Potunk Lodge History
About Potunk Lodge
Westhampton was a bustling summer community for the rich and famous. The merchants on Main Street, the hotel keepers, restaurant owners, purveyors, fisherman and the citizens of Westhampton enjoyed prosperity. The Village opened its doors in mid April and welcomed the “Summer People” who would stay until mid September….
Freemasonry came to Westhampton in 1907 when a petition to Grand Lodge was completed and officers elected. The brothers were then persuaded to abandon the idea at that time. Nothing further was done until Brothers Frank D. Gould, Leon F. Goodman, Ward Havens and Burnside Cheshire met in the office of Worthy Brother Hermon F. Bishop in the Winters Building on Main St., in the summer of 1924. They were advised to start a Square Club to raise the funds and promote the idea of starting a Blue Lodge. Brothers Bishop, Gould and Cheshire joined the Oyster Bay Square Club and then met in the Mechanics Hall on Thursday, 26 February 1925 and started the Westhampton Square Club. Brother Bishop was President with Brother Gould as Secretary and Treasurer. They initiated eleven members at that first meeting. Their regular financial assistance through the years to Potunk Lodge ended with a gift of $4550.00 in Mechanics Hall Stock in 1958 when the Square Club became inactive. Worthy Brother Jesse Weixelbaum served the Square Club as Treasurer for 25 years and had a large influence in the assistance given to Potunk Lodge.
Potunk Lane would be closed for a weekend in August when the ‘Masons’ held the Barbecues until 1924. Mechanics Hall, owned by the members of The Ancient order of Mechanics, was situated one block east of Six Corners. The Ancient order of Mechanics in Westhampton had not enjoyed popularity in the early 1900’s. The Lodge would later, buy the building.
1922 – Twenty three merchants, tradesmen and civic leaders took to the Flanders Road twice monthly to attend Masonic Lodge in Riverhead. Traveling during the winter months was arduous. The cold weather and rutted roads re-inspired those dedicated Westhampton Masons to Petition the Grand Lodge of NY to Charter a new Lodge.
1925 – The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of New York issued a Warrant to those petitioning, to form “Potunk” Masonic Lodge to be numbered as the One Thousand and seventy first Lodge in the Jurisdiction of NY.
The area of influence the new Lodge would have was from the West at “The Mastics” to the East as “The Ponquogue Road” in Good Ground (later to be known as Hampton Bays) and to the North adjoining the borders of Riverhead Lodge. 1923 through 1925 was a busy time for the Lodge. The Lodge’s furnishings were made and some purchased from Lodges in the “City” that had duplicates.
A meeting of all the 41 petitioners was held on the 13th of August, when the Indian name of Potunk, meaning “a place where the foot sinks”, or “a boggy place”, was selected over the names of Ketchabonic and Westhampton. The dispensation was granted to the 68 brothers on the 22nd of December, by the Most Worthy Master William A. Rowan. It was presented on 14 January 1926, by District Deputy Frank E. Shelton of Sag Harbor, who installed Worthy Brother Hermon Bishop as the first Master.
1926 – The presentation of the Charter, dated May 6th, by the Grand Master on 5 June, was long remembered by the over 400 brothers who were royally entertained at the famous Banquet Hall at the Howell House, which cost nearly $1000. The Jewels worn by each officer of the Lodge and the staves they carried during ceremonies were forged out of old lawnmower parts at brother Nugent’s Blacksmith’s shop and given to the Lodge by Life Member Howard Havens. The Masonic Outlook mentioned in 1932: “Potunk Lodge has the rare distinction of being the only lodge having jewels made from lawn mower bushings and odd lot pieces of brass that have been silver plated by the Lodge”. The pillars of Solomon arrived by train from the City, the Secretary and Treasurers desks were donated by a local Law Firm, other landmarks of the Lodge were in place and ready for “Charter Day”. Potunk Lodge was able to close the year with 108 members, $4500 in stock and furniture and over $1000 in cash.
Potunk Lodge prospered, despite the crash of the Stock Market or the hurricane of “38”. The War in Europe and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor called many of our members to arms.
For the first time a Past Master of Potunk Lodge was asked to serve a second term as Master of the Lodge, with the exception of the Charter Master W:. Bishop. Brother Paine who operated the auto sales and repair shop in Quogue. (Now owned by Brother Bob Otis’s family) agreed to a second term.
The War was over, and the returning Service Men were eager to join “The Masons.” They had come to know Freemasonry on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. The Masons were there, helping to write letters distribute socks, blankets, tooth brushes, and other necessities that had grown scarce. The Masons visited those in field hospitals and welcomed them at USO activities.
The membership roles in Westhampton grew to almost 300 members, and across the country, to just over 4 million Masons. Potunk Lane was closed annually for the Masons Barbeque. The Clyde Beaty, Cole Brothers Circus came to town and set up in “Bailys’ Field” followed by a full scale Rodeo both sponsored by Potunk Lodges’ building fund.
A small group of members started on a path to locate a new home for the Lodge. The Old Mechanics Hall had some structure and parking problems and there was a buyer interested.
1966 – Property is located on West Montauk Highway, in Westhampton. Plans were drawn; surveys completed, but still, no permits to build. It would take another year before Permits are granted. The permits were finally granted due to the efforts of our 1968 Master of the Lodge Arthur Rumph.
1968 – The Gold painted shovel turned the first shovel of soil. Construction could begin.
1969 – The first Thursday in January was the first Official meeting in the new Lodge rooms. The weekend before, the Grand Master of all Lodges in the Jurisdiction of New York dedicated the Potunk Lodge. More than 250 Masons and friends turned out to witness the event. The new location would host Barbeques, Flea Markets and many other fundraising events. The largest of those events being, “The Annual Thomas Sinnickson Memorial Golf Outing.”
Late 1980s – Potunk Lodge , with the approval of the Most Worshipful Gary A. Henningsen and Most Worshipful Earl Hino Published the first collection of Masonic Clip-art ever published. There were over 300 Masonic clips listed and pictured in the catalogue which accompanied the CD or floppy. The clip art earned Potunk Lodge many kudos. The first publication of 2 volumes was donated by a member.
Computers were just entering the world of the Masonic fraternity, and the clip art drew interest across the land. Potunk Lodge donated the collections to many Jurisdictions and Lodges without charge.
With requests for copy’s from Lodge’s all over the country the soon to be Lodge Secretary gathered a few brothers together to duplicate disks and pack mailing envelopes.
Even the Masonic Lodge quartered in China Town, in Old San Francisco had a copy. Masonic Lodges were encouraged to use computers when the clip art entered the Masonic Mainstream. The Brother that collected the clips and published both volumes, did so anonymously. –
Thanks to Bro. Pfeiffer for this information.
2008 – Potunk Lodge goes Hi-Tech. In a cooperative effort with many brothers involved Potunk lodge launches the potunklodge.org web site. This is an ever developing project and we have high hopes that this site will become a labor of love. We are also working to bring to the site the latest developments and as much pertinent information as possible. Please check this site often as the content will change often.
2015 – Potunk Lodge re-launches it’s website to keep up with changing technology and to better leverage the social networks and information availability of the internet….