This historical sketch is an abbreviation of the works of Edwin Shepard , P.M and James Robertson P.M. and P.D.D. All of the material herein is the work of these gentlemen which I have taken the liberty to summarize. –WKW
The original charter for Jerusalem Lodge, No. 49 A.F. & A.M. was granted at the request of seven brothers on October 5, 1808 by the Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. of Connecticut. The charter members were Daniel Jones, Worshipful Master; Daniel Bouton, Senior Warden; Philip Bradley, Junior Warden; Joshua King, Treasurer; Benjamin Smith, Secretary; John Waterous, Senior Deacon and Jacob Northrop. Junior Deacon. The first meeting date of the lodge appearing in our records is November 30, 1808.
The Lodge held 31 meetings at the tavern of Amos Smith until August 7, 1810. The meeting place was changed to the house of Bro. Eleazer Waterous and 77 meetings were held from September 11, 1810 until June 22,1815. A single meeting was held at the house of Timothy Keeler, 2 at the House of Widow Waterous and 8 at the house of William Sherwood. On March 25, 1816 meetings were resumed at the tavern of Amos Smith where s6 meetings were held until 1817. The Lodge paid $1 per meeting for rent. The Amos Smith tavern stood at the site now occupied by the Ridgefield Library. The brethren felt the need for a temple and on February 25, 1817 voted to purchase shares at “Twelve dollars and fifty cents” each in order to erect a building to be called “Masonic Hall.” Thirty Brothers purchased 37 shares and the Lodge purchased 20 shares for total of $712.50. This original Hall was built on the site of our present Masonic Temple. The plot of ground 42’ x 26’ was part of a home lot owned by Brother Isaac Olmstead which he sold to the lodge for $20. The first meeting in the new hall was held on December 15, 1817.
The Lodge paid its first secretary $4.00 a year and the Brother appointed as Sexton received 50 cents per night to build the fire, clean the hall and furnish wood and lights.
Should we feel we do an evening’s work in putting on a degree, we should refer to the minutes of the “Special Lodge holden on May 8, 1826”. As was then the custom the Lodge opened on the Entered Apprentice Degree. Two candidates were proposed, balloted on and accepted for the three Degrees of Masonry. The candidates received the Entered Apprentice degree and the lodge was then closed and reopened on the Fellow Craft Degree. After the candidates received the Fellow Craft Degree the lodge was again closed and reopened on the Master Mason Degree. After the Master Mason Degree was conferred on the candidates, the following business was conducted.
“Voted that Bradley & Smiths a/c of 50cts for Gall ½ Beer be paid out of the funds of this lodge.” “Master Masons Lodge closd & stand closd until our next regular. Fellow Crafts Lodge closed without day. Entered Apprentice Lodge closd & stand closd until our next regular communication then to be opened at this place at 6PM.” One evening’s work.
The first recorded visit of G rand Lodge Officers was on March 17, 1852 when Wm. E. Sanford of New Haven, M.W. Grand master, David Clark of Hartford RWDGM, Eliphalet G. Stoner of New Haven RWGS and John C. Blackman of Bridgeport were present during the conferring of the Master Mason Degree on one candidate. Seven years later the first public installation of officers was planned for on November 8, 1859.
Throughout the 1860’s the Lodge had its up and downs and peace and harmony did not always prevail. For example the minutes of the November 28, 1860 meeting the entire slate of officers declined to serve and in 1865 and 1866 many candidates were rejected. On January 6, 1869 the Worshipful Master, elected the previous month was declared ineligible to serve in that capacity not having been a Warden. At the annual election of officers on December 21, 1870, the members balloted 14 times for a Senior Warden, without success.
On January 4, 1871 a motion was carried out that the Secretary be instructed to insure the Hall and furniture of the Lodge, $300 on Furniture and $500 on the Hall. On February 1, 1871 the By Laws were amended to reduce the yearly dues to $1.00 per year payable in installments of 50 cents on Jan. 1st and July 1st commencing Jan. 1st 1871.
Clear title to the Lodge property was finally obtained in 1877. On March 5th of that year an order was drawn on the Treasurer for $100 in payment to the town for its shares in the building. On May 5th , the Worshipful Master reported the building paid for and a Quit claim deed received.
In 1887, Brother Phineas C. Lounsbury, who was raised in 1883, was elected Governor of the State of Connecticut.
The minutes of December 16, 1889 state that the lodge hall was completely rebuilt and refurbished at a total cost of $3934.88 which included such items as C.B. Northrop –Contract $2800.00, Outside painting $106.20, Inside painting $210.28, Cost of Cistern and fixtures $38.36, 178 yds. Carpet & making $154.50, putting down carpets $8.50, 2 stoves and fixtures $77.55, 2 desks and freight $40.46, 3 chairs (east) $33.64, 2 Settees $43.84. In order to help pay for such a large expenditure the Brethern conducted a fair and the report read on November 4, 1889 showed a net result of $618.52.
In 1891 the Lodge donated $21.00, its proportionate share, toward macadamizing Main Street. Among the other accomplishments the Lodge started to pay the janitor $2.00 per meeting and installed a street lamp outside the building and also appointed a committee of one to “either build or provide a privy for the use of the Lodge members and tenants on the ground floor.
On December 8, 1895 Masonic Hall burned to the ground in the Great Fire of Ridgefield. On December 28th, plans were made to build a new hall and Bother C.B. Northrop was appointed architect. During the construction, meetings were held at the homes of various members. On June 1, 1896 the first meeting was held in the buildings banquet hall.
On January 7, 1901 a letter was read from Brother Edwin M. Scott – “I had the pleasure and honor of visiting last night Matinecock Lodge No. 806 of Oyster Bay, L.I. and participating in the ceremonies of initiating into our craft the Vice President elect Theodore Roosevelt. The Worshipful Master told him there was a representative from the State of Connecticut present representing that State upon this occasion.”
On December 15, 1906 a letter from Brother R.W. Lowe, chairman of the Masonic Fund was read advising the results of a Musical and Fair which was conducted by our Brethren. The net proceeds amounted to $1652.44 and $1512.50 was used to retire one of the mortgages.
In 1908 the Lodge celebrated its 100th birthday with fitting ceremonies including a parade and banquet, with the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and many other Lodges participating. A special Meeting was held at Masonic Hall with the Master Mason Degree exemplified with 173 Brothers present.
On May 6, 1910 “a discussion on heating the building by modern means was entered into by the members and while everyone agreed that it would be a good thing to do, the question came in where was th money coming from to do it, and it was left to the future to decide. Then on February 5, 1912 a motion was passed that the stove in the lodge room be given to the Ridgefield Band and the gift to include the stove pipe if necessary. The lodge now had “modern heating”.
On January 19, 1914, 60 members and 45 visiting Brothers and R.W. Frank L. Wilder representing the Grand Lodge of Connecticut were on hand for the mortgage burning ceremonies.
Large attendances were the rule rather than the exception in the early 1900s. On September 15, 1919 a total of 117 including the M.W.G.M. of Connecticut, 2 representatives from the Grand Lodge of New York and 64 visiting Brothers from 40 different Lodges were present to honor convalescent brothers and visiting Soldier Brothers. The sisters of the Eastern Star provided a bountiful collation for the group at the Episcopal Parish House across the street.
In 1924 the Lodge celebrated the 100th year of continuous membership by the Scott family since the raising of Hezekiah Scott in 1824. Hezekiah served as Master for 12 years during the 1841 to 1865 time period while Col. Hiram K. Scott was Master for thirteen terms during the 1848 to 1891 time period.
The Lodge also had the distinction of having had the oldest Mason ( in years of membership) in the United States in Brother Abijah Ressequie, who became a member of Jerusalem Lodge in 1812, and who at the time of his death in 1887 had been a member for 75 years.
Over the years many organizations used the Lodge room or anterooms for meetings, including the G.A.R., I.O.O.F., Rebekahs , Good Templars, Sons of Temperance, Woodmen of the World, Horticultural Society and even a school for young ladies (1829). The ground floor has been and still is rented to various tenants. The longest tenant has been the Ridgefield Press in the ground floor (1877 to 1938).
On August 28, 1965 Jerusalem Lodge and the Marquette Council , 245, Knights of Columbus jointly sponsored a concert by Benny Goodman, “King of Swing” and his orchestra for the benefit of the children’s wards of the Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals. A total profit of $3300 split and equal portions given to representatives of each hospital.
On Saturday, October 1, 1983, Ridgefield Connecticut, celebrated its 275th Anniversary with a large parade. Jerusalem Lodge celebrated its 175th Anniversary at the same time. Many Brothers from other Lodges attended. The Shrine Motor Patrol and Arab Band also participated. Mr. Richard Venus, Chairman of the 275th Anniversary Parade, presented a plaque to Jerusalem Lodge for the best marching unit in the parade.
On Monday, November 3, 1986, at a Stated Communication, Jerusalem Lodge presented a check for $2350.00 to Ashlar of Newtown Masonic Home as payment for a set of hand bells to be used by the Ashlar of Newtown bell choir which was for our Brother Joseph Hall, who is a resident of Ashlar of Newtown. Bro. Joe, formerly a long time Tyler of Jerusalem Lodge, was present to receive the check. A plaque was later placed on the door of the room occupied by Bro. Joe and his wife, Edna, which read “Presented by the Brothers of Jerusalem Lodge #49, A.F. & A.M.”
Jerusalem Lodge No. 49 has had many of its members serve the grand lodge as District Deputies and Associate Grand Marshals as is seen by the following list:
R.W. Bro. George C. Scott 1925-26
R.W. Bro. Joseph M. Woodcock – 1945-46
Assisted by Bro. Rev. Hugh Shields
R.W. Bro. Edwin F. Shepard – 1967-68
A.G.M. W.B. Harry H. Phelan
R.W. Bro. Gordon E. Plummer – 1979-80
A.G.M. Clarence M. Getz
R.W. Bro. William J. Simmons – 1987-88
A.G.M. W.B. Gerald A. Myers
R.W. Bro. James D. Robertson – 1995-96
A.G.M. W.B. Charles A. McCollum
R.W. Ian M. Scott – 1997-98
A.G.M. W.B. Walter K. Wieland
R.W. William R. Deickler – 2005, 2006, 2007
On Saturday, July 5, 2008, Ridgefield Connecticut, celebrated its 300th Anniversary with a large parade. Members of the lodge marched in the parade and set up Masonic information booth at the Old Time Fair on the same day. The booth was manned by Worshipful Master Charles O’Neil , R.W. Brother William Deickler and Worshipful Brother Carl Slay.
Plans were made to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Lodge with a rededication ceremony to be held on Saturday October 25th with the Most worshipful Grand Master of the State of Connecticut presiding.
In closing I will use the last paragraphs of P.M. Edwin F. Shepards Historical sketch which are thoughts expressed by the late illustrious Brother, Howard A Middleton, P.G.M.
“What shall we say about the history which I have touched upon so imperfectly? Our predecessors have helped to develop real men, men who have been leders or helpers in every facet of our community. This fact justifies the existence of our lodge. Our past is secure and we are proud of it.
“But what of the future? As we look about us, we see a world of unrest and apprehension. I firmly believe if we remain steadfast in the principals and teachings of Masonry, and maintain the enthusiasm and cooperation which has been manifest in the Lodge since its beginning, we may look forward with confidence to a bright and prosperous future for Jerusalem Lodge, No. 49.”
–Walter K. Wieland PM