Social History of Willimantic, Connecticut

The Willimantic Cemetery lies in the western suburbs of the borough. It is a pleasant location and contains many handsome monuments and well-kept plats. Its beginning dates back to the early part of the century. On the 15th of June, 1829, the First school society of Windham purchased of Henry and Joseph Brown two acres of land for a burying- plot.. This lot is now nearly in the center of the present cemetery. Four additions have since been made, two on the easterly and two on the westerly side. May 5th, 1858, the town of Windham bought about five and a quarter acres of Harden H. Fitch, on the east side, and May 18th of the same year the town bought of Niles Potter a little more than half an acre, also on the east side. August 6th, 1876, the town bought about twelve acres on the west side of the old cemetery, of Benjamin A. Potter, and again, December 30th, 1877, bought of the same party about two acres additional. Thus the cemetery now contains about twenty-two acres of ground. It is about one mile west of the heart of the borough, And still belongs to the town. It is neatly laid out and kept in good order, being ornamented with many evergreen hedges and trees, as well as other trees and shrubs. Along the highway front, on the north side, is a fine ornamental iron fence, placed there in 1882 by George Chase, a native of the borough but now of New York city, at an expense of $10,000.

The poor farm of the town, which was purchased of Benjamin A. Potter, December 30th, 1876, lies on the north side of the highway directly opposite the cemetery.

The Roman Catholic cemetery lies about a mile northeast of the borough, on the west side of the old highway leading from Willimantic to North Windham. -On the 29th of February, 1864, James G. Martin, of Windham, sold to Francis P. McFarland, bishop of Hartford, twenty-five acres of land at this point, to be used as a burying ground by the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic society. The ground remains in that use, having been consecrated according to the forms and usages of that church. The ground is nearly level, and is well laid out and ornamented by evergreens and other shrubbery, and has a number of very handsome monuments.

Eastern Star Lodge, No. 44, F. & A. M., was organized under a charter of the Grand Lodge of the state of Connecticut, November 21st, 1798. It was then located in the town of Lebanon, which at that time belonged to Windham county. An amusing incident connected with the organization is preserved in tradition and we mention it here as it has been given to us from sources outside of the order. It is said that in the early years of the Lodge, on one occasion an inquisitive young lady of the family in whose house the Lodge held its meetings, determined to see what the men were doing up stairs, so she climbed into a tree which stood near the house and from her perch there she could look straight into the lodge room through a window which in the warm summer night was left open. She succeeded in witnessing considerable of the ceremonies, but unluckily for her in the midst of them she was discovered. Some of the men ran out, and before she could descend and flee to- a place of security she was captured and brought up to the lodge room where she was compelled to go through the form of initiation into the order and swear never to divulge any of the secret ceremonies which she had seen. As the story is not officially reported to us we cannot vouch for its correctness, but presume there is something of truth connected with it.

The twenty-four charter members of this Lodge were Jonathan M. Young, Saul Carpenter, Flavel Clark, Benjamin B. Fitch, Manham Willson, Jonathan Card, Oliver Wattles, Joseph Terry, Eleazer Huntington, John Burgess, Elijah Mason, John Newcomb, Nathaniel Beard, Seth Collins, Nathaniel Williams, Jr., Abijah Thomas, Jr., Azel Fitch, Ephraim Tisdale, John Hayward, Salmon Champion, Ambrose Collins, Thomas Dewey, Jared Bennett and Isaac Ticknor. The Grand Lodge of the state determined to have the installation of the lodge held in the meeting house and to have it public. The first officers of the new Lodge were: Daniel Tilden, W. M.; Joseph Metcalf, S. W.; Labdiel Hyde, J. W.; Elijah Mason, treasurer Ephraim Tisdale, secretary; Joseph Terry, S. D.; John Newcomb, J. D.– Seth Collins, S. T.; John Hayward, J. T. Lodge meetings were, at first, held in the” house of Elijah Mason. Occasional meetings of the Lodge were held in Windham for a few years. Action was then taken to procure -a permanent place for the Lodge to meet in Windham: A room was secured in a building owned by Samuel Gray in the center of the village, for a term of years. After October, 1808, all the meetings of the Lodge were held at Windham. Daniel Tilden occupied the post of W. M. from the beginning until December, 1812, when he was succeeded by Gurdon Tracy, then a resident of Scotland.

From its quarters in Windham the Lodge removed to Willimantic, November 21st, 1851, then completing the fifty-third year of its existence. Here it held its meetings for a time in Odd Fellow’s Hall and in other rooms, until permanent quarters were secured in Atwood’s Block, which suite of rooms were well adapted to its uses. This they continued to occupy until April 16th, 1885, when they took possession of their new lodge rooms in the United Bank Building, where excellent accommodations. had been provided for the several Masonic bodies of the town. Very interesting public ceremonies of dedication were held at the date last mentioned, conducted by M. W. Dwight Waugh, G. M., and the other officers of the Grand Lodge. A historical address was delivered by Hon. John M. Hall, a member of this Lodge, and the exercises terminated with a banquet in Franklin Hall.

The following men have been W. M. of this Lodge from its organization to the present time: Daniel Tilden, Gurdon Tracy, Luther D. Leach, Thomas Clark, William Webb, Gurdon Hebard, Wallace Huntington, William Wales, Calvin H. Davison, Jeremiah King, Joshua B. Lord, J. S. Loveland, Roderick Davison, Van W. Austin, Jeptha Harris, John G. Keigwin, Charles S. Billings, Chester Tilden, Charles N. Daniels, Richard L. Wiggins, DeWitt C. Hill, Charles James Fox, T. F. Howie. The Lodge is in a very prosperous condition, and at the present time has a membership of about two hundred, with flattering prospects of continued prosperity.

Trinity Chapter, No. 9, Royal Arch Masons, was instituted by the Grand Chapter of the state, upon the petition of Daniel Tilden and others, at Windham, on- the 21st of May, A. L. 5808, when the following officers were installed: Daniel Tilden, H. P.; Roger Huntington, K.; John Clarke, S. The Chapter continued -to hold its meetings in Windham until April 29th, A. L. 5852, when it removed to Willimantic and has since occupied the rooms of Eastern Star Lodge. The following persons have held the office of H. P. in the Chapter: Daniel Tilden, Andrew Harris, Gurdon Tracy, Thomas Clark, Vine Hovey, Gurdon Hebard, Wallace Huntington, Joshua B. Lord, Chester Tilden, Henry A. Balcom, David C. Card, Charles H. Bigelow, Charles S. Billings, O. D. Brown, Henry A. Larkin, E. T. Hamlin, James Harris, Jr., H.. R. Chappell, F. S. Fowler, H. M. Graupner. The Chapter now numbers one hundred and nine members.

Olive Branch Council, No. 10, was chartered by the Grand Council of Connecticut on the 12th day of May, 1868. The following were charter members: Henry E. Balcam, Chester Tilden, Jr., David C. Card, John R. Cogswell, Abel E. Brooks, Samuel B. Stanton, Van W. Austin, Joel W. Backus. On the above mentioned date the Council was instituted in the lodge room in -Willimantic by Stephen T. Bartlett, G. P., and Joseph R. Wheeler, G. R., officers of the Grand Council. The first officers of the Council were: Henry E. Balcam, T. J. M.; Chester Tilden, Jr., R. J. D. M.; David C. Card, P. C. of W. The following are past officers of this Council: H. E. Balcam, Chester Tilden, Jr., Thomas H., Rollinson, Charles S. Billings, Charles James Fox, E. T. Hamlin, Charles D. Peck. The Council now numbers about seventy members.

St. John’s Commandery, No. 11, Knights Templar, was instituted January 23d, 1882, upon the petition of charter members Sir Chester Tilden, Sir David C. Card and Sir W. H. Bolander. The instituting ceremonies were conducted by officers of the Grand Commandery, Sirs William H. Cobb, E. C.; Henry H. Green, G.; and S. G. Waters, C. G. The following Sir Knights were the first officers of the new commandery: Chester Tilden, E. C.; David C. Card, G.; W. H. Bolander, C. G. Past eminent commanders up to this date are: Chester Tilden, David C. Card, Charles S. Billings and Charles J. Fox. The present officers are Sir John H. Bullard, E. C.; Sir George K. Nason, G.; Sir Frank S. Fowler, C. G. The Commandery now numbers forty members, and is in a prosperous condition. Trinity Chapter, Olive Branch Council and St. John’s Commandery were all of them outgrowths from Eastern Star Lodge.

Radiant Chapter, No. 11, O. E. S., was organized February 27th, 1874. Its charter members were:- Mrs. Hattie M. Harris, Mrs. Susan M. Fuller, Mrs. Clarissa A. Babcock, Miss Nancy Chapin, Mrs. Caroline Hanna, Miss Eunice S. Ripley, Mrs. Sarah E. Rogers, Miss Hattie L. Fuller, Mrs. Eliza A. Congden, Mrs. Arrunette Barber. Meetings of the Chapter have been held in Masonic Hall from the beginning. Its first officers were: H. M. Harris, W. M.; Caroline R. Dorman, A. M.: Susan M. Fuller, Sec.; Nancy Chapin, Treas.; C. A. Babcock, Con.; Louisa J. Hoxie, A. C.: W. L. Fuller, A.; S. E. Rogers, R.; Emma A. Bullard, E.; E. S. Ripley, M.; Julia King, E.; Bro. A. S. Barber, W. P.; Bro. A. S. Fuller, W.; Bro. William Thompson, Sent. Successive W. M.’s have since been: H. M. Harris, 1875; Mrs. Carrie S. Robbins, 1876; Mrs. Clarissa A. Babcock, 1877-79; Caroline E. Billings, 1880-82; Miss Helen E. Batey, 1883-84; E. H. Hamlin, 1885; Ellen S. Clark, 1886; Susan M. Fuller, 1887-88. The Chapter owns no property. Its membership comprises 61 brothers and 62 sisters.

Willimantic Council, No. 720, Royal Arcanum, was organized December 7th, 1882. It had twenty-two charter members; W. D. Brigham, C. S. Billings, A. A. Burnham, H. E. Remington, De W. C. Hill, F. M. Thompson, E. A. Taft, C. J. Fox, M. D., H. F. Royce, Charles H. Andrews, C. R. Utley, H. R. Lincoln; N. D. Webster, W. H. Wales, J. H. Bullard, C. N. Daniels, H. M. Cady, F. S: Fowler, Frank Larrabee, O. S. Chaffee, Jr., Charles H. Robbins, bins, W. H. H. Bingham. The Council meets in old Masonic Hall. The first officers were: Charles S. Billings, regent; W. D. Brigham, vice-regent; H. F. Royce, treasurer. The presiding officers have been as follows: Charles S. Billings, 18S2-83; Walter D. Brigham, 1884-85; Charles S. Billings, 1886; Charles N. Daniels, 1887-88; Dwight H. Barstow, 1889. The total membership now is fifty-six. Two deaths have occurred within its circle. They were, Jonathan Hodgdon, druggist, August 31st, 1883, and Edward A. Taft, February 14th, 1887.

Willimantic Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was organized in 1875. During the first few years it had a feeble existence, hardly maintaining its life, but later on a degree of prosperity seemed to perch upon its banners. The weak society could not well afford to hire a hall, so its meetings were held in private houses or spare rooms which were offered for their use, as circumstances favored them. The records previous to 1881 are lost, but since that time the presidents successively have been: B. J. Carey, 1881–83; Patrick McGlore, 1884; Thomas Foran, 1885; Hugh J Carney, 1886-87; John F. Hennessey, 1888. The vice-presidents have been: John Foy, 1881; Luke Flynn, 1882; Patrick McGlore, 1883; John T. Carey, 1884, P. J. Carey, 1885; John F. Hennessey, 1886-87; Luke. Owens, 1888. Recording secretaries have been: Daniel Courtney, 1881; Edward Carey, 1882; John P. Shea, 1883-86; Michael Moriarty, 1887; D. J. Regan, 1888. Financial secretaries have been: Patrick Conway, 1881; John P. Shea, 1882; Cornelius Shea, 1883; John F. Shea, 1884; Thomas Haron, 1885-S7; Jeremiah Mahoney, 1888. Treasurers have been: Florence Tonnelly, 1881–83; John Casey, 1884; Dennis Shea, 1885-87; John J. Carey, 1888. In 1881 the treasury contained $119.33; in 1888 it contained over $1,000. The membership at different times was as follows 1881, 32; 1882, 38; 1883, 34; 1884, 45; 1885, 55; 1886, 60; 1887, 67; 1888, 78. –

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, of Willimantic, was organized March 7th, 1877. The first members were Madams Sarah J. Lillie, Carrie L. Lamb, Julia Pinney, E. S. Andrew, E. E. Park, N. Davison, J.. M. Pierce, Lucius Carpenter, Adaline S. Davis, E. F. Trowbridge, E. M. Hanks, H. G. Douglass, E. A. Barrows, Mason Lincoln, George A. Burnham, C. E. Conant, A. A. Hail, Eliza Dexter, C. Topliff, William Thompson, William Hudson and E. Picknell, and, Miss Inez M. Brown. They met a part of the time in private parlors, and a part of the time in the ” Faith Rooms.” The first officers were: Mrs. C. E. Conant, president; Mrs. Amos Hall, Mrs. Lucius Carpenter, vice-presidents; Miss Inez M. Brown, secretary and treasurer. -Mrs. C. E. Conant has served as president down to the present time, with the exception of two years. Miss Maria Case was president one year from October, 1883, and Mrs. C. B. Pomeroy one year from October, 1887. The Union meets now in the parlors of the Baptist church. It owns no property, but has about fifty members. Its present officers are: Mrs. C. E. Conant, president; Mrs. C. B. Pomeroy, Mrs. George Phillips, Mrs. Edwin Bugbee, vice-presidents; Miss I. E. Sutherland, corresponding secretary and treasurer; Miss Nellie Preston, recording secretary. This was the only Union in the county until the formation of Putnam Union three or four years ago.

The St. Jean Baptist Society of Willimantic, was organized May 30th, 1880. Its first officers were: Joseph Martin, president; David Lambert, vice-president; Reverend Florimond De Bruycker, chaplain; P. P. Pare, recording secretary; Godfroid Lapalme, financial secretary; J. N. Archambault, treasurer; Ed. Paguin, first director; H. Belaire, second director. The names of other members who first organized the society were: E. Quintal, H. Blanchette, G. Gilbert, S. Ayotte, P. Sansouci, Ed. Bacon, Ed. Bonin, L. Belanger, H. Routier, N. Routier, Ant. Lucier, Nap. Bacon, Isaie Racicot, P. Mullen, M. Alix, Naz. Gingras, Jos. Gingras. Its first meeting place was in the old St. Joseph’s R. C. church. Its present place of meeting is in Atwood’s Block, in the old Masonic Hall. Its property consists of its furniture, banners, etc., valued at about $400, and cash deposited in savings banks to the amount of about $1,000. Its present membership is about eighty. The presiding officers regularly elected in March and September, have. been as follows, each serving for the six months term beginning with the date given: Joseph Martin, June, 1880, one and one-half terms; J. N. Archambault, March, ’81; Godfroid Lapalme; September, ’81; Jos. Martin, March, ’82, Th. Potvin, September, ’82; G. Lapalme, March, ’83, two terms; A. P. Favreau, March, ’84, four terms; Elzear St. Onge, March, ’86; A. P. Favreau, September, ’86; Th. Potvin, March, ’87; A. D. David, September, ’87, two terms; J. N’. Archambault, September, ’88. The other officers at present are Joseph Dumas, vice-president; Tancrede de Villers, recording secretary; Chs. de Villers, -financial secretary; The. Potvin, treasurer; Frs. Baril, corresponding secretary; Z. Caisse, warden.

San Jose Council, No. 14, K. of C., was instituted March 12th, 1&45, receiving its charter at that time. Its charter members were: Officers-James E. Murray, G. K.; Captain P. Fitzpatrick, D. G. K.; D. P. Dunn, R. S.; William Vanderman, F. S.; J. H. Morrison, treasurer; E. Grimes, warden; R. Carney, I. G.; James Maxwell, O. G.; T. H. McNally, C. P.; other charter members- John McDonough, D. McCarthy, Joseph Cotter, James Toomey, James Dolan, James Courtney, John H. Dawson, Theodore Potvin. The Council meets in Old Masonic Hall, in Atwood’s Block. This Council is increasing rapidly in membership and becoming popular as a Catholic society. Its insurance system is its chief object. It has paid out several hundred dollars as its proportionate part for death assessments to needy widows and orphans, and has $1,500 in its treasury. The presiding officers since the first have been: E. F. Casey, G. K., A. P. Favreau, D. G. K., from 1886 to 1&87; J. P. Cotter, G. K., T. F. Reynolds, D. G. K., from 1887 to 1889. It has about ninety members in good standing.

Willimantic Lodge, No. 11, Ancient Order of United Workmen, a beneficiary society, was organized in July, about six or seven years ago.- It meets every two weeks, in room No. 3 in Loomer Opera House. It has a membership of about fifty in good standing. A benefit of $2,000 at death is paid to the surviving friends of its members. It is a secret society in its working. Lodges are associated throughout the country, but any state having 2,000 members can control its own assessments. Assessments are levied on’-all members as often as the grand treasury fund falls below two thousand dollars. An assessment now brings into the grand treasury about $8,000. The number of deaths thus far in this Grand .Lodge has been fifty-nine.

Natchaug Lodge, No. ’22, Knights of Pythias, was chartered March 7th, 1872. It meets every Monday night in Atwood Block. Its charter members were: Thomas W. Henry, George Bartlett, L. F. Bugbee, Abel Clark, Cortland Babcock, Jr., Dwight Jordan, Hiram A. Snow, M. L. Tryon, J. T. McNeil, Samuel J. Miller, W. N. Potter. The whole number initiated up to this time is about one hundred and fifty. The present membership is about forty to fifty. The present officers are: W. H. Wales, C. C.; E. B. Walden, vice-C.; H. E. Reade, K. of A.; W. B. Hoxie, prelate; Charles E. Clark, M. of F.; W. N. Potter, M. of E.; E. D. C. Card, M. of A.

Francis S. Long Post, No. 30, G. A. R., was organized March 30th, 1881. The following were charter members: Samuel J. Miller, Daniel K. Sweet, J. D. Willis, Chauncey C. Geer, Henry A. Howard, William Brown, Benajah E. Smith, Irad W. Storrs, Elisha C. Boden, H. F. Lewis, William H. Sweet. The: following list embraces its entire membership. John Bolles, Amos C. Crandall, Darius Moon, George A. Murdock, George F. Lyman, Walter Plumley, William Warrilow, Horace Warner, William F. Gates, William E. Bailey, Philetus G. Perry, Albert S. Blish, Lemuel Warner, James W. Beckwith, George L. Cooley, Henry L. Bingham, Asa M. Holmes, Daniel C. Lewis, Palmer S. Green, Arthur P. Benner, William E. ‘ Williams, Edwin M. Thorne, Enoch Dodd, Luke Flynn, E. F. Payson, William Smith, Louis Putoz, George W. Herrick, Augustus Tittell, Eugene Winton, Danforth O. Lombard, John Hickey, Charles P. Brann, Robert Binns, Melvin L. Nichols, John Tew, W. H. H. Bingham, William N. Tremper, Amos W. Bill, Daniel S. Clark, A. E. Brooks, Frederick Miller, Horace Griggs, William H. Bosworth, Frank G. Colby, Jerome B. Baldwin, Warren H. Bissell, Elisha D. Hill, George Dimock, John J. Brierly, John A. Holmes, Michael O’Louglin, Henry K. Brown, Michael Shea, Henry K. Hyde, William A. Hempstead, Alvord Chappell, William C. Walker, Ames E. Bailey, John J. Franklin, Charles H. Corey, Thomas Handley, J. S. Bradbury, Thomas Spencer, Lucien B. Woodworth, William H. Sypher, Alexander Bruto, John D. Hart, James Haggerty, John Sweeney, Frederick J. Traver, C. M. Kearnes, Charles Ashworth, Danford Wyllys, George L. Briggs, Sanford A. Comins, Van B. Jordan, Andrew E. Kinne, Andrew W. Loomis, Cortland Babcock, C. H. Colgrove, David Clapp, William M. Snow, Charles H. Jackson, H. J. Fieldgen, Charles Fenton. The past post commanders are: Samuel J. Miller, 1881; Benajah E. Smith, 1882; J. D. Willis, 1883; Amos G. Crandall, 1884-188.5; Warren H. Bissell, 1886; Elisha C. Boden, 1887; Samuel J. Miller, 1888. There are at present seventy members in good standing. The present officers are: John J. Brierly, C.; Charles Ashworth, S. V. C.; George A. Murdock, J. V. C.; Thomas Handley, adjutant; J. D. Willis, O. M.; Warren H. Bissell, chap.; C. A. Colgrove, M. D., surgeon; James Haggerty, officer of the day; E. F. Payson, officer of the guard; A. P. Benner, ser. maj.; Luke Flynn, O. M. S. The Post meets in room No. 3, Loomer Opera House, every Friday evening. It decorates 178 graves inn four cemeteries on the annual day set apart for that purpose.

Jonathan Trumbull Council, No. 29, Order of United American Mechanics, a society composed of a distinctively American membership, was organized December 4th, 1888. It meets in Atwood Block. All members must be native born Americans. The objects are to sustain the free institutions of America and the government as it is, and-to provide benefits in sickness and death for its members. The officers change every six months. The first officers were as follows: Charles N. Daniels, councillor; S. J. Miller, vice-councillor; Eugene Randall, junior ex-councillor; H. F. Barrows, senior ex-councillor; George H. C. Osborn, recording secretary; C. H. Edmonds, assistant recording secretary; H. R. Chappell, treasurer; Arthur L. Hayden, financial secretary; Frank A. Westphal, inductor; C. “H. Webster, examiner; Frederick Young, inside protector; L. L. Keigwin, outside protector; James Macfarlane, Jonathan Osborn and H. F. Barrows, trustees. The membership at present numbers about fifty.

Company E, of the Third regiment, C. N. G., numbers at present fifty-eight members. They have an armory in Centre street, where they drill every Thursday evening from November 1st to June 1st, according to law. The company was organized about 1872. The officers are: Patrick Fitzpatrick, captain; Thomas Ashton, 1st lieutenant; John H. Morrison, 2d lieutenant; John W. Moran, company clerk.

A lodge called Fidelity Temple, of the order Temple of Honor, was instituted here about 1870, which was composed of many of the businessmen of the place, and others. It had a membership of over one hundred, but after several years the interest in it died out and the charter was surrendered after an existence of about ten years. The subject, however, was afterward revived, and the Willimantic Temple of-Honor, No. 32, was instituted in January, 1882. The office of worthy chief has been held successively by the following, the regular term being six months: Edward L. Furry, January to May, 1882; John A. Gardner, J. B. Hood, Joel W. Cargel, George B. Abbott, George C. Topliffe, Charles F. Merrill, George Smith, Maurice Tittle, A. J. – Lawton, E. F. Payson, William C. Cargel, E. L. Furry, George B. Story, C. L. Fillmore and Charles Ingraham, at present in office (June, 1889). The lodge has averaged, about forty members, and has done much good in reclaiming many drunkards. A Social Temple and a lodge of the Golden Cross, societies admitting ladies to membership, work in harmony and increase the social features of the Temple.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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