The life of DeWitt Clinton Lodge began in 1854 when a group of Master Masons from the town of Sandwich, which then included the present town of Bourne, felt that Sandwich deserved and could support a Masonic Lodge. These Master Masons were members of surrounding lodges. Many were members of Fraternal Lodge of Barnstable (Hyannis). In this group were such Brothers as Thomas Borden. John Harper, John Pope, Seth Nye, William Boyden, George Foreman, Charles D. Hall and Brazillia Sears, whose names appear on our Charter which was issued by The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Our lodge was recommended and sponsored by Fraternal Lodge of Hyannis. Our first Worshipful Master was Brother Thomas Borden who served in 1855-56. Brother William H. Burbank was our first District Deputy Grand Master; he served in 1863-64-65.
During the latter part of 1854 a petition was sent to the Grand Lodge in Boston, seeking permission to establish a Masonic Lodge in Sandwich. This petition was honored by our Grand Lodge and a warrant was issued to the above group of Brothers on March 15, 1855 thus instituting our Lodge. The official Charter was issued on March 13, 1856. The original copy thereof is in our Lodge today having been carefully preserved through these one hundred and twenty-five years.
Since 1855 DeWitt Clinton Lodge has had eighty Worshipful Masters, some of whom served more than one term, and eleven District Deputy Grand Masters. During the past one hundred and twenty-five years, our lodge has conferred degrees on more than one thousand members! Today, we have twenty-three Brothers living who have been presented the "50 Year Veterans Medal" for having been a member in good standing for fifty years or more. During the first years of our lodge, there was an average of twenty-two members. Today, we have almost four hundred members.
Records show that our lodge has met continuously since 1855 except for the years of 1860. 1861 and 1908. These interruptions could very well be due to secretarial errors. Records in Grand Lodge show that the first By-laws of our lodge were approved in 1863. It is interesting to note that in the early years the initiation fee was $2.00 and the annual dues were $4.00.
Article One of our By-laws reads: "This lodge shall be known and hailed as DeWitt Clinton Lodge ". Brother DeWitt Clinton was a former Governor of the State of New York. His name was probably chosen for our lodge because he was the first Provincial Grand Master of The Knight Templars of North America and contributed greatly in the dissemination of. Masonry. Brother Clinton promoted the construction of the Erie Canal and officiated at its opening. A quotation of which he was most proud reads: "Better he was a Mason than no Mason at all".
The first site of our lodge building was the place now occupied by the Sandwich Town Hall Annex, which previously housed the Sandwich Cooperative Bank. After this building burned, in 1913, the lodge moved to Carlton Hall which was located above McCann's store on the corner of Willow and Jarvis Streets. Access to this hall was by a flight of outside stairs. Brethren who remember this time complain of the room's lack of heat. Brother Blake Norris recalls huddling around a small portable oil stove for warmth.
Fuel shortages during the First World War caused a consolidation of church memberships in Sandwich. About 1848, when the railroad arrived here, a boom in constructing large buildings occurred. The Unitarians, Methodists and Congregationalists all erected large churches. To heat one of these buildings on a Sunday required a great quantity of wood; therefore, the energy conscious congregations joined to worship together in the present Christopher Wren Church. Consequently the Methodist Church became available for purchase.
DeWitt Clinton Lodge obtained this building for $8.000.00 in 1922. Since the building could not be dedicated until the mortgage had been discharged, it was not until 1933 that the debt was cleared, the mortgage burned, and the building dedicated. Dr. Samuel Beale acquired the corner lot and presented it to the lodge for parking. Through the years the building has been modified in many ways. At one time there were spiral canopies over the stations in the east, west and south. In modern times the building has been refurbished and today excellently provides for our needs. Until the early 1920's, DeWitt Clinton Lodge was a member of the Nantucket 31st Masonic District. Since that time its affiliation has been with the Hyannis 32nd Masonic District. During the early years, and up to several years ago. No ciphers were available to candidates. From the early 1900's, our late Brother Edward D. Nickerson was the lodge's lecturer; all lessons were verbal. Many of our eldest brothers today can recite many portions of the ritual because of this procedure.
At present we have a very active membership and a slate of very capable and dedicated officers. Applications for membership have been so numerous that we have had to hold special meetings to confer the degrees on our new brothers.
DeWitt Clinton Lodge is indebted to many people for their help in the preparation of this short history of our Lodge. After the passage of 125 years, it is difficult to compile a comprehensive story of the past since many records were not kept in detail. We sincerely thank Miss Roberta Hankeman, Librarian at Grand Lodge, for her willingness to review records and send us copies of the Proceedings of the early years. We also thank Brother Everson, Secretary of Fraternal Lodge, for reviewing its early records. We are indebted to our elderly Brothers who with their clearness of mind remember dates and events. Thanks also go to R.W. Bro. Kendall G. Jones for his interest in the life of Brother DeWitt Clinton, to Mr. Russell Lovell, Historian for the Town of Sandwich, who supplied many details from the past, to Wor. Brother Donald Small for his many leads to people with helpful knowledge and to Brother Ben Harrison for his asking his sisters and family for information.
History Committee for DeWitt Clinton Lodge
Wor. Columbo J. Cristofori, Bro. Bruce H. Stanford, Bro. Oscar Yohai