Two Forgotten Vermont Freemasons

Warren A. Williams, P.M.


Why would a member of the Research Lodge review the history of two forgotten Vermont Masons, both of whom attained rank in Vermont politics? Why would one Freemason raised in a foreign jurisdiction write about two men who made their mark in the world from an inauspicious and quiet town in northern Vermont? Let me explain.

I found my connection to the individuals about whom this research was done--two men about whom I knew little but with whom I can now identify--very interesting. We three were born out of state, two of us sharing a birthplace. We three were members of the same Masonic fraternity and the very same lodge, Meridian Sun Lodge, formerly designated #17 and chartered in Greensboro, Vermont, now renumbered 20 in Craftsbury. Although nearly a century of time separates each of us from the other, there seems a reference or connection among us.

From the names engraved on headstones in the Cemetery on Craftsbury Common to the name of our town itself, Samuel C. Crafts and Horace F. Graham can be identified. The town, chartered in 1781 under the name Minden, was renamed Craftsbury about ten years later to honor its founder, Ebenezer Crafts, Samuel’s father. (More about Colonel Crafts later.) If one looks above the the Worshipful Master of the Lodge in Craftsbury at the portrait of Samuel Crafts, his face will return an austere stare.

A landmark halfway between Craftsbury and Craftsbury Common is a large attractive hilltop home—the so-called "Governor Graham House". In our Lodge room over the Treasurer’s station which I occupy, one sees a large framed certificate of membership in the name of Horace F. Graham. This certificate attests to his having been raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason.

What of these men? For what were they remembered? What can we say about their fame and accomplishments? Let us "go to the record."

Samuel Chandler Crafts

Crafts was born in Woodstock, CT on October 6, 1768 and died in 1853 at the age of eighty-five. Crafts graduated from Harvard College in 1790.

It seems that young Samuel followed and, in several instances, surpassed his famous father in his dedication to the people of his community, county, state and yes, nation.

In 1792, at the first town meeting in Craftsbury, held in his father’s house, Crafts at age twenty-four was elected Town Clerk, a position he held for thirty-seven years. In 1829 he was elected Moderator of his town. In addition to these local positions of service, Samuel was elected Town Representative for five years; a Judge of court for several years, becoming Chief Judge; and a member of the State Council of Censors, a governmental body no longer in use. This Council consisted of twelve members and "shared executive power" with the Governor.

Samuel C. Crafts continued to advance in the political arena—first by representing his town at constitutional conventions as its youngest member. He was Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1798 and 1799.

Crafts was elected Governor of Vermont for the term 1828-1831, and was eventually to serve for three terms. Following the Governorship he was elected a Member of Congress and, finally, in 1816-1824 was elected to a seat in the U.S. Senate. It has been said that he was a man whom the people delighted to honor.

While a member of the State Legislature, Crafts was elected chairman of a committee to decide the location for the State House. While in Congress he also served on the Committee on Public Buildings during the rebuilding of the Capitol of the U.S.

As a young man his politics were those of Thos. Jefferson who believed deeply in the innate intelligence or the common man. In later life he was a follower of Henry Clay, "the compromiser".

From an address by the Honorable Aaron H. Grout in August 24, 1939, on the occasion of Craftsbury’s sesquicentennial celebration, "one name stands out prominently in the early history of this town. Samuel Crafts, son of Col. Ebenezer, served his town, county and state in about all the offices of public service. His record as a public servant was enviable from every angle, and his name and good works bring glamour, honor and romance to the history of the town which recognized his ability and started him on his career."

Not all of his public positions were in politics. He assumed other leadership and service assignments for the betterment of the greater community. He was the first President of Orleans County Historical Society, one of the charter members of Meridian Sun Lodge #17, and its first Worshipful Master. It appears that he was probably raised in Harmony Lodge #14 in Danville on or before 1797. There is no official record in Vermont, Massachusetts or Connecticut of his having taken the degrees in those jurisdictions, although records of the 1798 Vermont Grand Lodge refer to him being in attendance as an officer from from Harmony Lodge #14.

We all might take a note from one aspect of his philosophy. "He was seldom heard in debate in either state or national halls, for he had little faith in the good of speech-making."

As the Anti-Masonic Party appeared in 1829, and we Masons know it resulted from the "Morgan Incident" in New York State, Crafts was running as the National Republican candidate and recognized as a Freemason. He earned 14,325 votes to his competitor’s 3,973. In 1830 when the Anti-Masonic party became stronger, the vote was 13,476 for Crafts, 10,923 for Palmer, an Anti-Mason. With the help of eight anti-masons Crafts was finally elected after the election was thrown into Legislature. His personal qualities apparently superseded his fraternal affiliation (or at least the latter wasn’t held against him!).

In 1828, what may be called the germ idea of our present town system of schools, Crafts urged the process of highway tax that has since been adopted." In 1829 Crafts was "the first to treat the evils of intemperance and urged higher license fees and more stringent regulations of public houses ‘to check’ free indulgence in the use of spirituous liquors.

Samuel Chandler Crafts was truly a man of his time, an example to any generation of honesty, integrity, public consciousness, and a forthright individual whom young people could emulate in the present era in which true heroes are hard to find.

Webmaster Note: An additional web reference can be found here.

Horace French Graham

Born in Brooklyn, New York on February 7, 1862, Horace French Graham died at his home on Graham Hill, Craftsbury, on November 23, 1941. He was 79 years old.

Graham was educated at Craftsbury Academy. After completing his undergraduate degree (cum laude) at Columbia College in 1898, he continued his education through the study of Law. He opened a law office in Craftsbury after being admitted to the Vermont Bar.

Like Crafts many decades before him, Graham served as Moderator of the Town, serving from 1902-1932. Graham also presided over the Orleans Historical Society.

Horace F. Graham represented Craftsbury in the Vermont Legislature in 1892, 1900, and again in 1924. He was elected States Attorney for Orleans County in 1898 and again in 1900. Graham served as a Presidential Elector in 1900. He assisted in the revision of the Vermont Statutes published in 1933 as the Public Laws of the State.

Elected the Auditor of Accounts of the State of Vermont in 1902-1916, Graham was also a member of the State Educational Commission in 1913. From the position of Auditor, Graham was elected Governor of Vermont in 1917.

Graham was "considered a good Governor," but it was discovered that his last year as Auditor a large sum of money had disappeared. In 1918 he was charged with embezzlement, convicted, and sentenced to a long prison term. However, when he paid back the missing amount out of his own pocket, he received a full pardon. Graham always maintained his innocence in this matter, but asserted that, since the loss happened "on his watch," he was responsible for seeing that it was replaced. It is important to note his honorable attitude toward this smear on his term of office. Never did he express animosity toward his accusers.

In a historical address made at Craftsbury Common in remembrance of the One Hundredth anniversary of the Town of Craftsbury, on July 4, 1889, Horace F. Graham, was the featured speaker. He had this to say about his Masonic Lodge, Meridian Sun #20: "…It was fifth in the State, first in the county to receive its charter. From it have sprung most of the Lodges in this section of the country."

Graham continued," during the dark days of Masonry fifty years ago, William Hidden (another charter member) was accustomed to walk to Burlington to attend the meetings of the Grand Lodge and thus he preserved its charter. Before the division of the Lodge at Greensboro, it enjoyed a membership of 150, but the founding of this and other Lodges, and the misfortunes of the last ten years, have reduced it somewhat."


Summary

Here we have two men from different times in history. What motivated them to act for the public good and remain so willing to serve others? Some might say that they had excellent family examples to emulate. Education, examples of strong character, a personal code of conduct and the zeal to do for others seem to be significant factors.

Gov. Crafts’ father, Ebenezer Crafts, was the organizer of the Town, and served as its first Moderator. Prior to that, we find Col. Crafts opening an eighteen-mile road from Cabot, and clearing land for his homestead. Col. Crafts graduated from Yale College. At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, he organized a Company and joined the army at Cambridge, Mass. He also was one of the charter members of the Masonic Lodge in his town. He was a man of great energy and firmness of character.

Gov. Graham also had family ties which provided leadership examples. His mother certainly was a strong influence in his development, as was his ancestor, Judge Alvah R. French (1798-1876), a leading citizen of Craftsbury. In his honor that family name was given to Horace French Graham.

Both individuals benefited from their excellent backgrounds in education, having attended leading "Ivy League" educational institutions. Lives devoted to the public surely didn't’t affect their longevity--being octogenarian and septuagenarian respectively.

Finally, we can only guess at the influence provided by our Masonic fraternity. Samuel Crafts lived through and was directly affected by the Morgan Incident. This resulted in the organization of the Anti-Masonic political party, which was stronger in Vermont than any other state in the union. The fact that Horace Graham returned the missing funds is a positive direct reflection of these righteous and moral lessons. This was action borne out of their knowledge of Masonic ritual. We can surmise that the adopting strong Masonic tenets and principles and observing ancient landmarks of the Craft did influence these men’s characters.

Bibliography

1. Biographical Governors of the U.S., Vol. III, pps. 75,167,170
2. Child, Hamilton, County Gazetteer, Directory, Lamoille and Orleans Counties, 1883-84.
3. Hemingway, Abby Maria, Vermont Historical Gazetteer, Vol. III.
4. Historical Celebrations, Craftsbury, Vermont, 1889-1941, Cowler Pub. 1942.
5. Jeffrey, William H. Vermont-It’s Government.
6. Metraux. Daniel A., Craftsbury, A Brief Social History.
7. Records of the Vermont Grand Lodge of Freemasons.
8. Tillotson, Lee S., Ancient Craft Masonry in Vermont, 1920.

Note: Anyone interested in further in-depth information can reference the Crafts collection at Bailey-Howe Library at University of Vermont.


 

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