According to a county history, Samuel Tuthill (1767-1851), the owner of this engraved medal (at left), moved from Southold, at the eastern end of Long Island, to the new settlement of Newtown in Tioga County, New York, in 1793. Tax and census records from the 1790s and the early 1800s show Samuel Tuthill making a home and raising a family there. As part of building their community, in 1793 area Masons established Union Lodge No. 30. Samuel Tuthill became an active member of the Newtown lodge; from 1813 to 1826 he served as Master at least four times. Newtown citizens changed the name of their town to Elmira in 1808. A few years later Samuel Tuthill was one of the men who received a dispensation from the Grand Chapter of New York to form a Royal Arch chapter, Elmira No. 42, in 1815. The Grand Chapter granted the group a warrant the following year.
After taking the mark degree, Tuthill commissioned a craftsman to make this silver medal for him. In the shape of a shield topped with a Bible and a square and compasses, Tuthill’s medal resembles others made around the same time such as this example from Connecticut and another from New York. On one side Tuthill had his name, “Saml Tuthill,” incised in the metal with what is likely the year he took the mark degree, 1816, and stylized renditions of Masonic symbols such as an arch with a keystone, a pavement and the letter G. Within the arch there are three letters from a form of cipher writing Masons sometimes used among themselves.
On the reverse side of his medal (at right, below) Tuthill had the name and number of his chapter engraved. At the center, within the circle containing the letters of the mnemonic associated with the mark degree, Tuthill asked the engraver to depict Tuthill’s mark, the emblem he chose to represent himself as part of the mark degree. As his personal symbol, Tuthill selected a bird, probably a dove, in flight holding a spring in its beak. Men who had taken the mark degree chose many kinds of symbols, Masonic and otherwise. Tuthill’s dove may have related to Freemasonry; the symbol indicated a messenger in English Masonry but was not commonly used in American Freemasonry. Alternately, the dove may have symbolized peace, a meaning of the symbol that was popular at the time. A county history relates that Tuthill briefly lead a company of recruits from his county during the War of 1812. In 1816, a few years after his service, peace may have been a virtue on Samuel Tuthill’s mind.
History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1879), 260.
Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976), 49.
Gary L. Heinmiller, compiler, “Craft Masonry in Chemung, Schuyler and Tioga Counties, New York” (Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, May, 2010), 3, 4, 24.
Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, vol. 1, 1798-1853, (Buffalo: Published by the order of the Grand Chapter, 1871), 129.
Ausburn Towner, Our County and its People: A History of the Valley and County of Chemung, (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1892), 75, 176, 422-423.
Source: National Heritage Museum