Freemasonry in Maine 1762 - 1945

Author:  Ralph J. Pollard

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CHAPTER III. Maine Lodges Under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.


The first Lodge to take a charter under the United Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was Lincoln Lodge at Wiscasset. This document, issued on the petition of twelve brethren, was dated June 1, 1792. Wiscasset, the shire town of Lincoln County, was a community of considerable prosperity, wealth and culture. From the first the Lodge took a worthy place in the social and cultural life of the town. This old Lodge is fortunate in still possessing its original by-laws and early records. From them we can re-construct an excellent picture of the life of a Lodge in the eighteenth century.

The Lodge first opened for work on June 19, 1792. The fee paid for the Charter was four pounds, five shillings, and three pence. Jewels, working tools, and musical instruments were purchased in Europe, the sum of fifty guineas being appropriated for the musical department. Beginning in 1793, the public observance of Saint John's Day became a custom. The lodge dispensed its first charity in 1793, the recipient, appropriately enough, being the widow of a brother Mason.

On June 12, 1797, the Honorable William King, first Governor of the State of Maine and first Grand Master of Masons in Maine, was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Lincoln Lodge.

The following resolution is culled from the old records: '' Whereas, it is our duty as Free and Accepted Masons to act upon the Square of virtue, and keep within due considered bounds with all mankind; Resolved, therefore, that a committee be appointed to inquire into the habits and morals of the brethren of this Lodge -- and if any of the brethren are found guilty of vicious practices, they are to be privately admonished, and if reformation is not made, then the names of such unworthy ones are to be reported to the Lodge for its action thereon."

One Lodge activity would be considered most peculiar today, namely, the sponsoring of public lectures " for moral and religious improvement." This Lodge took an early and advanced stand on the question of temperance. At a time when conviviality was the rule, it banished liquor from its banquets, and also conducted a public temperance lecture under the auspices of the Lodge.

The Lodge also invested part of its funds in the local Academy, thus showing its interest in education.

Old Lincoln Lodge laid the cornerstone of the Wiscasset Baptist Church and of the old Lincoln County Courthouse.

Hancock Lodge at Penobscot was chartered on June 9, 1794. In 1803, this Lodge was given permission to change its meeting place to Castine.

On March 14, 1796, a charter was granted to Kennebec Lodge at Hallowell. This was the first Lodge located inland, the preceding four all being on the sea.

Meanwhile, Portland had been set off as a separate municipality. Naturally, the Lodge began to call itself the Lodge of Portland. Brother William Tyng, the father of Maine Masonry, returned from an exile of twenty years and settled at Gorham. His old Lodge welcomed him back and re-elected him its Master. Because he resided at a distance he felt obliged to decline the honor, but did serve his Lodge on important committees and took an active part in its affairs. In 1796, the ancient charter of the Lodge was sent up to Grand Lodge and, by vote, certified on the back by the name of Portland Lodge.

In 1797, a charter was granted to Tuscan Lodge at Columbia. This was the last Lodge chartered in the eighteenth century. It is an interesting fact that, of the six Lodges chartered in Maine prior to 1800, three of them were located beyond the Penobscot.

When we consider the condition of the country in the eighteenth century, we cannot but marvel at the courage and optimism shown by the brethren who established our early Lodges. The communities in which they were located were small. Roads were practically non-existent. No public transportation existed north of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Travel was mostly by water or by horseback over forest trails. The total membership of the six Lodges was well under two hundred. Most of them had only a handful of active members and found it difficult to assemble enough brethren properly to confer the degrees. Yet they carried on, cherished the Ancient Landmarks, and probably got more out of their Masonry than we do today.

George Washington died in 1799. All over the country Masonic Lodges mourned the passing of the distinguished soldier, statesman, and Mason. Warren Lodge united with the town in a joint memorial service. Brother Phineas Bruce delivered the Oration in which he described Washington as " the inspired Hiram in the temple of American freedom." Lincoln Lodge held elaborate and impressive exercises of its own and later united in the Municipal observance.

Masonry in Maine grew rapidly during the early years of the nineteenth century. Amity Lodge of Camden, Eastern Lodge of Eastport, and United Lodge of Topsham (later removed to Brunswick) were all chartered in 1801. In 1802, Saco Lodge of Pepperelborough (now of Saco) and Rising Virtue of Hampden (now of Bangor) were added to the roll. Two more were chartered in 1803, Pythagorean of Fryeburg and Cumberland of New Gloucester. The year 1804 saw the erection of Oriental Lodge at Bridgton and Solar Lodge at Bath. Orient Lodge at Thomaston was chartered in 1805. The establishment of Lodges at Fryeburg and Bridgton, in the foothills of the White Mountains, showed that the country was filling up toward the west.

About this time the Grand Lodge divided the State into districts and appointed District Deputy Grand Masters to supervise the same. The Lodges in the District of Maine were assigned to the ninth, tenth and eleventh Masonic Districts. Most active of the early Deputies was Right Worshipful Brother Woodbury Storer, a Past Master of Portland Lodge, D. D. Grand Master of the Ninth District.

In these years it became the custom for new Lodges to be solemnly constituted and to have their officers installed in due form by a Deputy Grand Lodge. These ceremonies were frequently of a most elaborate and impressive nature, partially performed in public, and accompanied by processions, music, sermons and banquets. Particularly impressive were the solemnities incident to the constituting of Oriental Lodge at Bridgton, Pythagorean Lodge at Fryeburg, Cumberland Lodge at New Gloucester, and Solar Lodge at Bath, all presided over by Right Worshipful Woodbury Storer. At Bath, Brother William King, later to become the first Governor of Maine, and the first Grand Master of our Grand Lodge, was installed as Master of Solar Lodge.

In 1804, Kennebec Lodge of Hallowell, appears to have gotten into the bad graces of the Grand Lodge. Charges against the Lodge were heard before a Deputy Grand Lodge holden at Bath and presided over by Right Worshipful Woodbury Storer. As a result of the findings of the Deputy Grand Lodge, the charter of Kennebec Lodge was lifted subject to the action of the Grand Lodge. At the next quarterly communication of the Grand Lodge a petition was presented from the officers and members of Kennebec Lodge praying for the restoration of their Charter. After due reference to a committee, the Grand Lodge voted to restore the charter and the incident was closed.

A more serious misunderstanding disturbed the harmony of the Craft in 1806. There appears to have been a certain difference of opinion among the brethren of Portland Lodge. Exactly what the trouble was is now unknown, but, from the best available evidence, it appears to have concerned the rendition of the ritualistic work. At any rate, some of the most influential members withdrew and petitioned the Grand Lodge for a charter for a new Lodge to be known as Ancient Landmark Lodge. This was granted by the Grand Lodge under date of June 10, 1806.

This action was bitterly contested by the remaining members of Portland Lodge. They protested to the Grand Lodge, declaring that Portland was too small a community to support two Lodges and accusing the founders of Ancient Landmark Lodge of underhanded methods in obtaining their charter.

After due consideration, the Grand Lodge determined that its action should stand, and Ancient Landmark Lodge was constituted in ample form on July 14, 1808, in a special communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts presided over by Most Worshipful Timothy Bigelow, Grand Master.

The first Master of Ancient Landmark Lodge was Colonel William Tyng, Charter Master of the original Lodge in Falmouth. Colonel Tyng died shortly after the formation of the new Lodge and was buried with Masonic rites.

The brethren of Portland Lodge were much discouraged by the action of the Grand Lodge and voted to surrender their charter. This the Grand Lodge refused to accept, and Portland Lodge was retained upon the roster. The officers of the Grand Lodge were indefatigible in endeavoring to restore harmony and were, at length, successful. The wounds were healed and the two Lodges have gone forward, side by side, to a long career of usefulness and prosperity.

As a result of this discussion the Grand Lodge adopted a rule that, in the future, no new charter should issue without the previous approval of the two nearest Lodges.

At the very height of their dispute, Portland Lodge and Ancient Landmark Lodge united in attending the funeral of Commodore Edward Preble, United States Navy, one of the most distinguished citizens and Masons in Maine, which took place on August 28, 1807. Commodore Preble, as Commander of the American Naval Forces in the Mediterranean, had been the hero of the war with the Barbary States. A contemporary diary describes the funeral in these words, " the funeral was attended with Military honors, and the ceremonies of religion and Masonry. The bells were tolled from eight to nine in the morning, the colors were displayed at half-mast from the shipping and all public buildings. At one o'clock the stores and shops were closed, and a total suspension of business took place for the remainder of the day. A large concourse of people from the neighboring towns attended the funeral. Doctor Deane made the prayer. Masonic rites were performed, and an extensive procession moved at the sound of solemn music, to the place of interment. A more imposing scene had never before been witnessed in town."

Saint George Lodge at Warren, Ancient Landmark Lodge at Portland, and Ionic Lodge at Steuben were chartered in 1806, Oxford Lodge at Norway in 1807, Felicity Lodge at Bucksport in 1809, Maine Lodge at Farmington in 1910 <sic>, Oriental Star Lodge at Livermore in 1811, and York Lodge at Kennebunk in 1813. The constitution of York Lodge was conducted with unusual solemnity. A special communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was held, presided over by the Most Worshipful Benjamin Russell, Grand Master, and the officers of the new Lodge were installed in ample form.

The Maine Lodges were certainly at a disadvantage because of their distance from the seat of the Grand Lodge at Boston. Their only representation in Grand Lodge was often by some Boston brother acting as proxy. Communication with the Grand Lodge was aggravatingly slow and uncertain. Money in transmission frequently went astray. Rightly or wrongly there is no doubt that many of the Maine bodies regarded themselves as the neglected and unwanted step-children of the Grand Lodge, and that they were jealous of the advantages enjoyed by the Lodges within the limits of Massachusetts proper.

This feeling came to a head in 1813 when Solar Lodge of Bath, through a committee, addressed a circular letter to the twenty-three Lodges in the District of Maine, criticising the action of certain Grand Officers and airing the grievances of the Lodge against the Grand Lodge. The Bath circular complained that Solar Lodge had not, for three years past, received any copy of the annual communications of the Grand Lodge; that they had never received any Past Masters' diplomas, to which, by the Constitution, they were entitled; that their complaints to the Grand Lodge remained unanswered; and that they had only been furnished with diplomas printed on paper while entitled to have them engrossed on parchment. They also complained of the new constitutional provision requiring the payment of three dollars for each initiate, instead of two dollars as heretofore.

There is no doubt that some of the Maine Lodges fully sympathized with Solar Lodge in her complaints. Others, however, felt that the Bath brethren were going at the matter in the wrong way. Copies of the Bath circular were transmitted to the Grand Lodge and were referred to a committee of distinguished brethren. This committee refused to consider the justice or injustice of the Bath charges, holding that these were not properly before them. They did, however, hold the proceedings of Solar Lodge to have been insubordinate and undutiful and recommended that the Master and Wardens of Solar Lodge be summoned to appear before the Grand Lodge and show cause, if any, why the charter of said Lodge should not be revoked.

Realizing that they had made a tactical error, the brethren of Solar Lodge voted an apology declaring themselves to be faithful and liege subjects of the Grand Lodge and praying pardon and forgiveness for their mistake. The apology was accepted and further proceedings against the Lodge were quashed.

Apparently the diploma situation did not improve, for in 1817 we find the brethren in Lincoln Lodge at Wiscasset much disturbed over the same grievance.

In 1814, the Grand Lodge was called upon to settle a difference between Ancient Landmark Lodge and Oriental Star Lodge at Livermore. It was charged that Oriental Star Lodge had accepted a candidate previously rejected by Ancient Landmark Lodge. Moreover, it was charged that Oriental Star Lodge had, without dispensation, received the petition, accepted the candidate, and conferred all three degrees all on one and the same evening. A committee consisting of Simon Greenleaf, Past Master of Cumberland Lodge, Samuel Emerson, Master of York Lodge, and Charles Fox, Master of Portland Lodge was appointed to investigate the matter. The committee found that Oriental Star Lodge had been imposed upon and had not accepted the applicant without proper investigation or knowing him to be the rejected material of Ancient Landmark Lodge. However, the hurried conferring of the degrees in violation of the constitution could not be condoned. Oriental Star Lodge was, therefore, sentenced to a severe reprimand and warned that any further violation of the constitution would result in the forfeiture of its charter. Incidentally, the expenses of the investigating committee were charged against Oriental Star Lodge.

The Grand Lodge granted the following charters: Freeport Lodge of Freeport in 1814; Belfast Lodge (now Pheonix) of Belfast in 1816; Temple Lodge of Winthrop and Village Lodge of Bowdoinham in 1816; Adoniram Lodge of Limington, Northern Star Lodge of North Anson and Tranquil Lodge of Minot (now Auburn) in 1818; Blazing Star Lodge of Rumford in 1819; and Union Lodge of Union in 1820.

In all, thirty-three Lodges were chartered by Massachusetts authority within the limits of the present State of Maine. One of these owed its charter to the old English Provincial Grand Lodge, one to the old Scottish Provincial Grand Lodge, and thirty-one to the United Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Of these thirty-three Lodges two, Tuscan Lodge of Columbia and Ionic Lodge of Steuben, have long ceased to exist. The remaining thirty-one, existing when the Grand Lodge of Maine was formed, are still faithfully discharging their functions and serving their respective communities.


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