The only other institution in the town of New Canaan that is older than the masonic lodge, Harmony 67, is the Congregational Church. Freemasonry was the first voluntary society in which a citizen could petition, not just in Fairfield County, but also in the Nation. For many years there has been a noticeable increase in interest pertaining to the masonic fraternity. Many realize, especially here in the Town of New Canaan which is very patriotic and civic-minded, how their forebears, as charter members, worked with limited means and facilities to lay the foundation of the present, prosperous organization. As the late Frederick A. Hubbard, Probate Judge of Greenwich and masonic historian once wrote, “And it is natural that they should seek for historical facts concerning the local order and desire their preservation in a form accessible to future generations.” With this end in view, Harmony Lodge No. 67 has begun work on a history book of its lodge and this board is merely a taste of a greater history to be published.
As Mary Louise King writes in her great work, Portrait of New Canaan, the people of Canaan Parish had no central plan or policy to create a town, it happened organically – not so with Harmony Lodge. Once the town had been incorporated by the General Assembly, twenty-eight residents of the newly minted town petitioned the Grand Lodge for their own charter. Their names were: Horatio Weed, James Stevens, Samuel Carter, Jr., Eliphalet Weed, Daniel Bostwick, Darius St. John, Ebenezer Carter, Jr., Henry Chambers, Rufus Richards, Hanford Carter, Elliot T. Raymond, Jacob Reed, John J. Brown, Stephen Betts, Samuel Carter, Joseph Watson, Samuel Raymond, Richard Fayerweather, Caleb Benedict, Anson D. Penoyer, John Seely, Thaddeus Mead Keeler, Isaac Lockwood, Hiram Talmadge, Caleb S. Benedict, Enos H. Weed, John F. Raymond and Leandor Slauson. The first meeting place of Harmony Lodge, like many lodges throughout New England, was in a person’s private home. In the case of Harmony the brothers first met at James Stevens’ house. The next meeting they again met at Stevens‘ house, yet their fourth and fifth meeting was held at Daniel Button’s home. After the elected officers were installed in their several places and stations on June 22, 1825 the lodge began its regular yearly business at James Stevens’ house. It was here at Stevens’ house that the very first residents to petition Harmony Lodge for membership were Bradley Keeler and Benjamin Hoyt, both son-in-laws of the well respected Stephen Hoyt. While Bradley Keeler and Benjamin Hoyt were both initiated on the same day, Benjamin Hoyt is considered the first Mason ever made by
Harmony Lodge because while Bradley Keeler only took his Entered Apprentice degree, Benjamin Hoyt continued his degrees and was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. Horatio Weed and Eliphalet Weed were the committee to craft the first by-laws of the lodge and the jewels of the lodge (which are worn by the officers) were to be patterned and made the same as the jewels of St. John’s Lodge No. 6 in Norwalk. On September 26, 1825 the lodge discovered that the new ”town house” which was recently purchased by the town government and renovated was available to rent. The town agreed to allow the lodge to use the upstairs of the house for $20 a year. The lodge accepted and this house became the first official meeting place of the lodge. Many more residents petitioned for membership. The charter members were men of great distinction and heritage. One member in particular was Stephen Betts who was born on the Norwalk side of Canaan Parish on July 16, 1756. He married Rachel Church in 1783 and established a prosperous family. He served in the American War for Indpendence in Captain Joseph Hoyt’s Company and Colonel Charles Webb’s Continental Regiment. He served during combat under the rank of Captain, but at the close of the war he was brevetted Major General. He died on November 28, 1832 on his farmland on Oenoke Ridge. He was the first Warden of St. Mark’s Church and is buried in their Church Hill Cemetery with his wife. After the disruption of the Morgan Affair across the nation, Harmony Lodge continued its masonic work in town. In 1859 prominent men in town began to petition the lodge such as Lucius M. Monroe, Abraham Offen, Philo A. Thatcher, Theodore W. Benedict, Justus F. Hoyt , Noah W. Hoyt, William M. McDuffie, Thomas Rea, Alexander Law, Stephen Comstock, George P. Warren, Apollo Comstock, and scores of other worthy men. During this time and to the present, the members disciplined themselves greatly in the secret arts and rituals of Masonry, made many more worthy masons and built a strong financial foundation for the continued success of the lodge. Freemasonry is a network of like-minded men that bind themselves to one another in a single Brotherhood, under the Fatherhood of God. This is so on the micro as well as the macro level. While Harmony Lodge continued to care and look after its membership and their families, the lodge also attended to the relief and needs of members across the country. Within the records of the lodge are found generous donations to help the brothers after the Chicago Fire, or floods in Lousiana. If a lodge suffered a terrible calamity letters would be sent to lodges across the nation to assist in helping rebuild that lodge. Subscriptions were regularly requested to help build the Masonic Home for sickly and infirm Masons in this state, and communications from Washington D.C. to help raise funds to complete the Washington Monument. Anytime a brother died and he left a widow and children, that family was continually looked after and kept whole. There are other curious local happenings found within the minutes, when on November 19, 1873 the Worshipful Master of the Lodge put out a $50 reward for the capture and conviction of the “murderer of Brother Andrew F. Jones’ mother.” Two years later on February 17, 1875 the building which the lodge was renting from the International Order of Odd Fellows, caught fire. In that building were all the minute books from 1825, the lodge jewels and other regalia and countless precious items. As the fire raged on in the early morning Brothers Norbert Bossa, one of the first constables of the burough, and J. K. Raymond ran into the burning building and successfully saved all important items from the lodge. Many of the members of the lodge were the same leading citizens of the Town of New Canaan which helped to establish and advance a quiet rural farming town into a prosperous and orderly municipality. Just over a decade later the terrible death of Brother Louis Drucker occured as he attempted to aprehend an illegal bootlegger. His obituary was as follows: “Chief Constable Louis Drucker, 39, was shot and killed while attempting to serve a warrant on a Jacob Scheele for selling liquor without a license. Constable Drucker went to the man’s home and as he approached the suspect pointed a double-barreled shotgun at him from a second story window. The suspect attempted to shoot Constable Drucker but the gun misfired. Constable Drucker returned to town and obtained the assistance of the deputy constable and a former constable. When they returned to the man’s house the suspect opened fire from the same window, striking Chief Constable in the heart. The suspect then shot himself in an attempt to commit suicide. The two other constables forced their way into the house and arrested the wounded man.” Jacob Scheele was executed by hanging on Jun 18, 1893 for the murder of Constable Drucker. Louis was also the first ever Jewish man to hold important public offices in the town and his death was a great loss not just to the lodge but also to the town. His In Memoriam page on the minutes book of the lodge is shown here on this board as it speaks volumes to the man Mr. Drucker was and the type of person Harmony Lodge is proud to call its own.
Another highlight in masonic history in town was on October 2, 1909 when the corner stone of the Town Hall was set. On that day the lodge was congregated by the Worshipful Master at 2:00 o’clock, with the lodge room crowded with members and visitors from many sister lodges and called to refreshment for the purpose of attending the special communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge. A procession was formed, resting on Railroad Avenue (now Elm Street) facing the west in order as follows: Mertz Reed Band; Visiting Brethren from various lodges; St. John’s No. 6 of Norwalk; Harmony Lodge No. 67 and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge. The route of the procession was: Railroad Avenue (Elm Street); to South Avenue; to Bank Street; countermarch to Church Street; to Main Street; to Town Hall. The cornerstone laying was conducted by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge upon the invitation of the Town Hall Building Committee, through the Reverend Brother J. Howard Hoyt, who made a short and very impressive address. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, the procession was regathered and went by way of North Main Street to Elm Street to the Masonic Hall where the Grand Lodge was closed. Refreshments were served in the banquet hall. The articles deposited in the leaden casket in the cornerstone included masonic and civic mementos, and are recorded in the minutes of Harmony Lodge. On January 19, 1914, R.W. Brother Theodore W. Benedict, then District Deputy of the First Masonic District of Connecticut, with three members from the lodge: Thomas Tunney, Edward Rutledge and William H. Barrett; paid an official visit to Jerusalem Lodge No. 49 of Ridgefield to inspect their work and witness the ceremony of the burning of the mortgage of their lodge building. During the drive home the conversation of these four members turned to the long hoped for acquisition of a permanent home for Harmony Lodge 67. This subject became a frequently reocurring one and when it was learned that the old deserted “Pleasant Hour Theater” (formerly the baptist church) was for sale, the feeling crystallized into action. On December 7, 1916 fifteen members of the lodge organized and underwrote all the necessary funds of the Harmony Fellowcraft Club of New Canaan, Conn., Inc. Brother Dawless spoke upon the advantages of a permanent home for the lodge and was echoed in sentiment by Past Master Tunney, Saxe and Ruscoe. Remodeling of the building was begun immediately under the supervision of Brother William A. Boring who was a member of Harmony and an architect of national repute and who performed his services gratis and the reconstruction of the front of the building was given as a memorial to Worshipful Brother Lucius M. Monroe and his son Lucius M. Monroe, Jr. On May 30, 1925 a special communication was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the lodge. The Lodge was congregated at 3:00 o’clock and conducted a roll call of the members, the brothers responding with short addresses and reminiscences. An interesting feature on the minutes of this night is a chart containing the original signatures of the Brethren present – 142 in all. Through the troubled years of World War I and II and the Great Depression, Harmony Lodge suffered with all the others, but there were no internal rifts or dissensions, and a fine spirit of loyalty and cooperation is evidenced in the records. In October 1954 negotiations began which culminated in a three-way trade whereby the Methodist Church purchased the Veteran’s Club property on South Avenue, the Veteran’s Club purchased the masonic temple and the Harmony Lodge Fellowcraft Club purchased the Methodist Church building on the corner of Main Street and Church Street. This building is happily still the building of the lodge. Harmony has seen a great deal of history and has come a long way from its ancient and humble beginnings. The lodge continues to be a beacon of light in town, to its members and serves as a home for many organizations. It is proud to be a donor to many local and worthy causes to the families of our members and to the citizenry of New Canaan. We look forward to our 200th Anniversary on May 30, 2025.