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Updated: October 15, 2022 @ 1:47 pm
The gravesite of Franklin P. Kilborn.
The gravesite of Franklin P. Kilborn.
Editor’s note: This is the third part of a series from Natalie J. Woodall. The first two parts of the series can be found on OswegoCountyNewsNow.com.
OSWEGO — The decade of the 1850s witnessed many significant events in American history. The discovery of gold in California was the impetus for the migration of thousands of men to the West Coast. The doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” hastened that expansion westward, resulting in bloody conflicts with indigenous populations and Hispanics. Women were beginning the long struggle for suffrage. Slavery and its spread to new states were important cultural and political topics. Improvements in transportation eased travel from one part of the country to another. Dire conditions in other countries contributed to increasing numbers of immigrants.
Oswego participated in many of those cultural and political changes. According to the 1850 federal census, the city’s population was 12,205. By 1860 it had risen to 16,816, an increase of 37.8 percent. The city boasted a high school which opened in 1853 with Delos Gary, a member of Oswego Lodge No. 127, as its first principal. The Oswego Public Library, the gift of Gerritt Smith, was chartered in 1853, constructed in 1855-1856, and opened in 1857. According to Smith’s instructions, no one would be denied entry on the basis of sex, color, or religious persuasion. Newspapers such as the Oswego Commercial Times and the Oswego Daily Palladium kept city residents informed of local and national affairs. Abolitionist sentiment swelled and the clandestine underground railroad movement became ever more active during this period.
Change was also evident in the ranks of local Masonry. At the end of 1854, Oswego Lodge No. 127 boasted a membership of 73. In 1855, 15 new members were added to the roster, notably John Churchill and Captain George Walter Vickery. By December 1856 30 more, including Wardwell Greene Robinson and George Goble Sr., had been enrolled.
While the records are scant, it appears that dissatisfaction or disagreements among the brothers caused several to advocate the formation of a new lodge within the city. Since the dispensation from Grand Lodge was granted on Jan. 8, 1857, the very latest the vote to recommend such a move would have occurred in 1856. Whatever the cause, 18 members of Oswego Lodge became charter members of Frontier City No. 422. Among them were Franklin P. Kilborn, Goble Sr., John McNair, and Malcolm Bronson.
The members of the new lodge held their first meeting under dispensation on Jan, 13 at which time officers were installed: Kilborn, worshipful master; Bronson, senior warden; Gleason F. Dixon, junior warden; Jesse M. O’Leary, secretary; and McNair, treasurer.
Frontier Lodge No. 422 received its charter on June 12, 1857, and in December held its first chartered election. Kilborn was again elected worshipful master; Dixon, senior warden; John Wesley Buttolph, junior warden. Other officers were John Rice, secretary; McNair, treasurer; George Rogers, senior deacon; and Edward Nichols, junior deacon.
The new lodge celebrated St. John’s Day in June 1858 with the dedication of its “splendid new Masonic Temple.” It was decorated with furniture described as “rich and in good taste.”
The first man initiated into the new lodge was William Blackwood in 1858. By 1932 when Frontier City planned its 75th anniversary the roll totaled 1, 271 raised or affiliated members.
Kilborn was the son of John Kilborn and Mary Ann Kellogg Noble. He was born in Clayton, New York, on Sept. 14, 1828. After spending time in New York City where he reportedly worked as an accountant for “a large mercantile establishment,” he moved to Oswego. At first he was a cashier for Eagle & Stone and later was an accountant in Forward & Smith’s Commission House. He joined Oswego Lodge in February 1854.
On Dec. 22, 1854, Kilborn, a member of Konoshioni Encampment No. 48 IOOF, was elected senior warden for 1855. He was a charter member of Crocker Chapter 165 Royal Arch Masons in 1857. This organization later became known as Lake Ontario Chapter No. 165 RAM.
Kilborn was re-elected worshipful master for 1859, 1860, and 1861. He was nearing the end of his term when he died of unknown causes on Dec. 16, 1861. He was buried in Riverside Cemetery, Scriba.
Dixon, Frontier City’s first senior warden, was born in Erie County, New York, in 1822, the son of unknown parents. In 1850 he lived in Buffalo working as a “warehouse man.” By 1855 he had moved to Oswego. An advertisement in a local newspaper in 1852 revealed he was a dealer in various types of salt as the agent for H. W. Millard & Company.
Dixon, who joined Oswego Lodge in September 1851, was elected worshipful master of Frontier City for 1862. He was also a charter member of Crocker Chapter 165 RAM.
At an unknown date Dixon and his family moved west, first to Chicago and later to Toledo, Ohio, where he worked as a bookkeeper. He succumbed to tuberculosis in Toledo on June 22, 1870. His body was taken to Pulaski, Michigan, for burial in his wife’s family plot in Luttenton Cemetery.
Buttolph, Frontier City’s first junior warden, was born in Dutchess County, New York, in 1823, the son of Horace and Mary Buttolph. He was enumerated in Oswego City in 1850 and in 1855 claimed he had lived there for eight years. He was a bookkeeper by occupation. In 1855 he worked in the Munger House. Later he was a ticket agent for the Ontario & St. Lawrence Steamboat Company as well as the Michigan Southern Railroad Line.
Unlike Kilborn and Dixon, Buttolph was not a charter member of Frontier City Lodge although when he was raised a Master Mason is unknown. His participation was short-lived because in 1860 he and his family were living in Buffalo, New York. By 1864 he was living and working as a bookkeeper in Chicago. He died there on Nov. 30, 1891. According to a death notice published in the Chicago Tribune he was to be buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.
The outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861 did not mean the suspension of activities in Oswego’s two Masonic lodges but the war, the culmination of a decade of social and political turmoil, meant that scores of local Masons enrolled in the Army, Navy, cavalry, and artillery to do their part to preserve the Union. Many did not return.
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