Ninety Years ago a small body of Master Masons coming from various lodges, many from Americus Lodge in Woodbridge and Raritan Lodge in Perth Amboy, became weary of traveling to and from Lodge by slow and inconvenient methods of travel, and decided to do something about it. Having the evergreen sprig of faith in their hearts, they thought it only proper and fitting that a Lodge of Masons should be organized in Carteret New Jersey. It was the consensus of opinion that a properly formed body of Master Masons, working under a charter from the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of New Jersey, could accomplish much for Free Masonry in the Borough and that a closer contact and fellowship could prevail. Once the news had spread it was not long before thirty-three Sojourning Masons of the Borough got busy making plans for the formation of a new lodge.
Many obstacles were encountered at the start, but were overcome as time passed. One of the great difficulties was that of Territorial Jurisdiction, which was strictly observed. Since the Borough was small in area as well as in population, membership of the Lodge was severely restricted. However, over the years our membership has grown from an original twenty-nine to our present membership.
The Lodge was instituted in April of 1920 with the signatures of Lewis N. Bradford, August A. Marks, and William A. Sharpe on the charter. Other charter members were as follows: Charles Phillips, P.M. , Soren Koed, Thomas Yorke, Fred Muller, Paul P. Ohlott, William Calderhead, John Groom, Fred Ritchey, Fred Simons, August A. Fink, Fred Iddings, Julius Kloss, Arthur Taylor, Fred M. Eggert, Nathan Jacobowitz, Leo R. Brown, William Slonaker, Joseph Hoffman, Leon A. Chase, Levenson Harris, Harry Morecraft, John Lilly, Charles Sears, P.M., George T. Harned, P.M., and Irving Bainton.
The first set of by-laws was written by Lewis N. Bradford, William A. Sharpe and Paul Ohlott, Secretary.
The by-laws were approved on June 14th, 1920 by the membership of the Lodge. All amendments to the by-laws were approved by Most Worshipful Earnest A. Reed who was Grand Master at that time. Corrections to the by-laws were made and approved as corrected by a Grand Lodge Committee consisting of George W. Fortmeyer, Walter Chanler, Edward Sears, Fred Tilden and Alonzo Church. These by-laws were written at a time when Carteret was known as Roosevelt. After much discussion and many suggestions, the Lodge was finally named Theodore Roosevelt after that very fine Statesman, Rough Rider, and President.
The records show that the initiation fee was set at $75, and dues at $6 per year. Very few members were added to the Lodge in those early days which may be attributed to the fact that money was rather hard “to come by”.
Many donations were received in the early days of the lodge. Brother Marks was responsible for having the Three Lesser Lights and the wand stands cast from aluminum and presented them to the lodge as part of its furnishings. Contributions or gifts from other sources consisted of the Columns, Jewels, and the Three Great Lights.
Odd Fellows hall was selected as the meeting place, and after the necessary changes had been made as suggested by a committee of four from Americus Lodge and representing the Grand Lodge and consisting of brothers M.C. Brown, C.R. Chase, Edward Statler, and Charles Sears and accompanied by Lewis N. Bradford, Soren Koed, Andrew Sprague, and John Goderstadt, meetings were held regularly the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Mondays of each month. The first appointed officers were as follows: Senior Decon, Charles Phillips; Junior Deacon, August A. Fink; Senior M.C. Fred Iddings; Junior M.C. William Calderhead; Senior Steward, Fred Ritchey; Junior Steward, Nathan Jacobowitz, Lewis N. Bradford became Worshipful Master; William A. Sharp, Senior Warden; August A. Marks, Junior Warden.
The first stated communication was held on June 14, 1920. A committee consisting of Soren Koed, George Harned and Lewis Bradford was appointed to secure furniture and equipment for the Lodge. It was estimated that it would cost about $600 to make the necessary purchases. After some discussion, it was regularly moved and carried that each member contribute $10 immediately and pledge a balance of $25 to be paid during April, May, and June to finance the purchase of equipment.
On July 26, 1920 Worshipful Brothers McKeown, Chase, and Statler of Americus Lodge presented Theodore Roosevelt with the officers chains and collars. Two emergent communications were held in July and August for the purpose of conferring the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft Degrees. Among other gifts to the lodge, the Square, Compasses and Holy Bible were presented by Raritan Lodge as well as the corn, wine, and oil. Lafayette Lodge presented our Lodge with the Rough and Perfect Ashlars.
The first official visit of the District Deputy, R.W. Walter Hoahler, was made on September 23, at which time the esoteric work of the three symbolic degrees was exemplified to his satisfaction.
At the 18th state communication held on December 13, 1920, Brothers Sharpe and Brown, were asked to prepare a Trestle Board for January and February. This incidentally was the first Trestle Board issued by the lodge. At this meeting, Brothers Sears and Harned were welcomed as affiliates from Americus Lodge in Woodbridge.
In February of 1957, it became apparent that the sentiment for a new Temple in Carteret had crystallized. W.B. Sol. Price, sitting Master, initiated the drive and thru his endeavor and enthusiasm kept the project on a straight course. In keeping with a sound financial policy it was apparent that the present income based on dues of $10.00 per year, and an initiation fee of $115.00 was inadequate to finance either the construction of a temple or its upkeep once built. The by-laws committee decided on an increase of dues to $20.00 per year, half of which was to be earmarked for the payment of any mortgage, and maintenance of the building. The initiation fee was increased to $125.00 in addition to any assessments by the rand Lodge. These changes to the by-laws were recommended to the brethren and after due and timely notice to the membership were adopted, and submitted to Grand Lodge by a majority vote on June 24, 1957. The by-laws as amended were approved by M.W. Raymond N. Jensen, Grand Master, on July 25, 1957 effective as of January 1, 1958.
The plans for the Temple were drawn by Brother Charles Boksa, then Senior Warden of Lafayette Lodge #27 of Rahway, NJ. Some difficulties were encountered and corrections were made to the plans and specification. Thereafter they were submitted to the brethren and adopted at one of the communications.
Brother Jack Humpries, President of the Carteret Craftsmens Club, presented to John Nemish, building Chairman a deed to the property for the erection of a Temple. Upon the receipt of the deed, the committee proceeded to draw contracts for various categories of construction and advertised for bids.
Having secured the approval of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, the membership by resolution formed the Masonic Association of Carteret on September 22, 1958. The officers of the Association were authorized to sign contracts as specified, and to supervise the erection and management of the Temple property.
The building Committee, acting as the General Contractor, completed the building at a cost of $48, 000, but it must be remembered, that many of our brethren contributed their labor and knowledge; towards painting, insulation, setting the ceiling beams, electrical work, and many small jobs too numerous to mention.
Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Saturday afternoon September 27, 1958 at 3 P.M. on the site of the new building. On Saturday November 22, 1958 the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New Jersey, met in emergent communication at two o’clock P.M. in the Odd Fellows Hall on Pershing Avenue for the purpose of laying the cornerstone of the new Masonic Temple of Theodore Roosevelt Lodge No. 219 F.&A.M at 86 Elm Street.
The Grand Lodge was opened in ample form by the Grand Master, thereafter under the direction of the R.W. Grand marshal, the Grand Lodge Officers, Officers and members of Theodore Roosevelt Lodge, visiting lodges from the district, Knights Templar, and a delegation of the Crescent String Band proceeded to march to the site of the new Temple where the cornerstone was laid with appropriate Masonic Ceremonies. Approximately 500 brethren took part in the parade.
The first regular communication of Theodore Roosevelt Lodge No. 219 F.&A.M. was held in the new Temple on September 14, 1959 and the Lodge room was full to capacity. Many visitors from the state at large and especially from the 27-th Masonic District were present.
Over the years many events have taken place in our lodge,, and there have been many of our brothers who have worked hard and spent many hours of their valuable time for our lodge and deserve to be honored and thanked for their unselfish efforts.
For the first forty years our lodge had held its communication on the third floor of rented quarters in the Odd Fellows Hall before moving to our present location. During the past decades since then our membership has grown from the original 29 to where it is today. Our founding fathers in faith and determination have made a dream become a reality. Over the year’s good fellowship, faith, and industry has kept the light of Masonry burning in our midst. Our officers have been efficient, our Past Masters helpful and our members interested.
No one particular person can be thanked for the success of our Lodge. Each and every member who has worked, contributed, and given much of his time without compensation, has accomplished this because of what is in his heart, “friendship, morality and brotherly love”.
We offer thanks to God, our Creator, and Benefactor, for the favor he has shown in blessing this endeavor. It is our prayer that we shall prove ourselves in the future to be worthy of his favor and that we shall demonstrate our gratitude by walking uprightly and charitably before all mankind.