The Grand Lodge of the State of New York, on October 1, 1811, granted letters of Dispensation to Isaac Rosa Master, Levi Farr, Senior Warden and Robert Monell as Junior Warden, to open a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the Town of Greene.
Dr. Levi Farr had been made a Mason in Western Light Lodge in the Town of Lisle in 1809 and at once had taken a lively interest in the institution. It was he who early moved for a Lodge in his hometown, which, in honor of his Alma Mater, he named Eastern Light Lodge. He furnished the funds necessary for the Dispensation and subsequent Charter.
The first meeting was held at the public house of Heman Carter at Genegantslet Corners, on October 31, 1811. ( This house is presently the home of Worshipful Brother R. Irving Crumb.)
The original charter of Eastern Light Lodge, then numbered No. 208, was dated September 2, 1812 and the first meeting held, after the charter had been granted, on September 29, 1812, was held in Herman Carter’s Inn. The original Charter, By-laws and Silver Jewels can still be seen. A large majority of the members lived from four to seven miles from the Lodge Room. Some of them came on horseback, but more on foot. The Lodge located at Genegantslet Corners because at that time it was the most important central point in this vicinity. The area was a trading center since it had a Grist mill, saw mill, store, distillery and tavern. The Lodge’s membership consisted of many very prominent men in and near the Village of Greene. Their names read like who was on the list of “who’s who “ when the community was developing in the early 1800’s. The Lodge continued to meet at this location until January 1816 when it moved into the Village of Greene and held their meeting in the Chenango House, the site of the present Sherwood Hotel. The membership grew fairly well and it should be noted that; in 1825 John D. Willard became a member of this Lodge. He later moved to Troy, New York, where he became Master of Apollo Lodge in 1827, and continued to serve as Master until 1833. He served as Junior Grand Warden in 1835 and was elected Grand Master, a seat he held for four years when ill-health forced him to ask relief. During his tenure as our Grand Master, he became very well known as other Masonic history relates in more detail. The membership grew from its original number of 16 in 1811 to approximately 100 by the year 1826.
In 1826 came the great Anti-Masonic Excitement created by the Henry Morgan incident. Public feeling was at once lashed into the wildest fury and all Masons were branded as murderers. The entire affair became a chief political issue and in Greene, Lodge work was suspended in 1826 and the Charter was surrendered in 1831.
In 1842 the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows was introduced into this part of the State, having originated in Baltimore a few years previous, and became very popular. Lodge rooms were set up and all the paraphernalia of a secret society was introduced in the Greene community. This encouraged the old Masons of Greene to revive their organization.
The first meeting following the reorganization was held in the Lodge rooms of the I.O.O.F. The lodge rooms were located “near the canal “ in the Village of Greene, so the history states. These rooms were burned, and actual labor was suspended until a room could be completed, which was on January1, 1849
According to the memories of some of the older Masons, the I.O.O.F. and Masons again shared a room on the third floor now known as Snover and Hollands. Burlingame’s clothing store and later Page’s Star Store occupied the first floor of this building at the time the third floor was used as lodge rooms. The Chenango American Printing Office was located on the second floor.
Following the rebuilding of the Beal’s block, about a year after the destructive fire in December 1885, the Masonic Lodge was moved to a room prepared for it on the third floor of this building. The lodge remained here until the purchase of the present Masonic Temple in 1905. This property was known as the Barnard House, and was purchased from James Chantler, father of the late George Chantler.
Many repairs and improvements have been made in the building since its purchase, 32 years ago. These include the remodeling of the kitchen and installation of a washroom in 1920, general repairs, and grading and seeding the lawn.
During the winter of 1913-14, the Masonic Club was formed, and the lodge voted free use of the room on the first floor for club purposes. In 1927, alterations and repairs were made on the first floor, including the removal of partitions, changes in the kitchen and pantry, making a billiard room and repairing the roof.
Three years later, new chairs were purchased for the lodge officers, and many improvements were made in the lodge rooms.
In June 1847 the Masons sent Dr, Augustus Willard to Grand Lodge in Albany to effect the return of the old Charter. Through the aid of his cousin, John Willard, then Grand Master (who was made a Mason in this Lodge in 1825) procured the return of the Lodge’s Charter and on February 10, 1848 the first Lodge meeting was held in the Odd Fellows Hall near the canal in the Village of Greene. The Lodge was duly organized as No. 126. Dr. Levi Farr, the Master named in the Charter of 1812, presided at the meeting and the following named members were elected and installed: Augustus Willard - Master, R.Monell- Sr. Warden, W. Gray - Jr. Warden, C.E. Barnard - Treas., E. Rathbone - Sec., J.S. Abery -Sr. Deacon and Levi Farr- Jr. Deacon. ( ed. Note: Many of these names are closely related to the history of Greene for their years of community contibutions to the growth and success of this town.) At this time there was no other active Masonic Lodge within 60 miles of Greene. Former members in other towns watched with great interest the success of the Greene Lodge and within three years, sister Lodges were formed in nearby towns and cities.
Greene’s Masonic History shows that membership grew quite rapidly in the following years through affiliations and newly raised Masons.
Like all Masonic organizations, some members made great contributions to the success and growth of their respective Lodges. Eastern Light Lodge has many to be thankful for, but so far in this brief portion of our history there are a few that bear mention for their outstanding participation.
One dislikes mentioning names because there are so many others probably equal in worthiness. However, we mentioned at the start that Levi Farr named the Lodge in honor of his Alma Mater, thus we must recognize him for the name, Eastern Light Lodge, plus we should note that he served as Master of the Lodge for eight years. Historians say that he was the moving spirit in this Lodge in the early history. Doctor Farr served the area as a physician and a magistrate. Dr. Farr was troubled with poor vision and became entirely blind in 1840 and was in darkness for nearly twenty years. He passed away in 1859 at the age of 72 years. A lot more could be said of this wonderful person who not only made a great contribution to his Lodge but also to his community.
Doctor Augustus Willard is another person deserving a great deal of recognition for his many contributions to our Lodge and community. Words have been written stating, “ There has been no member of this Lodge who was held in higher position among his brethren.” Dr. Willard was a student of medicine, first in Cooperstown and then in Greene. He graduated from Hanover Medical College and located in Greene in 1823. That same year he became a Mason in Eastern Light Lodge. He immediately assumed an active position. He was Secretary and Senior Warden for three years and during the tumultuous years following the Morgan incident, he was faithful in keeping alive the principles of Freemasonry, encouraging his brethren to hold fast in the hope of ultimate triumph. Where Dr. Farr was most instrumental in bringing Masonry to Greene, back in1811, Dr. Willard was the person to be credited for bringing Masonry back to Greene after the Morgan incident.
He served the Lodge as Master for three years after the return of our Charter and worked diligently to restore the dignity due to the Fraternity within the community. He was also a member of Greene Chapter 106, Royal Arch Masons and the Malta Commandry located in Binghamton. He served as District Deputy Grand Master in his district and in 1857 was elected Scribe of the Grand Chapter, State of New York. On the day and hour he took his seat, in the Grand Council, he was elected President of the State Medical Society. He was highly respected in our society as a man among Masons and a knowledgeable and respected Doctor among the doctors throughout the State. He cultivated Science on all subjects with ardent devotion. Few men have passed a more useful life. He died March 12, 1868 at 70 years of age. It was written that, “ his remains were urned at Greene with Masonic honors. MWGM Clinton F. Page of Binghamton rendered the services. Malta Commandry furnished the Honor Guard.
The mention of Most Worshipful Clinton Page brings back the note that Dr. Augustus Willard was effective in returning the Lodge back to Greene,” through the aid of his cousin, John D. Willard, the Grand Master.” According to Lodge records, his petition was received March 31, 1825 - he received the first and second degrees an April 28 and was raised a Master Mason at an “ Extra Communication” on May 5, 1825. At that time he was a student of Law in the office of Judge Monell. He shortly thereafter moved to Troy, New York where he entered into practice and also became very active in the Masonic Fraternity. He became a Warden in 1826 and Master of Apollo Lodge in 1827. He continued as Master through 1833 and returned again in 1840. He was elected Junior Grand Warden in 1835, which station he held until 1842 when he was promoted to Senior Grand Warden. He was later made the Grand Master. In June of 1848, while serving as Grand Master, there was a proposed amendment to the Constitution to strike out the Past Masters as a component part of Grand Lodge. Past Masters had an equal vote in Grand Lodge and the City Past Masters often controlled the decisions of Grand Lodge. It often happened that a proposition would be discussed in Grand Lodge and if its fate was doubtful, by vote of the representatives, it would be deferred until an evening session when City Past Masters would be rallied, and the same carried, to subserve some City interest. The resolution to amend the Constitution was referred to the subordinate Lodges for their action. The matter created a great amount of discussion, circulars, appeals, and divided interest. However, three quarters of the Lodges voted in favor of the amendment and it became part of the Constitutional Law.
On being so declared at the opening session in June 1849 by Grand Master Willard, there was a violent, tumultuous response and a “city” Past Grand Master was called to preside over Grand Lodge. He took a station in the hall and assumed control over the malcontents.
On May 20, 1937, Eastern Light Lodge No.126 F. A. M., celebrated the 125th Anniversary of the order as chartered in the year 1812. According to an article written back then about 200 Masons gathered here in honor of the occasion. All Lodges in their District were invited and most of them were represented. The Norwich Commandery, Knights Templar, presented Eastern Light with a bouquet and congratulations on the event.
R.•. W.•. Henry G. Meacham of Senaca Falls, Grand Lecturer of Masons in the State of New York, was the principal speaker of the evening. He complimented J. Stanley Russell, Master, and Donald B. young, District Deputy Grand Master, on the manner in which the Lodge work was conducted. He also complimented Mr.Young on his work as District Deputy, mentioning the good judgement he had shown.
Mr. Meacham gave a brief history of the office now held by Mr. Young, telling of its origin and growth, and explaining the duties of those holding the office.
In concluding his remarks, Mr. Meacham, evidently with the troubled time in other countries in mind, remarked that there was always something to be thankful for, and that the people of America had a great deal to be thankful for, not the least of which are freedom of speech. Masons, also, he said, have much to be thankful for in their great Fraternity.
Several local Masons have held important offices during the existence of Eastern Light Lodge. Among them were John D. Willard who served as Grand Master from 1846 to 1850. He also served as Grand Steward and Grand Junior Warden. Dr. William D. Purple was appointed “ Visitor “ to the lodges of the 6th Masonic District in 1852. This office today is known as District Deputy Grand Master.
Edward Hughes, who acted as treasurer of Eastern Light Lodge, served as Assistant Grand Lecturer in 1897, 1898 and 1899. On January 3, 1935, all living Past Masters joined in presenting Mr. Hughes with a Past Master’s jewel, and during the same year, he was presented with a 50 Year medal, representing 50 Years of service.
Donald B. Young was appointed Assistant Grand Lecturer in November 1934, and in June 1936, received the appointment of District Deputy Grand Master. During his year in office, Mr. Young attended 96 Masonic functions.
An illustration of historical information is that a Masonic Apron, which has been owned by four generations of Eastern Light Lodge members of the Brown family, is owned and highly prized by Donald S. Brown. The apron first belonged to Chauncey Brown, who joined the order in 1821, and has been handed down from father to son, since that time. The many years of Masonry in Eastern Light Lodge have had many community contributors supporting its growth and stature in the Village of Greene as well as the Broome-Chenango District. For example, the Raymond Corporation-- both Father and Son were members of our Lodge. The Page seed Company, both Lyman and Joseph Page were Lodge members and made a great many contributions to both the Lodge and Community. Brother Walter D. Lyon, was president and general manager of the Lyon Iron Works, and Mr. Greene himself, Brother Harold "Preach" Comfort, was an 80 year member of our Lodge.