For a more clear understanding of the formation of Freedom Lodge No. 328 F&AM., it is interesting to review some of the activities of North Star Lodge No. 119 A. Y. M., in the northeastern part of what is now Pennsylvania. The first Officers and charter members of Freedom lodge No. 328 were members of North Star Lodge No. 119.
From Stocker's Centennial History of Susquehanna County published by R. T. Peck and Company in 1887, it is stated that North Star Lodge No. 119, A.Y.M. was instituted in Gibson at James Watson's house in 1816. The charter for this lodge was granted in England to Clifford District, which then embraced a large extent of territory, and the different places where the Lodge under this charter held its meetings before it was finally surrendered, would read like a romance.
It appears that the Charter was originally granted to Judge Samuel Preston, a pioneer and prominent Quaker settler at Stockport, Wayne county. Other Wayne county pioneer settlers and members were Samuel Stanton and Elijah Dix at Mount Pleasant. John Comfort from Lanesboro area was another pioneer settler and member.
As long as James Watson lived, the greater number of Lodge meetings were held at his home; but it is recorded that some meetings were held at the homes of members at Harford, Dundaff and Mount Pleasant. The following persons were remembered as having been members of North Star Lodge: William Dougherty, Nathaniel Chaflin, Eliab Farrar, Joshua K. Adams, Captain Amos Payne, Dr. Streeter, Major Labon Capron, Hosea Tiffany Jr., Amos Tiffany, Captain Freeman Peck, Jacob Blake, Nathan P. Thatcher, Enos Thatcher, Joab Fuller, Nathan Aldrich, Rufus Kingsley, Dr. Braton Richardson, Peter Williams, Charles Tingley, S. P. Chandler, Milton Tingley, Elisha Williams, Moses B. Weaton, Job Benson, Torrey Whitney, ----- Hanners, Thomas Carr and Michael J. Mulvey. It is of special interest to the members of Freedom Lodge, No.328, F. A M. that the members have in their possession the apron that was the property of Nathaniel Chaflin.
During the anti-Masonic agitation the Lodge did not meet very frequently. After James Washburn died, Charles Tingley, his executor, found the chest containing the Charter and other paraphernalia of the order; and being a Mason, he called a meeting of some of the old members at his house. They assembled there and concluded to re-organize and commence work again; but here a new difficulty arose.
While the lodge had been sleeping, a contest had arisen in the State between the Ancient York Masons holding charters from England, and the Free and Accepted Masons, organized under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The old Lodge gave five degrees including the Mark Master's degree, which further conflicted with the Royal Arch chapter under the Pennsylvania jurisdiction; and further, returns had to be made to England, which was very inconvenient. Most of the members that now belonged were old men, and all of their Lodge Associations clustered around the North Star Lodge and they stood out stoutly against surrendering their old English charter.
They initiated two or three members after re-organization, but the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania insisted upon their surrendering their charter. Judge Tingley was a timid man and finally favored surrendering the Charter which was accordingly done, and Freedom Lodge No. 328, F. & A.M. was chartered from Pennsylvania; its warrant was issued September 6, 1858; it was instituted May 5, 1859, and its meetings were held in Harford. William H. Adams was the Grand Secretary - Peter Williamson was the Grand Treasurer.
The Officers and Charter members of Freedom Lodge were: Torrey Whitney, W. M.; Joshua K. Adams, S. W.; Charles Tingley, J. W.; Milton Tingley, Treasurer; Alonzo M. Tiffany, secretary; Stephen P. Chandler, Jeremiah Rogers, John M. Mulvey and Charles H. Miller.
As a stated meeting of the Lodge held November 1, 1860, it was voted to change the place of meeting from Harford to Burrow Hollow (now Gibson) and it is written in a General Return to Grand Lodge dated December 26, 1860, that this meeting was held at Gibson - 18 members at that time. At a stated meeting held October 4, 1865, it was voted to change the place of meeting from Gibson to Jackson and the December meeting in 1865 was held in Jackson - 42 members at the time.
For a period of 48 years Freedom Lodge continues its meetings in Jackson. During this period the membership kept rather constant in 1866 and in 1872 the membership for each year was 58 and in 1879 the low number in membership was 47. During the afternoon of Thursday, July 24th 1913, the two-story frame building in Jackson owned by Hosea Benson was hit by lightning and burned. Freedom Lodge lost its equipment and a lot of its records in this fire as the building was a complete loss. For some months after the fire, Freedom Lodge held its meetings in the Gelatt Grange Hall in Gelatt. The Stated meeting Wednesday evening December 2nd 1914, as held in the I.O.O.F. Hall in Jackson, this location was the place of meeting for about four years.
During 1917 and 1918 there was serious discussion among the members about moving her lodge to Thomson. At a stated meeting February 12, 1919, a motion was made by Brother Edwin L. Hill and seconded by Brother Clayton S. Bowell and Brother Fred W. Barrett that Freedom Lodge be moved to Thompson; There was a special meeting held February 28th, 1919, to take action on this motion, and favorable action was taken. The stated meeting of April 9th, 1919, was the first meeting of Freedom Lodge held in Tallman Hall in Thompson, During the remainder of 1919 Fred D. Wrighter and Willard F. Spencer were acting secretaries - 60 members at the time. At a stated meeting in December 1919, Willard F. Spencer was elected secretary, and he continued in this office until the end of 1935, at which time C. Dean Blauvelt was elected Secretary, and he continued to hold this office until his death in February of this year 1958; at the end of 1957 the membership of Freedom Lodge was 113 members.
Freedom Lodge No. 328 has endeavored to maintain a high standard of work among the craft. It is a well known fact that the real work of the craft is written in the hearsay and lives of the members. One by one the older members have passed away to the Supreme Lodge on High. New men have been added to our Fraternity and have tried to preserve the memory of those gone before, as well as keep up the high standards of Brotherhood that are based on religious principles. Masonry is a realization of G-d shown by the Brotherhood of Man.
It is of particular interest to refer to a man who was a member of Freedom Lodge and whose home was in Thompson. This man was the late Brother Elbert E. Gelatt, who became a member of Freedom Lodge at the age of seventy-two years. He joined Keystone Consistory when he was ninety-eight years old; and he became a member of Irem Temple Shrine at the age of one hundred years; without a doubt at that age, he was the oldest man in the United States or in Canada to join the Shrine.
The older members of Freedom Lodge now, remember the late Homer Spencer of Susquehanna, Pa., a member of Canawacta Lodge No. 360, F. & A. M., who was District Deputy Grand Master. He was a good Masonic teacher and we can recall statements from him of this nature - "Now I have told you twice, we will pass on to something else."
Brother Homer Spencer was succeeded in the office of District Deputy Grand Master by Brother George Bartholomay, Vandling, PA., a member of Forest City Lodge No.439, F. & A. M., and he continued in this office for twenty-six years. His interest in Masonry and in Masons was wonderfully fine, and Masonry in the 15th District was kept at a high level by his fine influence. In 1950 he was succeeded by Brother H. Donald Major, Brooklyn, PA., a member of Harford Lodge No. 445, as District Deputy Grand Master.
The Lodge meeting rooms are now located in the former Thompson School Gymnasium which is owned by the Freedom Hall Association and was in service at the time of the 100 year anniversary observance.
The lodge started the 100 years with a big celebration. Brother Arnold Manning as Worshipful Master, Arnold Westgate as Senior Warden, Lyle Leonard as Junior Warden, and Willard Spencer as Treasurer. The Lodge Secretary for many years, C. Dean Blauvelt, died suddenly in February. Brother Robert H. Benson was appointed Secretary and continued in that position for 39 years. Brothers Manning, Leonard, and Benson are still active and present today. The membership had grown to 112 in 1959. There were 37 members and 107 members including Sanford M. Chilcote, Right Worshipful Grand Master present at the Centennial Celebration. The dues were $10.00 per year in 1959. One of the first expenditures for 1959 was for one thousand stamped envelopes at a cost of $46.40. H. Donald Major was District Deputy Grand Master at this time having succeeded George C. Bartholomew who had served the preceding 24 years. Major was followed by Clark Howell, A. Ralph Taylor, Robert K. Montross, Edward E. Tourje, Nelson Staufer, Dieter D. Dauber, Martin Migliori and currently Nathan A. Foster.
The membership has steadily declined from a peak of 112 in 1959 to 97 in 1970 to 90 today.
On May 1st 1987, Freedom Lodge hosted District Past Masters Night. There were 22 members present along with 109 visitors. The floor did not break!!!
In 1990 the Lodge room was refurbished with plywood covering some of the windows and a fresh coat of paint. A new oil furnace was installed in the basement in 1992 requiring a hole cut in the floor and the furnace lowered through it.
The Lodge became an enthusiastic member of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportationís "Adopt a Highway" program in 1993, and has continued this road cleaning effort ever since.
In 1994, both Freedom Lodge and Freedom Hall Association participated with the community during "The Great American Race" which was routed through Thompson in its 2,300 mile tour.
On October 15th , 1996, the Pennsylvania State Police Degree team conferred the maser Mason's Degree upon Joseph Michael Walsh. There were 16 members and 47 visitors present.
In 1999, Freedom Lodge sold "Tee Shirts" in a fund raising effort for the Special Olympics. The $7,000.00 raised by the Lodge was matched by $5,000.00 from the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge totaling $12,000.00 given to the Special Olympics. F. Dean Lewis was presented the Grand Masterís Award for Community Service by Right Worshipful Grand Master G. M. Deluge for his leadership and assistance to the Special Olympics.
On June 4th, 2004, The Pennsylvania State Police Degree team conferred the Master Mason's Degree upon Jeffrey D. Burman. There were 17 members and 48 visitors present. Brother Burman has severed Freedom Lodge twice as Worshipful Master including during its Sesquicentennial Celebration in the year 2009.
In 2006 The Right Worshipful Grand Master presented the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award to Gary A. Gray, P.M., for his 50 years in Scouting and many years as a Uniformed Leader at Pack, Troop, and District levels. In 2006 the Lodge donated enough money to the 15th District School of Instruction toward the purchase of two cameras for the Grand Masters CHIP program.
Freedom Lodge No. 328 continues to set an example of community service by its charitable work, its participation with Thompson Toddlers, its support of Girl & Boy Scouts, Christmas and Halloween parties and requests for assistance.
On Saturday, May 2nd 2009, Freedom Lodge celebrated its 150th year Anniversary with an Open Meeting of the lodge followed by a Special Commemorative Service at the Thompson United Methodist Church and banquet held at the Thompson Volunteer Fire Company Hall. There were approximately 160 in attendance at the events. Brothers Stephen Gardner, R.W. Grand Master; Jay W. Smith, R.W. Senior Grand Warden; Robert J. Bateman, R.W. Junior Grand Warden; Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., R.W. Past Grand Master; four Appointed Grand Lodge Officers and five District Deputy Grand Masters attended the celebration. Grand Master Gardner presented five 50-year and six 60-year Masonic Service Awards and delivered an inspiring address.
"What impressed me the most was the depth of spirit of
brotherhood throughout this small town," R.W. Grand Master Stephen Gardner said.
"It goes to show that the greatness of the lodge is due to the dedication of its
membership rather than its size."
Constituted on May 5, 1859, Freedom Lodge No. 328 had its 150th Anniversary
Celebration on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
Nathan A. Foster, D.D.G.M.; Robert J. Bateman, R.W.J.G.W.; Stephen Gardner,
R.W.G.M.; Jay W. Smith, R.W.S.G.W.; Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., R.W.P.G.M.;
Jeffrey D. Burman, W.M.
Second Row: Christopher Lewis, J.M.C.; Edward J.
Kozlowski, Sr., S.D.; Gary A. Gray, P.M., Sec.; Edward Kozlowski, Jr., J.W.;
Loren Stone, S.W.; Charles, Welch, P.M., Treas.; Richard W. Williams, J.D.;
James Lewis, S.M.C.; and Michal Bartczak, Pur.
Constituted on May 5, 1859, Freedom Lodge No. 328 had its 150th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009
Front Row: Nathan A. Foster, D.D.G.M.; Robert J. Bateman, R.W.J.G.W.; Stephen Gardner, R.W.G.M.; Jay W. Smith, R.W.S.G.W.; Marvin A. Cunningham, Sr., R.W.P.G.M.; Jeffrey D. Burman, W.M.
Second Row: Christopher Lewis, J.M.C.; Edward J. Kozlowski, Sr., S.D.; Gary A. Gray, P.M., Sec.; Edward Kozlowski, Jr., J.W.; Loren Stone, S.W.; Charles, Welch, P.M., Treas.; Richard W. Williams, J.D.; James Lewis, S.M.C.; and Michal Bartczak, Pur.