Freemasonry in Maine 1762 - 1945

Author:  Ralph J. Pollard

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Administrations of William J. Burnham (1903); Hugh R. Chaplin (1904-1905); Charles P. Johnson (1906-1907); Edmund B. Mallet (1908-1909); Ashley A. Smith (1910-1911); Elmer P. Spofford (1912-1913); Thomas H. Bodge (1914-1915); Waldo Pettengill (1916-1917); Silas B. Adams (1918-1919). World War I. Grand Lodge Centennial.


Brother Dummond was succeeded as Chairman of the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence by M. W. Alfred S. Kimball. His mantle as Foreign Correspondent fell on the shoulders of M. W. Albro E. Chase, who soon demonstrated that the great tradition established by his predecessor was safe in his hands. When M. W. Brother King died in 1914, Brother Chase became Grand Treasurer. On Brother Kimball's death in 1915, he was named to the Committee on Jurisprudence. For many years, Albro E. Chase was the outstanding figure in Maine Masonry.

Up to the outbreak of the first World War, the condition of Maine Masonry was one of solid prosperity and substantial growth. Numerical gains increased, annual increases of from 400 to 800 being normal. Existing Lodges increased in size. Fewer new Lodges were formed. In 1908, Esoteric and Lygonia Lodges of Ellsworth were consolidated. New Charters were issued as follows:

Abner Wade Lodge, No. 207, Sangerville May 7, 1904
Northeast Harbor Lodge, No. 208, Northeast Harbor May 6, 1904
Fort Kent Lodge, No. 209, Fort Kent May 4, 1905
Bagaduce Lodge, No. 210, Brooksville May 3, 1906
Meduncook Lodge, No. 211, Friendship May 5, 1910
McKinley Lodge, No. 212, McKinley May 3, 1910
Kemankeag Lodge, No. 213, Rangeley May 7, 1914
Limestone Lodge, No. 214, Limestone May 7, 1914
Orchard Lodge, No. 215, Old Orchard May 3, 1917

During this period, the remaining old Lodges which united in forming the Grand Lodge in 1820 became entitled to celebrate their centennials. Many of these were events of outstanding interest and great enjoyment.

Customs were changing. The railroad system of the State was completed, and delegates from the eastern counties no longer had to journey up to Grand Lodge by sea. Each year, a Committee on Transportation contacted the various carriers and was usually able to secure for delegates very substantial reductions in fares. A network of electric trolley tracks radiated from the larger cities and connected many important communities. Some Deputies were now able to visit most of their Lodges by trolley. Inter-Lodge visitation increased. Frequently, the brethren of one Lodge would charter a private car and go to visit a neighboring Lodge in a group. As always, suppers were popular, especially as they were, at this time, usually furnished free. Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star had been formed in most communities and the Star Ladies frequently put on the suppers. Joint installations with the Star were increasingly common. Many Lodges inaugurated the custom of holding annual Past Masters' Nights, and Past Masters' Associations were organized in several sections of the State.

The ancient custom of formal Saint John's Day services had long since fallen into disuse. Now, however, many Lodges adopted the practice of attending Divine Service on invitation of some local pastor. At first, dispensation was required for such public appearance, but in 1912 this requirement was done away with.

Greater uniformity was noticeable in the ritualistic work. Past Grand Master Frank E. Sleeper was, throughout this period, engaged in his great work as Grand Lecturer, a position which he filled for over thirty years. His Schools of Instruction did much to ensure accuracy and uniformity in the rendition of the ritual.

These schools were all day affairs. Mornings and afternoons were devoted to reciting the ritual, while in the evening some Lodge conferred an actual degree, its work being criticized by all the District Deputies present. It must have been a rather trying experience for the working officers of such a Lodge. The host Lodge usually furnished dinner and supper to the assembled students. Such hospitality must have been a considerable drain on some of the Lodges. An outstanding School of Instruction was that held with Deering Lodge, No. 183, in 1909, at which over 350 brethren were present.

Not satisfied with the official schools alone, some Districts adopted the custom of holding annual District Conventions. One of the most famous of these was the District Convention of the Second District, held annually for many years. Frequently, special trains were run over the Bangor and Aroostook and Maine Central lines to accommodate the brethren attending these Conventions.

At some of these district meetings degree work was presented, subject to criticism by all the Past Masters in attendance.

Improved travel conditions did not, however, reach into every section. In many Districts, the horse and buggy was still unchallenged. The Deputy of the Ninth District frequently had a real adventure when he attempted to visit Moses Webster Lodge on Vinalhaven. One such Deputy wrote plaintively of the sufferings endured during a sea voyage in a Northeast gale. But the warm hospitality shown by the islanders to their inspecting officer made up for everything.

After the great problems which agitated the Fraternity during the closing years of the nineteenth century, this was a period of calm. Grand Lodge legislation was mostly of a local nature. In 1904, the Corresponding Grand Secretary was, in addition to his other duties, named Librarian of the Grand Lodge Library. In 1906, Maine declined to participate in a nation wide Collegium of Grand Lecturers.

Collective balloting was prohibited in 1907. In 1908, the Grand Lodge first purchased the " List of Regular Lodges " for distribution to its constituents.

In 1908, Past Grand Master William P. Preble attended Grand Lodge for the last time. He was then ninety years of age and resided in New York, but he journeyed to Maine to meet once more with his brethren in Grand Lodge, over which he had presided during the dark days of the Civil War.

In 1903, the Grand Lodge laid the cornerstone of the First Universalist Church in Lewiston. A monument erected at Readfield by the State to ex-Governor Brother Jonathan G. Hunton was dedicated by the Grand Lodge in 1906. In 1909, the cornerstones of the Waterville High School and the new Portland City Building were laid in ample form.

Our senior living Past Grand Master, M. W. Brother Ashley A. Smith, succeeded to the Grand East in 1910. In that year, there were 201 chartered Lodges on the roll with two more under dispensation. There were 28,328 Masons in Maine. Initiates during the past year numbered 1,206. The largest Lodge was Ancient Landmark, No. 17, with 654 members. The average Lodge membership was 139. In Grand Master Smith's second term, our present Grand Secretary, R. W. Convers E. Leach, served as his Junior Grand Warden.

On August 29, 1910, Grand Master Smith laid the cornerstone of the present Masonic Temple in Portland. The Grand Lodge was accompanied by the four Lodges located in Portland and Hiram Lodge of South Portland all under the escort of Portland and St. Alban Commanderies of Knights Templar.

The great edifice was erected under the supervision of a building committee of which Worshipful Brother Augustus G. Schlottetbeck was chairman. It is, unquestionably, one of the most distinguished Masonic edifices in the country. Its various Lodge rooms are adapted to every Masonic need and use. There is ample armory and drill floor accommodation for the Commandery. One Lodge room is especially fitted for the elaborate degree work of the Scottish Rite. The great hall occupied by the Grand Lodge at its annual communications is one of the most stately and dignified Masonic apartments in the world. Its lofty ceiling, borne aloft on massive pillars, its marble pavement, the rich coloring of its stained glass windows, the soft richness of its mahogany woodwork, and the sweet tone of its great organ unite to make it a Lodge Room in which it is an inspiration for any Mason to sit.

The Temple was solemnly dedicated to the purposes of Freemasonry on May 8, 1912.

In 1912, Portland Lodge, No. 1, celebrated its 150th anniversary, with the Grand Master of Massachusetts among the honored guests.

A petition from nine Lodges seeking the establishment of a Masonic Home in Maine was presented to the Grand Lodge in 1912. This was referred to the Committee on Finance which, in the following year, recommended the indefinite postponement of the proposition. The Grand Lodge adopted the recommendation of the committee.

In 1914, the Card Index of Members, which is now such an important feature of the Grand Secretary's office, was first started. The compilation of this record extended over several years and was a major undertaking. The result, however, has proven it to be well worth the effort. We now have an accurate file of every Mason in Maine for many, many years.

By a Standing Regulation adopted in 1919, smoking or the appearance of smoking in the Lodge Hall, or in Preparation Room when in use for preparation of candidates, was forbidden.

A great project was inaugurated seeking the erection at Alexandria, Virginia, of an imposing memorial to George Washington the Mason. To carry out this project, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association was organized. In 1917, the Grand Lodge of Maine became a member of this Association and made an initial contribution of $500. It was planned that this memorial be a repository for the priceless relics of Washington's service as Master of Washington-Alexandria Lodge, No. 22, and a shrine for the Masonic Fraternity of the entire United States.

Grand Secretary Stephen Berry had served the Grand Lodge from a time almost beyond the memory of the present generation. He had acted as assistant to his father, Grand Secretary Ira Berry, from 1856 to 1891, since which date he himself had been the principal recording officer of the Grand Lodge. In 1914, he was tendered a testimonial dinner and presented, on behalf of the Grand Lodge, with a silver loving cup, suitably inscribed. In 1917, he was elected Grand Secretary Emeritus, ad vitam, on full pay. He passed to the Grand Lodge above in 1919, having served the Grand Lodge of Maine for no less than sixty-three years. He was succeeded as Grand Secretary by R. W. Charles B. Davis.

The Grand Lodge laid the cornerstone of the new Watts' Block in Thomaston in 1915; that of the Masonic Temple in Houlton in 1918; and that of the Porter High School in Parsonsfield in 1919.

World War I brought to the Craft in Maine a renewal of the conditions and problems which had characterized the Civil War period so long ago. Again there was a tremendous increase in applications, as young men, about to enter their Country's service, knocked at the doors of the Lodges. Dispensations were necessary if these candidates were to receive their degrees before leaving the jurisdiction. Grand Master Waldo Pettengill was extremely liberal in issuing such dispensations. He stated, " I have felt it my duty in this crisis to offer every facility for young men who were offering themselves for service as defenders of the just rights of humanity and to fight the Country's battles to become members of our Fraternity, and I have granted an unusual number of dispensations for receiving and acting upon applications for membership in leas than the regular time to accommodate such cases, feeling that the Lodges where the candidates resided were fully competent to act upon short notice and to determine whether the soldier or sailor applying was worthy of the honors of Masonry." He followed the precedent established by M. W. Brother Drummond in the Civil War by disapproving the establishment of Army Lodges.

There was a tremendous increase in the demand for courtesy work. Candidates of Maine Lodges completed their degrees in Lodges near the camps where they were stationed, and soldiers stationed in Maine received their degrees by courtesy in our Lodges. Arrangements for this work placed a tremendous burden on the office of the Grand Secretary.

The Grand Lodge sent a telegram to the President of the United States, pledging to him the loyalty and support of the Masons of Maine. The Grand Lodge and many of its subordinates invested funds in the Bonds of the various Liberty Loans. Our Grand Master was, however, compelled to rule that no Masonic funds could be diverted as contributions to the Red Cross or similar war activities.

Grand Secretary Davis attempted to establish a card index file showing the service records of all Maine Masons in the armed forces. Failure of many Lodge secretaries to co-operate prevented this from being a complete success. Partial returns from 138 Lodges showed approximately 2,000 of the brethren to be in service, with about 500 engaged in Red Cross and similar war work, and 150 in the armies of our allies, as of the Spring of 1918. Of course, a great many more entered the service in 1918 through the operation of the Selective Service Law.

Brother George McL. Presson of Farmington served as Adjutant-General of the State. Col. Frank M. Hume, a member of Monument Lodge, No. 96, commanded the famous old 2nd Maine Infantry, re-designated as the 103rd Infantry, 26th Division. No regiment in the A. E. F. had a better record. It participated in the Aisne-Marne, Champagne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne Offensives. Col. Hume was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. Other Masonic officers in this regiment included Lt. Col. William E. Southard, of Bangor, who was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, the Silver Star, the Purple Heart, the French Legion of Honor, and the French Croix de Guerre, and Major Bison A. Hosford, of Houlton, who was promoted and cited for bravery. Another Maine regiment, the 1st Maine Heavy Field Artillery, re-designated 56th Pioneer Infantry, also went overseas and served in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Its executive officer was Lt. Col Henry G. Beyer, a member of the Craft. Another officer in this regiment was Brother Frank E. Southard, of Augusta, later to serve as Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Maine.

Of course there were casualties. The list of " Brethren Died During the Year " again contained such grim notations as, " In France in U. S. Service," " in a German Field-Hospital in France," " killed in action " and " killed in action at Chateau-Thierry." Some of the boys dying in service at camps in the United States are returned as being " buried with Masonic rites."

The coal shortage existing during the winter of 1917-1918 made it very hard for many of the Lodges, even forcing some to omit meetings. Worse was to follow. The " flu " epidemic of 1918 scared the American people as nothing else had done in modern history. All public meetings and assemblies were prohibited by the State Board of Health. Many lodges were thus prevented from holding their annual meetings, and Grand Master Silas B. Adams had a busy time granting dispensations for the holding of elections after the ban was lifted.

R. W. Archie L. Talbot introduced a resolution seeking the resumption of relations with the Grand Orient of France. This was inspired by sentiment arising from our alliance with France and the thought that it might be of value for Maine Masons in service to contact their French brethren. The matter was referred to a select committee, which made an exhaustive study of the whole French question. The majority report recommended no action by our Grand Lodge. The minority report urged renewed recognition of the Grand Orient. The Grand Lodge took no action, and the Grand Orient of France remained, as far as Maine was concerned, outside the pale as a Masonic Body.

In the great rush of work during the war, some few Lodges were guilty of irregularities, conferring all three degrees in one day, or more than five degrees in a single day. Needless to say, these irregularities incurred the severe displeasure of the Grand Lodge.

As the centennial year of the Grand Lodge approached, a committee was appointed to arrange for the proper observance of that important event. This committee, consisting of Brothers Silas B. Adams, Waldo Pettengill, Frank E. Sleeper, Frank E. Monroe, and Howard D. Smith, was ably assisted by sub-committees drawn from the Past Masters of the various Lodges in and around Portland. The result of their labors was a program fully in keeping with the importance of the occasion and the dignity of the Grand Lodge of Maine.

The Centennial Exercises were held in the main hall of the Portland Masonic Temple on May 5, 1920. Music was furnished by a Masonic Quartet, consisting of Brothers Wilfred E. Cole, tenor; Joseph W. Whitney, tenor; Howard R. Stevens, baritone, and Harry F. Merrill, bass, and by Brooks' Masonic Orchestra, under the direction of Bro. C. M. Brooks. The Invocation was by M. W. and Rev. Ashley A. Smith. The Historical Address was given by M. W. Albro E. Chase. The Oration was delivered by M. W. Charles F. Johnson.

At 6.00 P. M., a superb banquet, prepared under the direction of a committee consisting of Bros. Elmer A. Doten, Frederick P. Dyer, and E. Murray Graham, was served in the Banquet Hall of he Temple with covers laid for 636. After the banquet, the brethren were addressed by M. W. Arthur D. Prince, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, M. W. Daniel C. Clark, Grand Master of Masons in New Brunswick, M. W. Charles C. Perkins, Grand Master of Masons in Connecticut, M. W. Orion P. Sperra, Past Grand Master of Ohio, and R. W. Frederick W. Hamilton, Grand Secretary of Massachusetts. In the course of his address Grand Master Prince conferred the Henry Price Medal upon Grand Master Adams and Past Grand Master Chase. The address of R. W. Bro. Hamilton will long be remembered as one of the greatest Masonic speeches ever heard in our Grand Lodge. The exercises were concluded with the singing of " Auld Lang Syne" and " America."

In concluding his Historical Address in the afternoon, M. W. Bro. Chase quoted the closing words of the address delivered by Past Grand Master Drummond at the 75th Anniversary Exercises: " As you love Masonry, whatever betides, come prosperity, come adversity, adhere with unflinching tenacity to the ancient usages of the Craft."

An attractive souvenir volume, containing a detailed account of the exercises, was published by the Grand Lodge. This book also contained the pictures of all the Grand Masters who had presided over the Craft in Maine, together with brief sketches of their lives.

In its centennial year, the Grand Lodge of Maine had 206 subordinate Lodges with a membership of 35,670. Cash on hand was $20,296.87. The amount of the Charity Fund was $77,062.35. The largest Lodge was Ancient Landmark, No. 17, with 646 members.

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