N: Links to Necrologies.
DISTRICT GRAND MASTERS
- Irvin Van Gorder Gillis, 1927-1935; International
- Vergil F. Bradfield, 1936-1938; International; N
- Nathan E. Lurton, 1939-1942; Ancient Landmark; SN
- Franklin C. Fetté, 1946; International
DISTRICT DEPUTY GRAND MASTERS
- Hyman Hodes, 1957-1973; Hykes Memorial; N
- Alphonse Rigod, 1974-1979; Sinim
- Joe A. Diele, 1980-2002; Sinim; N
- Richard Dyck, 2002
From Proceedings, Page 1925-293:
Right Worshipful Brother Gillis has submitted another of his admirable reports covering the activities of his District for the last Grand Lodge year. Appended are full reports from the Master of each Lodge and the Treasurer's report for the District Grand Lodge.
Right Worshipful Brother Gillis has a very difficult task. The Lodges under his charge are separated from each other and from his headquarters by very great distances. The conditions under which the several Lodges work vary greatly, and their individual problems differ widely. Nevertheless, each Lodge receives his constant sympathetic and efficient supervision. Working as he does with other Masonic obediences which have different laws and different customs, with one of which we are unfortunately not in Masonic relations, many difficult and perplexing questions are constantly arising which call for tact and diplomacy. Right Worshipful Brother Gillis has dealt with these difficult conditions with a devotion and skill which deserve the highest praise. We are indeed fortunate in having his services in this important post.
Political conditions in China are still unstable and unsatisfactory. They do not appear as yet to have directly affected our Lodges. Indirectly, however, they are not without effects which may later be harmful unless means of counteracting them are discovered. Three of our Lodges draw their initiates for the most part from soldiers and marines on duty in China. While no objection whatever exists to the reception of these candidates, the result is a lack of permanence in the membership and sometimes a difficulty in getting properly qualified officers. The withdrawal of these military units, which is by no means impossible, would very seriously deplete these Lodges.
In the spheres of Japanese influence, the Japanese have so far treated our Lodges with the same toleration extended to the British Lodges in Japan. While secret assemblages are forbidden by Japanese law, the authorities ignore the Masonic Lodges on the understanding that Japanese subjects are not admitted to membership. Our Lodges in Manchuria are, however, seriously threatened by the withdrawal of British and American business houses, which dries up our source of supply.
Under present conditions, Right Worshipful Brother Gillis is strongly of the opinion, in which I agree, that we should found no new Lodges in the China District.
The general conditions in the Lodges are good. Under R. W. Brother Gillis' careful and energetic direction, many improvements have been made. The Lodges generally are better organized and administered than ever before. Owing to the changing character of the community from which we draw, it is not always easy to get qualified Brethren to fill the Master's chair, but the average quality of leadership is greatly improved. One of the greatest difficulties in the China District from the very beginning has been found in the matter of Lodge Secretaries. It has been very difficult to get or to keep Secretaries who were well informed and devoted to their work. In this respect a great improvement has been brought about. The secretarial work in the Lodges is better than it has ever been before.
Service committees are being introduced and are functioning well. The two Lodges of Instruction are doing excellent work. They are not only instructing candidates and older members but through the attendance of Brethren from other jurisdictions are doing much to strengthen fellowship.
The general financial condition in China is not good and the prospects are not very encouraging. In spite of this, however, the financial condition of the Lodges is sound without exception. Of seven out of eight Lodges reporting to the District Grand Master, all operate entirely on dues, four ear-mark all receipts from initiation and affiliation for the charity fund, five are on a budget system, and four have their officers bonded. The District Grand Master and the District Grand Treasurer, Worshipful Brother Bradfield, have been unremitting in their efforts to improve the financial administration of the Lodges and their work has met with great success.
As usual, the Brethren have been faithful and generous in the discharge of their obligations for relief. In this regard they deserve great praise. The District Grand Master again sends a generous gift of S250.0U for Juniper Hall, and for it we are very grateful. He again, as last year, expresses his great regret that slides or motion picture films are not available for the purpose of showing the Home and Hospital to our Lodges. He is confident that such visible presentation of our work for our less fortunate Brethren and their dependents would greatly stimulate interest and result in better financial support from China. I repeat the suggestion made by my predecessor last year that perhaps some generous Brother or Brothers will help us to secure this material for use in China.
I feel that our China District has had a year of prosperity remarkable under the conditions which necessarily prevail there. We owe this to the devotion and the untiring efforts of our District Grand Master and the loyal staff of officers whom he has assembled around him. I can not express too strongly my gratitude and appreciation for all they have done.
A special word of appreciation is due to Worshipful Thurston R. Porter, our Deputy District Grand Master. His station at Shanghai is far removed from Right Worshipful Brother Gillis at Peiping, and his duties are very important. He is a most faithful, loyal, and efficient deputy, and is of the greatest assistance to the District Grand Master.
From Proceedings, Page 1935-363:
THE GRAND MASTER. Brethren, the statement is frequently made that we have eight Lodges in China under the Grand Jurisdiction of Massachusetts. That statement today is not entirely accurate. We have only five Lodges in China under our jurisdiction, but we also have two in Manchoukuo and one in Kwantung Leased Territory, sometimes called Southern Manchuria, hut really Japan today, as I understand it. These are the same Lodges that formerly constituted our eight Lodges in China. None of them have moved, but the boundary lines of China have undergone some changes, as you all know.
These eight Lodges in the Far East under our jurisdiction, the oldest of which is Ancient Landmark, located at Shanghai, constituted in 1863, are under the immediate supervision of a District Grand Master located at Peiping, the home of our International Lodge. The man upon whom he relies to assist him and to particularly exercise supervision over the three Lodges located at Shanghai bears the title of Deputy District Grand Master.
Three days ago I learned that the Deputy District Grand Master was on his way to this country, and was due in New York about Christmas. I immediately attempted to make contact with him that I might invite him to be with us today, particularly that I could prevail upon him to address us for a few moments relative to our Brethren in the Ear East and to the general situation in China. I have been successful in this desire, and it is now my very great pleasure to present to you Worshipful Thurston R. Porter, Deputy District Grand Master, District Grand Lodge of China, Massachusetts Constitution.
WORSHIPFUL THURSTON R. PORTER. Most Worshipful Grand Master and Brethren: I have come a long way, from China, and conditions when I left were not of the best. They are having financial trouble in China. I think all the Brethren here will know what that means — financial trouble. Every day or so they have a brush with the Japanese. Things are not happy there, as far as China is concerned. They have a quasi government, as relates to the entire country, in Nanking, headed by General Chiang Kai-shek, who is the generalissimo and premier, and who is really the number one man in the government. Every once in a while some member of the cabinet is injured—either physically or morally — and he resigns, as one did not long ago, Wang Ching Wei. An attempt was made on his life and he resigned, and they moved another man, Chan Chung, into the Foreign Office, and immediately Wang Ching Wei's men quit the government, and Chan Chung's men went into office. That is a condition they have in China that foreigners find it hard to understand. We are gradually getting away from civil war in China.
As to the Chinese people themselves, you never will find, no matter how far you go, a kinder, more hospitable, more loving people than the Chinese, and the soul of sweetness is in them when you get out of the cities. In the cities, it is not quite so good, but if you get out in the country, get out among the people, you will find them the most wonderful people in the world.
They are pacifists. They do not believe in fighting, and they do not believe in giving their lives for the country, because thej Bay; "Why should we? Why should we die for the country? We want to have a good time as long as we live, and as many sons as we can, and then we want to die, and follow our ancestors to the great future, but we don't want to fight" — and they won't fight.
A marvelous book has been published this year, called "My Country and My People," by Lin Yutang, and I would advise everybody who wants to study about the Chinese to read that book, because it brings down, within the compass of about four hundred pages, the whole story of the Chinese people and what they hope for and what they have accomplished, and they have accomplished more than one would think to hear only of the battles.
They are building up China. In ten years, they will have one of the most wonderful highway systems in the world, railroads, airways, and all that. So China is coming along, but it is going to take them time to accomplish this.
Turning now to Masonic conditions in China, we have eight Lodges there, three in Shanghai, one in Peking, or Peiping, as it is now called, one in Tientsin, one in Mukden, one in Dairen, and one in Harbin. The Harbin and Dairen Lodges are not as flourishing as they are elsewhere, but they are carrying on. They are doing their very best. When I tell you that in Harbin they have not enough members to fill the offices of the Lodge, that they do not have any Stewards because they have not got the men, you will understand conditions, but the Lodge carries on just the same, and it has done marvelous work; real Masonic-work.
Travel in China takes a long time. It takes two days to get by train from Shanghai up to Peking, and then it is a short way down to Tientsin, and then it takes about two days and a half to reach Harbin, from Peking and a day and a night to get to Mukden. It takes a day to reach Dairen, from Mukden, so you see the Lodges are scattered pretty well over the country.
The conditions in China with respect to the other District Grand Lodges and the Massachusetts Constitution are very, very happy. In Shanghai we have a District Grand Lodge of English Freemasons, a District Grand Lodge of Scottish Freemasons, we have the Massachusetts Grand Lodge representatives, and in addition to these we have one Lodge of the Irish Constitution, as well as a Lodge of the Vienna Constitution. They work in absolute harmony. There are no meetings held where there are not members of the other Lodges attending. There is not a sound of discord that 1 have perceived in the past five years, and that condition is dependent largely upon the formation of the Masonic Advisory Council by our dearly beloved Most Worshipful Brother Dean and the Grand Masters of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Vienna. It meets at the call of the chairman, who is the English District Grand Master, and is an ideal institution.
Massachusetts Masonry in China has a membership of eight hundred in Eight Lodges. That does not mean one hundred to a Lodge, of course. One of them, the largest, has two hundred and thirty members. Then it runs from this down to about sixteen.
The American Masonic Temple in Shanghai — I want you to listen to this— is making money every year! It pays dividends; sets aside so much annually to pay back the original investment to the owning bodies at the end of twenty years, and they have just a bit more money in that fund than they should have — which is a good idea.
For thirteen years, we have been under the wise guidance of Right Worshipful Irvin Van Gorder Gillis who lives in Peiping. He comes to Shanghai every two or three years. That is why he has a deputy down there. I transmit his rulings to the Lodge officials, and that ends it.
I want to tell you a little bit about Talien Lodge in Dairen, which is in the Kwantung leased territory. It never had a large membership, and in 1923 was only a year or two old. There was an American Consul who had been in Dairen, who was one of the Wardens of the Lodge. He had been moved recently over to Yokohama. In the Japanese earthquake of 1923 he and his wife were killed, and they left two little bits of helpless children, with nobody to look after them. Talien Lodge educated those two youngsters. It did not have any hall; it had home-made paraphernalia. It saved every penny it possibly could, and devoted all its funds to the well-being of those two children. To me it is one of the marvelous stories about Freemasonry, because it shows what Masonry really does and can do.
The Lodge in Mukden is not forging ahead; but it is not falling back much. It is about the same as it was. Harbin I have told you about.
In Peiping live the District Grand Master and District Grand Secretary and the District Grand Treasurer. They have but one Lodge there, International Lodge, which takes in a great many service men in the United States Marines.
In Shanghai we have three Lodges with half the numbers in China. Each of these Lodges is comfortably fixed financially and all work together in absolute harmony.
Worshipful Brother Joyner was elected Master of Hykes Memorial Lodge in Tientsin a little over a year ago, and he gave the entire year to the task of getting its members acquainted again, because they were scattered all over the world. They had come over to China with the 4th U. S. Infantry, most of them, and had joined the Lodge there. So practically all his efforts were devoted to writing letters to find out how they were, and all that. He said he did not care about getting new Masons. He just wanted to get the boys in the Lodge really acquainted again.
So I am sort of proud of China, under the Massachusetts Constitution. I am proud of the work they are doing, because I know about a whole lot of charity and other work they have done, that never will be told about, naturally, but they are gladly doing it. They are carrying on, and with it they are doing it in the spirit of friendship and amity and fellowship with the otherDistrict Grand Lodges as well as their own.
From Proceedings, Page 1936-45:
Shortly after the annual meeting last December I received a letter from Right Worshipful Irvin V. Gillis, our District Grand Master for China, in which he said that he felt it would be too great a tax upon his strength to longer carry on the arduous duties of his office and therefore he regretfully tendered his resignation, requesting me to advise by cable my acceptance of same. He at that time recommended as his successor Worshipful Vergil F. Bradfield, who had been closely associated with him in the work of his office as District Grand Master.
After careful consideration I felt it incumbent upon me, in fairness to Right Worshipful Brother Gillis, to comply with his request and relieve him from further service as District Grand Master. I therefore cabled him on New Year's Day as follows: "Reluctantly accept resignation with deep appreciation many years' faithful service to Craft. New Years greetings," and at the same time cabled Brother Bradfield appointing him District Grand Master to succeed Right Worshipful Brother Gillis. In accordance with these cables, Right Worshipful Brother Gillis on January 3rd duly installed Right Worshipful Vergil F. Bradfield as his successor.
Right Worshipful Brother Gillis, receiving his first appointment from Most Worshipful Brother Ferrell and being installed on April 12, 1923, has held the office of District Grand Master for approximately thirteen years and has served the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts with a rare degree of fidelity and ability. His first consideration has ever been the greatest good of the Craft, and it was with a keen sense of regret that I accepted his resignation.
Our Grand Lodge, however, will not lose the benefit of his long experience in Masonry, as he is to remain in China and has assured me of his continued active interest at all times so far as conditions will permit. In fact, he is at the present time serving as Treasurer of his own Lodge in Peiping, and I am sure that in him Right Worshipful Brother Bradfield will find an able counsellor ever ready and willing to assist him in carrying on.
In the appointment of Right Worshipful Brother Bradfield we have a worthy successor to this high office, who through his long service as District Grand Secretary and more recently as District Grand Treasurer, has become thoroughly familiar with conditions in our China District and has a broad acquaintance with the Brethren there. His ability and Masonic interest and enthusiasm will enable him to go forward with the policies inaugurated by his predecessor in a manner that will be pleasing both to the Brethren in the Lodges of the China District and to the Grand Lodge.
I consider that we are indeed fortunate that we were able to call upon Right Worshipful Brother Bradfield to assume the reins of office when Right Worshipful Brother Gillis laid them down, and I am certain that our interests in China still remain in competent and sympathetic hands.
I am happy to inform you that I expect it will be our pleasure to greet Right Worshipful Brother Bradfield in person at our Quarterly Communication in June, as his present plans contemplate a visit to Massachusetts at that time.
You will recall the happy privilege that was ours at the Stated Communication on December 27th to have with us Worshipful Thurston R. Porter, then Deputy District Grand Master for the China District, who addressed us most interestingly at the Feast of St. John. His business having necessitated his indefinite or permanent absence from China, he has felt compelled to relinquish his office, and has been succeeded by Worshipful Calvin K. Horsman, Past Master of Shanghai Lodge, who is located at Shanghai, as was Brother Porter. I am assured that his appointment also meets with the approval of the Brethren in China, and have every confidence that he will prove a worthy successor to Worshipful Brother Porter. Being thus assured, I have appointee! him as our representative on the Masonic Advisory Council in China, an office held by Worshipful Brother Porter during his term as Deputy District Grand Master. The members of this Council representing other Grand Jurisdictions being located in Shanghai, his residence there will enable him to keep in close touch with his associates on matters of general Masonic interest in China.
From Proceedings, Page 1936-237:
I have received a very full report from Right Worshipful V. F. Bradfield, our District Grand Master for China. This is accompanied by detailed reports of his own work and reports from the Masters of the Lodges in the District. It is evident that R. W. Brother Bradfield has taken up the duties of his office with energy and devotion, and is discharging them with tact and skill. We are fortunate in having so competent and enthusiastic a successor to R. W. Brother Gillis, who served us so long and so well.
R. W. Brother Bradfield reports that political conditions in China proper are more stable than they have been for many years, and that more unity in government is definitely apparent. Successful management of Chinese currency with slight variation in foreign exchange over a period of several months has tended to make for more confidence in business and investment circles. Our Brethren in China proper, — Shanghai, Tientsin, and Peiping — have been generally prosperous in their business affairs. Those Brethren remaining in North Manchuria are working against odds, since trade is being rapidly lost by foreign enterprises and individuals.
There has been a loss often in the membership in the District, and a decrease to two in initiations during the last year.
The financial conditions of the Lodges are sound. Even the smaller and weaker Lodges in the north are facing their problems with stout hearts and a determination to carry on. Thanks to the careful oversight of R. W. Brother Bradfield, many lesser imperfections have been remedied. Records and accounts are being better kept, and in several cases experienced Past Masters have been called into service as Masters and Secretaries, with promise of excellent results in the current year.
The two Lodges of Instruction are doing their work satisfactorily, and with excellent results. The District Grand Master feels that the work of these Lodges is very valuable because many of the candidates are men in the armed forces and others whose residence in China is only transitory.
There is an unfortunate renewal of anti-masonic activity from both Russian and Japanese sources. The Japanese press is again repeating the old charges of the anti-social aims and activities of our Fraternity. It is hoped that the return of Worshipful Brother Frazar to Japan, which has just taken place, will help. Brother Frazar's wide personal contacts and the esteem and respect felt for him among the Japanese, to whom his Masonic prominence is well known, will enable him to do much to correct misunderstandings in influential circles.