture is recorded as having cost $104.85. Even the women of the vicinity helped by giving funds for a Bible, and the Masons purchased a suitable compass and square. The Monroe Commandery and the Royal Arch Masons gave $150 for the new place of meeting. Two rug runners were purchased for the length of the room to be placed under the benches. On April 7, 1866 they insured the building and contents for $300.
In 1871 the Bible was replaced when the Altar was purchased, and pictures of the seven original Masons who had carried the lodge through the Anti-Masonic times were hung on the walls.
During the period of the Morgan affair, 1826-1850, most of the lodges in the area turned in their charters; but Lima kept hers. As a result, Masons from as far away as Livonia, Geneseo, Honeoye, and Avon attended lodge in Lima. From Union Lodge #45 grew: Geneseo Lodge #214 in 1850; Honeoye Falls Union Star Lodge #320 in 1853; Avon Springs Lodge #570 in 1866; Honeoye Eagle Lodge #619 in 1877; and Livonia Lodge #778 in 1877.
George Atwell, writing in 1904, comments about the Morgan affair: “In common with other Lodges in Western New York, Union Lodge #45 suffered under the wild frenzy and bitter hostility to everything Masonic during that period (1826-1850). Notwithstanding the persecution and the social ostracism, these loyal Masons continued to hold meetings as regularly as possible. Bitterness of those who were active in their hatred was such that men known to be Masons were subjected to insults and threats in the open day; at one time clergymen refused to officiate at funerals of those known to have Masonic affiliations. As late as 1848 that feeling had not abated and clothing infected with smallpox was, during a meeting of the lodge, heaped against the door leading to the lodge room, then situated in the American Hotel, and every member in attendance save one suffered from “contagion.”
Only one initiation took place from 1829-1837 and only one from 1837-1848. This probably was a young man by the name of Joseph Chase on whose tombstone, which can be seen on the south side of Route 5 and 20 about a mile west of the village, are these words:
Died of Smallpox
Aged 25 years
June 18th, 1848
Thurlow Weed, a Rochester man, for political advantage became involved with Morgan in his vindictiveness and violence and used this to form an Anti-Masonic party on which he ran unsuccessfully for president.
The Masons of the present day and generation, who are proud of displaying Masonic emblems, can have slight conceptions of the experiences their ancestors suffered. But the storm spent its force, and affiliations and initiations increased, and lodges began having not one but two meetings each month. Alanson Brown and Asahel Warner were among the Lima men prominent in Masonry during these years.
On its one hundredth anniversary June 14, 1916, the lodge opened with Thomas Penny, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York present. The lodge presented a gavel to him, and he in turn gave it to the Worshipful Master, William B. Ollerenshaw. He also dedicated a plaque commemorating the occasion. DeWitt Clinton, the great grandson of the Grand Master who had signed the organization charter for Union Lodge #45, was the speaker. Sixty-eight Lima members were present as well as 46 from Union Star Lodge Honeoye Falls #320, 25 from Livonia #778, 21 from Avon Springs #570, 13 from Geneseo #214, and 37 others from other lodges, including 3 from out-of-state: Ann Arbor, Michigan; New Castle, Pennsylvania; and Salem, Ohio — a total of 210 members and guests. It was indeed a great celebration.
On April 23, 1966 the 150th anniversary was held at the Town Hall, with Most Worshipful Clarence Henry as guest speaker. Knowing that Grand Master Henry was partial to bagpipes, the committee arranged to have two pipers march around the tables, playing during the dinner. Afterwards, led by the pipers, the Grand Master, the Grand Marshal, the District Deputies, and other Grand Officers, the Worshipful Master, and the rest of the members and guests marched in the rain in the middle of the street to the Presbyterian Church.
Speeches were made by the Grand Master and other visiting dignitaries. Praise was given for Lima Lodge’s survival of the Morgan affair and for having retained its charter. And thus c the celebration of 150 years of Masonry in Lima.
George Atwell lists in his 1904 history the names of Lima Masons who have been prominent in public life to that time: Asahel Warner, a member of the Assembly; Levi Hovey, Clerk of Livingston County; Augustus C. Bennett, District Attorney; George Smith, member of the Assembly; Alvin Chamberlain, member of the Assembly.
Grand Officers from Lima Union Lodge #45 have been: William A. Sutherland, Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York in 1897-1898; William H. Whiting, Grand Lecturer; George Atwell Jr., District Deputy Grand Master 1898-1899; Emanuel Case, Associate Founder of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and first Grand Treasurer (re-elected ten times); and other grand officers listed at the end of this article.
There have been other prominent Lima Masons who deserve recognition. George Atwell is one who authored the 1904 history and who later brought up-to-date his history for the June 14, 1916 centenary celebration. Mr. Atwell himself had a long, beneficial affiliation with Union Lodge #45. Born on February 22, 1852, he entered Genesee College in 1870. The next year he went to Amherst from which he graduated in 1874 and studied law with Hon. Edwin A. Nast. He was admitted to practice in October 1877 and was for 42 years a lawyer in Lima. He was initiated into the Masonic Fraternity May 6, 1882, passed June 3, 1882, and raised June 24, 1882. For 16 successive years he was elected Worshipful Master. He was a member of the Scottish Rites in Rochester.
For 38 years he faithfully served Union Lodge #45 — 16 years as a Worshipful Master and 2 years as District Deputy Grand Master. At his death December 16, 1929, he left the Masons a war bond. His apron was given by his wife to the lodge and hangs on the walls. Well done, good and faithful servant.
Most Worshipful William A. Sutherland was initiated October 11, 1870, passed October 29, 1870, and raised December 16, 1870 in Union Lodge #45. He was a student at Genesee College in Lima. He became Junior Grand Warden in 1891 and Grand Master in 1897 and 1898. He was repeatedly elected Grand Treasurer and was known for his eloquence in public speaking. It is believed that he was a judge.
Members of Union Lodge #45 have never been backward in answering their country’s call, and many letters have been preserved from soldiers and a nurse in the various wars our country has experienced. There is one record of a young man by the name of Joe Peck, home on furlough during World War I being given all three degrees on one day.
Although this has been an attempt to catalogue Union Lodge’s history, the last 50 years haven’t seen the dramatic events that seem to have made the earlier years so colorful. However, there have been many faithful, loyal men who have served long and well, including Benjamin Ollerenshaw, who was tiler 58 years from 1884-1942 when he died. Other loyal Masons should be mentioned: Ray Beecher, Samuel Bonner, Art Leaty, Wilfred Burnham, Dr. George H. Dill, Wesley Crane, Maynard Sherman, Robert Young, Thomas Bennett, William R. Clarke, James Lee and Everett Kingsley.
What stories the walls of this old lodge room could tell; how many men have entered this room, having successfully finished the third degree and having become full members. The By-laws book lists 762 signatures from 1816 – 1978. What a record for a small lodge like Union!
The use of history is to give value to the present, and it is up to the present and succeeding members to carry on the traditions and achievements of men who, for 162 years of chartered Masonry, have so conscientiously and ably achieved even having to do battle for their principles. They leave a heritage and an obligation for Masons today and tomorrow to emulate and to sustain.