Freemasonry in Maine 1762 - 1945

Author:  Ralph J. Pollard

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Administrations of Edward W. Wheeler (1920-1921); Albert M. Spear (1922-1923); David E, Moulton (1924-1925); David L. Wilson (1926-1927); and Harold E. Cooke (1928-1929).


The phenomenal prosperity of the Craft during the first World War not only continued but increased in the immediate post-war period. In 1920, there was a net gain of 2,284; in 1921, of 2,829; and in 1922, of 2,179. These increases were utterly unprecedented in the history of Maine Masonry. This prosperity was not confined to any one class of Lodges nor to any particular section of the State. Deering Lodge, No. 183, of Portland, initiated 126 candidates in a single year. Some of the small country Lodges doubled their memberships in the boom years. That these great gains did not indicate any letting down of standards or any negligence on the part of the Lodges is shown by the large number of rejections recorded. Out of 4,645 applications reported in 1921, 1,121 were rejected. Saco Lodge, No. 9, of Saco, initiated 43 and rejected 34. Rising Virtue Lodge, No. 10, of Bangor, intiated 66 and rejected 24. Ancient Landmark Lodge, No. 17, of Portland, initiated 82 and rejected 79. In 1922, 3,780 applications were received, of which 1,065 were rejected.

There was no mystery about this prosperity. It was a reflection of the general economic condition of the country. The people had more money than they had ever had before. As a result, every man who had ever had the slightest interest in Masonry sent in his application for membership. In spite of the vigilance of investigating committees and the proper care exercised by Lodges, a certain number were, of course, accepted who were no ornaments to the Fraternity. But, on the whole, the average quality was about up to that of less prosperous years.

This tremendous inrush of candidates somewhat frightened more thoughtful Masons. The elders in the Craft voiced many words of warning. Grand Masters clamped down tight on dispensations. A new form of questionnaire was adopted which had to be filled out in the candidate's own hand-writing and made a part of his original application. In 1921, the minimum fee for the degrees was raised from $20.00 to $30.00 and the exemption previously accorded to clergymen was done away with. Yet these measures apparently had little effect in reducing the number of candidates.

Gradually, the flow slackened. Conditions returned to normal, but numerical gains continued to be recorded throughout the period covered by this chapter.

Larger Lodges resulted from this great accession of membership. By this time, every community in the State, which was capable of supporting a Masonic Lodge, was equipped with such a local institution. New Lodges could only be formed by the sub-division of existing bodies. Only one new Lodge was established during this period, Corner Stone Lodge, No. 216, in Portland, chartered May 4, 1927.

Another great change had taken place in the travel habits of the people. The automotive age had arrived. The horse and buggy had at last been vanquished by the Model T. Ford. This change was not an unmitigated blessing. In good weather and over good roads, it certainly did make it easier for the brethren to attend their own Lodges and to visit those in neighboring towns, but when the snows of winter came, the car was likely to prove cranky and many Lodges had fewer members in attendance than in the days of the old reliable horse.

Free suppers were still the rule. One Grand Lodge Committee was unkind enough to point out that many Lodges spent more for " eats " than they did for charity. The Star Sisters still provided most of the banquets, but the days of joint installations with the Eastern Star were over. Grand Master Wheeler, in 1921, ruled that joint installations with any non-Masonic body were improper.

As a result of improved travel conditions, high ranking Grand Officers were enabled to visit many more of the subordinate Lodges. Grand Masters David L. Wilson and Harold E. Cooke were particularly active in this work. Grand Master Wilson was in great demand as a speaker and made an extensive tour into the Northern and Eastern sections of the State. Grand Master Cooke specialized in visiting the smaller country Lodges. In many cases, he was the first Grand Officer, other than the District Deputy, ever to visit in some of these Lodge Rooms.

In 1924, a new form of questionnaire for the use of District Deputies in making their inspections was adopted. At the same time, the time honored practice of publishing the written Deputies' reports in the printed proceedings of the Grand Lodge was abandoned, and a tabulated summary of statistics substituted therefor.

Undoubtedly, this move was in the interest of both efficiency and economy. The true condition of the Lodges was shown to much better advantage, alike in regard to ritualistic work, attendance, and finances. But something was gone. No table of statistics could replace the warm human interest of the old reports. No more can we suffer with the Deputy in his struggles with drifted snow and zero cold; no longer can we share with him the fraternal warmth of his reception by the brethren, or his enjoyment in the bounteous repasts provided by the ladies.

In 1925, Grand Master Moulton called attention to the fact that Maine stood first of all the jurisdictions of the country in the proportion of Masons to population. This fact was first noted by Grand Master King in 1883, since which time Maine had continued to hold the distinction. In 1925, 5.6 per cent of the people of Maine were members of the Fraternity.

Past Grand Master Albro E. Chase died in 1921. His funeral was held in the Masonic Temple in Portland. His body lay in state in Corinthian Hall under a guard of honor from Portland Lodge, No. 1. The Grand Lodge met in a Special Communication of Sorrow. The burial service was performed by Grand Master Edward W. Wheeler, assisted by Rev. David L. Wilson, Grand Chaplain. Brother Chase was succeeded as Grand Treasurer by M. W. Edmund B. Mallet, as Chairman of the Committee on Jurisprudence by M. W. Thomas H. Bodge, and as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence by M. W. Ashley A. Smith. When Brother Mallet passed on in 1923, he, in turn, was succeeded as Grand Treasurer by R. W. Herbert N. Maxfield.

The death of M. W. Frank E. Sleeper was announced during the Grand Lodge Session in 1923. Probably no Mason in Maine was better known or better loved than Brother Sleeper. His work as Grand Lecturer had carried him into every corner of the State and had made him personally known to a vast multitude of the brethren. His funeral at Sabattus was conducted by the Grand Lodge, presided over by Grand Master Albert M. Spear. He was succeeded as Grand Lecturer by Wor. Samuel B. Furbish of Brunswick.

Brother Furbish carried on the same method of instruction used by Brother Sleeper. His Schools of Instruction became increasingly popular, and, in 1928, the Grand Lodge voted that at least ten such schools be held each year. An attempt to make the Grand Lecturer a full-time paid employee of the Grand Lodge was defeated in 1929.

The Maine Masonic Text Book, the official Monitor and legal digest of the Grand Lodge of Maine, had been originally compiled by Past Grand Master Drummond and privately published by Grand Secretary Stephen Berry. On Brother Berry's death, the copyright and electroplates of this work became the property of his daughter. In 1921, these were purchased by the Grand Lodge, and a committee was appointed to revise the digest. A new edition of the Text Book was published in 1923.

In 1923, Grand Master Spear took a strong stand against the Ku Klux Klan, which organization was then very active in the State and which made the claim that it recruited its membership largely from the Masonic Fraternity. Judge Spear prohibited the use of any premises under Masonic control by the Klan.

In 1924, legislation was adopted establishing a time limit of at - least fourteen days between the conferring of degrees. In the same year, the per capita tax levied by the Grand Lodge on the members of its subordinates was raised from twenty cents to fifty cents a year. A Speaker's Bureau, for the dissemination of information on the history, purposes, and philosophy of Freemasonry, was established in the same year.

In 1927, Grand Master Wilson ruled that Lodge funds could not properly be used to make contributions to Community Chests or similar projects. He also advised against the use of Lodge Rooms for card parties, sponsored by the Eastern Star. He " came down hard " on a so-called Masonic Evangelist from outside the State, who was delivering lectures on Freemasonry for a fee.

In 1928, the Grand Lodge adopted the custom of presenting appropriate aprons and jewels to Past Grand Masters.

During the World War, the Masonic Fraternity in the United States was unable to do any adequate work for the armed forces because of the fact that it had no common head with which the War Department could deal. To meet this need, the Masonic Service Association of the United States was organized. The war ended before the Association had a chance to function, but the organization was continued with an elaborate program for assisting the various Grand Lodges in the Masonic education of their members. The Association published Masonic books, issued educational bulletins, and put out a very worthwhile Masonic Magazine. Maine, always conservative and skeptical of anything new in Masonry, at first declined to join the Association. In 1923, however, after listening to addresses by some of the leaders in the M. S. A., the Grand Lodge voted to become a member of that organization. This membership was retained for two years, during which time our Lodges received the literature sent out by the Association. It is probable that our Lodges failed to make intelligent use of this material, the quality of which was unquestionable. At any rate, a general feeling developed that the benefits derived from membership in the Association were not worth the cost. Accordingly, in 1925, Maine withdrew from the Association.

It will be remembered that Maine joined the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association in 1917 and made an initial contribution of $500 to that project. During the war, nothing much was done, but now the Association went ahead with its plans and work on the great Memorial was commenced. The estimated cost was $3,000,000, or approximately $1.00 for each Master Mason in the United States. In 1921, our Grand Lodge voted to this project the sum of $500 a year for four years. In 1924, a campaign was conducted to raise funds for the Memorial to the amount of $1.00 for each Mason in Maine. A committee was appointed to take charge of the work, with M. W. Thomas H. Bodge as its chairman. This committee employed Worshipful Harold B. Cooke to bring the story of the Memorial to the brethren in Maine. Judge Cooke addressed twenty-eight district meetings, reaching every section of the State. Contributions came in and, in 1928, Maine's original quota was fully attained. The cornerstone of the great Memorial was laid on November 1, 1923. Grand Master Spear assisted in the ceremonies, which were attended by the President and the Chief Justice of the United States.

Our relations with the Grand Orient of Belgium had been rather chilly for some years, owing to the failure of that organization to break relations with the Grand Orient of France. In 1925, it was discovered that the Grand Orient of Belgium had removed the Holy Bible from its altar and from the altars of its subordinates. Our recognition of the Grand Orient as a legitimate Masonic body was immediately withdrawn.

Many new Grand Lodges were, at this time, applying to the Grand Lodge of Maine for recognition. Because of our extreme conservatism, it was impossible for us to grant many of these requests. To clarify our position, the Committee on Foreign Correspondence, in 1927, drew up a set of standards for recognition showing the requirements insisted upon by the Grand Lodge of Maine.

Maine became a member of the Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada in 1920. This organization renders a valuable service in keeping track of Masonic imposters and in notifying its members of the activities of these parasites on the Order.

The annual meetings of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association and the Masonic Service Association brought together many of the Grand Masters of the various American jurisdictions. Out of this circumstance developed the annual Grand Masters' Conferences, which are now one of the outstanding features of American Masonic Life. In 1928, Grand Master Wilson was the first of our Grand Masters to participate in these meetings. At these Conferences, matters of common interest to all jurisdictions are discussed, views exchanged, and papers presented by leaders in the various fields of Masonic activity. As these Conferences have no executive authority, they are free from any of the objectionable features inherent in a General Grand Lodge or similar formal organization.

Through its more than one hundred years of existence, the Charity Fund of the Grand Lodge of Maine had grown but slowly. Its income, however, had long been adequate for all legitimate calls upon it. The Masons of Maine were, on the whole, pretty much a self-supporting lot. The original idea of Masonic Charity was individual, brother helping brother. The Lodge, as such, was only called upon in exceptional cases. Grand Lodge aid was invoked only when Lodge funds proved insufficient. However, times were changing, and with them the social and economic conditions of our people. It became apparent that a more organized form of Masonic charity was inevitable. It was also apparent that, compared to other jurisdictions, Maine was somewhat backward in her charitable work. This was called to the attention of the Craft by Grand Master David E. Moulton in one of his annual addresses. A special committee was appointed, consisting of Past Grand Masters Ashley A. Smith, Charles F. Johnson, Albert M. Spear and Waldo Pettengill. Upon the recommendation of this committee the Grand Lodge voted, in 1926, to levy an annual assessment of fifty cents for charitable purposes upon every Mason in Maine, this sum to be paid over to, and administered by, the Trustees of the Charity Fund of the Grand Lodge.

In 1928, R. W. Edward G. Weston, a member of the Board of Trustees, died. Brother Weston was the one who had, for many years, conducted all investigations for the Board. He had traveled many thousands of miles and had devoted many hours of time to this important work. Only in the last year of his life did he receive any compensation for his services.

During the years covered by this chapter, the charity of the Masons of Maine was frequently invoked by suffering and disaster outside our State. In 1923, the Grand Lodge turned over $500 to the Red Cross for use in alleviating the suffering resulting from the Japanese earthquake and tidal wave. The sum of $700 in two installments was given to the Masonic Tuberculosis Sanitarium in New Mexico. We contributed $250 to the Florida hurricane relief in 1926 and $500 to the Mississippi flood relief in 1927. In 1928, the Grand Lodge contributed $1,500 to flood and tempest relief in the Southern States and an additional $2,288 was contributed by the subordinate Lodges.

In 1921, Brother George R. Rich bequeathed the sum of $1,000 to the Grand Lodge, the income therefrom to be applied towards the maintenance of a free bed in some Maine hospital.

In 1924, R. W. Charles M. Farrar, Past Junior Grand Warden, left his entire estate, appraised at over $30,000, to be held in trust by the Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Maine during the lifetime of his widow, the income to be paid for her support, the estate at her death becoming a part of the Charity Fund of the Grand Lodge.

In 1928, the great task of compiling the Card Index of Maine Masons was completed.

Many new halls were dedicated, and cornerstones were laid for the following:

Grammar School Winslow 1920
Masonic Temple, Bath 1921
Gould Memorial School Building, State School for Boys, South Portland 1921
Masonic Building, Readfield 1921
Crafts Memorial Masonic Temple, Greenville 1928
General Knox Memorial, Thomaston 1929
Masonic Hall, Kennebunkport 1929


In 1927, the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of New Brunswick paid an official visit to Maine, uniting with the brethren at Calais in attendance on Divine Service. The Grand Master of New Brunswick was officially welcomed by Grand Master David L. Wilson. In the same year, Grand Master Wilson had the pleasure of raising his own son to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.

Warren Lodge, No. 2, of Each Machias, celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 1928. In the same year, Piscataquis Lodge, of Milo, made a trip to New York City as guests of Hyatt Lodge of that place. In the presence and under the direction of the New York Master, they conferred the third degree on a candidate of the New York Lodge according to the Maine ritual. Another interesting interjurisdictional event took place when Ancient Landmark Lodge of Hong Kong, China, conferred the degrees by courtesy upon a candidate belonging to our Ancient Landmark Lodge, No. 17.

A Maine Masonic Secretaries' Association was organized in 1929. Secretaries' duties are indeed varied. Our Grand Secretary received a request from a brother in a Southern State for, " a tiger-striped kitten which will grow up into one of those monstrous cats you have in Maine."

On June 21, 1929, the Grand Lodge dedicated the new Crafts Memorial Masonic Temple in Greenville, Maine. This beautiful edifice was presented to Columbia Lodge, No. 200, by Brother Arthur W. Crafts. Its cost was upwards of $75,000 and it is undoubtedly one of the finest one-lodge temples in the country. At the dedication, addresses were made by Grand Master Harold E. Cooke, Past Grand Master Ashley A. Smith, Brother William Tudor Gardiner, Governor of Maine, and Brother Ralph Owen Brewster, ex-Governor of the State.

In the year 1930, the Grand Lodge of Maine had 207 Lodges on its register with a total membership of 44,002. Initiates for the year numbered 1,153. The average Lodge membership was 212. There were seven Lodges with more than 600 members. Deering Lodge, No. 183, had 954; Ancient Landmark, No. 17, 847; St. Andrews, No. 83, 789; Hiram, No. 180, 723; Waterville, No. 33, 693; Portland, No. 1, 649; and Atlantic, No. 81, 615. The smallest Lodge was Excelsior, No. 151, with 35 members. The Charity Fund had grown to $136,191 invested, with $38,627 on deposit.


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