Like Father, Like Sons

By W:. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA

Father and son Worshipful Masters is a rare occurrence in masonic lodges. In 2020, Jephtha’s own W:. Richard Harris is the son of W:. Rod Harris, Past Master of Jamaica No. 546. But to have a father and his two only sons all elected as Worshipful Masters has only happened with one family in the long history of Jephtha Lodge, and it began one hundred years ago in 1920.

Robert K. Toaz, first superintendent of the Huntington School District.
Robert Kennedy Toaz

Robert Kennedy Toaz was master of Jephtha Lodge No. 494 starting in January 1920. Born on August 23, 1869 in Rochester, New York, Toaz spent a lifetime in public education that eventually led him to become the first Superintendent of the Huntington Union School District in 1906.

At the University of Rochester, he was a member of the Delta Psi fraternity before graduating in 1893, earning a master’s degree at Columbia University and studying at the Albany’s College and Clark University.

Toaz‘s  professional career included heading the science department in Canandaigua for one year, assistant principal in Waterloo for four years, and an additional four years as a high school principal in Marion, New York. From 1899 until early 1906, he was principal of Oxford Academy and Union School, before moving to his next and final stop in Huntington and started as high school principal and superintendent of the Huntington School District in February 1906.

Robert K. Toaz Junior High School in 1938

From his earliest days in Huntington, Toaz took on several responsibilities, including teaching English and Math and coaching the high school football team. He helped expand Huntington from a one wooden school building to a district with a modern new junior high school at Huntington Station and five grammar schools. During his tenure, new schools were constructed including School Street School (aka Station School, 1906), Halesite (aka O’Hara Street School, 1908), Huntington High School (1908-09), Woodbury Avenue School (1923-24) and the Lowndes Avenue School expansion (1927), which was renamed Roosevelt School in honor of the late President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s widow Edith and youngest son Archibald attended the dedication ceremony.

Oxford No. 175 met on the third floor of Oxford National Bank, where Robert K. Toaz was raised a master mason in the early 20th century.

Toaz retired as principal of Huntington High School in 1930 and as superintendent in 1933, a few months after he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the New York State College of Teachers. After his “retirement,” he served as vice-president of the New York State School Master’s Association. Several months before his death in 1938, ground broke on a new Huntington Junior High School on 300 Nassau Road. The school was renamed Robert K. Toaz Junior High School in honor of the former superintendent, the first Junior High School in Suffolk County and a state and national leader of education of students in grades 7-9 in the decades that followed. The 11-acre campus officially closed in 1982 and was rented and later purchased by Touro Law School. In 2007, the law school sold the building and today is the home to the School of Mahanaim.

Toaz was raised a Master Mason in Oxford No. 175 in the town of Oxford near Binghamton, New York and affiliated with Jephtha No. 494 in 1907 shortly after his relocation to Huntington. Toaz’s one year as master was a very productive term in the east. In October 1920, the pipe organ was dedicated. Formal permission was granted by Jephtha for two other masonic lodges to be formed in neighboring towns: Amityville No. 977 and Bethpage No. 975 in Farmingdale (now Bethpage-Hicksville No. 975).

Over 110 men attended the second annual outing at the Albert G. Milbank Estate, the first mayor of Lloyd Harbor. The event included a baseball game, tug of war, 100-yard dash, 50-yard dash for “fat men,” potato race, blindfolded boxing match, swimming match and dinner.

His participation in the local community did not end with Freemasonry. Toaz was also a charter member and President of the Huntington Rotary Club; President of the Board of Trustees of the Old First Presbyterian Church; chairman of the Suffolk County Boy Scouts; member of the board of directors of the Huntington Hotel; trustee of the Heckscher trust which administered the Heckscher Park and art museum; and member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Huntington and Trust Company with several other Jephtha past masters.

John C. Toaz

Robert K. Toaz was alive to see his oldest son, John Clark Toaz (1904-2000) ascend the east of Jephtha Lodge in 1937. A graduate of Harvard Law School, John C. Toaz was a member of the Berman & Toaz Law Firm and Justice of the Peace in Huntington and was President of the Suffolk County Bar Association for several years.

Robert T. Toaz

John’s younger brother Robert T. Toaz (1912-1984) was elected Worshipful Master of Jephtha in 1949. Robert was a long-time appointed musician at Jephtha, sitting behind the organ for over 20 out of 33 years from 1950 until 1983.

A member of the Toaz family has been a member of Jephtha Lodge for 93 years until the passing of John C. Toaz in 2000, far exceeding the period of another local Toaz legacy.              

“We at Toaz will be faithful, loyal, brave, and true;
We at Toaz will be faithful to the gold and blue.
Shoulder to shoulder, this we proudly cry;
Always onward for our school: Toaz Junior High.”
Robert K. Toaz Junior High School alma mater song (1938-1982)

The past masters apron of W:. John C. Toaz, presented January 10, 1938

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Tracing the Fraternal DNA

By W:. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA

Over twenty-five years ago, I started researching my family tree. In the mid-1990’s, online databases filled with thousands of scanned documents were not available online. A genealogist had to travel to downtown Manhattan to the National Archives, scroll through reels of microfiche just to find the index number of a possible match to the actual Federal or State Census page. To obtain a birth, marriage or death certificate, a dedicated researcher would travel to the Municipal Archives and research again via indexed microfiche before possibly obtaining a certificate.

Depending on when it was recorded, a census page is filled with valuable information, including occupation, birthplace, language, home value, salary and parents’ birthplace, while a birth, marriage or death certificates include additional information, including birth and death date and place of burial.

The Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn. Among the missing headstones is the grave of Peter Sanger

While these valuable records retain a treasure trove of important information, they never include any data if an ancestor was a member of a fraternal organization. If you are lucky, maybe a masonic square and compass can be found on a long-forgotten headstone, or a worn relic was preserved by nostalgic minded older relatives. But chances are, most of these artifacts were discarded by descendants who did not appreciate who their ancestor really were.

My maternal grandfather was a Knight of Columbus for many years. I have his gloves and sash in my archives, but sadly, he was mugged in the early 1980’s and forever lost his beautiful ring. I never heard any tales of great grandfathers who were masons or any other fraternal society.  My fraternal heritage began and ends with him.

Or so I thought.

Peter Sanger’s death certificate, October 2, 1887

I recently signed up for an interesting online database that has a large collection of digitally scanned newspapers dating to the late 18th century. The website is searchable, and despite not being perfect, it led to me some new discoveries with my ever-expanding family tree.

One of my 2nd great grandfather’s was born in Whitechapel, Middlesex, England on July 21, 1845. Although both his parents were of German descent and only stayed in England for six years, Peter Sanger’s national pride was toward his birthplace of the United Kingdom. His devotion to Queen Victoria and his homeland was told to me by his granddaughter, my great-aunt, to the point that he would proudly argue with anyone who would listen, that England would one day regain control of the American colonies.

I was able to obtain Peter Sanger’s death certificate many years ago, which includes his premature death at the age of 42 on September 29, 1887 on the second floor of 297 Stagg Street, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. The location was a mystery to me, as the Sanger family lived on 41 Stagg Street, and his parents Cornelius and Mary were living on 41 Leonard Street. There were no other records of 297 Stagg Street that I could locate, so any leads on his death location went cold.

In the “Secret Society Matters” section, which reports on the “Doings of Brooklyn Lodges and Councils,” of the Saturday, October 8, 1887 edition of the Brooklyn Times Union, an interesting paragraph buried in the second column piqued my interest.

The regular meeting of Progressive Lodge No. 339, I.O.O.F. (International Order of Odd Fellows) was conferring the third degree on five candidates on Thursday, September 29, when Brother Peter Sanger, suddenly became sick and passed away one hour later. The funeral already occurred on Sunday, October 2 by the time the article was published, with many of his brothers in attendance.

Based on his death certificate, I knew Peter Sanger passed away of a cerebral apoplexy, also known as a stroke, which can lead to a sudden death. There was no other Peter Sanger’s living in Brooklyn with the same age, based on an extensive search of census and directories.

Was the lodge meeting held on the second floor of 297 Stagg Street and was my 2nd great grandfather a dedicated Odd Fellow who passed away on the night of a meeting? I have concluded that my long-forgotten ancestor was indeed a dedicated Odd Fellow, devoted to his lodge meetings until he took his last breath.

Brooklyn Times Union, October 8, 1887

In many ways, it is comforting to learn that this man was surrounded by his concerned and caring brothers almost 133 years ago, and not dying alone. His last thoughts were probably of concern for his wife and seven children, including my great grandfather Charles. Peter Sanger died too young, but he left behind a legacy that includes several generations of hundreds of descendants. I would like to think that the two of us share our common DNA that has brought us together in similar fraternities over a century apart.


When I continued to read about the other fraternal meetings held in the autumn of 1887, yet another piece of information caught my eye. Joseph Irwin, Past Commander of Huntington Council No. 1176, was appointed District Deputy Grand Commander over the councils in Suffolk, Queens and Richmond counties. Could this be the same Joseph Irwin, raised as a Master Mason in 1871 in Jephtha No. 494 and was Master of the lodge in 1884-1885? That story is for another day…

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From the East Summer 2020

Due to the ongoing situation and the Grand Master’s edict, the Lodge has been holding “unofficial meetings” on ZOOM for any member who would like to participate. If you would like to be included in the Riverhead mailing add yourself to the Riverhead All members mailing list.

You can find that here -> Riverhead Lodge All members Mail List

Just add your email and each time the Master, Secretary or officer sends out and email of relevance to all members you will get a copy.


Stay Safe and Stay healthy.