MIDDLEPORT – Jan. 15 will go down in history as a date two local Masonic lodges will not forget.
On that date, Middleport’s Cataract Lodge No. 295 and Medina’s Masonic Lodge No. 336 consolidated to become the Towpath Lodge No. 1193.
Like many service organizations in this day and age, members are aging and membership is declining. The Medina lodge faced the reality several years ago when it gave up its vendor space at the Orleans County 4-H Fair because they no longer had manpower to run their sausage booth (which they built and took down each year for decades).
After selling their lodge building on West Center Street in Medina, they began to explore other options.
Herb Koenig, right, installing master for ceremonies Jan. 15 in which Medina and Middleport Masonic lodges consolidated to become the Towpath Masonic Lodge, introduces the new master Matthew Flammger. At rear is the Most Worshipful James Sullivan of Lockport, who presented the charge to the brethren.
The Cataract Lodge was founded in 1853, and the Medina Lodge in 1854. The merger of these two lodges will insure they continue for many years to come.
This is the second merger Medina has gone through, having merged with the Yates Lodge when it closed in 2007.
As talks of the merger between Medina and Middleport progressed, a committee was formed to choose a new name. Scott Mason of Medina, former secretary of Medina Lodge and newly-installed secretary of the Towpath Lodge, suggested the new name, which is fitting for both villages.
Herb Koenig of Gasport, a 65-year-member of Cataract Lodge and four-time master, said the new merger expands their membership base.
“I like the name of our new lodge,” he said. “It links Medina and Middleport. We’re getting to know people from Medina we didn’t know before.”
Photos by Ginny Kropf: Members of the newly formed Towpath Masonic Lodge are installed during ceremonies Jan. 15. Here, secretary Scott Mason, standing at left, takes the oath after being escorted to the Bible by installing marshal Kevin Luckman Sr. Waiting to be installed are, seated from left, junior warden Eugene Flammger, his son and master Matthew Flammger, senior warden Robert Donovan and, treasurer Allan Kropf (behind Donovan). Seated at right is Tim McGee of Albion, a member of Albion’s Renovation Lodge and the Towpath Lodge, and his wife Myrna, who were among the evening’s visitors.
Koenig was emcee for the installation ceremonies and was also the installing officer.
“This is a very special occasion, and I’m honored I was asked to be installing officer,” he said.
After welcoming guests and members, Koenig explained the history of Freemasonry, whose roots he said are lost in antiquity.
Robert Donovan of Medina, Senior Warden of the new Towpath Masonic Lodge, stands by the roster of previous masters of Medina’s Masonic Lodge No. 336, dating back to 1854.
“Our recorded history extends backward well over 600 years,” he said.
He continued to explain that Freemasonry is a moral institution, and is not just social or merely ritualistic, but is also educational and patriotic. It is neither a secret society, a religion or a substitute for religion, although Masons do have a few signs and words of recognition which they like to keep to themselves.
As the installing master for the evening, Koenig called each officer to come forward and be sworn in. One by one, they were escorted in front of the Bible by the installing marshal, Kevin Luckman Sr.
New officers of the Towpath Lodge are Worshipful Master Matthew Flammger of Middleport, Senior Warden Robert Donovan of Medina, Junior Warden Eugene Flammger of Middleport, Treasurer Allan Kropf of Medina, Secretary Scott Mason of Medina, Senior Deacon Pritchard “Jim” Anderson of Middleport, Junior Deacon Jack Hansler of Medina, Tiler Fulton Rogers Jr. of Medina and trustees Doug Hedges of Lyndonville (three years), Herb Koenig (two years) and Alan Kozody of Medina (one year).
In addition to Koenig and Luckman, others who participated in the installation ceremony were David Pynn of Lockport, installing chaplain; Right Worshipful John Krupp, chaplain of the Sutherland Lodge in North Tonawanda, who gave the charge to the wardens; Very Worshipful Joseph Daniels from Red Jacket Lodge in Lockport, who gave the master’s charge; and the Most Worshipful James Sullivan of Lockport, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York from 2012 to 2014, who gave the charge to the brethren.
Sullivan presented a decree from the Grand Lodge, dated Dec. 18, 2019, granting approval of the consolidation. He also conveyed wishes from the Grand Master, the Most Worshipful William M. Sardone.
Sullivan believes Masonry is on the upswing in New York state. For the first time in many years, he said there is positive growth in membership.
“There are so many good things in our fraternity,” Sullivan said. “We have a new program called Coats for Kids, and we are asking members throughout the state to bring slightly used coats for children. One thing Masons do is take care of our wives, our children and our families.”
From left, the Right Worshipful John Krupp from the Sutherland Masonic Lodge in North Tonawanda, newly installed senior deacon Pritchard “Jim” Anderson and treasurer Allan Kropf salute during the installation ceremonies of the Towpath Masonic Lodge.
The Masonic fraternity also has a Brotherhood Fund, to which members donate annually. Frank Berger of Medina has been a member of the Medina Lodge since 1960 and chair of the Brotherhood Fund for 25 years. He said they have 11 different benevolences to which members may designate their donation.
Matthew Flammger in his first address as master of the new Towpath Lodge, said he had been thinking for the past few weeks about this new beginning for both lodges.
“It’s strange this has happened at the dawn of a new decade,” he said. “We have a new name and a new lodge. I look forward to being able to give the charter of Lodge No. 1193 to the next master who will lead us into the future. It is an unforgettable experience to be the first master of Towpath Lodge.”
Matthew is no stranger to Masonry. His father, Eugene Flammger, is a member of Middleport’s lodge, as was his grandfather, the late Gordon Flammger. Matthew has been master of Cataract Lodge since 2015.
Matthew Flammger of Middleport kneels before the Bible as he is sworn in as the first master of the newly consolidated Medina and Middleport Masonic lodges, to be known as the Towpath Lodge. Standing near him is Kevin Luckman Sr., installing marshal.
Matthew can expect cooperation from Masons in other local lodges to perform his official duties, including James Horncastle, master of Albion’s Renovation Lodge No. 97.
Horncastle was among representatives from several other lodges who witnessed the consolidation and installation. He said he became a Mason for friendship and brotherhood.
“For a number of years, I never had a direction in which to put my energy,” Horncastle said. “I wanted to do something for myself and my community, and I began looking for a way. I had been to the homes of several of the Masons and they had visited mine, so I already knew some of them. I wanted to be a part of the sense of community this organization engenders. Matthew was one of the first people I met when I joined Masons and I wanted to see him installed.”
Horncastle said he looks forward to working with the newly combined lodges, helping with their fundraisers and degree work.
“I know 30 or 40 years from now, I can look at their charter and say I was there,” he said. “It’s a part of history.”
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