History of Mt. Vernon Lodge #263 F&AM

The first known Masonic activity in the area was at a Lodge near Java Lake (then China) under a warrant dated June 1, 1825. Meetings were held in the upper room of Freedom Lord’s Inn, which stood at the base of Java Lake hill – on the corner of Curriers-Chaffee Road. No subsequent Mt. Vernon Masons are known to be affiliated with this Lodge. This Lodge was declared extinct on June 7, 1833.

A petition to establish a Lodge at North Java, dated November 24, 1851, was signed by John C. Tibbits, George A. Johnson, Calvin Rogers, James Case, John Curtis, Cyrus Shaw, Justin Blakely, and Noble Geer. Subsequently, a charter was issued on June 17, 1852 for Mt. Vernon Lodge No. 263, F.&A.M. and is still in its possession, having never been changed. Meetings were held on the Tuesday preceding the full moon at one o’clock in the afternoon. In June 1862, permission was granted by Grand Lodge to move the meeting place from North Java to Hermitage, a distance of about five miles away. The change in location was not satisfactory and, in June 1863, the Lodge returned to its original meeting place in North Java.

In 1870, it appears that the Worshipful Master disobeyed an order from the Grand Master, and the charter was lifted. It does not appear that the membership was a party to the disobedience for, in March 1871, W. W.F. Powell, W. C.D. Wolcott, and Bro. Nelson Torry were nominated as delegates to Grand Lodge to retrieve the charter. It was restored June 1, 1871.

The Lodge continued to hold meetings at North Java until 1907. On October 29 of that year, a dispensation was issued by the Grand Maser M.W. Townsend Scudder permitting Mt. Vernon Lodge to meet alternately at North Java and Java Village. This meeting arrangement was extended in June 1908 by Grand Master M.W. Nelson Sawyers. Then, on April 10, 1909, the Grand Master issued a dispensation permitting the movement of Mt. Vernon Lodge to Java Village.

Meetings were held in the Java Village Town Hall, a building formally owned by the Good Templars. Eventually the building was purchased by the Buffalo Valley Grange and today is owned and used as an insurance agency.

The Lodge continued to hold its meetings at the Town Hall until 1912 when the brethren began formulating plans to erect a building—the one presently housing Mt. Vernon Lodge No. 263. This was a significant undertaking at the time. There was a membership consisting of only 25 Brothers. By April 1, 1914, the Temple was erected. With much of the work being donated, the total cost of construction was 3,642.69. With the exception of the mortgage, all bills were paid.

The Temple mortgage was held by the Blackmer brothers of Buffalo. These brothers were very generous with the mortgage terms. Mt. Vernon Lodge was to pay only fifty dollars yearly plus interest. Some few years later, the Blackmer brothers donated to the Lodge all of the furniture for the East, West, and South. (Coincidentally, the Blackmer brothers’ father, George Blackmer, was from Wethersfield and had become a member of Mt. Vernon Lodge in 1874.)

Payments on the mortgage were made as agreed until 1927—the Lodge’s seventy-fifth anniversary. At that time, there was a desire of the brethren to pay off the remaining mortgage balance. A petition was circulated, and funds were raised. Again, the Blackmer brothers were significant benefactors. They donated one-half of the balance due. On the evening of June 17, 1927, the mortgage was burned by our late brother Charles Dellinger, who was Worshipful Master at the time.

On September 13, 1952, Mt. Vernon Lodge celebrated its centennial. Grand Master M.W. Richard A. Rollands presented a plaque as a tribute to the founders of Mt. Vernon Lodge and delivered the principle address. A most unusual feature was the presence of Dr. Tibbits, son of Walter C. Tibbits, and descendant of John C. Tibbits, a Mt. Vernon Lodge founder. Dr. Tibbits unveiled a picture of his father and presented it to Mt. Vernon Lodge along with saddle bags that his father carried on his professional rounds in Wyoming County. The saddle bags were originally the property of Dr. Henry Tibbits, a naval surgeon. Dr. Henry Tibbits died aboard the General Green in 1794 while enroute to South America. The saddle bags are still in the possession of Mt. Vernon Lodge.

In the centennial year, Mt. Vernon Lodge enjoyed a membership of 122 members. Membership reached its peak in 1963 with 155 members. Like most Lodges, the membership has been declining and now has 71 members (1952).

On March 1961, Brother Harry Landphair received a 70-year membership pin. Brother Landphair lived another three years, completing 73 years of membership.

In 1973, a committee of Luman Haws, Floyd Sillaway, Michael Driver, and Carl Fisher as Master was formed to establish an endowment fund for the maintenance of the Lodge. A freewill offering was taken at a Lodge meeting, and the money deposited in the Bank of Holland. Luman’s brother, Harold Haws, president of the Board and a member of Livingstone Lodge, helped us establish the fund with some ground rules that only the interest would be available for the use of the Lodge. The fund was greatly enhanced from the Estates of Luman Haws, William Ballaire, as well as others who have remembered our Lodge. Today the income provided for a roof and siding for our Java Village Temple as well as many other needed repairs.

The Lodge’s 125th anniversary was celebrated on October 15, 1976 with a gathering at the Holland School. A cafeteria dinner was followed by an auditorium program. The program consisted of (1) the escorted entrance of Grand Master M.W. Lloyd Cochran by the Batavia Commandery #34, (2) invocation by Rev. Don Markham, (3) history of Mt. Vernon Lodge by R.W. Raymond G. Barber, and (4) an address by M.W. Lloyd Cochran.

On September 22, 1997, R.W. Carl Smith, Grand Senior Warden presented W. Robert Moore a 70-year pin. On April 10, 2000, the then Deputy Grand Master R.W. Carl Smith presented R.W. Trevor Rogers with his 70-year membership pin.

The biggest highlight of Mt. Vernon Lodge’s history occurred in May 2000, when one of its own members, Carl J. Smith, became the Grand Master, Free and Accepted Masons of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York.

In the following year, on October 20, 2001, Mt. Vernon Lodge #263 celebrated its 150-year anniversary. This occasion was held at Byrncliff Resort and Conference Center near Varysburg, NY. The celebration included an exquisite family-style dinner prepared by Byrncliff and followed by a program. The program meeting was called to order at 4 p.m. by the Lodge Master, Bro. Bernard Whaley who introduced several speakers including the Grand Master, M.W. Carl Smith. There were in attendance 172 Masonic members and guests (one no-show and two unsold tickets). This was followed by music for dancing pleasure with the interactive DJ, Bro. Todd Ward.

Mt. Vernon Lodge has had a long history consisting of mostly good times. With God’s blessing and the Brothers help, the Lodge will have many more good years.