Address Prepared For the Dedication
of the Masonic Hall, Chelsea,
March 31, 1874.
Upon an occasion like that which has this evening summoned us for the purpose of placing the seal of dedication and consecration to the highest offices of the Masonic Fraternity upon these commodious apartments, henceforth to be our chosen Masonic home, it would seem to be entirely just and fitting to recall in some degree, the labors of those who have gone before us and laid the local foundations of that structure in the fair proportions and solid strength of which we on this day may pardonably rejoice. When men or institutions have passed beyond the period of helpless infancy and of struggling youth, and reached the condition of assured support and character, it is almost by instinct that the mind reverts to the perhaps dark and doubtful days which bore the first signs of life, recalls the long years through which a precarious existence was being maintained, looks backward through the vista of the intervening time, and on the varied scenes of sunshine, cloud, and storm, until all vicissitudes have swept by the field of our vision, and all the promise of the past has reached full fruition in the realization of the present.
From Dec. 14, 1825, which was the date upon which Grecian Lodge, now of Lawrence, was originally chartered at Methuen, until June 11, 1845, no Lodge was chartered in this Commonwealth, although during this period the charters of many existing Lodges were surrendered to the Grand Lodge. This hiatus was the longest in the history of the Lodges in this Commonwealth, except one, namely, the time between the establishment by Henry Price, Prov. Grand Master of St. John's Lodge, Boston, which Lodge was constituted without a written charter in 1733, and the granting of the charter to the Lodge of St. Andrew, by Sholto Charles Douglass, in 1756.
During the twenty years preceding the grant of the charter of Grecian Lodge, twenty-one charters had been granted for the establishment of Masonic Lodges in the Commonwealth, while for a period of twenty years next preceding the time, to wit, between 1785 and 1805, thirty-five charters were issued, and for the double decade, reaching from the date of the charter of Star of Bethlehem Lodge to 1865, the actual number of chartered Lodges reached sixty-five.
In those gloomy years extending from 1825 to 1845 occurred the anti-Masonic warfare, when twenty-seven of the Lodges of the Commonwealth surrendered their charters, deeming themselves, perhaps, unable to weather a storm already so severe and which threatened to be so long in its duration. This occasion furnishes no time to consider the characteristics of that wonderful, yet dark Masonic period, during which, out of the war of the social elements and the wrath of man was destined to spring forth into a larger life and'a grander beauty the radiant genius of Freemasonry. When she had thus passed the hard and remorseless trials and persecutions which yet lent new lustre to her eyes and new vigor to her arm, and was looking around for other and worthy votaries to enter upon and enlarge the kingdom then so sure to come, this then town of Chelsea was ehosen as the spot upon which her foot should first be planted. Pardon me, if, in dealing freely with the early records of Star of Bethlehem Lodge, I permit those records mainly to rehearse her praises.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM LODGE.
On the 15th of Septernber, 1843, the first formal meeting of the Freemasons of Chelsea was held at the house of Brother Horace G. Barrus, at which the following Master Masons were present, viz.: William Knapp, Abel Bowen, Anthony Brackett, David W. Smith, Rufus R. Cook, and Horace G. Barrus, - Brother Barrus acting as presiding officer, and Brother Knapp as Secretary. It was then resolved, "That it is the sense, of this meeting that it is both expedient and important to take immediate and effective measures for the establishment of a Masonic Lodge in Chelsea." A vote was also passed appointing Brother Knapp as a committee "to inquire as to the condition of Malden Lodge, and ascertain if said Lodge can be legally moved to Chelsea." The records do not show that this subject of the removal of the Lodge from Malden was pursued, inasmuch as at a subsequent meetingr held October 11 next ensuing, a committee consisting of Brothers Barrus, Knapp, and Brackett was appointed "to make application to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for a dispensation to work as a Lodge." Immediately afterward, the indorsement of King Solomon's Lodge, Charlestown, to the petition fqr a dispensation was procured that Lodge also presenting its "good wishes fbr our succi:ssand prosperity"; and, furthermore, not content with the mere exhibition of its good wishes, in the words of the record, "kindly loaned us a suit of regalia until we could accommodate ourselves better." The dispensation from the Grand Lodge was procured, but, before proceeding to state the action of the brethren under it, let us examine the first page of the records, which is written as a preliminary exposition of the purposi:s and history of the organization' and which is in terms following: -
Preamble to the Records.
Whereas, several brethren, members of the Fraternity of Free and Acbepted Masons, resident in the town of Chelsea, having the good of the Fraternity at heart, and believing that the institution of a Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons would conduce to their own happiness and usefulness, and be serviceable to the craft at large, therefore, we are resolved upon calling a meeting for the purpose of taking the subject into serious consideration. Accordingly an informal meeting was held at the residence of R. W. Brother Horace G. Barrus, and, after discussing the subject in a true Masonic spirit, the following resolution was adopted by a unanimous vote: -
Resolved, "That it is expedient that we take measures for the speedy establishment in this town, of a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons."
After the passage of this resolution, the brethren met several times to talk over their success, and to lay plans for future action. The first organized meeting of Masons held in this town will appear below, from which time a regular record of our proceedings has been faithfully kept.
The foregoing is designed as a kind of history of the rise of Star of Bethlehem Lodge; all that follows may be relied on as a faithful transcript of all her acts.
(Signed) HORACE G. BARRUS.
This preamble to the records was of course written some time after the meeting to which it refers, and was designed to give an intelligent explanation of what should follow in the history of the Lodge. Indeed, it is somewhat remarkable that the records, from the date of the first informal meeting, on the 15th of September, 1843, until the close of the year 1847, were all transcribed by Brother Barrus, and bear his signature at the close of each page, although he was Secretary of the Lodge only during the latter year. The accuracy and neatness which characterize the transcription of the records, during this period, is also noticeable, the work and business of the Lodge being set forth with great clearness and succinctness, with a careful analysis of the various topics in the margin. Secretaries of the present day can scarcely find a better model than is afforded by those records, prepared so diligently and with such evident painstaking by Dr. Barrus.
In addition to the brethren whose names I have already given as participants in the first formal meeting, the following brethren appear as petitioners for the dispensation, viz. : David Granger, sawyer; Nathan Brown, sea-captain; Joseph Noyes, U. S. Navy; John Bridge, cabinet-maker; William S. Merriam, stone-mason; and Adrian A. Peterson, U. S. Navy.
On the 26th of. October, 1843, the dispensation having been accepted, the first organization was effected by the election of the following officers : -
R. W. Horace G. Barrus, Master.
R. W. William Knapp, Senior Warden.
W. David Granger, Junior Warden.
Bro. John Bridge, Treasurer.
Bro. Anthony Brackett, Secretary.
Bro. David W. Smith, Senior Deacon.
Bro. Rufus R. Cook, Junior Deacon.
The Master appointed -
Bro. William S. Merriam, Steward.
Bro. Nathan Brown, Steward.
Bro. Abel Bowen, Tyler.
Of whom there still survive, Brother Barrus, the Master, Brother Cook, the Junior Deacon, and the venerable Brother Merriam, Senior Steward. At this Communication, after the installation of the officers, Mr. George C. Stearns, the first candidate for the degrees, was proposed by Brother David W. Smith.
The material interests of the young and struggling Lodge were aided by the loan by the Grand Lodge, of a complete set of collars and jewels, the property of Pentucket Lodge, and of three brazen candlesticks from [http://masonicgenealogy.com/MediaWiki/index.php?title=MountLebanon Mount Lebanon Lodge, Boston; also, of a set of collars from St. Andrew's Lodge. Columbian Lodge, of Boston, at about this time presented a complete set of sashes, and our own Brother Abel Bowen added the Great Light.
The meetings of the Lodge were held at the houses of the brethren until Dec. 28, 1843, when a room over the bakehouse in Haskell's building on Winnisimmet Street, was secured. This room was occupied for nearly a year. But in October, 1844, a committee, "to whom was referred the matter of obtaining a more commodious place of meeting, reported that, by conferring with the Winnisimmet Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, they had ascertained that we could obtain their hall at a rent of $60 per year, with the privilege of occupying it two evenings each week, fuel and lights included." Thenceforward this hall of the Odd Fellows, which was in Gerrish's building on the square, became the abiding-place of Star of Bethlehem Lodge, and its joint occupation by the two bodies seems to have been pleasant and harmonious, In 1848, the society of Odd Fellows having removed from Gerrish's building to Silloway's building, on the corner of Broadway and Malden Street (now Everett Avenue), Star of Bethlehem Lodge migrated with them to the latter edifice, securing apartments at the highly conservative rent of $40 per year, including fuel and lights. These apartments served the purposes of the brethren until Dec. 20, 1854, when quarters far more sumptuous and spacious than they had before known were secured in the brick building of W. Brother John Low, which has thus for nearly twenty years been the abiding-place of Star of Bethlehem Lodge and its sister Masonic institutions, and which now only gives way to this large and spacious edifice made necessary by our Masonic growth and increase during the past decade.
The dispensation, which had been granted, was continued from time to time until June 11, 1845, when a charter was issued by the Grand Lodge, bearing the names of Augustus Peabody, Grand Master; Robert Keith, Senior Grand Warden; John Hews, Junior Grand Warden, and Charles W. Moore, Grand Secretary. This charter contains the names of two brethren, viz., Cornelius Ellis and Joseph Wheeler, who do not appear in the record as petitioners for the dispensation. On the 19th of December 1845, a Special Communication of Star of Bethlehem Lodge was held by the consent of the Grand Master, at the Masonic Temple, Boston, at which a large number of visitors was present, and the M. W. Grand Lodge of the Commonwealth was "duly announced at seven o'clock, and moved into the hall in due order, and proceeded to the interesting ceremonies of consecration and dedication in due and ancient form." There is doubtless a mistake in the phraseology of this record, as there was obviously no dedication, but the interesting ceremonies related solely to the constitution of the Lodge, which was then and there effected by the M. W. Grand Master, under the cbarter of the previous summer. Brothers Jones and Oliver sang so sweetly on this occasion as to receive the thanks of the Lodge, which are recorded.
During the Mastership of Brother Barrus, which lasted until December, 1846, the Lodge seems to have pursued a peaceful and rather prosperous course. Its work was sufficient for health, and great interest and zeal were manifested by the brethren, especially bli Brothers Barrus and Knapp. After the election of the latter as Master, our brethren, who, as we may well judge by the circumstance of securing the Masonic Temple for the constitution of their Lodge, had resolved, for their important Communication, to have "ample room and verge enough," and not to be confined and cabined in the small pinfold, which might suffice for ordinary occasions, concluded to astonish the Masonic, and possibly the general, world by an exhibition such as Chelsea had never before seen. Accordingly, on Jan. 27, 1847, the Regular Communication was held by Star of Bethlehem Lodge in public, in Gerrish's Hall at six and a half o'clock, of which the record is as follows, viz.: "Lodge of Master Masons opened in due form; at ten minutes before seven the sisters were duly announced by the Marshal, and entered the hall in procession under escort, and took their seats. At seven o'clock, the visiting brethren entered and occupied the seats assigned them. At quarter past seven the arrival of the M. W. Grand Lodge was announced by the Grand Marshal, and entered the hall under escort of a detachment of Knights Templars and the Princes of Jerusalem, and were ieceived with due honors. The Master, R. W. Horace G. Barrus, resigned the chair to the M. W. Grand Master, who proceeded, in the presence of a large assembly of Masons and citizens, to install the several officers elect, in due and ancient form. After the ceremonies of installation, the R. W. George G. Smith, Esq., of Boston, delivered a very appropriate and interesting address."
During the year 1847, the first year of the administration of Brother Knapp as Master, it was determined to have lectures delivered before the Lodge upon some Masonic virtue at each Regular Communication, by some member appointed for that purpose. In fact, the thirst for intellectual development was at this time so pronounced that P. M. Barrus moved the establishment of a Masonic institute for the delivery of Masonic and scientific lectures. The institute does not seem to have been formed, yet some lectures were given upon the Masonic virtues during this year. In February, Brother Barrus deiivered an address on "Brotherly Love." In March, Brother W. E. P. Haskell lectured on "Relief," and the record states that "the subject was handled in a truly Masonic manner." In April, there was an extempore lecture by the Chaplain, Rev. Brother McLeish, in the absence of Rev. Brother Eben Francis. In May, Brother Horace Gleason delivered a lecture, and the Lodge voted that it should be published in the Masonic Magazine. In September of the same year, a lecture, which seems to have concluded the series, was given by Rev. Brother Francis, which is stated to have been "very appropriate." W. Brother Knapp continued, by successive elections, to hold the office of Worshipful Master until December, r85o. Some time, however, in 1848, he removed to the South End of Boston, and thenceforward, owing to his change of residence, the work of the Lodge languished, and the entire business for the years 1849 and 1850, during which there was only one application for the degrees, is contained in a record of eighteen loosely written pages, Brother Eben W. Lothrop being the Secretary for those years.
The zeal of W. Brother Knapp, who was always an enthusiastic Mason, was doubtless much tempered by his failing health pnd his removal to an inconvenient distance from the place of meeting, and the Lodge, in the last year of his service, had sq far suffered in its various interests, that it was almost contemplated to surrender the charter and abandon the work which had been so auspiciously begun and so well prosecuted in its first years. But there were two brave hearts, at least, in the ranks of the brethren, who were firmly resolved against the disgrace of such a consummation, and to these two, who, on an occasion like the present should be gratefully remembered as the second founders of Star of Bethlehem Lodge, and as the men upon whose persistent determination and noble devotion to Masonic principle, and its only local organization in this community, rested the hopes and after successes not only of the Lodge, but of all the institutions of Masonry in this city. It is only the most meagre justice to record that the Fraternity of Chelsea owes its present status of prosperity and strength to the unremitted personal labors and enthusiasm of W. Brothers John Low and Eben W. Lothrop, which commenced with the enfeebled condition of Star of Bethlehem Lodge, in the years 1849-56, and ended only when its condition was placed beyond the chances of failure.
At the Communication of the Lodge held Dec. 26, 1850, W. Brother Knapp, having regard to its welfare, which, from the circumstances already referred to, it was no longer possible for him actively to promote, declined a re-election as Master, and thereupon Brother John Low was elected in his stead. At this Communication, Brother Horace Gleason was elected Senior twarden, and Brother Eben W. Lothrop, Junior Warden. The work of the Lodge, which had so long languished, now began to revive. The Master and Wardens gave their regular attendance twice a week at the Boston Lodge of Instruction, and perfected themselves in the work and ritual of the degrees as they were then understood and exemplified, under the guidance of Father Martin. W. Brother Low filled the Chair of the East, to the great satisfaction of the Brethren, until Dec. 27, 1852, when Brother Eben W. Lothrop was elected Master. During ihe administration of W. Brother Low, Brother H. K. W. Palmer was the efficient Secretary of the Lodge. W. Brother Lothrop commenced the discharge of his duties as Master on the 26th of January, 1853, and was elected to the office for five successive years. Soon after his installation, applicants for the degrees began to multiply. Leading citizens became interested in the institution, and the ranks of Star of Bethlehem Lodge were recruited from the best members of this community. W. Brother Lothrop so far communicated to the brethren his own spirit and enthusiasm that it soon became apparent that the quarters which they had for ten years occupied so harmoniously in conjunction with the Lodge of Odd Fellows, were no longer equal to the proper accommodation of the Fraternity, and, accordingly, on the 28th of June, 1854. a committee was appointed to see on what terms a suitable hall could be procured for the Lodge. This committee reported in favor of procuring Low's Hall, on the corner of Broadway and Malden Street, which the Lodge authorized to be hired on a lease of ten years, at a rent not exceeding $250 per year. Th:s hall was furnished at an expense of $332, and on Dec. 20, 1854, was dedicated to the purposes of Masonry by the Grand Lodge, on which occasion a characteristically beautiful address upon Freemasonry was deIivered by our learned and accomplished brother, Rev. Wm. R. Alger. The leasing of Low's Hall was an enterprise concerning which many of the brethren at that time entertained much doubt. The Lodge was yet small, and the rent, together with the increased expenses attendant upon the occupation of more spacious quarters, seemed too formidable for their limited resources. But W. Brother Low's generosity, then, as ever, conspicuous in its application to all Masonic interests, was more than sufficient for these doubtful brethren. He said to them, "Do not doubt or fear: if you can't pay me the rent when it shall become due, pay me when you can; and, if you never pay, it shall make no difference." Under the stimulus of this generous and disinterested encouragement, the new hall was occupied, and it is not too much to say, whatever the future may reveal, that the real foundation of Masonry in this city was then laid.
At the Regular Communication of the Lodge, held Nov. 18, 1857, W. Brother Lothrop having closed his long and honorable career of service as Master, Brother John F. Fellows was elected in his stead, holding the offrce but one year, but discharging its duties with that zeal, spirit, and comprehensive efficiency which are so characteristic of this distinguished brother. At the close of the term of W. Brother Fellows, W. Brother Lothrop again stepped into the breach, and served an additional year as Master, with the same vigor of administration which had marked his previous service, when, at the Regular Communication of November, 1859, Brother Tracy P. Cheever was elected as his successor.
The other Masters in succession have been : -
W. Bro. Wm. A. Williams, 1861.
W. Bro. Henry W. Bowen, 1862.
W. Bro. John Walter, 1863.
W. Bro. Charles F. Haynes, 1864, 5, 6.
W. Bro. Charles T. Gay, 1867, 8.
W. Bro. Geo. W. Vose, 1869, 70.
W. Bro. James Tent, 1871.
W. Bro. William D. Seely, 1872, 3.
W. Bro. Philip G. Ilsley, 1874.
The Treasurers of the Lodge have been as follows, viz.: -
Bro. John Bridge, 1843 to 1850.
Bro. John E. Wilder, 1850.
Bro. Francis Low, 1851, 2.
Bro. John R. Dufur, 1853 to 1867.
W. Bro. Charles F. Haynes, 1867 to 1870.
W. Bro. John Walter, 1870 to 1874.
W. Bro. James Tent, 1874.
The clerical brethren who have served as Chaplains of the Lodge have been Rev. Brothers John McLeish, Eben Francis, and Charles H. Leonard, the latter serving from 1855 until 1870, when he accepted the position of professor in Tufts College. In the course of this long service as Chapiain, our reverend brother was often called to perform the impressive funeral ceremonies of the Fraternity over the graves of his departed brethren, and upon all those solemn occasions his tenderness and benignity did much to assuage our own grief and to dry the mourners' tears.
The general work and business of the Lodge as conducted under the administration of the W. Masters just enumerated, to the date of the entry into office of its present young, zealous, and efficient Master, have passed before the eyes of so many of the present members of the Lodge as to require little special comment. It is, perhaps, sufficient to say that all the Masters, with their associates in office, of the past fifteen years, have generally emulated the zeal and devotion of the early incumbents of the Chair, and that the Lodge has during that period steadily increased in numbers and in Masonic consequence to the present hour.
When the trumpet call of 1861 was heard through the nation, Star of Bethlehem Lodge sent forth some of her best and truest brethren, who, in fort and field, by land and sea, upheld their country's honor, and for her sake, gave freely life and all that is to life most dear.
On the 15th of November, 1864, the Lodge, having reached, the age of twenty-one years, celebrated its majority by forming a procession, and, with distinguished brethren as invited guests, repairing to the Universalist Church, where an oration was delivered by the Rev. Brother Charles H. Leonard, in which, after briefly reciting a portion of the early annals, he entered into a most beautiful and poetical analysis of the philosophy of Freemasonry. This address was a model, and was wisely preserved in print, together with the characteristic poem of Brother Benjamin P. Shillaber, delivered upon the same occasion. fn fact, Brother Shillaber's muse has been at once so apt, so genial, and so prolific upon all Masonic occasions that we might almost fancy, according to the old doctrine of transmigration of souls, that the briginal Nine Muses of Greece had passed down to modern days and had been rolled into the one rotund and portly form of Mrs. Partington.
A full generation has passed since the formation of Star of Bethlehem Lodge. From the first ranks there have fallen, by the hand of death, all but the first W. Master, Dr. Horace G. Barrus, the first Senior Deacon, Rufus R. Cook, and the first Senior Steward, our respected and venerable brother, William S. Merriam. The memory of these early brethren and of the more numerous younger members who, in the succession of years, have passed from human fellowship into the celestial Lodge. above, will ever be cherished in the hearts of all those who appreciate the history and hold dear the honor of Star of Bethlehem Lodge.
It is a somewhat remarkable circumstance, when we consider the lapse of thirty years, that out of the entire line of W. Masters, only one, the second, W. Brother William Knapp, is known to have died, The remainder survive, and are still upon the list of members, active or honorary. At the date of the formation of the Lodge, the population of the town of Chelsea was about 3,500. The city of Chelsea now numbers, probably, 22,000 souls. The growth of the Lodge has been pari passu with our municipal growth, and its members, now two hundred and twenty-nine in number, have been so largely and so honorably identified with the government and administration of the affairs of both town and city, and with all the material, social, and philanthropic interests of the population, as to cause it justly to be ranked among the leading institutions of this community. From the good cause of benevolence, it has never withheld its generous hand; nor has it stayed the sword of justice in dealing with its recreant and unworthy members. The Masonic work as practised by the Lodge has been in the main rigorously exact and in conformity with the established forms of the Ritual, yielding reluctantly to change and strenuously adhering to the ancient landmarks, until these were swept away by the sometimes remorseless hand of authority. It stands to-day a fullgrown and vigorous constituent of the great body of Massachusetts Masons, now and always in perfect loyalty to the M. W. Grand Lodge, and in full harmony with its sister Lodges. Upon its crest shines the honorable legend of its Masonic life, which was first emblazoned upon Judea's midnight sky, the evangel of Christianity itself, "peace on earth and good-will to men." So mote it be.