Early Huntington Freemasonry

Masonic certificate of David Harrison of Huntington No. 26, December 6, 1801. ©Jephtha Lodge No. 494 F. & A.M.

Masonic light first came to Huntington in 1793 as Huntington Lodge No. 26 of Oyster Bay A.Y.M. with the warrant dated March 22, 1793 thus making it the first Masonic lodge to be formed on what is today Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

Typically, eighteenth century lodge meetings were held in taverns, with food and spirits prepared for the brothers gathered around a long table. Dues were owed at each meeting, whether a brother was present or not. Huntington No. 26 had only 30 known members throughout its brief history, more than half of whom were charter members of Suffolk No. 60 in Port Jefferson and Morton No. 63 in Hempstead (now Wantagh-Morton No. 63), both still active to this day. Because there was no central meeting place and travel was difficult, Huntington No. 26 sporadically met until 1806 before finally forfeiting its charter on March 4, 1818. Freemasonry was inactive in Huntington, New York for the next 42 years.

A Brief History of Jephtha Lodge No. 494 F. & A.M.

Huntington was Masonically dark until late 1859, when a meeting took place at the house of Francis Olmstead in Northport, New York between William H. King, Jesse Carll, David Carll, John H. Jarvis, Phineas E. Sills and C.A. Floyd for the purpose of taking into consideration the feasibility of establishing a Lodge in the Village of Huntington. After some discussion, it was agreed that an application be made in due form to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York for a dispensation to form a Lodge, to be known as Jephtha Lodge, named after a character in the Old Testament who served as one of the Judges in Israel for a period of six years (Judges 12:7) between the conquest of Canaan and the first king. Jephtha lived in Gilead and was a member of the Tribe of Manasseh.

The first officers and charter members of Jephtha Lodge as noted in the signed petition were:

William H. King of Jappa Lodge No. 201 as Master
Jesse Carll of Charter Oak No. 249 as Senior Warden
John H. Jarvis of Lexington No. 310 as Junior Warden
David Carll of Charter Oak No. 249 as Senior Deacon
Jonas Higbie of Charter Oak No. 249 as Junior Deacon
Charles H. Floyd of Suffolk No. 401 as Secretary
Phineas B. Sills Jappa Lodge No. 201 as Treasurer

Jephtha Lodge first met on the second floor on the building on the right, on the corner of Main and New Streets. Owned by John Fleet, aka “Candy John,” the lodge met at this location 1860-1885. © Huntington Historical Society

Having obtained the necessary dispensation by Grand Lodge, Jephtha Lodge No. 494 was chartered on January 25, 1860. Jephtha Lodge was convened for the first time on Saturday January 28, 1860, as a Lodge under Dispensation in a room over the store of “Candy John” Fleet at the corner of New and Main St. Huntington Village, where they met for 35 years. A committee was appointed to outfit the room properly for Masonic work and to procure the necessary jewels. Charter Oak Lodge No, 249 was gracious in donating the necessary regalia for the Officers.

The first applications of membership were received, investigated and subsequently raised. Asa C. Thurber and Jehiel Grumman of Northport; Theodore S. Lawndes, John T. Bennett, Jonas Pearsall of Huntington, and John W. Dickerson of Centreport were the first brothers raised. In the early years the predominant professions of the Brothers were Seamen, Yeoman, Ship’s Carpenter’s, Captains and Sailmakers, for at the time Huntington was a busy seaport for ferries to New York and Connecticut, and for the shipping of produce. Many Brothers raised in the new Lodge, in later years, went on to form Glen Cove Lodge No. 580 in 1866, Alcyone Lodge No. 695 of Northport in 1869, Babylon Lodge No. 793 of Babylon in 1887, and Matinnecock Lodge No. 806 of Oyster Bay in 1892.

A Lodge Seal was procured in September 1860 and at the end of the first year, membership totaled 53 Brothers. Initiation fee was $15 and dues $3. In 1869, the Lodge purchased a plot of land for $1000 on New York Avenue, just south of Main Street, for the construction of a temple in later years. In the interim the Lodge leased the property for $50 per year. In 1885, the Lodge moved to a room over O. S. Sammis on the northwest corner of Main Street and New York Avenue in Huntington Village.

Jephtha Lodge met on the third floor on the O.S. Sammis Building on the northwest corner of Main Street and New York Avenue, 1885-1905. © Huntington Historical Society

After 25 years, the Lodge has 67 Brothers, with initiation fees of $25 and dues of $4. On October 14, 1897, the original Suffolk District (consisting of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk) was designated as two separate Masonic Districts of Nassau and Suffolk by Grand Master W:.M:. W.A. Sutherland. In 1899 Grand Lodge honored Jephtha Lodge for the first time by appointing R:.W:. Brother Douglas Conklin District Deputy Grand Master of the Nassau and Suffolk District.

In the spring of 1904, W:. Edgar P. Bunce, Master of Jephtha,  appointed a building committee naming E.B. Hawkins, A.E. Lowndes, A.B. Gildersleeve, A.S. Pettit and Edward Holms. The committee worked with trustees Thomas Aitken, Joseph Irwin and Douglas Conklin in securing plans and estimates, the giving out of contracts and procuring the necessary funds.

Cornerstone laying ceremony for Jephtha Lodge on 342-344 New York Avenue, Huntington on August 25, 1904. ©Jephtha Lodge No. 494 F. & A.M.

On the afternoon of August 25, 1904, the cornerstone of the present building at 342-344 New York Ave was laid. By the direction of the Grand Master, R:.W:. William L. Swan of Oyster Bay officiated. Seventy five members of Jephtha along with members of several Lodges were present at this important occasion. The regular Masonic service ended with the pouring of corn, wine and oil on the precious stone. The following documents were placed in a metal box encased in the cornerstone:

A gold tablet with the Ten Commandments
History of the 250th Anniversary of the Town of Huntington
A financial report of the town
A copy of the Alumni record of Huntington High School
A copy of George Washington’s letter as a Master Mason
A copy of the resolution adopted by Jephtha on the death of Abraham Lincoln
A badge of President Theodore Roosevelt
A list of the members of Jephtha Lodge
A copy of each newspaper: Long Islander, Bulletin and New York Herald
A copy of the disaster of the General Slocum
A lasting impression of Edison’s phonograph
History and membership of Jephtha’s Daughters Chapter No. 187
Names of the building committee, contractors and cards of local businessmen.

Several Jephtha Brothers, including R:.W:. Douglass Conklin, attended the Masonic raising of Vice President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1901 at Matinecock Lodge No. 806 in Oyster Bay, New York. R:.W:. Douglass Conklin was also part of a committee to examine Brother Roosevelt’s proficiency before being passed to the Degree of Fellowcraft on March 27, 1901. It was reported at the time that Roosevelt knew the material so well that he corrected those conducting the examination when they erred.

Jephtha Lodge building, circa 1910. © Huntington Historical Society

From 1942 to 1945, Jephtha Lodge maintained a Masonic Service Center for the members of the armed forces. During this period, 6447 service men used the lodge facilities and were entertained by the lodge hosts and hostesses. Jephtha Lodge No. 494 reached peak membership of 582 members in 1963.

The Lodge Building

The first floor has two retail storefront spaces that have been consistently rented since the building opened in 1905. Rental clients included the Huntington Post Office (1905-1925). Between 1905 and the 1930’s, the second floor was rented as office space. It has since been used as a private collation rooms for the membership. The third floor has remained relatively unchanged since 1905, including the lodge room and Masonic museum. Several fraternal organizations have used the third floor lodge room over the years, including the Organization of Triangles, Order of the Eastern Star, Knights Templar, Royal Arch, Knights of Columbus, Odd Fellows and the Loyal Order of Moose. Truth Triangle No. 31 has met in Jephtha Lodge since 1927, the year it was founded, and is one of the oldest active Triangle organizations in New York.

Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt Visits Jephtha Lodge

On September 17, 1931, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt was invited by Jephtha Lodge No. 494 to deliver a speech on the anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Jephtha Lodge No. 494 held a Special Communication, it 1,467th, at Old First Church, Main Street, Huntington, NY, with over 450 Masonic brothers in attendance.

Historical Marker Dedication

A New York State Historical Marker was dedicated in front of the building on August 16, 2018. The marker was unveiled by Huntington Town Historian Robert Hughes; W:. Richard Harris, Master; Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and W:. Ron Seifried, Trustees Chairman of Jephtha Lodge. The marker was originally conceived by the late W:. John V Forster, Past Master of Jephtha and Dedicated Service Award recipient, the highest honor awarded in Masonry. It was Brother Foster’s passion and devotion to Jephtha Lodge that helped spark the current renaissance in Jephtha, where it stands today in its most prolific period in over 50 years.

Historical Marker dedicated in front of Jephtha Lodge on August 16, 2018

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