Moon Lodge – A Brief History of Warren Lodge #32 – The Last Moon Lodge In New York State

Written by RW:. Steven Adam Rubin, Deputy Grand Master and W:. Todd M. Paterek.  Originally published on Craftsmen Online.

On the evening of April 18, 1775, Paul Revere was summoned by Dr. Joseph Warren of Boston and given the task of riding to Lexington, Massachusetts, with the news that regular troops were about to march into the countryside northwest of Boston, Massachusetts.

Thirty-two years later, Warren Lodge No. 32, named for Brother and Revolutionary War hero Dr. Joseph Warren, was chartered June 10, 1807, by DeWitt Clinton, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York.  Warren Lodge meets in Rhinebeck, New York, about 100 miles North of New York City.  Aside from a noteworthy connection to the American Revolution, there is another unique feature that sets Warren Lodge #32 apart in New York State: The Lodge meeting dates are on a lunar schedule.  Warren Lodge opens by lantern light, setting its monthly meeting date as the Thursday before every full moon, rather than on a set calendar day. 

Dr. Joseph Warren

During the 18th century, Brothers had to travel to Lodge by foot, horseback, buggy, and sometimes even by boat.  There were no paved roads and very few gravel roads.  Instead, what they used were merely two dirt ruts that would meander through brush and fields rarely in a straight line (Three feet of snow, uphill, both ways!).  With only an oil lamp to help light the way, and a Full Moon assured illumination for the lonely and desolate miles.  Masons at that time would travel 8-10 miles or more and were often unable to make the long trip home at night.  Brothers would supply lodging to a fellow Brother, leaving after breakfast to return home the next morning.  I am sure many of us travel more than ten miles to get to Lodge but imagine the dedication these Brothers had to their Brothers, Freemasonry, and the difference they were making in themselves and the World to continue attending with such a difficult journey. 

Warren Lodge #32

Moon Lodges rapidly disappeared throughout the world with the invention of the lightbulb and then the automobile.  At the turn of the century, there were approximately three thousand moon Lodges in the U.S.  However, by the 1950s that number decreased to five hundred.  Today, there are roughly 129 moon Lodges remaining in America, 14 of which are in Pennsylvania, Texas has the most with 19, and New York State has just one;  Warren Lodge #32 in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Like many small rural Lodges, Warren Lodge lost membership year over year due to Brothers passing and few if any joining.  About 30 years ago in desperation, the remaining Brothers decided to give up the building.  At that time, several members of the Dutchess District Past Grand Lodge Officers chose to affiliate with Warren Lodge hoping to keep the Lodge viable.  As a result, the Lodge became known informally as the “Blue Lodge for Purples”.  With long-time relationships and ample experience with ritual, meetings took on a comfortable, easy complexion, which Brothers looked forward to enjoying.  As a result, the membership expanded so that today Warren Lodge is the fastest-growing Lodge in the District. 

You will find the earliest mention of Moon Lodges in the Cooke Manuscript of 1410, one of the oldest documents belonging to the Masonic Craft.  In the U.S., Moon Lodges were first noted in colonial times around 1717, operating in Philadelphia, Boston, and Tennessee.  Before our Moon Lodge Observance meeting, I picked the lock on the display case (The key was lost years ago) and found a newspaper clipping.  The headline reads; East Aurora Masons in 1827 held sessions “At the Full of the Moon”.  Unfortunately, the fire of 1905 destroyed all documentation and the historic record of our first charter.  However, considering our first warrant was issued in 1817 for Blazing Star Lodge #294, well before the lightbulb became a standard fixture it is not unlikely that Blazing Star Lodge has its roots as a Moon Lodge. 

Please consider helping protect and preserve New York Masonic History by becoming a Warren Lodge Midnight Rider Subscriber.  You will be part of a Special Membership category and identified as a Lodge Champion.  While not affording voting rights or the ability to hold office, it does offer the opportunity to become part of the preservation of New York Masonic History and ensure that the Lanterns are never permanently extinguished.

As a subscriber, you will receive a Warren Lodge Midnight Rider membership certificate, a custom identifiable lapel pin, and an E-mail subscription to our newsletter.  The annual subscription cost is a mere $32.00 and will establish you as an enthusiastic supporter of our rich Masonic history. To learn more about this Lodge and inquire about this special membership category, visit their Facebook Page.

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