Forming the Valley of Corning
During the spring of 1866, several Royal Arch Masons of Corning became desirous of obtaining the Scottish Rite degrees. A letter was sent to Orrin Welch, 33⁰ District Deputy Inspector General for the State of New York requesting necessary power to proceed and what preliminary steps are necessary to commence.
The answer: Ten or more Master Masons in good standing desirous of petitioning for the establishment of a Lodge of Perfection in Corning.
Note that the original query specified that Royal Arch Masons of the York Rite sought such a dispensation. It was not until 1871 that the rule requiring membership in Royal Arch was suspended.
The Masons who signed the original petition for the degrees and the Dispensation were largely leaders in the community. Many have streets in Corning named after them.
On September 14, 1866, Brothers from New York City communicated the degrees through the 32nd to thirty-two masons. Five Brothers of the 32nd brought a candidate from Rochester to receive the degrees at the request of the Rochester Consistory, also in the process of formation. Dispensations were issued for all four Bodies of the Scottish Rite in the Valley of Corning and Charters granted on May 16, 1867, thus our great Biennial to be celebrated next year.
Then came the need to find a meeting place. An agreement was made to rent the Masonic Hall at a rental fee of $2.00 for each evening meeting. Furnishings were obtained by an assessment of $15.00 placed against each member and money borrowed from members.
Apparently there were no Reunions, as such in those early days. Instead, degrees were “communicated” whenever there were applicants. It was not until some years later that at the request of Corning several of the degrees were “worked” in New York City for their benefit. It was the first time local Brothers had actual seen the degrees dramatized.
Thereafter, a few degrees were “worked” in Corning, the balance conferred by communication. There were some two-day “Special Communications” beginning in 1971 that were much like the Reunion of today. By 1873 semi-annual Reunions had begun with a banquet to close each.