Free Masonry in Norwich Vermont
It does not appear that any Masonic Lodge has ever existed in Norwich. Quite a number of our citizens, however, as might be expected, have at different times belonged to lodges in adjacent towns. In the list of members of Franklin Lodge, established at Hanover, N. H., in 1796, we find the names of the following Norwich men, with the year of their admission: Reuben Hatch, Freegrace Leavitt (1798), William Sumner (1799), Thomas Brigham, Erastus Leavitt, and Moses Hayward (1800), Reuben Partridge, Andrew Dewey, William Little, Levi Richards, Aaron West (1801-1807), Lyman Lewis, Elijah Slafter, Simon Baldwin, Enos Lewis, Jasper Johnson, Noah Lewis (1808), Charles Hutchins, Sewell Gleason (1809), Ephraim Hall, George Olds, Jr., and Pierce Burton (1810), Manly G. Woodbury, Silas Morse, Ammi B. Allen, and Barzilla Bush, Jr. (1813-1820). The roll probably bears other Norwich names that we do not now recognize. The Franklin Lodge was moved to Lebanon in 1821, where it still flourishes. In 1807 and 1808, Doctor Thomas Brigham of Norwich was master of the lodge, who, on his sudden departure from town and abandonment of his family, was promptly expelled therefrom by notice published in the Vermont Journal at Windsor, in April, 1809, ”for immoral conduct unworthy a Mason and a gentleman.”
Other Norwich Masons of that time, not of the Franklin Lodge, were Captain Calvin Seaver, Jeremiah Bissell, Ebenezer Spear, 2nd, Lyman Baldwin, and William Leconte.
At the height of the Anti-Masonic agitation, about 1830, a great commotion was raised in the North Congregational Church, growing out of the refusal of the majority of the church, led by Deacon Israel Newton, to go to communion with those church members who were Masons. Manifestoes and resolutions were presented in church meetings on both sides, and a heated controversy raged through several months upon this question, eliciting much bitterness of feeling. A settlement was finally effected by mutual concessions, the Anti-Masonic party agreeing to cease their attacks upon the institution before the church, and the Masons agreeing to absent themselves from the meetings of the lodge, at least for a time.