Harmonie Lodge History -19th Century
By the 1840s German-Americans made up one-third of Buffalo’s population and were the largest foreign-born group in the city. In 1848 dispensation was granted to form a German lodge known as Concordia Lodge No. 143, which name represents the Goddess of Concord; “Agreement by Stipulation”; and “Freedom of Peace”. Concordia Lodge’s charter was granted June 13, 1849.
In July 1854, a charter was granted to what Modestia Lodge No. 340, which name refers to one of the patron saints of Masonry, namely John the Evangelist, known as “the modest”. The founders of this Lodge added the two letters “I” and “A” to the end of the “modest”, according to the Latin, meaning “promoters of ”. Therefore “Modestia” means “promoters of Modesty”. This was the second German Lodge to be formed in Buffalo.
No doubt the flourishing condition of our two German sister Lodges in the late 1860’s prompted 17 of their members to petition the Grand Lodge of the State of New York for the formation of yet another German Lodge. Dispensation was granted November 30, 1869, and our lodge, known as Harmonie Lodge No. 699, named after the Greek Goddess of Harmony (Harmonia), came into existence. “Harmonie” is the German spelling of Harmony. The Latinized version of Her name is “Concordia,” which is also the name of the first German Lodge in Buffalo, NY. Concordia provided Harmonie with half of her founding members.
The Charter Members, with their parent Lodge and original position in Harmonie Lodge, are here noted:
Sebastian C. Keine – Concordia Lodge No. 143 – 1st Worshipful Master
Henry F. Juengling – Modestia Lodge No. 340 – 1st Senior Warden
Henry Breitweiser – Concordia Lodge No. 143 – 1st Junior Warden
Christian Kurtzmann – Modestia Lodge No. 340 – 1st Treasurer
Frederick Traenkle – Concordia Lodge No. 143 – 1st Secretary
Frederick H.C. Mey – Modestia Lodge Ho. 340 – 1st Senior Deacon
John J. Holser – Modestia Lodge No. 340 – 1st Junior Deacon
Henry Kraft – Modestia Lodge No. 340 – 1st Master of Ceremony
Adam Cornelius – Modestia Lodge No. 340 – 1st Steward
Jacob Behm – Concordia Lodge No. 143
Joseph Timmermann – Concordia Lodge No. 143
Robert Hager – Modestia Lodge No. 340
Casper A. Kuster – Modestia Lodge No. 340
Julius F. Schwartz – Modestia Lodge No. 340
Henry D. Keller – Concordia Lodge No. 143
Henry Nauert – Concordia Lodge No. 143
Frank Schaeffer – Concordia Lodge No. 143
The first candidates initiated into Freemasonry at Harmonie Lodge on January 15, 1870 were Bernhardt F. Gentch, William Jaeger, Wemer Nachbar, and Henry D. Zittel.
The first meeting under dispensation was held over Charles’ Ladies Apparel Store at 416 Main Street, just south of Court Street, in Buffalo, New York. Later this became C. A. Weed & Co.’s place of business, and eventually Liberty National Bank, known today as the Liberty Building. This first meeting took place December 15, 1869. The Charter for Harmonie Lodge was granted June 13, 1870.
In 1888, elaborate plans were made for the financing and erection of the Masonic Temple at 43 Niagara Street, Buffalo, New York. The building contract was awarded for the sum of $130,541.00 for labor and material, except the cost of the brick, which was furnished by Brother Louis Kirkland of Concordia Lodge No. 143. Harmonie Lodge had a prominent part in financing the new Temple and owned an equal interest in the Temple property with the other owning bodies. Because of the changing community and the reconstruction of our inner city, the Masonic Temple was razed in 1971. Today, it is the site of the New York State Family Court building of Erie County. When it became necessary to vacate the Temple property, the equity of each owning body was prorated and then paid to each owning body of the Temple. After which, Harmonie Lodge rented lodge room space from Ancient Landmark Temple at 318 Pearl Street for two years, and, in 1973 took up Lodge room rental of Depew Masonic Temple. In September 1994 a move was again made, to Sweet Home Temple in Eggertsville, New York, which is the home of Harmonie Lodge No. 699 today.
Harmonie Lodge, keeping in mind all of which that name implies, was well known for its Octet singing at the beginning of the 20th century. Vocal music being quite popular, some members of Harmonie Lodge also belonged to “Buffalo Orpheus”, that famous German singing society which featured their splendid rendition of “Gott Gruese Dich”. Brother Fritz Erfling was the organist, director and choir master of Buffalo Orpheus for many years.
Throughout the centuries, Freemasons of all Lodges, as well as Harmonie Lodge, assisted at the cornerstone laying ceremonies of many public buildings in Western New York. Harmonie Lodge attended said ceremonies for the City and County Building on June 24, 1872; Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Forest Lawn on October 21, 1880; Masonic Temple, 43 Niagara Street, Buffalo on June 26, 1890; United States Government Building Post Office on June 19, 1897; 74th Regiment Building on July 14, 1898; 65th Regiment Building on May 30, 1903; Asbury Methodist Church on June 13, 1871; State Asylum (the H.H. Richardson Building) on September 18, 1872; Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Lafayette Square on July 4, 1882; as well as Elmwood Music Hall on October 3, 1888. A significant cornerstone laying of more recent date was that of the Ismailia Temple Mosque in 1965. This cornerstone was laid with the same working tools used for the laying of the cornerstone at our Nation’s Capital Building. Many of the Harmonie Lodge brethren took part in this ceremony.
On June 19, 1895, Harmonie Lodge celebrated its 25th anniversary, titled in the German language “25 Magringer Stifftungs Feier”, held at the Masonic Temple, 43 Niagara Street, Buffalo, New York. The keynote address was given by Most Worshipful Christopher G. Fox, Past Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York.