Pelham Lodge #712

Meeting Location: 241 City Island Ave. Bronx, NY
Meeting Days: 1st & 3rd Tuesdays
Meeting Time: 7:30 p.m.


The history of Pelham Lodge extends back to 1871, when Pelham Lodge No. 712 was founded. The history comes in two parts. The first part I obtained from a copy of the 1971 100th Anniversary Celebration journal, written by W:. James O. Payne and the second part from R.W:. Donald P. Mattson, which he has written himself.

A group of City Island Masons on or about 1870 decided to form their own lodge. Thereafter, Grand Lodge sent them a dispensation and Pelham Lodge was born. The charter members were: D.W:. Billar, Jerome Bell, John Bowman, Wm. F. Billar, Oswald Bergan, David Carll, John O. Fordham, James Hyatt, Benjamin Hegeman, Stephen D. Leviness, Frederick Price, Charles H. Stringham, and A.B. Wood.

The first meeting, attended by 12 members and 1 visitor, was held on Saturday, February 4, 1871 with John O. Fordham as Master. By-laws were drafted and it was voted to meet every Tuesday night. A dispensation cost of $80.00 was paid and Pelham Lodge became part of the Ninth Masonic District. The lodge rooms were over a carpenter shop south of where the Island Pub is now located, in a building owned by a Mr. Baxter who later became a Brother. Rent was $100.00 a year without heat and the cost of coal was $6.00 per ton.

At the fifth meeting on February 28, 1871, By-laws were adopted, and at the eighth meeting, Pelham held its first Master Mason's Degree, at which 3 candidates were raised. The first application to be received was that of Edward L. Wooden, age 25, teacher at City Island's one-room, one-teacher schoolhouse.

During Pelham's first year, 13 Brothers were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, making a total of 31 members, 2 Fellowcrafts, and 3 Entered Apprentices. W:. Bro. John O. Fordham was re-elected Master for another year on December 19, 1871. The second Worshipful Master of Pelham Lodge was S. D. Levenap, elected December 24, 1872. Elections were held for the offices of Worshipful Master, Senior Warden, Junior Warden, Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon, Secretary, and Treasurer.

On April 25, 1873, a special meeting was called to arrange for a suitable steamboat to carry the remains of Brother Benjamin Hegeman to its resting place in Bayville. The Steamboat HARLEM was chartered, piloted by Captain Longstreet.

W:. John O. Fordham was installed as Master for the coming year at a public installation on December 26, 1873.
After the Civil War, the Grand Master of the State of New York asked for a donation to help the Masonic Brothers of the South. Thirty dollars was raised and forwarded to the Grand Secretary and subsequently a letter acknowledging the receipt of this money was received from Louisiana Relief Lodge #1.

There were no meetings from May 13th to December 23rd, 1884, as there was a fire in the building that housed the lodge. The first destroyed some of the furniture, for which the lodge collected $375.00 on an $800.00 policy.

On December 6, 1887, Pelham Lodge was notified of its indebtedness to the Grand Lodge of New York for $275.00 for building the 23rd Street Masonic Temple. To pay this amount, Pelham Lodge took out a loan, putting up the lodge furniture for security.

On January 7, 1888, the members of Pelham voted to move to Booth's Hall, its present location, and requested the Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master to inspect the new lodge rooms before they completed the deal. Rent was $10.00 a month for 10 months each year. The lodge rooms were dedicated on April 15, 1890.
At the meeting of February 19, 1895, the lodge was nine months behind in its rent and decided to give up its rooms. February 26th of that year they reconsidered this action and decided to stay.

In 1897, Pelham Lodge had 23 members and was placed in the Eighth Manhattan District.

In 1898, a committee was formed to find the cost of installing electric lights. Upon reporting that it would cost $30.00 to wire and place two lights in the lodge room, plus $4.00 a month for lighting, the idea was tabled for some future meeting.

The following year it was decided that each member should furnish himself a pair of white gloves and that the Worshipful Master be required to purchase a silk hat. The members were to wear their gloves at all stated communications and the Master was required to wear his hat in the lodge room. A special meeting was called on Wednesday, May 17, 1899 to arrange a list of Brothers to sit up with W:. Bro. Boyd. The brothers who did not attend were summoned to appear the next Tuesday to show cause why they did not obey a summons.
At the October 17, 1899 meeting, a committee reported that they could not get a place to entertain the District Deputy for his visit the following week. It was decided to have coffee and sandwiches at the lodge – then, as an afterthought, they decided to add oyster to the refreshments, which makes on realize that times don't change. As of December 1899, Pelham Lodge had $92.81 in its treasury, all bills paid and a membership of 41, 3 Fellowcrafts, and 1 Entered Apprentice.

In October 1900, a committee reported the cost of wiring the lodge would be $8.45 and electricity for one month would be $1.92. Action on this matter was postponed. There were 56 members in good standing and a balance of $213.00 with $65.75 in bills outstanding. An election of officers held on December 18, 1900 was declared invalid due to an informality. The Worshipful Master ordered a new ballot at the next communication, which resulted in the same officers being elected.

At the February 19th meeting, the lodge celebrated its 30th Anniversary. Among the pleasant events of this evening was a presentation of a beautiful lambskin apron to each surviving charter member, namely: Bro. John O. Fordham, Bro. James Hyatt, Bro. Augustus B. Wood, and Bro. Jerome Bell. In December, the Grand Master sent out a letting informing the Master and Brothers that clandestine lodges were being formed in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and advised them to carefully check credentials of all visitors.

At a special meeting held on Friday, June 6th, 1902, a piece of property belonging to Bro. Hyatt was offered for sale of $1,500.00. This property was on Main Street (City Island Avenue) and a motion was made to purchase same. A committee was then formed to look into other pieces of property and when none were available, they were instructed to purchase the Hyatt property for less than $1,500.00. They arrived at a price of $1,475.00 on which they placed a retainer of $75.00.

On October 28, 1902, the lodge voted to become incorporated. It was on this date that Trustees were elected to serve 1, 2, and 3 year terms. Prior to that time they were appointed each year.

August 11, 1903, at 12:00, an emergent communication was held. The lodge was opened on the Third Degree and assembled for a funeral procession to pay last respects to Bro. William Garner. The lodge members then went to Bronxdale Methodists Episcopal Church for church and Masonic services, after which they went to inter the body in Woodlawn Cemetery. The lodge remained open until September 8th, at which time it was closed in due form.

On October 4, 1904, the Brothers thanked Bro. Francis Arthur for entertaining them with his phonograph. Grand Lodge dues were $49.50 this year.

On June 19, 1906, the lodge rented a Pianola (piano) for the night. They had to pay for their own rolls and half the cost of tuning it. Rental was $25.00 a year, but the lodge felt it could not afford this luxury. In December of this year, all officers in the lodge were re-elected.

In 1908, the Trustees were empowered to obtain a first mortgage of $1,000.00 for the erection of a building for Pelham Lodge. At the end of this year, they had 118 members.

On March 1, 1910, W:. Bro. Sam Reynolds gave a speech at a meeting to celebrate the burning of a mortgage on some property the lodge had purchased. In September 1910, the lodge contracted to pay half the cost of a party wall between their property and that of Samuel Miller at a total cost of $800.00.

Bro. James B. Prout was appointed to represent Pelham Lodge in Utica in June 1911 for the installation of a stained glass window, which was placed there by the 8th Manhattan District of which we were a part. He received $25.00 to defray his expenses.

February 1st, 1912, the first School of Instruction was held in Wyoming Lodge #492 in Westchester Square, with Bro. Fred H. Wefer as Assistant Grand Lecturer. In September, the lodge decided to sell the lot it was holding to buy the building where they met.

The property located on the east side of City Island Avenue south of Orchard Street (now Hawkins Street) was sold for $2,500.00 in November 1913. This year a letter was received inviting the members to the dedication of Hebron Masonic Temple. At the end of the year, we had 149 members.

On March 30, 1915, a resolution was presented to all lodges in the Bronx for the purpose of forming a Bronx Masonic District.

A committee was formed in 1915 to see about renovating the lodge room, specifically, construction of a platform in the east, raising the Warden's chair and the back row of seats. In October, the lodge paid $15.00 for W:. Walter C. Hitchcock, then Master, for his trip to Utica.

An organ was purchased for $200.00 in September 1916.

On January 22, 1918, W:. Bro. Harry Aery, as Acting Master of Pelham Lodge conferred the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Degrees of Masonry in one night to George James Killin. This was arranged by special dispensation from Grand Lodge. The lodge stayed open for the month of July to give degrees to men in the Service.

On January 7, 1919, the Trustees, along with 3 other members, were empowered to purchase the building which meetings were being held. The membership in 1919 was 239 and W:. Bro. R. C. Lawrence was appointed Grand Representative of Costa Rica.

In 1920, the secretary reported 34 candidates raised, 1 unaffiliated, 3 decreased, and 12 demitted – leaving a membership of 255.

In November 1921, Pelham Lodge present Angle Lodge, U.D. with officers' jewels at a special meeting.
The decorated letter "G" and the Eastern Star in the lodge room were made by W:. Bro. Walter Hitchcock.
With a special dispensation from Grand Lodge, Pelham conferred the Degree of Master Mason to 10 Brothers in June 1922. In July, 27 names of members were ordered dropped from our rolls and added to the rolls of Angle Lodge – this by order of Grand Lodge.

In October 1924, the Trustees arranged to have a heating system installed in the lodge for $400.00.

The Secretary reported on January 5, 1926, that Pelham Lodge had 302 members. W:. Bro. John O. Fordham died this year. He was the first Master of Pelham Lodge and the last charter member.

The Trustees, in February 1926, were empowered to purchase two lots on Schofield Street for $2,500.00. A Building Committee was formed to obtain sketches of a suitable lodge room and a Ways and Means Committee sent out letters soliciting pledges. The following month, they reported $5,000.00 pledged and $2,625.00 in cash. It was decided that the maximum price for the building be $30,000.00. On April 20, 1926, it was reported that the committee had received pledges from 135 members to the amount of $8,535.00.

During the pre-depression years of 1927 and 1928, many plans were considered – among them one to return the building fund money to the donors, which was done. The Trustees were ordered to sell the property on Schofield Street at a profit – priced at a later date at $3,000.00. A real estate firm offered to buy the lodge building – asking price was $20,000.00.

On June 5, 1928, the lodge discussed enlarging the meeting room but no action was taken as all these plans went astray when the depression hit.

The lodge was finally renovated in 1933.

In 1943, a Fellowcraft Team was started, composed of all sideliners with R:. W:. Benedict May as Instructor. On June 18th, R.W:. Benedict May was appointed District Deputy of the Bronx District.

During the years 1932, 1933, and 1934, every effort was made and many plans tried to reinstate unaffiliated members who were dropped during the depression.

The Secretary's report for 1939 showed 257 members.

In 1942, the lodge was busy with Defense, Savings Bond Drives, Masonic War Chest, and United Service Organization campaign fund. The Grand Master asked for a minimum of 25 pints of blood to be donated by each lodge.

On June 15, 1943, the Grand Secretary announced the appointed of R.W:. Aaron F. Forsey to the office of Grand Sword Bearer.

The Worshipful Master announced on April 4, 1944, that Brother Joseph E. Butterworth had donated the sum of $20,000.00 to the lodge as a trust fund to be known as the Butterworth Fund, the interest of the same to be used only for medical treatment and hospitalization of indigent members of Pelham Lodge, their wives, and children.
In 1945, the Trustees reported that the building had several violations on it. The wooden fire-escape had to be replaced with an iron one; the kitchen had to be ventilated; the stairs in the pool room had to be enclosed; and an exit had to be provided to the street at a cost of $2,500.00.

On May 15th 1945, a prayer of thankfulness was said for V-E Day. The Secretary's report for this year showed 292 members.

Pelham Lodge celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1946 and Harry Booth presented a history of the lodge which, unfortunately, was not incorporated in the minutes.

R.W:. James F. Reynolds was appointed to the office of District Deputy Grand Master on June 18, 1946. His reception and presentation was held in the Methodist Hall with about 350 members and visitors attending.
Sunday morning, February 9, 1947, was Pelham Lodge's first day to escort the veterans to church at Kingsbridge Hospital and we have been doing it ever since.

On June 7, 1949, the Grand Secretary informed the lodge of the appointment of R.W:. James F. Reynolds as Grand Senior Deacon of the Grand Lodge of New York. This was the first time the Bronx District received such an honor. On October 4, 1949, Pelham Lodge, on special dispensation held their regular meeting at Wyoming Temple for his presentation.

In April 1951, a delegation from Pelham went by boat to Port Washington to see W:. Lester Conrad's brother raised. W:. Charles C. Simpson supplied his boat for the trip.

The lodge rooms and banquet hall were renovated in 1952, during which year membership was 333.
The Fellowcraft Club put on their first drama on March 2, 1954.

On June 5, 1956, the Worshipful Master announced that R:. W:. Daniel C. Bloom had been appointed District Deputy Grand Master of the Bronx District and arrangements were made for a reception at Wyoming Temple on September 18th. On October 2, 1956, for the first time in Pelham existence, a degree was conferred by Sideliners.

In April 1957, Pelham qualified for a Red Cross Plaque for the third time. This award signifies that the organization has donated 20 or more pints of blood. The Secretary's report indicated 338 members this year. In May 1957, we had 33 pints of blood.

In was announced that the amendment to the Grand Lodge Constitution to the effect that "Members raised must memorize the lecture of the Third Degree before signing the By-laws," was lost at a Grand Lodge session.
On November 17, 1959, we had 50 pints of blood on hand and in 1960, the Secretary's semi-annual report showed a membership of 350.

At the last meeting of December 1960, the District Deputy Grand Master of the Bronx paid a social visit to Pelham and announced that all lodges would be asked to contribute towards the purchase of wheelchairs for the District. Since that time, we have received several letters from Pelham's members thanking us for the use of these chairs.

The 90th Anniversary Dinner was held at Thwaite's Inn on June 14, 1961. The 90 members who attended enjoyed a fine dinner and listened to the old-timers and Past Masters telling of Pelham's history. W:. Bro. Harry T. Booth, our oldest living Past Master attended this special affair.

The portions of this report which follow, through the year 1971, have been collected by word-of-mouth due to the fact that the lodge was almost totally destroyed by fire and records for these years were lost.

In November 1961, R:. W:. Walter C. Hitchcock was appointed Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Victoria near the Grand Lodge of New York. This was an honor the lodge had looked forward to for a long time since Bro. Hitchcock was the dedicated Secretary of Pelham for 38 years and had the love and respect of all our members.

In 1962, the lodge was renovated with brick facing on the side wall extended to the foundation for support and the entrance changed from City Island Avenue to Schofield Street at a cost of $10,000.00. Thus, Pelham had another mortgage to pay.

In 1962, the Secretary's room and poolroom were paneled and the basement was tiled. It was also the first year our blood bank went over 100 pints.

The 100th Anniversary Committee was appointed and started to function in 1966, so it is evident that Pelham Lodge was very fortunate to have a very enthusiastic, active, and fore-sighted group of members. Unfortunately, it was impossible to name them all individually but the success of Pelham is due to the fact that the members have always worked as a team for the good of all and we are very grateful to them.

In September 1968, the Assistant Secretary and Assistant Treasurer were first elected. The Building Fund Chairman announced that a Brother of Pelham Lodge pledged to match dollar for dollar of any monies donated by Brothers who had not completed their pledge of $35.00. On January 7, 1969, the lodge received $680.70 from Bro. Victor K. Anderson as his part of this agreement.

About this time, the 100th Anniversary Fund reached a total of $3,500.00.

On June 3, 1969, Grand Lodge announced that R:. W:. Gus C. Fowler was appointed Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge of New York. This same month our Building Fund indebtedness was down to $850.00. W:. Bro. James Drummond was appointed Chairman of the Bronx District Blood Bank on June 17th and R:. W:. Gus C. Fowler was presented with his Commission in September with 140 members in attendance.

On October 12, 1969, the lodge building was razed by fire and the damage was estimated at 40 percent of the building and 80 percent of the furnishings destroyed. The October 21st meeting was cancelled. Temple Beth El of City Island offered their facilities until damages to our building could be repaired. Our meetings were held there for one year. We were left with a mortgage of $17,500.00.

At this point I [W:. James O. Payne] would like to say a word about the rebuilding of the Temple. Every Brother who was able offered his services. The Trustees were in charge of the reconstruction – asking advice and listening to suggestions of all members.

The collation room was the biggest undertaking of the project. Contractors were consulted to see about lowering the floor. Their bids ranged from $3,000.00 to $10,000.00 for excavating the cellar floor 12 ½ inches. Rather than go into this further indebtedness, a wonderful group of Brothers decided to attempt this difficult job themselves. They worked all summer with picks and shovels, removing an incredibly well-constructed foundation, making their deadline September 1st. The cement floor was poured by 6 Brothers in one day and a tile-layer was called in to put down the tiles. The Brothers then painted the trim, bricked walls, installed an air-conditioner, replaced a window – and missed the deadline by 15 days.

The Brothers who helped with this work are now part of this building, as the sweat from their brows and broken blisters from their hands are mixed in with the cement, bricks, and paint. We are, of course, very proud of this building today [1971] and [2007] as it is a testament to the devotion of our members.

On September 15, 1970, we had our first official meeting in Pelham Temple since the fire. City Island Temple was rededicated on November 21, 1970, with Most Wor. Bro. Charles E. Gosnell occupying the East.

On February 16, 1971, the Blood Bank Chairman reported that Pelham's own blood bank, in which we invited the District to participate, was attended by 157 donors of which 64 pints were recorded for our lodge. Pictures were taken and subsequently appeared in the Empire State Mason.

Sixteen Brothers went to a One Hundredth Anniversary meeting at Standard Lodge #711 on April 26th 1971, and were graciously received.

Now, as we stand on the threshold of our second 100 years with more members and the same enthusiasm as our founding Brothers, we look forward to the continuing cooperative spirit of all our members and extend a cordial welcome to all who would like to share our hospitality to meet with us in good fellowship.

What you have just read was written so eloquently by W:. James O. Payne for the 100th Anniversary Celebration journal for Pelham Lodge No. 712. It was held on Friday, June 4, 1971 at The Fountainhead in New Rochelle. I have copied it down verbatim with some notations, those in brackets, and minor grammatical changes. This is done to preserve the integrity of what Bro. Payne had written thirty-six years ago.

We are currently looking for a history from 1971 - present.