History of Nicholson Lodge
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The First Hundred Years - 1869-1969

The Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest, largest and most widely distributed fraternal order in the world today.  Some of the historians trace it back to the building of King Solomon’s Temple in the Tenth Century, B.C.E., when, it is said, the workmen were Masons and that Masonry comprised the original trade union for the protection of the workmen who by use of signs were able to establish their respective stages of proficiency in their Crafts.  This theory, however, has never been proven.  Other Masonic historians trace the origin of the Craft to the age of Osiris and Isis in Egypt, some to the Knights Templars and Crusaders, and others to the Roman Colleges of artificers and builders of the Middle Ages.  It has also been claimed the first record of establishment of a Grand Lodge was at York, England, in 926.  Masonic scholars today credit the origin of Freemasonry, as it is now constituted, to the originators of the ritualistic and ceremonial work relevant to the three symbolic degreed.  This work was evolved in England between 1717 and 1723 through the joint efforts of Dr. John T. Desaguliers, the recognized ritualist of Freemasonry, Dr. James Anderson, the historian, George Payne, the legal authority and several associates.  Freemasonry with the English rite of three degrees was introduced in France in 1725 and in Pennsylvania about 1730.
Brother Benjamin Franklin was Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1734 and 1749.  He published a reprint of  Anderson’s Constitutions of the Free Masons in 1734.  These copies of  Anderson ’s Constitutions were sent to Lodges in Boston, Charleston, Newport, Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.   The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is now over two hundred and fifty years old.
General Sullivan’s army encamped at Wyoming, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Susquehanna River, during the American Revolution, held a Masonic meeting on June 24, 1779 ( St. John’s Day), probably the first Masonic meeting in Northeastern Pennsylvania .
Brother Nathan Bacon, an early settler in Nicholson, was born in Middletown Connecticut, May 27, 1778.  He was made a Mason before 1800 and was an ardent Mason for over fifty years.  Brother Nathan Bacon came to Nicholson, and settled the section of Nicholson now called Bacontown, in 1812.  He was a charter member of Columbus Lodge No. 204 constituted in Tunkhannock on August 10, 1825, he was buried with full Masonic rites in the old cemetery,  Nicholson, and the emblem of the Blue Lodge was carved on his gravestone.  His son, Brother Eli Nathan Bacon joined Warren Lodge No. 240 and later was admitted to Nicholson Lodge on May 19, 1869.  He died September 18, 1873 and his was the first death in Nicholson Lodge.  He was the first person buried in the new cemetery, Nicholson, and he was buried with full Masonic rites.  Brother Eli Leroy Bacon, son of Brother E. N. Bacon, was admitted to Nicholson at the same time as his father, and was a member over a period of fifty years.  Another grandson of Brother Nathan Bacon, Brother Robert Emmet Pratt was admitted to Nicholson Lodge on the same date having previously been a member of Factoryville Lodge No. 341.  Great Grandsons of Brother Nathan Bacon were also members of Nicholson Lodge.
After the railroad was built through Nicholson, the village grew rapidly and many families came here to settle permanently.  Some of the men were affiliated with Warren Lodge No. 240; Temple Lodge No. 248; Salem Lodge No. 330; Great Bend Lodge No. 338; Hyde Park Lodge No. 339; Factoryville Lodge No. 341; and several came here from New York State, Connecticut and Minnesota.  Men who server in the Civil War soon discovered that Masons had priority even in the prison camps.  Brother I. S. Little and Brother I. W. Billings, both Captains in that War declared they were released from Prison when they proved they were Masons.
On Wednesday April 7, 1869, a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons (Ancient York Rite) was duly constituted in Nicholson, and the new Lodge rooms were dedicated.  This bought together in one Lodge all of the Masons then living in Nicholson.  The Grand Officers at that first meeting were:

Right Worshipful Brother John H. Dusenbury Acting Grand Master

Right Worshipful Brother John Wilson Acting Deputy Grand Master

Right Worshipful Brother George N. Brown Acting Senior Grand Warden

Right Worshipful Brother L. H. Whittleny Acting Junior Grand Warden

Right Worshipful Brother Nathan P. Wilcox Acting Grand Secretary

Right Worshipful Brother George W. Walker Acting Grand Treasurer

Right Worshipful Brother Wright Broadbent Acting Grand Junior Deacon

Right Worshipful Brother Silas W. Harding Acting Grand Senior Deacon

Right Worshipful Brother Silas G. Lewis Acting Grand Pursuivant

Right Worshipful Brother J. G. Reas Acting Senior Grand Master of Ceremonies

Right Worshipful Brother Orin L. Hallstead Acting Junior Grand Master of Ceremonies

Right Worshipful Brother Reverend William F. Arms Acting Grand Chaplain

The following were the charter member of Nicholson Lodge No. 438: Brothers Alanson Belcher Walker, Edward Elias Bloomfield, Henry P. Hallstead, Nathan Pendleton Wilcox, George Washington Walker, William Bloomfield, Frank B. Williams, William Frederick Arms, Irving Wesley Billings, Silas G. Lewis, James Edward Howe, Holloway Lord Stephens, Davis G. Black, and Wickliff Condit Williams

The following officers of Nicholson Lodge were installed, April 7, 1869, in due and ancient form, by Brother John H. Dusenbury, the District Deputy Grand Master:

Brother Alanson B. Walker                  Worshipful Master

Brother Edward E. Bloomfield              Senior Warden

Brother Henry P. Hallstead                   Junior Warden

Brother Nathan P. Wilcox                    Secretary

Brother George W. Walker                  Treasurer

During the first year, the following officers were appointed:

Brother Reverend William F. Arms       Chaplain

Brother Silas Wheat Harding                 Senior Deacon

Brother Russell Daniel Newton              Junior Deacon

Brother Eli Nathan Bacon                     Senior Master of Ceremonies

Brother Irving Wesley Billings               Junior Master of Ceremonies

Brother Eben Nichols                          Tyler

Brother Eli Leroy Bacon                       Pursuivant  

The first Trustees were Brother Wickliff C. Williams, A. B. Walker and James E. Howe.  Their first duty was to secure a lease for the Masonic hall and to put adequate insurance on the lodge furnishings.  On motion of Brother J. E. Howe, the regular meetings of this Lodge (were) to be held on Wednesday Evening on or before the each full moon.  A committee of three was appointed to prepare By-Laws: Brothers Davis G. Black, Nathan P. Wilcox and James E. Howe.  These By-Laws were to be submitted to Grand Lodge for approval, and after approval, to be printed.  Brother James E. Howe has left his own account of his Masonic Life.  He stated that he was made a Mason in 1830 in a Lodge which was meeting in Brooklyn , Pa., at that time; and that he had spent his adult life in Masonic circles.  His dues were remitted by Nicholson Lodge for many years before his death.

The place of the organization of Nicholson Lodge and subsequent meetings were the building owned presently by Mr. Winton R. Stephens on Main Street, Nicholson, then owned by Capt. I. W. Billings, and built by him soon after he returned from the Civil War.  The Lodge rooms occupied the entire third floor of this building.  Capt. Billings prepared the rooms, furnished the heat and the lights for one hundred dollars per year.  There were four large kerosene lamps.  One for each station and the Secretary; and candles at the altar and at other points, to light the Lodge room.  The altar was made by Brother Frank B. Williams, the pedestals and the desks were made by members of the Lodge, and the Windsor bow-back chairs at each station and around the perimeter of the room were made in the Nicholson chair factory.  A number of these chairs still exist today in homes in town.  Veterans of the Civil War loaned their swords; Brother A. B. Walker furnished the regalia, I. W. Billings supplied canvass, cushions, “drawers”, rods, pitchers and tumblers; and the Lodge bought a number of spittoons.  The first special meeting for conferring of degrees was ordered for September 18, 1869.  Brother C. F. Knapp, District Deputy Grand Master of the Thirteenth District “assisted this Lodge with his kindly advice”.

The first official act of the newly constituted Lodge was to assist in the dedication of the First Presbyterian Church, Nicholson, on Tuesday April 20, 1869.  Rev. William F. Arms was pastor of the Church and a number of the Masons were members.  Several Masonic emblems are part of the lovely stained glass windows in this Church, now over a century old.

Brother Russell D. Newton was admitted to this Lodge on April 21, 1869 , and it was said of him that he never missed a meeting from that day until his death forty years later.  On May 19, 1869 the following Master Masons were admitted to Nicholson Lodge: Brothers: Eben Nicholas, E. L. Bacon and Jonas J. Hallstead.  Lewis A. Bingham was the first person to be initiated in Nicholson Lodge, June 2, 1869 .  Others admitted or initiated during the year 1869 were: Brothers Charles W. Conrad, Peter K. Burhans, Anthony F. Snover, William A. Hallstead, Silas Hartley, David Whitney Titus, Issac S. Little and Otis P. Colvin.  This brought the number of members of Nicholson Lodge to thirty-two, Brothers Reverends George Greenfield (pastor of the M. E. Church, Nicholson) and Edgar M. High (pastor of the M. E. Church, Factoryville), Brothers Edson Manning Tiffany, George Washington Greene, Oscar Hervey Williams, William Werkheiser, James Stratton and Jedediah D. Hewitt were initiated or admitted on or before August 3, 1870 which brought the number to forty members.  The dues were three dollars per year or twenty-five cents per meeting; initiation fee was thirty dollars; and affiliation fee was five dollars.  In June 1870, Nicholson Lodge assisted Temple Lodge in dedicating their new hall in Tunkhannock.  Business of the Lodge the first year was to purchase a seal for the Lodge, print a hundred copies of the By-Laws and cards announcing meetings and names of officers, and to exempt the local clergymen from admission fees and dues.  In November 1871, there was a collection taken in Nicholson Lodge for the sufferers of the great fire in Chicago .  In 1872, the initiation fee was raised to forty dollars.  The second death among the members was Brother Bishop I. Harris on July 23, 1876.  He was a young man and son-in-law of Brother E. N. Bacon.  A full Masonic funeral was conducted by his Brother Masons.

Brother A. B. Walker was a merchant in Nicholson and was twice elected to the House of Representatives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  He was Worshipful Master of Nicholson Lodge four times, and while in that office for the fourth time, he died November 30, 1878 .  A Lodge of Sorrow was convened and a full Masonic funeral was conducted at his grave in the Nicholson Cemetery.  He was a Charter Member of Salem Lodge No. 330 and was Worshipful Master of that Lodge.  He was a man of great ability, of Christian virtue and Masonic principle and his untimely death in the prime of his life was greatly mourned. 
In 1874, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows organized Lodge No. 857 in Nicholson.  It was organized in the Masonic Lodge rooms in the building of Mr. Winton R. Stephens on Main Street .  The Masons sold one-half of their interest to the Odd Fellows and the two Lodges owned the furniture jointly.  In 1878, the Odd Fellows decided to move to the new building built by Mr. Charles Coleman Birge on Main Street, now owned by the Odd Fellows Lodge.  Such a move meant that one Lodge would have to sell interest in the furnishings.  The Odd Fellows Lodge at that time was the stronger of the two Lodges, and the Masons were urged to move to the Birge building too.  The rooms in the Birge building had these advantages over the Masonic rooms: the rooms were on the second floor, there would be no family in the rooms above or below the Lodge rooms, the rooms were built to be sound-proof, and the rent was cheaper.  On April 1, 1879 , the Masons moved to the Birge Building .  They paid fifteen dollars per year rent to the Odd Fellows Lodge and twenty dollars per year rent to Mr. Birge, heat and lights not furnished.
On February 1, 1882, the By-Laws of Nicholson Lodge No. 438 were changed so that the meetings could be held on Saturday evening on or before full moon.  The newly printed By-Laws were to contain a history of the Lodge.  The first banquet to be held observing the anniversary of the constituting of the Lodge was held April 7, 1887 in the First Presbyterian Church in Nicholson, with Mrs. Emory E. Cunningham, wife of one of the Masons, and Secretary of the Ladies Aid in charge of the dining room.  After January 1888, Dr. David C. Ainey of New Milford, Pa., was the District Deputy for twenty years.  His frequent visits to Nicholson Lodge contributed largely to its growth.  At this time, monthly notices were printed and sent to the members.
In 1889, Brother Reverend Henry H. Wilbur, a member of this Lodge, raised in Lodge, $118.75 for the relief of the sufferers of the Johnstown flood, which took the lives of some Nicholson people.  Many times during its century of existence, Nicholson Lodge made generous contributions toward sickness and burial expenses of members, toward the relief of the widows and orphans of members.  Dues were often remitted when members were in adversity or in advanced age.  Pictures to be hung in class rooms were given to the Nicholson Public School, and the Churches were presented with Bibles.  One of the Secretaries of the Lodge, while in office and in desperate financial straits, used some of the Lodge funds.  The Trustees and Auditors called upon him.  He gave them his note for $77.35 and the safe he had in his store, which they valued at fifty dollars toward the amount due.  Nothing was paid on the note, interest or principal for a number of years.  The Brother died and while his estate was large enough to cover all his bills, the Lodge decided to give the note to the widow as a gesture of true Masonic Brotherhood.  Another Brother who failed in business and had to apply for assistance from the Commonwealth was suspended for non payment of dues by the Lodge.  On his deathbed, the Brother sent word to the Lodge that he wanted a committee sent to him.  His only request was that he might have a Masonic burial.  The request was granted.  It can truly be said that Lodge No. 438 is an organization with a kind heart.
In January 1902, the Lodge rooms in the Birge building were lighted with electricity for the first time.  Brother Moses Shields Jr. used electricity in his stone mill.  He generated his own power and offered to sell electricity to the people of Nicholson.  The electricity was turned on for town use at sundown and was to be turned off at ten o’clock at night when the generators were idled.  The Masons soon complained that the lights went off before the Lodge meetings were over.  A committee waited upon Brother Shields and he arranged to keep the generators running on Lodge nights until the meetings were over.  A page was run from the Lodge Hall to the mill to inform the operators that the generators could be shut off.  Some women in town were accused of burning an electric light just to know what time the Lodge closed, then would allow their husbands only a certain number of minutes to reach home.  Late arriving husbands were confronted with the fury of a woman.
On April 3, 1909 , the Nicholson Lodge observed its fortieth anniversary in the I.O.O.F. hall, with a banquet, musical program and speakers.  The regular Lodge meeting preceded the celebration and there were sixty-five of the members of the Lodge in attendance, and a number of visitors and some former members who had affiliated with Hartford Lodge No. 445 meeting in Foster, Pa.  Speakers included Brothers Rev. John W. Price, Rev. Charles W. Howkins, Dr. Hiram N. Kelly, Russell D. Newton, Jeremiah Stephens, Marshall McVicar, M. W. Palmer and R. A. Zimmerman.  Brother Galusha George Rought, the Worshipful Master, was in charge of the “gala affair”.  At that time none of the charter members of the Lodge were identified with the Lodge, though several were living.  Capt. I. W. Billings died June 2, 1931 in his ninety-sixth year.
On October 15, 1910 , the Nicholson Lodge F. & A. M. moved from the Odd Fellows building to the building owned at that time by Brother Joseph E. Harding on Main Street .  (Now owned by K. & M. Reynolds) The reason for this move is not given in the minutes of the Secretary, but there appears to have been some urgency about the need for a change.  The new rooms were fitted at considerable expense to the Lodge.  The record states that carpenters, plasterers, painters, paper-hangers and cleaning personnel were hired and speedily prepared the rooms at a cost of nearly one thousand dollars.  For over fifty years, these rooms were used exclusively by the Masons of Nicholson.
On April 15, 1919 , while Brother Meriam A. Werkheiser was Worshipful Master, Nicholson Lodge celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.  He was the general chairman of the event and attended to every detail of the celebration, being determined that it would be the finest event of its kind ever held in Nicholson.  Truly it was.  The Nicholson Record newspaper devoted a whole page to the account of the festive evening and the history of the Lodge.  All of the ceremonies were held in the Lodge rooms.  First there was a meeting just for Masons, then guests were invited to the Lodge rooms: “wives, sweethearts, sisters, mothers and daughters were allowed to see the Masonic Lodge rooms for the first time”.  There was a sumptuous banquet, the best musical entertainment that Nicholson could supply, and the speakers for the occasion were Brothers Rev. Carl Councilman and Rev. Samuel H. Houser of the local churches, and David J. Davis of Scranton.  The newspaper account of this celebration states that Brother A. B. Walker was the organizer of the Lodge and assisted the District Deputy Grand Master John H. Dusenbury in securing a charter for the Nicholson Lodge from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.  The membership of the Lodge in 1919 was one hundred fifteen Master Masons, and dues were five dollars per year.
When the Lodge was fifty years old, there was only one of the thirty-two men who had joined the Lodge the first year who was still active in the Lodge and that was Brother Leroy Bacon who was honored guest at the event.  In the wake of this high point in the history of the Lodge, there was consternation in June 1921, when by order of the R. W. Grand Master of Pennsylvania, Brother John S. Sell, all Master Masons were asked to withdraw from all “co-sex” organizations.  Reluctantly the Masons signed the renunciation cards and asked for demits from the local Order of the Eastern Star and Rebeckahs.  Soon the Lodge returned to normalcy.
Nicholson Lodge has many men who were dedicated to Freemasonry in general and to Lodge No. 438 in particular.  Brother Joseph Edson Harding was Treasurer of this Lodge for thirty years.  Brother Meriam A. Werkheiser was Secretary of the Lodge from December 22, 1923 to December 31, 1957 .  No one else in the first century of Lodge history has held office for so long a period as these two men.  Both men lived by true Masonic principle and virtue.  Tribute should also be paid to other Secretaries who have served, principally Brothers Nathan P. Wilcox, Moses Shields Jr., William S. Decker, Donald D. Johnson and F. Malcolm Hinklie.  Their records are the priceless history of this Lodge.  The largest number of members ever to be reported by the Lodge was on December 27, 1925 when there were one hundred forty-five Master Masons.
Brother George C. Bartholomay of Forest City Lodge No. 439 made his first official visit as District Deputy Grand Master to Nicholson Lodge on November 8, 1924 and for over a quarter of a century he was the superior officer of this Lodge.  His warm friendship is cherished by all of his Masonic Brethren in Nicholson.
On November 1, 1930 Nicholson Lodge began to meet on the first Saturday of the month, and after more than sixty years, the By-Laws decreed that the Lodge would cease to be a “Moon Lodge”.  Brother Harry Simpson Stephens was appointed in 1931 to attend the two hundredth anniversary celebration of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania in Philadelphia .  Upon his return, his report was very well received and an arrangement was made with Factoryville and Hartford Lodges to hold a joint celebration commemorating the bi-centenary of this event.  A banquet was held and the program included the following: Brother G. C. Bartholomay, the District Deputy Grand Master spoke on the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; Brother Morton Wesley Stephens of Harford Lodge spoke on Masonic History; and Brother Delmar J. Lindley of Factoryville Lodge spoke on Masonic Ideals.  Brother Past Master Charles Lacy Terry of Nicholson was the toastmaster and Brother Jack Simpson Stephens was in charge of Music.  Committee on arrangement from Nicholson Lodge was Brothers Past Masters Harry S. Stephens, Henry C. Brecht, and Brother William Stanley Crock.  In 1932 a similar event was held to observe the bi-centennial of the birth of Brother General George Washington (b. February 22, 1732).  In May 1933, Brother Henry T. Birchard entered the Masonic Home in Elizabethtown, where he was a guest for four years.
The sixty-ninth anniversary of the founding of the Nicholson Lodge was noted with a banquet in the Odd Fellows Hall on April 2, 1938 .  Brother Charles Harry Conrad, twice Worshipful Master of this Lodge and a Trustee for many years, presented a historical sketch of the Lodge.  His father, Brother Charles William Conrad, was one of Master Masons admitted into the Lodge the first year.  The father and son were members of the Lodge over a period of ninety years of our century of history.  Brother Dr. George Philip Saxer was initiated on August 4, 1900 and has to date over sixty-eight Masonic years to his credit, the record for this Lodge.

Master Masons of Nicholson Lodge No. 438 who have received fifty year pins and are now deceased were:

Brother Past Master Charles Harry Conrad honored November 2, 1946
Brother Past Master Harry Simpson Stephens honored September 1, 1951
Brother Past Master Earle Chandler Conrad honored November 7, 1953
Brother Past Master Stanley Philip Ace honored November 19, 1954
Brother Past Master Meriam Alford Werkheiser honored June 4, 1955
Brother Past Master Verdon L. Smith honored October 2, 1965

 On February 1, 1964 , following a continuous period of nearly fifty-four years of Masonic labors in the building of Brother Joseph E. Harding, Grand Lodge granted the pleasure of Nicholson Lodge for removal to the Eastern Star Temple on Oak Street , Nicholson, wherein we have at this time assembled for Labor and Refreshment on the occasion of our 100th Anniversary.  The ground on which this Temple has been erected was owned by the family of Brother Nathan Bacon for many years.

In its century of history, four hundred forty-three men have been members of this Lodge; one hundred twenty-nine of these are still actively identified with Nicholson Lodge No. 438, Free and Accepted Masons.                                 Brother Rev. Garford F. Williams

Originally written by Brother Rev. Garford F. Williams to commemorate the centennial celebration of Nicholson Lodge on May 24, 1969. Edited and updated by Brother Matthew D. Mackie in the year 2007.


Other Histories of Local Lodges:

Warren Lodge No. 240
constituted on June 4, 1849

Freedom Lodge No. 328
constituted on September 6, 1858

Salem Lodge No. 330
constituted on March 7, 1859

Harford Lodge No. 445
constituted on December 29, 1869


Brother Nathan Bacon was made a Mason before 1800 and was an ardent Mason in this area for over fifty years. He was a charter member of Columbus Lodge No. 204 and an active early member of  Temple Lodge No. 248. He was buried with full Masonic rites in the old cemetery, Nicholson, and the emblem of the Blue Lodge is seen here carved on his gravestone from 1859. His son, Brother Eli Nathan Bacon joined Warren Lodge No. 240 and later was admitted to Nicholson Lodge on May 19, 1869. He served as the first Senior Master of Ceremonies of Nicholson Lodge in 1869.