The Social Lodge #38 Free and Accepted Masons was chartered on June 1, 1815, by the Grand Master of Vermont, John Chapman. The members of Social Lodge have committed themselves to serving the town through charitable donations. Many citizens have joined the ranks to give back to the community, but the Freemasons have done more than that.
In 1815, 15 original members belonged to the Social Lodge. Jarius Hall was the first Master. He served as the Wilmington town clerk and was a Windham County Court assistant judge for many years. Other influential members during that time included John Pulsipher, the town physician; John Roberts, a Whitingham attorney and the Social Lodge’s first secretary; and Edmund Livermore.
According to the August 17, 1900 edition of The Deerfield Valley Times, the first Social Lodge ceased to exist in 1830, but a second charter was granted by the Grand Master of Vermont, Philip Tucker. The first officers of the second Social Lodge included Adna Childs, a Wilmington merchant, James Lawton, who served as treasurer, and Heman Swift.
The Social Lodge became known as a moon lodge, a Masonic lodge established in rural communities with little or no electricity. Traditionally, Freemason meetings take place on the first Monday or third Thursday of the month. Moon lodges met on Tuesdays on or before the full moon to provide some light for members who walked or rode their horses to meetings. Many Vermont lodges were moon lodges. The Social Lodge of Wilmington is one of the few remaining moon lodges in the state today.
The Social Lodge grew to over 90 members after the Civil War. They came from all walks of life and several were Civil War veterans. Although the Freemasons were a chartered organization, they still lacked a meeting facility during the Civil War period. During those years, the lodge met in various members’ homes. One of their earliest meeting places was the upstairs room at the O.O. Ware Store on North Main Street.
In 1911, the Social Lodge looked for a permanent location for its Masonic Hall and found the Old Methodist Church. The Old Methodist Church was erected in 1825 at the Cutting Cemetery near the current location of the Sitzmark Lodge. The Social Lodge purchased the church for $3,500 and eventually moved it from the Cutting Cemetery to its current location on East Main Street. The reasons for moving the church are unknown. However, records show the purchase took place April 30, 1912, two weeks after the sinking of the Titanic.
After their purchase, the Social Lodge spent hundreds of dollars in renovations but the church encountered some problems years later. In 1925, they discovered the weight of the church steeple was damaging the roof and it was promptly removed. The Social Lodge had no place to store the church bell, but the Wilmington Baptist Society came forth after their own church bell cracked. The Freemasons gratefully donated it to the Wilmington Baptist Church and it first rang on October 25, 1928.
Aside from the Social Lodge’s history, the Freemasons have been very active in community affairs. Today’s Social Lodge provides scholarships and donates to local organizations. Sue Spengler, of Deerfield Valley Community Cares, said they have received several donations from the Freemasons over the years. The money sustains Deerfield Valley Community Cares emergency relief programs and Spengler is grateful for the Freemasons’ support. “They’ve been very helpful over the years and we count on donations from local organizations. I’m grateful for what the Freemasons do,” said Spengler.
Dr. Robert Ruhl, of Wilmington, has been a Freemason for 18 years. He became interested in the fraternity because he knew a number of men in the Deerfield Valley who were Freemasons. Ruhl said he admired the tenets of their fraternity, including charity and brotherhood. He currently serves as the secretary of the lodge and has also served as master of the lodge and as Deputy District Grand Master.
Ruhl said he is proud of the Social Lodge’s long history of giving to the Deerfield Valley. He said one of the core aspects that has kept the organization going for 195 years is the fellowship. “The lodge is basically a band of brothers that cherish fellowship, history, and charitable good works,” said Ruhl. “What makes us special is our history, our energy, and our ability to support those in need.”