History of Fidelity-St. John’s # 3

There is no record in the archives that helps us to know when or by whom the request for a Charter was made. It would seem that sometime in the year 1761 or early 1762 that there were individuals residing in, or around the town of Fairfield, in the Colony of Connecticut that made an application to George Harrison, Provincial Grand Master of the Colony of New York for a Charter allowing them to organize a Masonic lodge in Fairfield County. There had already been Lodges established in New Haven (1750) and Middletown (1754), both of which had been warranted by St. John’s Grand Lodge of Boston which had itself been organized in 1733.

The Charter was granted on February 12th, 1762, and appointed Eleazer Hubbell as the first master of St. John’s Lodge, in the County of Fairfield. Eleazer Hubbell was from Stratfield parish, a community that straddled what was at that time was the border of Fairfield and Stratford (hence the name Strat-field) along what is today North Avenue and Park Avenue in Bridgeport. Although Eleazer Hubbell is named in the Warrant as the Lodges first Master he did not serve as such until after the first election was held on July 14th 1762.

The first meeting of the Lodge was held on February 15th, 1762 at the home of Capt. Samuel Wakelee on the Stratford side of Stratfield parish. Today it would be located on the east side of Park Avenue just south of State Street in Bridgeport. The meeting was called to Initiate Wolcott Chauncey (his home still stands) and David Wheeler, both of Black Rock, which was part of Fairfield at that time. The officers were:  Joseph Knapp, Isaac Young and Eleazer Hubbell as Senior Warden, Junior Warden and Treasurer (all from Stratfield). Arnout Cannon and J. Anderson both members of St. John’s Lodge No. 1 of New York City who served as Worshipful Master and Secretary.

The second meeting of the lodge was held the following day, with the same officers for the purpose of Passing and Raising Brothers Wheeler and Chauncey.  This meeting was at the house of Richard Hubbell, brother of Eleazer, on the Fairfield side of Stratfield Parish. It is also here that the first regular meeting will take place on February 24th, 1762. This home was located on the west side of Brooklawn Avenue roughly somewhere around the present location of Lookout Drive or Collingwood Avenue and was removed by 1906. The Lodge is fortunate to have a photograph of it, as well as possessing a set of working tools which were made from one of the original timbers of this house by our late Brother John Burn. Also in the Lodge’s possession are several of the early officers’ jewels, as well as the 1762 chair used by Worshipful Masters until 1767, the original 1762 Charter, and an unbroken series of records from the first meeting up until present day. These have all been protected and carried with Lodge as it moved about.

For many years the Lodge’s membership was small and attendance at meetings very limited, often not more than six or seven being present. Meeting places were frequently changed and were usually held in an upper chamber at the house of a member. There were exceptions. St. John’s Lodge began meeting at the tavern of Brother Jonathan Bulkeley, located on what is today Beach Road, in 1769.  He would become Master of the Lodge in 1771 and would remain Master until 1788. The Bulkeley Tavern was home for the Lodge for nineteen years. During this time thirteen colonies of Great Britain had declared their independence, and won a war, that had gained it for them.

In 1789 several changes would come to the Lodge. William Heron would become the first “new” Master in eighteen years and the Lodge would have their first meeting at the home of Brother Daniel Young in an area called Newfield, which was part of Stratford. Newfield would become known as Bridgeport in 1800. In this same year Connecticut Freemasons would found a state Grand Lodge, which St. John’s Lodge would affiliate with and receive a charter from on October 18th, 1792 given the name St. John’s Lodge, No. 3. The Lodge would continue to meet at various public houses and other establishments in Newfield/Bridgeport until May of 1809 when the Lodge was ordered to hold its meetings within one mile of the Court House in Fairfield. It was under this directive that the Lodge met at Samuel Penfield’s “Sun Tavern” in Fairfield. This structure still stands at the edge of the Town Hall Green and is open at times for tours and events. Its restoration was facilitated by a generous donation from Fidelity-St. John’s No. 3 and Connecticut Grand Lodge in 2012. Although St. John’s Lodge, No. 3 met in Fairfield twice in 1809, it quickly returned to its meetings in Bridgeport, and would remain there for 181 years. The late eighteenth and early nineteenth century saw the spirit and brotherhood of Freemasonry growing in the area of Fairfield County, as well as the rest of the country.

Annual Table Lodge to celebrate the founding of Fidelity-St. John’s # 3

In 1826 Connecticut Grand Lodge gives a charter to Lafayette Lodge, No. 72 in Fairfield. A portion of the Brothers that made up this new Lodge in Fairfield came from St. John’s Lodge No. 3 in Bridgeport. The years between 1826 and 1846 were difficult years for Freemasonry due to the anti-masonic agitation of that time.  Lafayette Lodge does not do well, probably owing to this atmosphere and within fifteen years its Charter is revoked the members returning to St. John’s Lodge No. 3. Actually close to half of the approximately seventy Lodges in Connecticut gave up or lost their Charters during this period. St. John’s No. 3 kept together and held its Charter. In 1830 the movement reached Bridgeport and in 1836 a declaration of Masonic Principles was drawn up and published in the papers, signed by many of the Brothers from our Lodge. By the mid 1840’s the anti-masonic feelings had subsided and an increased number of applicants to the Lodge soon followed. The coming of the Civil War elevated these numbers to even greater levels, and it is during this time that arguably the most famous Brother of our Lodge becomes a member.

In 1855 the Lodge takes out a ten year lease on some rooms in the Sturdevant Building located on the southwest corner of Main and Bank Streets we will meet here for forty years. During this time Brothers of our Lodge will be part of the growth, development and prosperity of Bridgeport and the surrounding communities. Charles Stratton was initiated into the Lodge in 1862. Stratton was already famous worldwide, at this time, through his stage name of “Tom Thumb”. He would receive all three degrees and continue on in Masonry eventually becoming a “Knight Templar”. During the four years of the American Civil War 163 members were raised or Affiliated with the Lodge. This growth would lead to the need for a larger more dedicated structure and yet another move in 1895. This time to a Masonic Temple at 1001 Broad Street. Here there was not only enough room for our Lodge, but also other Lodges, as well as many of the appendant Masonic organizations of both the York and Scottish Rites that now met in Bridgeport.

With the dawning of the twentieth century we find the Lodge as strong and vibrant as it has been. It was at this time that it was decided to form a “Fellowcraft Association” for the purpose of maintaining efficient teams to present the degree work of the Lodge. In 1920 a committee was appointed to write and produce a degree for the “Fellowcraft Association” based on Masonic tradition and legend. This degree, known as the “Perfect Craftsman Degree” was so popular that it spread to Blue Lodges all over the country as the Perfect Craftsman Quarry.

Previous Masonic Temple at 131 Beach Rd, Fairfield, CT 06824

Some of the greatest years of activity and interest occurred following WWI. In 1918 alone we see that seventy-one members are raised with two others affiliating. 1929 marks the chartering of Fidelity Lodge, No. 134 in Fairfield. Our Brothers that made up Fidelity Lodge were the first Lodge meeting in Fairfield since the closing of Lafayette Lodge No. 72 in 1841. Fidelity Lodge would meet in rooms leased from First Church Congregational on Old Post Road for many years, but in 1951 they would dedicate their own Masonic Temple on Beach Road. Continued membership growth after WWII added even more Lodges and a second Lodge was formed in Fairfield in 1955, Lafayette Lodge, No. 141. Joining the ranks of the Lodges in the area was Marie Lafayette 111 Order of the Eastern Star which was constituted in 1940, and continues to meet at our Lodge’s new location on Old Stratfield Road.

St. John’s Lodge No.3 continues to meet in Bridgeport, but moves out of the down town area when it dedicates a new Temple in1965, on Fairfield Avenue in the Black Rock section. This will be the home of St. John’s Lodge until the mid-1980’s at which time the Lodge will sell its building in Black Rock and receive dispensation to meet in Trumbull. 1990 will mark the year that St. John’s No. 3 and Fidelity Lodge No. 134 will merge to become Fidelity-St. John’s No. 3 located at the Masonic Temple located on Beach Road in Fairfield. In 1992 the other “Fairfield” Lodge, Lafayette No. 141, will merge with Fidelity-St. John’s No. 3. This marks the first time since 1809 that St. John’s Lodge and two of its descendant Lodges met in Brotherhood, in Fairfield, as a single Lodge.

New Masonic Temple at 428 Old Stratfield Rd, Fairfield, CT 06824

2019 brought about a series of events that made certain hard, decisions to be made. Our Temple was almost seventy years old and in need of many improvements. The building had also been built at a time when the Lodges that called it home had much larger membership bases, so in recent years our smaller circle of Brothers failed to need so much space. These issues and an opportunity brought about by a challenging event, made the sale our building, and the moving of our Lodge an emotional, but necessary event.  We as Brothers came together to clear the building of mementos of our most recent history, as well as artifacts of our past, that tied us to our Brothers that have been part of this Lodge for almost the last 260 years.

On Thursday July 2nd 2020, under COVID restrictions Fidelity-St. John’s No. 3 met for the first time at our current location at 428 Old Stratfield Road in Fairfield. By a fortuitous chance of fate, this site is approximately a mile from the location of the home of Richard Hubbel, where many of our Lodges first communications took place. It would seem that St. John’s Lodge, founded in 1762, had brought the Masters chair full circle.