The Masonic Temple, 1924

Masons Cover

To celebrate their new home in the Jewett Mansion, the Masons of Skaneateles held a week-long carnival in August of 1924. Prior to the festivities, on the temple’s spacious grounds (today’s municipal parking lot), the Masonic Fair Bull, a thoroughbred Guernsey from the farm of William Mills of Rose Hill, was on exhibition.

A large tent (40′ x 160′) was erected between the Masonic Temple on Genesee Street and the Skaneateles Savings Bank, and a REO motor car was rolled inside to be given away as a “gate prize.” Booths inside the tent included those dedicated to blankets, groceries, aluminum ware, brooms, candy and refreshments.

Tickets were on sale for a lake excursion in an outboard motor boat made by the Skaneateles Boat & Canoe Co., with the holder of the lucky ticket to win the boat at week’s end. Vaudeville acts and band concerts enlivened the scene every afternoon and evening. And a 64-page booklet, with histories of the village and Masonic order, and photos of the interior, was sold as a souvenir.

Front Hall




Lodge Room Looking West

Lodge Room Looking East



At the fair’s end, the winning names were drawn:

REO 1924 copy

The REO motor car was won by Mrs. Glenn Bass of Marietta; a cedar chest went to Donald DeWitt of Mottville; the popularity contest — which pitted pairs of young ladies against one another — was won by Marian Smith and Louise Cottle, the prize a three-day, all-expenses-paid trip to New York City; Clyde Cornwell won an Eskimo dog. And the motor boat went to L.A. Gray of Homer, N.Y.

Masonic Boat

The carnival was lucrative for the Masons; the blanket booth alone took in $2,200. However, not everyone in the village was pleased. The Sunday after the carnival, the Rev. Harold G. Stearns of the Methodist Church delivered the following address:

“The moral sentiment of this community has been shocked and outraged this past week by the spectacle of a Saturnalia of gambling carried on under the patronage and for the profit of the local lodge of Masons. The strict laws of the State against this vice have been openly and flagrantly violated. The things that have happened would be almost unbelievable had they not really occurred. This is only the more true because Skaneateles has always prided itself on being an eminently respectable and law-abiding village. It is too much to hope that the effects of this thing will be confined to one week. It will be strange indeed if we do not see a wave of gambling sweep the village. The pernicious effects of this fever upon the youth are to be feared especially. The bad effects of the past week have been rendered all the more certain because the high auspices of the affair have lent gambling a false color of respectability.

“The better moral element among the Masons themselves deplore what has happened. I myself am a Mason and I know that what has been done is absolutely contrary to the high ethical teachings of Masonry. In conversation with several other Masons I have discovered that they agree with me in this matter. It has been reported to me that the Grand Lodge of the State has issued an edict that local lodges shall not commit practices such as we have just had a sample of. If this is true it will prevent a recurrence under any Masonic order of what has happened in the past week.

“A precedent has been set, however, which other organizations in the community may attempt to follow. We have been caught asleep this time, and the officials whose duty it was to enforce the law have been singularly blind to the whole business. We will not be caught asleep a second time however, neither will the proper officials be permitted to remain in their blissful blindness. Their eyes will be opened. I am resolved to do all within my power to prevent the vice of gambling within the village of Skaneateles in the future, no matter who or what may be sponsoring it. A group of men are ready to back me up in this determination.”

The pastor’s address was reprinted on the front page of the Skaneateles Press on Friday, August 15th. Also on the front page that day, Marian Smith and Louise Cottle thanked everyone for the trip to New York City.

Samuel Hurd

Hurd at Harvard

In 1877, Robert Minturn Grinnell and Sophie Van Alen Grinnell came to Skaneateles, and bought land on the western shore of the lake from a farmer, Elias Hunsiker. (The plot today lies between Westgate and the Skaneateles Country Club.) Robert Grinnell then sold the northern half of the land to Lucy Van Alen Hurd, his wife’s sister, and her husband, Dr. Samuel Hutchins Hurd.

And so Samuel Hurd came to Skaneateles. He was a physician, a graduate of Harvard University (Class of 1852) and the New York College of Medicine. By all accounts, he was a fine fellow. He served as a surgeon in the Union Army (Massachusetts 5th Army) early during the Civil War, and thereafter treated the wounded as they returned to Boston, providing medical care for their families as well, for free. In 1860, he married Lucy Van Alen, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, and never wanted for money after that.

To the Middlesex Medical Society, he lectured on “Medical Knowledge among Indian Tribes” describing the benefits of the “vapor bath” and citing some possible additions to the Pharmacopoeia from among their herbal remedies. He lectured on “The Human Skeleton” to inmates of the Massachusetts State Prison in Charlestown, Boston. He was a member of the American Geographical Society and the New York Historical Society, and made donations of maps and documents to the historical societies of Kansas, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. One writer noted, “His bright spirit, his keen knowledge of human nature, soon drew to him a large number of friends.”

After his retirement from the practice of medicine, he and Lucy lived in New York City, visited Newport and Saratoga Springs, traveled abroad a great deal, and summered in Skaneateles.

Here, Samuel Hurd fostered the village’s first society for the protection of song birds, even before there was an Audubon Society. At the Skaneateles Fair of 1878, he exhibited a collection of curiosities including “a pitcher carved from coquina, a geological formation found only in St. Augustine, Fla., and from which the fort at that place was built, osage oranges and other vegetable curiosities.”

In 1879, he made “elegant improvements” to his house and grounds (which included taking down Abraham Cuddeback’s barn, the first frame building built in Skaneateles). He owned “an elegant and gracefully modeled row boat” made by S.S. Vail of Auburn. He hosted summer guests from New York City.

Samuel Hurd died in 1897, in Atlantic City, “after a sickness of a few weeks, and in this sickness he gave full proof of his patience, courage, faith and consecrated heart.” His house was sold that year, and Lucy afterwards stayed with her sister, Sophie Grinnell. Lucy Hurd died in 1912 in New York City.

Hurd Rood Screen

In 1915, at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Skaneateles, a rood screen (a series of wooden arches in the chancel separating the high altar from the sanctuary) was given to honor the memory of Samuel Hurd. The local press reported, “During his stays with us he proved himself a genial and very esteemed neighbor. Possessed of ample means he made his house a most hospitable one, and it was adorned with all that shows liberal culture, and all that can make a home pleasant and attractive.”

The rood screen was probably donated by Sophie, who had previously donated the enlarged chancel itself in memory of her late husband in 1901. The memorial to Samuel Hurd was marked with a plaque on a railing of the rood screen. (During a recent renovation, the railing was removed from the rest of the woodwork; it is hoped the plaque has found a new home.)

Sophie Grinnell died in 1916, and was buried in the Hurd family vault in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, N.Y., with the earthly remains of Robert, Samuel and Lucy.

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Samuel Hurd’s Daguerreotype photo by John Adams Whipple, 1852, in the Harvard Library

“Among his [Hurd’s] classmates at Harvard were Horatio Alger, the author; Caleb Davis Bradlee, the clergyman; Addison Brown, the lawyer; President George L. Cary, of Meadville; Dr. Cheever, the surgeon; Joseph Hodges Choate and William Gardner Choate, the lawyers ; Henry Gardner Denny, the historian and lawyer; Professor Thayer of the Law School; William C. Williamson, and the late Professor Gurney, and several other well-known men, and he received the respect of every one of his classmates.”

A History and Genealogy of the Family of Hurd in the United States (1910) by Dena Hurd