A Brief History of Warwick Lodge No.544
The first Masonic Lodge in the Town of Warwick New York was established during the period following the Revolutionary War. Members of St. John's Regimental, No. 1, were given the first warrant of any unit of the Continental Army owning allegiance to George Washington as Commander-In-Chief. The warrant was issued by Dr. Peter Middleton, the Deputy Provincial Grand Master for New York and the Provincial Grand Master at the time having fled for Canada.
The warrant authorized the formation of a Military Lodge, composed of New York Brethren who had joined the ranks of the Revolutionists. That warrant was dated July 24, 1775.After the war, the warrant made its way to Clark's Town, then part of Orange County, (now Rockland) by Brothers who had settled in the Hudson Valley Area. On March 26th, 1790 St. Johns' Lodge was formally brought to Warwick, New York, where it was established in the Village of Florida. It was known originally as St. John's Lodge No. 21, but subsequently was renumbered on Jun 4, 1819 as St. Johns' Lodge No. 18.
The presiding officers at the time of the move to Florida were Brothers John Smith, David Miller and Thomas King, and they were joined by members Ebenezer Holley, John Holley, Dr. Henry Gale, and John Douglas. Other members have names that might ring a bell such as William
Minthorn, James Wisner, Jacob Van Der Hoof, William E. Baird, John DeMurrest, and Joseph Houston, all prominent names in the Warwick Area. By 181S they had assets in the aggregate of 8 Pounds Sterling, 16 Shillings and zero pence. The last report of St. John's Lodge No. 18 was made to the Grand Lodge on May 28th, 1821. St. John's Lodge No. 18 fell on hard times over the next ten years, until finally on June 8th, 1832 the Charter was declared forfeit by Grand Lodge. It is worth mentioning that the "Morgan Affair" occurred in September 1826, and all of Freemasonry was under tremendous attack. The Anti-Masonic Party ran candidates for political
office, and in 1830 their candidate came within 8,000 votes of being elected Governor of the State of New York. It was a very difficult time to be a Freemason and to hold a Lodge together. Before the "Morgan Affair" there were 480 Lodges in the State of New York, with a total membership of approximately 20,000. By 1832 there were 48 Lodges left in good standing, with a membership of 1500 masons or so in the State of New York.
By 1863, things had turned around for Freemasonry in the State of New York. Statewide membership stood at 33,320 with 5,188 new Brother Master Masons raised that year. On October 1st of that year, a meeting was held at the home of L. J. Sutton, and it was decided to apply for a charter for a Lodge to meet in Warwick. Thirteen men of Warwick and Florida applied to Grand Lodge for a dispensation and charter, and that was granted in January, 1864. E. M. Smith was the first Master of the Lodge, and he presided from 1864 to 1866. It is worth noting that one of the previous Masters of St. John's lodge was a Bro. John Smith. In 1796, he was present at, and consented to the constituting of Orange Lodge No. 45, which eventually became Goshen Lodge No. 365. Many years later it would be the Brother of Goshen Lodge No. 365 that were present at, and consented to the Chartering of Warwick lodge No. 544.
The first dozen or so years, there was no fixed meeting place, usually the upper rooms of a variety of buildings, primarily in the Village of Warwick, most frequently the Ogden & Company Building, as well as the Demerest Building, the Warwick lnstuitute, and the Dekay Building, all of which were in the center of Warwick. In 1878 the Brothers rented the top floor of the building on the corner of West and Main Street, and occupied that space continuously until just a few years ago, when we moved here. In 1923 the Brothers bought the building that became the Warwick Masonic Temple, and completely remodeled the building. During this period of time, regular meetings, or Communications, as we call them, took place at the Odd Fellows Hall that is still on Main Street. The First Communication held at the Masonic Temple was on April 24th, 1928. Then, as now, the Warwick Masons met on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the Month, except for the Fourth Tuesday in December.
I could go on all night about the early days of Warwick Lodge, but I won't! I'll just mention one more interesting tidbit about the first year of the Lodge. The first Regular meeting was held under Dispensation on January 1st, 1864. On January 26th, less than four weeks later, the fifth meeting was held, six applications for membership had been received, and that night both the
1st and 2nd Degree were conferred. On July 19th, 1864, a special meeting was held to receive the Charter, and the officers of the Lodge were installed by the Most Worshipful James M. Austin, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York, and other members of the Grand Line.
There have been 96 Masters of Warwick Lodge over the past 150 years, and I am honored that my name appears in that list. We have new brothers joining, and with the spirit of optimism and enthusiasm that is a constant in this room, I have no doubt we will continue for some time to come!