Freemasonry in Maine 1762 - 1945

Author:  Ralph J. Pollard

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CHAPTER XIV.

The War Years.

Administrations of Harold H. Murchie (1940-41); Benjamin L. Hadley (1942-43); and Charles E. Crossland (1944-45).

 

The war clouds, which had been gathering for many years, burst over Europe in 1939. Poland was overrun and conquered. The next year, in quick succession, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France fell before the onslaught of German might, and the Battle for Britain was begun. These tremendous events could not fail to have a potent effect upon the life of the American people. The Neutrality Act was repealed. Cash and Carry was adopted. Lend-Lease was enacted into law. The wheels of American industry began to hum. The depression was at an end. Then the President declared a State of National Emergency. The National Guard was called into Federal Service; the Selective Service Act was passed; and the first million of drafted men went into camp. Then came Pearl Harbor—and total war.

The effect of the first phase of the war on Maine Masonry was wholly beneficial. The trends, which had mitigated against the Fraternity for the past decade, were halted. The number of suspensions decreased; dues were paid promptly; many back dues were paid up; and suspended members reinstated. There was a marked decrease in the number of calls for Masonic charity. There was a decided increase in the number of candidates applying for the degrees. Material prosperity was fast returning to the Craft.

The administration of Grand Master Harold H. Murchie was a period of great Masonic activity. Everybody had money, everybody had a car, the roads were good, and the Lodges were busy. Inter-Lodge visitations were the general thing. At this time, traveling degree-teams, made up of brethren having some common interest or employment, were extremely popular. One of the best known of these was the team made up of members of the Camden Fire Department, which always traveled in uniform. Other popular teams were those of the Sojourners' Club, made up of Army and Navy Officers, the State House employees, the Maine Central Railroad employees, and the workers of the Bath Iron Works. Of course, the work of these teams was always done in the presence and under the authority of the Master of the local Lodge.

A Connecticut Lodge, accompanied by the M. W. Grand Master of that state, paid a fraternal visit to Union Lodge, No. 31, of Union, where they demonstrated the conferring of the third degree according to the Connecticut ritual.

One of the outstanding meetings of this period was that at which His Excellency Governor Sumner Sewall was raised in Solar Lodge, No. 14, of Bath. Another outstanding meeting was held at Augusta, where a large number of brethren were addressed by M. W. Joseph Earl Perry, Past Grand Master of Massachusetts.

Another Masonic excursion was conducted under the auspices of Mystic Lodge, No. 65, of Hampden. This time, the Bangor and Aroostook Special ran to Houlton, where the brethren were guests of Monument Lodge, No. 96. This was the largest Masonic gathering to be held in Maine in recent years, no less than 1,088 brethren being registered. The George Washington's Birthday Address was delivered by R. W. Ralph J. Pollard, acting as personal representative of the M. W. Grand Master.

Beautiful new Masonic Temples at Presque Isle, Rockland and Thomaston were dedicated to the purposes of Freemasonry by Grand Master Murchie.

Among the District Deputy Grand Masters who were particularly active at this time were R. W. Bros. Norris Estabrook, of the First District, Harry C. McDowell of the Second District, W. Leeman Oxton, of the Seventh District, Hugh A. Tuttle, of the Eighth District, Louis A. Walker of the Ninth District, Herbert E. Foster, of the Eleventh District, Karcher S. Jackson of the Fourteenth District, Clifford A. Somerville, of the Seventeenth District, and Clyde French, of the Twenty-fifth District. Indeed, all the Deputies were extremely effective during this period.

Annual events of much interest were the fresh salmon banquet served by the brethren of Pleasant River Lodge, No. 163, of Brownville, and the joint Field Day held by Davis Lodge, No. 191, of Strong, and Mt. Abram Lodge, No. 204, of Kingfield, at Record's Camps at Carrabassett.

The social feature of Freemasonry had at last worked its way into the Grand Lodge. For several years past, it had been the custom to serve a Grand Lodge Banquet on the evening preceding the opening of the Annual Communication. These banquets were largely attended and looked forward to from year to year. They were held in the Grand Ballroom of the Eastland Hotel, and at them the brethren had the opportunity to listen to some of the most distinguished Masonic speakers in the country.

Under Grand Master Murchie, the Constitution of the Grand Lodge was carefully revised, a new Funeral Service was adopted, and a new edition of the Maine Masonic Text Book was authorized. Actual publication occurred in 1943.

The war brought to the Masonic Service Association of the United States a chance to function in the very job for which it had been originally established. It soon demonstrated its efficiency and the value of its program. This program was enthusiastically received by the Government. The President, Col. Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy, and General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the Army, were all Masons, and gave to the work of the Association their encouragement and co-operation. Masonic Service Centers were established at key points all over the country.

Portland had become a great Naval base; the Harbor Forts were heavily garrisoned; major units of the Atlantic Fleet were continually making it a port of call; great convoys rendezvoued just off shore; and thousands of soldiers and sailors were on the street. On the invitation of Grand Master Murchie, the Masonic Service Association selected Portland for one of its Masonic Service Centers. Beautiful and convenient quarters were provided on the ground floor of the Portland Masonic Temple. Early in 1942, the Center was formally opened by Grand Master Murchie in the presence of ranking members of the Masonic Service Association and of the armed forces.

The administration of Grand Master Benjamin L. Hadley was marked by rapidly changing conditions. The gas and tire shortages and the Government's ban on pleasure driving practically put an end to inter-Lodge visitations. In some Lodges, attendance fell off as some members entered the Armed Services and others migrated to the larger centers to engage in essential war work. Many of those still at home were enrolled in the Air Raid Warning Service, Civilian Defense, Red Cross, and similar activities.

Past Grand Master David L. Wilson, who had served on a Draft Board in World War I, returned to the same duty in the present emergency. Past Grand Master George F. Giddings, also a Veteran of Selective Service in World War I, became a member of the State Appeal Board.

The volume of work in the Lodges continued to increase. Grand Master Hadley, himself an Army Officer in World War I, followed the precedent established by Grand Master Drummond in the Civil War and Grand Master Pettengill in World War I, and was extremely liberal in granting the dispensations required to enable servicemen to enter the Fraternity.

As travel conditions became more difficult, it was decided that the number of Schools of Instruction held by the Grand Lecturer should be increased, to make it more convenient for the officers of the several Lodges to attend.

There were few large meetings, but some events of much significance took place. The five Ossipee Valley Lodges, Adoniram, No. 27, Freedom, No. 42, Day Spring, No. 107, Greenleaf, No. 117, and Drummond, No. 118, continued to hold their annual joint services on St. John the Baptist's Day. In 1941, the Grand Secretary was present at this meeting; in 1942, the Deputy Grand Master was the speaker. Wor. Lewis T. Brown of Limington was the moving spirit in making these meetings a success.

Preble Lodge, No. 143, of Sanford, celebrated its 75th Anniversary. The banquet, furnished by a caterer from Lynn, Massachusetts, was one of the finest ever served in Maine. Entertainment was furnished by professional artists.

Old Lincoln Lodge, No. 3, of Wiscasset, observed its sesquicentennial with appropriate exercises. A lobster dinner was served. Our Mother Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was represented by M. W. David L. Wilson, Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts near the Grand Lodge of Maine, who also brought personal greetings from Grand Master Hadley. The Historical Address was delivered by the R. W. Deputy Grand Master.

Because of war conditions, the Annual Communication of 1943 was streamlined into a single day. All frills were omitted. Grand Master Hadley showed rare ability as a presiding officer in dispatching the necessary business. Owing to sickness, R. W. Ralph J. Pollard, Deputy Grand Master, was forced to decline further preferment at the hands of his brethren. He was succeeded by R. W. Charles E. Crossland, who had earned an enviable reputation by his work as Grand Lecturer.

Both the Grand Lodge and many of its subordinates contributed to the war effort by investing substantial portions of their funds in the various issues of Government Bonds.

The beautiful new home of Hermon Lodge, No. 32, of Gardiner, was dedicated by Grand Master Hadley in ample form.

Meanwhile, the Portland Masonic Service Center was establishing an enviable record. Those conversant with such matters rated it as one of the best Centers in the country. There is no doubt that it did a tremendous amount of good and rendered a service to the men in uniform which could not have been duplicated by any other agency. Opened not to Masons alone, but to all service men and women, it gave to its guests a sincere and hearty welcome in an atmosphere of quiet dignity, which was most appreciated. The good work of the regular M. S. A. Agents was supplemented by that of enthusiastic volunteers, including many local Masons, their wives, members of all near-by Eastern Star Chapters, and a carefully selected group of young ladies known as the Cadettes. Refreshments were always in order, diverse forms of entertainment were provided; and reading and writing-room facilities were available. This much was on the surface. But underneath there was the greater service always ready to be rendered to a brother when that brother was in need. During part of the war an additional Masonic Service Center was operated at Rockland.

The brethren of Maine were invited to contribute to the support of the Masonic Service Association. The Grand Master circularized the Lodges and the campaign was in charge of a committee of which M. W. Henry R. Gillis was the chairman. Substantial sums were realized from this work. At its Annual Communication in May, 1944, the Grand Lodge of Maine voted to resume formal membership in the Masonic Service Association of the United States.

An event of great interest to Maine Masons took place in Missouri, where a great patriotic meeting was held under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of that state. The principal speaker was Bro. Owen Brewster, United States Senator from Maine and a member of Penobscot Lodge, No. 39. He was introduced by M. W. Bro. Harry S. Truman, then a fellow Senator, but now President of the United States.

In the administration of Grand Master Charles E. Crossland, the full impact of the war was felt. The conditions of 1861-1865 and 1917-1918 were reproduced. In the year ending March 1, 1945, 2,054 candidates were initiated and the net gain in membership was 1,431. All of the Lodges were active. Solar Lodge, No. 14, initiated fifty candiates; Hiram Lodge, No. 180, initiated seventy-one; Naval Lodge, No. 184, initiated ninety; and Corner Stone Lodge, N,o. 216, initiated seventy-three. In addition, there was a tremendous volume of courtesy work for Lodges outside the jurisdiction.

Twenty-four Schools of Instruction were held, providing such a School in every Masonic District in the State. Grand Master Crossland had been succeeded as Grand Lecturer by R. W. Ervin E. J. Lander, Past Senior Grand Warden. In conducting these Schools, Bro. Lander received the assistance of R. W. Earle D. Webster and R. W. Arthur W. Stockbridge, each of whom conducted three schools.

As in every previous war in our Country's history, the Masons of Maine rendered their full share of honest and faithful service. In the Spring of 1945, approximately 2,000 Masons were in uniform with more entering the service daily. Col. George E. Fogg, a member of Ancient Landmark Lodge, No. 17, commanded the 240th Coast Artillery on its entry into Federal Service and was shortly thereafter promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Bro. and Col. William Tudor Gardiner, ex-Governor of Maine, distinguished himself by heroism in the Italian Campaign, being one of the two American officers who entered Rome while still in the hands of the enemy to negotiate the Italian surrender. He was seven times decorated by his own and Allied Governments.

The burden of war came close home to the families of many Maine Masons, including those of some brethren prominent in the affairs of the Grand Lodge. Bro. Paul Giddings, the son of M. W. Bro. Giddings, served as a Naval surgeon in the Pacific, and was decorated for bravery under fire; the son of M. W. Bro. Hadley was wounded in action; the son of M. W. Bro. Crossland was taken prisoner; the son of R. W. Bro. Pollard was at Pearl Harbor and fought through the Solomons and Philippine Campaigns. While home on a thirty day furlough from the front in 1944, he received his Masonic degrees in his father's Lodge through the courtesy of M. W. Bro. Crossland, who granted the requisite dispensations. In all, Bro. Crossland granted ninety-three such dispensations to servicemen.

M. W. Benjamin L. Hadley was appointed a Special Committee on Masonic Service Records in World War II.

An attractive Grand Lodge Christmas letter was mailed to all Maine Masons known to be in the armed forces. Letters of condolence were sent to the families of every Maine Mason known to have died in this World War.

The Grand Lodge of Maine undertook the sponsoring of the crews of three naval vessels, the L. C. I.'s, 871, 872 and 882. R. W. Carroll W. Keene was general chairman of this project, assisted by R. W. Aubrey L. Burbank, R. W. Norman A. Savage and R. W. William Griffin.

At the Annual Communication in 1944, the Grand Lodge determined to undertake a more extensive program of War Service activity. A committee consisting of Bros. Clark D. Chapman, Henry R. Gillis, Benjamin L. Hadley, Carroll W. Keene, Harold L. Gerrish, Earle D. Webster and George W. Haskell was appointed to take charge of this work and to conduct a campaign to raise the funds necessary for its support. Bro. Sumner Sewall, Governor of Maine, consented to serve as honorary chairman and M. W. Henry R. Gillis was chosen general chairman. The committee was assisted in its work by Dr. Charles A. Haney, head of the Publicity Bureau of the Masonic Service Association.

A goal of $50,000 was set. Sub-committees were appointed, and some sixty meetings held throughout the State, at which the film " Your Son is My Brother " was shown to the assembled brethren. The results of this canvass exceeded all expectations. Over $76,000 was raised, officially designated as the Maine Masonic War Fund. Part of this fund was paid over to the Masonic Service Association for the support of its Service Centers and Hospital Visitation service. The remainder, was retained as a separate fund for use in the rehabilitation of returned Maine veterans and their families. This part of the fund was placed under the control of a committee composed of Bros. Benjamin L. Hadley, Fred C. Lounder, Frank J. Cole, Donald S. Higgins, William P. Newman, and John J. Whitney.

One hundred and three Lodges earned Grand Lodge Citations for contributing a per capita amount of $2.00 or more. Little Limestone Lodge, No. 214, led the list with an average per member subscription of $4.50. The largest amount received from a single Lodge was $2,634.25, contributed by Hiram Lodge, No. 180, South Portland.

Hancock Lodge, No. 4, of Castine, celebrated its 150th Anniversary; Rabboni Lodge, No. 150, at Lewiston, its 75th; and Columbia Lodge, No. 200, of Greenville, its 50th. The M. W. Grand Master was present at all three events.

The Grand Master declined to permit the holding of meetings on Sunday for the purpose of conferring degrees.

Due to the governmental ban on conventions, the attendance at the Annual Communication in 1945 was the smallest since 1850. Only the Grand Officers, a few permanent members, and the representatives of a handful of Lodges were present. The business of the Communication was transacted in a single day. Officers due for re-election were re-elected; but no attempt was made to elect new Grand Wardens, the old incumbents holding over. The sum of $1,100 was appropriated for the rehabilitation of the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands.

It had been planned to observe the 125th Anniversary of the Grand Lodge at this Communication. Under the circumstances, this was impossible. As a substitute, District Meetings were held throughout the State during the Autumn of 1945, at which " Grand Lodge Night " programs were presented. Various Grand Officers addressed these meetings. The historical paper prepared for the Grand Lodge for use at these meetings closed with the words used by M. W. Bro. Drummond at the conclusion of his address at the 75th Anniversary Observance, and quoted by M. W. Bro. Chase at the conclusion of his Centennial Address in 1920: " As you love Masonry, whatever betides, come prosperity, come adversity, adhere with unflinching tenacity to the ancient usages of the Craft."

 

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