This chronological history of Wellington Lodge #127 was compiled from archived documents found by Worshipful Brother Scott Markel the Lodge Historian and posted in November 2008.
The history of the lodge as recorded by Edward Wells of Bay Village, for years Wellington's historian, begins on September 27, 1844 when several members of eastern lodges, pioneer community leaders, met at the American House then operated by Jabez L. Wadsworth.
It was decided to form a lodge as soon as temporary permission could be granted by the Grand Lodge of Ohio. This request was sponsored by the Mansfield Lodge, then the nearest order in operation.
The first meeting of the order was on December 17, 1844. Jabez L. Wadsworth was elected to serve as first worshipful master of what was then called Union Lodge. The senior warden was the Reverend Harlow P. Sage of Huntington who was later to be the first worshipful master of Sullivan Lodge No. 313, West Salem Lodge No. 398 and LaGrange Lodge No. 399. The senior warden was Asa W. Whitney, a pioneer settler of Pittsfield.
The first lodge hall was a small candle-lit room under the eaves of the Wellington House, later known as the American House, where the library now stands. The first candidate was Silas D. Whitney, brother-in-law of J.L. Wadsworth, who had received a previous degree in Massachusetts.
In complete records indicate that because of immediate growth the lodge moved to what is now the second floor of the Dr. Gregg Building, Wellington's oldest standing business block, now owned by Mrs. Paul Powell of Orrville. In 1854 these quarters were outgrown and the lodge moved to a brick building where the present hall now stands.
It was at this time that the name Union Lodge specified in its charter, dated October 22, 1845, was changed to its present title Wellington Lodge No. 127.
On the morning of September 13, 1858 occurred Wellington's first serious fire and most historic event. Five buildings, extending from the site of the present Reserve building to the Robart building were destroyed. Among these was the Boise building which housed the lodge.
The new telegraph had spread the rumor that the town was burning down. By noon people from the nearby areas had come to see the damage. Just as the fire was brought under control, it was rumored that a runaway slave, held by a professional man-stealer named Jennings was being brought to the Wellington House, pursued by 60 Abolitionists from Oberlin.
Soon the hotel was filled by an orderly but determined mob who demanded the fugitive's release. Jennings, not aware of the fire, thought the large crowd was due to his effort to get the fugitive named John Price, to Kentucky where $500 of reward money awaited him. Jennings retreated to the old lodge room under the eaves and parleyed with the mob. In the confusion Price was smuggled to safety.
In late 1858 the lodge agreed with Dr. James Rust to build a third floor to his building, later owned by O.C. Robart. The lodge occupied these rooms for the next 44 years.
Although the members had been divided on the question of slavery, it produced no friction in the lodge as it had in one of the town's largest churches. Following Lincoln's call for volunteers, the order mobilized its membership numbering over ninety to aid in the prosecution of the war.
The years following the Civil War and before the panic of 1873 found many veterans becoming members of the order. In this group was the order's most famous member, Archibald M. Willard. Prior to his removal to Cleveland he was active in the affairs of the lodge and shortly before his death tinted a copy of "The Spirit of '76", which the lodge presented to the schools in 1916. Mr. Willard was present at the ceremonies. As a result of this gift Wellington now possesses what are thought to be the first and last drawings of this famous painting.
*Note: Willard received degree in 1867, left by dimit in 1891.
By the turn of the century the need for a larger hall resulted in the move to the lodge's present location. In 1903 six men, all of them Masons, formed a company to construct a building, known as the Reserve Building on the site of the burned Goodsell Store, as an investment and arranged to provide a roomier quarters for their lodge on the third floor.
In December, 1917, the hall was virtually destroyed when the Reserve Building was badly damaged by fire. The I.O.O.F came to the aid of the order, loaning the use of its hall in the First Wellington Bank building. Even though it did suffer physical loss, the prosperity of the lodge was uninterrupted. The restored and modernized rooms were officially dedicated on May 23, 1921.
Growth of the lodge has been in keeping with the growth of the community.
The charter displayed in the lodge room is an exact duplicate of the original which was lost in the fire of December, 1917 and was issued on November 27, 1918.
The charter members of Wellington Lodge #127 were: Chauncey Barker, Martin L. Blair, John Lindsey, G.G. Ogden, Bethuel Phelps, Seth Root, Harlow P. Sage (Senior Warden), Joel B. Smith, William Swift, Daniel Tillotson, Ira Tillotson, Jabez L. Wadsworth (Worshipful Master), Asa W. Whitney (Junior Warden), and S. D. Whitney.
The Grand Lodges officers were: William B. Thrall (Grand Master), William B. Hubbard (Deputy Grand Master), George Keifer (Senior Grand Warden), Stephen Clary (Junior Grand Warden), and John J. Arthur (Grand Secretary).