Freemasonry in Maine 1762 - 1945

Author:  Ralph J. Pollard

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CHAPTER II The Beginning of Free Masonry in Maine.



On March 20, 1762, the Right Worshipful Jeremy Gridley, Provincial Grand Master for North America, issued his deputation to Brother Alexander Ross of Falmouth, empowering him to congregate the brethren in that vicinity into a regular Lodge with himself as Master.

Brother Ross was a wealthy merchant, a native of Scotland, who had been made a Mason in the old First Lodge in Boston in 1749. He was, however, a very sick man, suffering from an incurable disease. Consequently, he never acted under his deputation.

After his death the brethren in Falmouth petitioned the Provincial Grand Master for renewed authority. In answer to their petition the following charter was granted:

John Rowe, G. M.

To all and every Right Worshipful, Worshipful and Loving Brethren Free and Accepted Masons, now residing or that may hereafter reside in Falmouth in the County of Cumberland, within the Province of Massachusetts Bay in New England: We John Rowe, Esq., Provincial Grand Master of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for all North America where no other Grand Master is appointed,

Sendeth Greeting.

Whereas application has been made unto us by several Brethren Free and Accepted Masons, now residing at Falmouth aforesaid, setting forth that a Deputation was granted by the late Right Worshipful Jeremy Gridley, Esq., Grand Master of North America, to the late Alexander Ross, Esq., for congregating all Free and Accepted Masons Falmouth aforesaid, and to form them into a regular Lodge; but said Deputation never taking effect, by reasons of the many Avocations and infirmitys of the said Alexander Ross, Esq.: Therefore praying that a new Deputation may be granted by us to constitute them into a regular Lodge, and to appoint William Tyng, Esq. to be their first Master:

Now Therefore, Know Ye,

That We, of the great Trust, Power and Authority reposed in us by his Grace, the Right Worshipful Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort, &c, Grand Master of Masons, have nominated and appointed our Right Worshipful and well beloved Brother William Tyng, Esq., to be the first Master of the Lodge at Falmouth aforesaid, and do hereby impower him to congregate the Brethren together and form them into a regular Lodge, he taking special care that all and every member thereof, and all transient persons admitted therein, have been or shall be regular made Masons; and that he appoint two Wardens and other officers to a Lodge appertaining, for the due regulation thereof for one year, at the end of which said Lodge shall have power to appoint and choose a new Master, who shall nominate the Wardens and other officers to a Lodge for the ensuing year, and so annually; and we do hereby give to said Lodge all the Privileges and authority of stated Lodges, requiring them to observe all and every of the Regulations contained in the printed Book of Constitutions, (except such as have been or may be repealed at any quarterly communication or other general meeting of the Grand Lodge in London,) to be kept and observed; as also all such other Rules and Instructions as shall be from time to time transmitted to them by us or our Deputy, or the Grand Master or his Deputy for the time being; and that they do annually send an account in writing to us or our Deputy, or either of our successors, of the names of the members of said Lodge, their place of abode, with the days and place of meeting, with any other thing they may think proper to communicate for the benefit of their Lodge; and that they do send three Guineas for their Constitution, to be paid to the Grand Secretary, in order that they may be enrolled in the list of Lodges in the Grand Lodge in London; and further that they do annually keep the Feast of St. John the Baptist or St. John the Evangelist, or both, and dine together on said day or days, or as near either of them as shall be most convenient; and lastly, that they do regularly communicate with the Grand Lodge in Boston, by sending to the quarterly communication such charity as their Lodge shall think fit for the relief of poor Brethren, with the names of those that contributed the same, that in case any such may come to want relief, that they may have the preference to others.

Given under our Hand and Seal of Masonry, at Boston, this thirtieth day of March, Anno Domini One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-nine, and of Masonry Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty-nine.


By the Grand Master's Command,

Abr'm Savage, Gd. Sec'y.

Pursuant to this Charter Brother William Tyng organized the first Lodge in Maine, known at first simply as the Lodge at Falmouth. There were ten charter members: William Tyng, Thomas Oxnard, John Greenwood, Jedediah Preble, John Lowthner, John Ross, Arthur Howell, Richard Codman, Timothy McDaniel, and William Campbell. The first meeting was held on May 8, 1769. Brother Tyng read his commission, and appointed Thomas Oxnard, Senior Warden, and John Greenwood, Junior Warden. The brethren elected Jedediah Preble as Treasurer, adopted a code of By-laws, voted to meet the third Wednesday of each month, voted that each member provide himself with an apron at his own expense, and received an application. Thus Masonry came to Maine.

The Lodge conferred its first degree, that of Fellow Craft, upon Brother Abraham Osgood on May 17, 1769. Its first candidate, Daniel Ilsley, was initiated on the same date.

Brother William Tyng, the first Master of the Lodge, was a man of much distinction. He was High Sheriff of Cumberland County and a Colonel in the British Army. He married the only daughter of Brother Alexander Ross. He was made a Mason in Second Lodge, Boston, on June 16, 1762.

He served the Lodge as its Master from 1769 to 1775. During this period the Lodge enjoyed a good degree of prosperity. Forty-seven brethren either received degrees in the Lodge or were elected to membership therein. For most of this period the Lodge met in the tavern owned by Brother Moses Shattuck.

The early customs of this old Lodge are of much interest. Ordinary business was always transacted with the Lodge opened on the Entered-Apprentice Degree. Only the first two degrees were conferred by the Lodge itself, the Master Mason Degree being given in a special Masters Lodge held, however, under the authority of the regular Lodge Charter. Mere reception of the degrees did not make the candidate a member of the Lodge. Membership was conferred by a special ballot for that purpose. Candidates paid a deposit of eighteen shillings when proposed. When made Masons they paid an additional fee of two pounds ten shillings, also three shillings to the Secretary, and one shilling and four pence to the Tyler. Dues were paid quarterly at the rate of two shillings a quarter. Refreshments were served at every meeting, the cost being divided among the brethren present.

The festivals of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist were faithfully observed. The brethren marched in procession to Church, either Saint Paul's Church or The First Parish Meeting-house, listened to an especially prepared sermon, marched back to the tavern, and partook of a feast or banquet. In 1771, the first Ladies' Night was held. This, taking the form of a dance, must have shocked the Puritan portion of the community. It was the Tyler's duty to summons the individual brethren to every meeting. For this he received a fee of one shilling and six pence. Another one shilling and six-pence was paid him for his attendance at each meeting.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution the members of the Lodge were sharply divided in politics. Col. Tyng, as an officer of the Crown, was an ardent Loyalist. In this he was supported by Brothers Thomas Oxnard, Edward Oxnard and Jeremiah Pote. On the other hand, Brother Jedediah Preble was the leading patriot in the community. He was a Brigadier-General in the Provincial forces, and chairman of the Committee of Correspondence. He was twelve times a Representative in the General Court, once a Councillor, the first Senator from Cumberland County, two years Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, and three times a Representative in the Provincial Congress. At one time the political argument between Gen. Preble and Col. Tyng became so heated that the two worthy brethren came to blows. Shortly after the Battle of Lexington, Col. Tyng left town to follow the fortunes of his King. While stationed in New York he was instrumental in securing the release of Gen. Preble's son Edward, held there as a prisoner of war. After the war he became Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas in Nova Scotia. The other Tory brethren also left town and all four of them were named in the Confiscation Act of 1788.

After the departure of Col. Tyng, the Lodge elected Simeon Mayo as its second Master. He served as such from 1775 to 1780

In October, 1775, the town of Falmouth was bombarded by a British fleet. More than half the town was burned. Over four hundred buildings were destroyed and more than a thousand people were rendered homeless.

The war years were difficult ones for the Lodge. Meetings were held at irregular intervals. Yet from 1775 to 1786 the Lodge either admitted to membership or conferred degrees upon thirty-two additional brethren. The third Master was Thomas Sanford, who served from 1780 to 1785.

Meanwhile, a second Lodge had been formed in Maine. Far up the coast, more than two hundred miles north and east of Falmouth, lay the little frontier settlement of Machias. The men of Machias were a sturdy lot. In 1775, they captured the British armed schooner Margaretta in the first successful naval engagement of the war. Later in the same year, the British vessels Diligence and Tatmagouch were also captured. In 1777, the town successfully repulsed an attack by a British squadron under Sir George Collier. Among these men of Machias were several Masons, most of whom had received their degrees in Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Provincial Grand Lodge presided over by Joseph Warren. It was only natural, therefore, that the Machias Masons should seek their charter from this source. On September 10, 1778, a Charter of Erection was granted by Grand Master Joseph Webb, the successor to the immortal Warren. This venerable parchment also bears the signature of Paul Revere, then serving as Junior Grand Warden. The new Lodge was given the designation of Warren Lodge in honor of the late Grand Master, Major General Joseph Warren, who fell at Bunker Hill. The charter members were Dr. William Chaloner, who was the first Master, Francis Shaw, George Stillman, Jonas Farnesworth, Jeremiah O'Brien, Stephen Smith, James Avery, and Jonathan Lowder. The first meeting of the Lodge was held in the old Burnham Tavern which is still standing.

Picture of Old Burnham Tavern, Machias, Maine

Old Burnham Tavern, Machias, Maine

All these brethren were ardent patriots. Captain O'Brien commanded in the capture of the Margaretta and later commanded several American armed cruisers throughout the war. Doctor Chaloner served as his surgeon. All of the other Charter members were militia officers — Brother Still man attaining the rank of General Officer.

The early customs prevailing in Warren Lodge are of much interest, particularly as they differ in some instances from those of the Lodge at Falmouth. Elections were held semi-annually on the festivals of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. AD the officers were elective. Only the Entered Apprentice Degree was required for membership in the Lodge, and all ordinary business was transacted in that degree. The initiation fee was nine pounds. Annual dues amounted to twelve pounds payable quarterly. These high fees undoubtedly resulted from the inflated condition of the currency at that time. Notes of hand were frequently received in payment of dues. Refreshments were served at every meeting. In conformity with the custom of the times, wines and spirits were usually provided. Sermons and banquets marked the semi-annual festivals, always followed by generous contribution to charity. No separate Masters' Lodge existed prior to 1786. In that year such an organization was started, but it appears to have lived for only a couple of years.

Despite its small membership, the Lodge was active throughout the Revolution. A garrison of troops was stationed at Machias and many of the officers received degrees in the Lodge. Despite the financial hard times the Lodge managed to keep its Grand Lodge dues paid. The Lodge endorsed the proposed election of General George Washington as General Grand Master of the United States.

At last the war was over. The Tory, Thomas Oxnard, returned to his home in Falmouth. He was arrested and imprisoned for a while by the civil authorities, but was welcomed back by his brethren of the Lodge. In 1785, he was re-elected to his old office of Senior Warden. His brother Edward also returned to Falmouth and later served the Lodge as its Master. The Oxnard brothers were sons of Thomas Oxnard, who was Provincial Grand Master of Massachusetts from 1743 to 1754. Despite his Toryism, Thomas was married to the daughter of that sturdy patriot, General Jedediah Preble. By a special resolve of the Continental Congress, his wife was allowed to pass through the enemy lines and join him.

The result of the Revolution changed the Masonic relationships of the American bodies with the British Grand Lodges. Both the Saint John's Grand Lodge (English) and the Massachusetts Grand Lodge (Scottish) became independent. In 1792, these bodies united in the present Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. It is interesting to note that Brother William Shaw, a member of Warren Lodge at Machias, was a member of the committee considering this union and one of the electors chosen to elect officers for the united Grand Lodge.


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