Harmonie Lodge History - 20th Century
Right Worshipful George Richter.
100th Anniversary Officers
Not until the year 1914, did Harmonie Lodge change from using German to English. This modernization opened the Lodge’s doors to many non-German speaking sons and relatives, giving them that opportunity to ask for Masonic membership petitions, and increasing our roster membership to nearly 475 Masons.
The 50-year Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1920, beginning on Sunday, June 13th. Worshipful Master Frederick Woelfinger, officers and members, first attended Divine worship at St. Paul’s United Evangelical Church. The address and sermon were given by Reverend Christian G. Haas, who was also the Chaplain of our Lodge. Reflecting over the past years, he stated, “Good has been our past, as were the material and spiritual accomplishments. We also know we have not attained perfection in our daily life. There is always work waiting for our Brethren, for a continued desire to be faithful to mankind.” Monday, June 14th, Brothers and their wives attended dinner, entertainment, and dancing at the Ellicott Club. Many notable Masonic dignitaries of various Lodges and concordant bodies were invited. They expressed their charitable views of Harmonie Lodge’s first 50 years in the Masonic field. On Wednesday, June 16th, a regular communication for members and their Masonic friends was held, wherein W:. Frederick Woelfinger presented the history and formation of Harmonie Lodge.
R:.W:. Howard M. Bommer served Harmonie Lodge as Worshipful Master in 1937, was honored by Grand Lodge as Steward of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, Past Vice President and Past President of the Erie County Wardens Association, Director of the Past Masters’ Association, Past President of the Masonic Service Bureau, and the Masonic Bowling League and faithfully served as treasurer of Harmonie for 30 years.
The 75-year Diamond Jubilee celebration began October 17, 1945. Worshipful Master John W. Williams, officers and brethren, attended Divine worship at Trinity Evangelical Church of Christ. The address and sermon were again given by our then Lodge Chaplain, Reverend Leon K. Molter. He outlined the high ideals of our Lodge during the past 75 years, evaluating our blessings, and humbly asking that our Symbolic working tools always be kept bright and shining, for a continuity of service to our beloved Craft. On Wednesday, October 20th at 8:00 PM, a regular stated communication for members and Masonic friends was held, wherein W:. John W. Williams and the officers presented an ideal 75th anniversary program. A few weeks later, on November 10, 1945 at 6:30 PM, a dinner, entertainment and dancing for members, their family and friends, was held at the Buffalo Trap and Field Club, to conclude the Diamond Jubilee celebration.
It is important to our history to give recognition to the brethren of Harmonie Lodge who went on to extend the fraternity by playing prominent parts in the founding of other Lodges. Mention should especially be made of the connection between Harmonie Lodge No. 699 and the founding of Eggertsville Lodge No. 1157 and Cheektowaga Lodge No. 1163.
R:.W:. George A. Richter many times spoke to brethren regarding his idea of lodges being numerous and of small memberships. He often spoke of lodges that would consist primarily of brothers of the same professional fields such as doctors or lawyers, firemen or engineers. With this in mind he proceeded to convince the Grand Master that more lodges were needed in the Erie Districts.
Being a member of Harmonie Lodge, it was only natural that he call on many brothers of Harmonie Lodge to assist him in this undertaking. Harmonie Lodge at this time had a very active Fellowcraft team, and many members were very proficient in exemplifying the various degrees. He enlisted the aid of R:.W:. Harry Saxton to help him start a square club to eventually become Eggertsville Lodge. By July 1957, the Sweet Home Square Club was operating and many of Harmonie’s members were participating therein. The preponderance of charter members were from Harmonie Lodge. Seven of the charter members of Eggertsville Lodge were members of Harmonie No. 699 (Rowland Williams, Harry Saxton, Robert Cochrane, Theodore Shamp, Frank Hendry, James Thompson, Richard Harris and George Richter – honorary). W:. Rowland Williams, Master of Harmonie Lodge in 1949, became Eggertsville Lodge’s first Master. When dispensation was granted, R:.W:. Henry Z. Lang, Jr. sat as Master for the evening prior to the officers taking their stations under dispensation. R:.W:. Harry Saxton became Eggertsville Lodge’s second Master. Although Eggertsville Lodge was sponsored by Christopher G. Fox Lodge, none of the charter members were from Christopher G. Fox Lodge.
On the occasion of the granting of the charter to Eggertsville Lodge, the Fellowcraft Club of Harmonie Lodge presented a complete set of officers’ aprons to the new officers of Eggertsville Lodge.
As Assistant Grand Lecturer, W:. Harry E. Saxton was called the “Conscience of Cheektowaga Lodge”. He developed the line of officers and worked on the organizational meetings. Here again the hand of R:.W:. George A. Richter was shown, whereby many Harmonie brothers became charter members of Cheektowaga Lodge No. 1163. W:. Medford E. Hampe, a Harmonie brother, became Worshipful Master of the Lodge in its early years. Harmonie is most pleased to have been instrumental in the formation of these Lodges through the interest of our brothers. Although Cheektowaga Lodge was sponsored by Hiram Lodge No. 105, the influence of Harmonie Lodge No. 699 was noticeably present.
R:.W:. Frederick Woelfinger served as Worshipful Master in 1920, having the honored record of raising 50 Brother Masons, was honored by Grand Lodge of the State of New York as Representative to the Grand Lodge of Australia. Being a very successful businessman, and known for his generosity, he left a legacy of $1,000.00 each to 22 charitable Institutes and an unconditional gift of $40,000.00 to the Masonic Home in Utica.
Our Lodge was granted the special privilege by the officers of the Liberty Bank, to hold our 100 year anniversary Lodge meeting on December 3, 1969, at the site of our first meeting; the afore-mentioned Liberty Building in downtown Buffalo. At this meeting, Charles W. Weiftheimer was elected Worshipful Master, together with the officers for 1970.
In keeping with the tradition of marking important Lodge anniversaries, a Gala Banquet at the Ismailia Shrine Mosque was held to celebrate our Centennial. We were honored by an address by Most Worshipful Grand Master William R. Knapp. Worshipful Donald R. Coe, introduced many Masonic notables while warmly serving as Toastmaster.
R:.W:. Joseph E. Smeller, Jr. served Harmonie Lodge as Worshipful Master in 1975 and 1976, as Secretary, was appointed Grand Sword Bearer 1996; and elected President of the Masonic Service Bureau, Inc. in 1988. He was a Charter Member of the Western New York Lodge of Research, where he served as Master in 1988.
A special tribute should be made to W:. Alois Altendorfer who served as Master of the Lodge for a record 11 terms.
After 97 years of a relative absence of inter-Lodge social intercourse, a “German Night” was re-introduced to Erie County lodges in 1979. It was aimed primarily to embrace all Lodges, reminding all Masons of the rich German culture which influenced the three Erie districts. Modestia Lodge No. 340 was selected as the host for the first meeting, as being a part of that Lodge’s 125th Anniversary celebration held at Sweet Home Masonic Temple on April 23, 1979. A special German dinner was served at 6:30 PM, followed by the opening of Lodge at 7:30 PM for a special communication and a welcoming address by R:.W:. Carl A. Luther. After which was given choral solos and concert by the Buffalo Zither Society, and the special event was concluded with an hour of harmonious Masonic fellowship.
Leroy H. Lieder was elected Worshipful Master in May 1994 and immediately put our 125th Anniversary program into effect. November 9, 1994, which date closely coincided with our dispensation date, was chosen for a stated communication and champagne dinner. This was held at Sweet Home Masonic Temple with Bro. William C. Schugardt as chairman. Gary W. Neureuter was chosen as Toastmaster in keeping with historical precedent.
Harmonie Lodge invited the brethren of Eggertsville Lodge No. 1157, Cheektowaga Lodge No. 1163, and Concordia Lodge No. 143 as our guests for this event. It is important to note that our sister-Lodge, Modestia No. 340, had previously merged with Concordia Lodge No. 143. This was a Masonic event highlighting the interconnection between these four lodges. On this occasion three Dewitt Clinton Awards and one Douglas MacArthur award were presented to non-Masons.
The 125th anniversary dinner was the traditional German Dinner, with remarks made by the four Masters and our District Deputy Grand Master, Griffith Jones III. It was an evening enjoyed by over 200 Masons in attendance, who joined with us to celebrate this landmark in the history of Harmonie Lodge.
Many professional, business and dedicated workmen of our Lodge have contributed in no small measure to the growth of our fine City of Buffalo. So unquestionably the great lesson our Brethren have learned is in the true meaning and sanctity of the 133rd Psalm: “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in Unity.” In the Spirit of those Brethren who led the way, through the last century, we sha1l continue that work for still higher and nobler achievements for the future.
Shortly after the celebration of our 125th Anniversary in 1995, there was a new vigor within our ranks. Many lodges were already merging, with different combinations put together. Cheektowaga Lodge No. 1163 was merged into Hiram Lodge No. 105; Grand Island Lodge No. 1138 merged with Eggertsville Lodge No. 1157; Modestia No. 340 was merged into Concordia No. 143.
In many cases the brothers did not feel the strong bond to their new body. Slowly many recognized the unique character of the brothers of Harmonie and began to ask for affiliation in our Lodge. A great number were impressed with our friendliness and our new venue of meeting from April through the summer into the first meeting of December. We were most pleased to share our heritage with the new members. Our new members, who joined through affiliation, became totally involved in the promotion and government of our Lodge. We began to get new candidates to join our Lodge.
Our most important event at the time was our Dewitt Clinton and MacArthur Awards night. We have invited several lodges as guests and we have given these awards to Buffalo’s outstanding non-Masonic citizens over several years. The times since our 125th Anniversary have been extremely fruitful for our Lodge. Our finances and administration have been outstanding.
Our 130th Commemoration was arranged for August 29, 2000 at the Airport Raddison Hotel. The Grand Master, Most Worshipful Carl J. Smith, was our special guest for this most memorable occasion. W:. William J. Ernst was again chosen by the Master to chair the festivities. Many of the Grand Master’s staff were in attendance as well. The brothers of Harmonie considered this an event without recent comparison. In October, we again invited the same group of Lodges as our guests to enjoy the social intercourse of the 130th Anniversary. These were Eggertsville Lodge No. 1157 and Concordia Lodge No. 143. We added Hiram Lodge No. 105 as it now has in its ranks many of the members of Cheektowaga No. 1163 after said previous merger. The date was again near our charter date of 1870. The traditional German Dinner was served and Dewitt Clinton and Douglas MacArthur awards were presented.