Norwood’s Orient Lodge of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons is the oldest fraternal organization in town. It was founded on February 2, 1861, when Norwood was still part of Dedham. The group first met in Village Hall. They eventually bought the building and occupied it until October, 1915, when the structure was purchased by George F. Willett and moved to the corner of Broadway and Nahatan. The Norwood Messenger had its offices there for many years.
The Masons next met in Conger Hall, on the second floor of the Conger Building, which stood at the corner of Washington Street and Railroad Avenue. Eventually, a new Masonic Temple, designed by Norwood architect and Lodge member, William G. Upham, was built on Day Street in 1917. It remains the headquarters of the Orient Lodge today.
Charter members of this local Lodge included: Josiah Talbot and Joseph Sumner, both leading citizens of the village. Josiah “Shout” Talbot studied many subjects including pomology (apple breeding), phrenology (a theory linking personality traits to head and skull shape), and general horticulture. Talbot was also a minister, a spring-bed manufacturer, and a photographer. Joseph Sumner was the owner of the South Dedham Tavern. When the Universalists organized a Society in South Dedham in 1827, Sumner allowed the group to meet in his tavern. In the early 1840s, Universalist minister Edwin Thompson – a staunch temperance man – convinced Sumner to destroy his entire stock of liquor, thus making his tavern “dry.”
As indicated by the Masonic symbol on this gravestone, someone within the Dean and Chickering families was a member as well. There are likely other as yet unidentified Masons buried in Old Parish. Until the twentieth century, membership in the fraternity was customarily kept private.