On October 17, 1888, Skaneateles Lodge, No. 986, of the International Order of Good Templars (I.O.G.T.) hosted a pumpkin pie festival in the village. The Good Templars were dedicated to temperance, and sponsoring alcohol-free social events was a part of their program.
The Good Templars, although modeled on Freemasonry with ritual and regalia, uniquely admitted both men and women (which probably meant their members could bake a better pie). The order began in Utica, N.Y., in 1850, and spread worldwide, with more than 400,000 members by 1869. The Skaneateles Lodge was founded about 1878.
A typical Good Templars ceremonial collar
Temperance was a prominent issue in Skaneateles, and in the 1880s and ‘90s villagers had their pick of organizations to join: the I.O.G.T., the St. Mary’s of the Lake Temperance Society, and/or the local chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). The Quakers held monthly temperance prayer meetings, and there were also “Gospel Temperance Meetings” and lectures by visiting “reformed drunkards.” So many “signed the pledge” to abstain that it’s a wonder there was anyone left to drink.
Although last seen in the village circa 1909, the I.O.G.T. still spreads the word from its National Headquarters in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And while many think of the W.C.T.U. as a relic of the Prohibition era, the Skaneateles chapter met here as late as 1968, and the national organization today maintains a library and publishing house in Evanston, Illinois.