The Albany Masonic Lodge
by
Stefan Bielinski

Masonic square-and-compass logo Masonry probably first came to Albany during the Seven Years War. A British army lodge is said to have met in Albany in 1758. When those soldiers moved on the following Spring, an Albany Lodge was unveiled with Richard Cartwright, Henry Bostwick, and William Ferguson installed as wardens "to set and act during our absence, or until they . . . can procure a separate warrant for themselves from the Grand Lodge of Ireland."

The Albany group applied to the provincial Grand Master and received a charter as "Union Lodge No. 1" dated February 21, 1765. Cartwright was named Master, William Benson senior warden, and John Visscher junior warden. No records of its early meetings have been found and the lodge was thought to have met at Cartwright's Southside tavern.

On October 18, 1766 the city council granted Dr. Samuel Stringer a deed "for a Lott of ground on the Hill near the Fort adjoining the English Burying Ground" on which to erect a lodge building. Subsequent transactions conveyed an additional and adjoining lot the the brethern.

On December 20. 1767, a new warrant empowered a second lodge called the "Ineffable Lodge of Perfection" with William Gamble, Francis Pfister, Thomas Swords, Thomas Lynott, and Richard Cartwright as named members. A week later, members of the Union Lodge together with the above-named members of the Ineffable Lodge paraded through the Streets of Albany.

Founder of the Johnstown lodge, Albany houseowner but actually a resident of Johnstown, Sir William Johnson showed a special affinity for his Albany bretheren up until his death in the summer of 1774.

On April 12, 1768, the cornerstone of the new Masonic building was laid at the intersection of what became known as the northwest corner of Lodge Street and Maiden Lane. Completed in June, that building became Masonic headquarters in Albany although the Union Lodge still held some meetings at Cartwright's.

Manuscript Masonic minute books date from 1767. Membership rolls for Union Lodge are part of those records and have been transcribed and printed in a number of sources. The following (partially complete) numbered list of members helps us understand the extent of Masonry in colonial Albany:

 1. Peter W. Yates, Master
 2. John W. Wendell, S.W.
 3. Leonard Gansevoort, J.W.
 4. Abrm. Bloodgood
 5. John Roorbach
 6. William Hambalton
 7. Henry Van Woert
 8. John Cole
 9. Mathew Visscher
10. Edward S. Willett
11. Richd. Cartwright
12. John Visscher
13. Benjn. Egburton
14. Thomas J. Diamond
15. John Van Valkenburgh
16. John A. Bradt
17. Peter Gansevoort, Jun.
18. Ab. Jacob Lansingh
19. Henry Van Veghten
20. Anthony J. Ten Eyck
21. Jacob G. Lansingh
22. Dirck Gardenier
23. John Hooghkirk
24. Richard Hanson
25. Daniel G. Van Antwerp
26. Chris. P. Yates
27. Mathew Watson
28. Jacob Van dusen
29. Robert Hoaksley
30. Thomas L. Witbeck
31. Arent N. Van Pettin
32. John D. Vosburgh
33. Frans. J. Winne
34. Joshua Lockwood
35. Jacobus Vanderpoel
36. Corns. Van Santvoord, Jr.
37. John A. Lansing
38. Arthur B. Nugent
39. Gerrit Witbeck
40. James Mager
41. William Govey
42. John Bortell
43. Nicholas Joralemon
44. John D. Goes
45. Donald Cameron
46. Elisha Tallmadge
47. Jacob Best
48. Jno. Van Beuren
49. John T. Visscher
50. David Utter

67. James Furnwall

204.Wheeler Douglass

262. Christ. Beekman

270. Giles W. Porter withdrawn

286. John Hooker
287. Francis Follet
288. Paul Wrankstrasson

293. Ezra Ames

296.William Fowler
297. Gideon Fairman
298. Solomon Southwick

331. Isaac Hansen
332. Geo. F. Abbot
333. Chris C. Yates

A printed list of members of the Masters' Lodge contained somewhat different names:

William Gamble 1768 W.M.
Samuel Stringer 1768-80 W.M.
Jeremiah Van Rensselaer 1768 W.M.
Francis Pfister 1768
Thomas Lynott
Stephen Tuttle [Saratoga]
Thomas Swords
Stephen March
William Hogan
Henry Beasley
Thomas S. Diamond
Peter Schuyler
James Bain 1769

Reknowned portraitist Ezra Ames painted a number of his Masonic brethern. Conspicuously absent from these lists, but a Mason since he was twenty-two, Stephen Van Rensselaer III later served as Grand Master for New York State.

In 1776, when he was initiated in Albany, and at different times when he was in Albany over the next four decades, Morgan Lewis connected with his Masonic brothers.

During the Revolution, Major General John Stark and other officers in the American army called on their Masonic connections at the Albany lodge.

Henry Andrew Francken

Thomas Smith Webb is said to have received a copy of a seminal Masonic treatise from fellow Englishman John Hammer following Hammer's arrival in Albany in 1793 and to have adapted them to American use.

postcard showing the Albany Masonic Temple during the early 1900s In March 1895, theNew York Times printed an article describing the new "stately and solid "masonic structure to be built in Albany and summarizing the history of the Albany lodge. At that time, the notice offered that Albany had eleven separate lodges with a total membership of close to 2,500. They all would be able to use the new lodge building that subsequently was erected on the northwestern corner of Lodge Street and Maiden Lane (Erastus Corning Way) today. The new building was expected to cost a hundred thousand dollars and would be "used exclusively for Masonic purposes."

This web-based offering represents an early ambition to place an important (and quasi-secular) social group on the community landscape. At this point, it is more of a compilation of the known rather than an original statement and interpretation. Sorry, for now!







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notes

Sources: Traditional narrative histories and compilations begin with "Origin of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Albany," in Munsell's Collections, volume 3, pp. 410-24 and Charles T. Mc Clenachan, History of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of New York (New York, 1888). Others have followed! Most useful on the early Albany Masons is an unpublished manuscript by lodge member James J. Finke entitled "Albany Masonic Meeting Places: 1750's to Present." (1980). The lodge has a collection of historical records and documents.

The latest work of scholarship on early American Masonry is Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1998).

Basic online links:

Historical notes
Chapter from A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York, by Peter Ross (1899)
Heredom
The Builder
The Masons in Schenectady

This massive compilation out of central New York bears scrutiny: OMDHS!

Contact the Albany Masonic Lodge

The printed list of the first fifty members (344 members in all by October 1803) is roughly chronological! Membership appeared to have extended into the countryside as many of those signing in at the Albany Lodge were not city residents.

Detail from an often-encountered of postcard of unknown origin.



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first posted 10/10/03; last updated 2/25/13