FIRST LODGE, WEST INDIES
Chartered By: Tomlinson
Charter Date: 06/24/1738 I-7
Precedence Date: 06/24/1738
Current Status: Removed from the Roll of Lodges of the Grand Lodge of England in 1813; assigned to the Provincial Grand Lodge of the West Indies in 1739.
NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XXXVI, No. 2, October 1940, Page 25 and From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLII, No. 1, January 1947, Page 5:
By Reginald V. Harris. P. G. M., P. G. H. P., Nova Scotia
The visitor to Antigua in the Leeward Islands will see what many believe to he the first cornerstone laid with Masonic honors in the New World. It reads:
This (First Stone) was Laid by
(William I)saac Matthew
The Right Worshipfull
(The Prov(incial) Grand Master
with his (Gra)nd Officers
The Wardens and Brothers
The Three Lodges (of F)ree and
accepted Masons of Antigua
November 15, 1739
(Note: Words and letters in brackets have been chipped out by souvenir hunters.)
William Isaac Matthew was sworn in as Governor of the Leeward Islands October 21, 1733, and although recalled to England in 1736 for piracy on French vessels, he remained in office until 1748.
During his regime there was much noteworthy Masonic activity in the island.
Antigua, in the Leeward Island group, claims to be the birthplace of Freemasonry in the West Indies. In the course of its long history, there arc several interesting links with the outside world.
Columbus discovered Antigua on his second voyage in 1493, and named it after Santa Maria la Antigua, a Church in Seville. It was not colonized until 1632 when some English settlers from St. Kitts under Edward, son of Sir Thomas Warner, established themselves there.
In 1666 French troops reinforced by Irish malcontents and Caribs landed at Five Islands Bay and took possession of the island, but in the following year it was ceded to England by the Treaty of Breda and the government was entrusted to Lord Willoughby of Parham.
About this time the population consisted of about 500 blacks, hut in 1689 the inhabitants of Anguilla sought refuge in Antigua which was defended from the incursions of the French and Indians by Sir Timothy Thornhill and a body of troops. The notorious Mr. Parke became governor in 1706, but violent dissensions arose between him and the populace and when he refused to resign, he was slain by a riotous mob, Dec. 7th, 1710.
An examination of a good large scale map of the island will show the island to he deeply indented with scores of sheltered hays, chief of which is the famous English Harbor, probably the finest natural haven in that part of the West Indies. The strategic importance m the island resulted in no less than forty separate points being fortified between 1672 and 1800. The chief lof these was for many years the great fortress of Monk's Hill, completed in 1705, after 16 years of arduous work. The strong walls of Fort George on Monk's Hill are still in fair condition. The chief fort protecting St. John's Harbor in the northwest is Fort James, begun in 1704. The fort was added to and extended from time to time, and the cornerstone mentioned above is to be found in one of the great enclosing walls of this Fort begun in 1739.
In 1738 Robert Tomlinson, Merchant of Boston and Antigua. Provincial Grand Master for New England. went to England by way of Antigua, where he had business interests. His wife, too, Elizabeth Gerot, was a native of the island. Here, according to the Massachusetts records (Mass. Proc. I. p. 6), "finding some old Boston Masons he went to work and made the Governor and sending other Gentlemen of Distinction Masons, whereby from Our Lodge sprung Masonry in the West Indies." This statement would seem to be partly in error for we find in the records of the Grand Lodge. Parham Lodge was constituted in Antigua in January 31st 1738, and shortly after the warrant for Parham Lodge two other warrants were issued, Court House Lodge No. 192, constituted November 22, 1738. and Bakers Lodge No. 193, in St. Mary's Street, St. John, constituted March 14, 1739.
The records of the Grand Lodge of England do not contain the names of the petitioners or of any members of the Lodges, but do show the appointment on the 27th day of April 1738 of Governor Matthews as Provincial Grand Master for the Leeward Islands. The same record contains the appointment of the Earl of Darnley. Grand Master of England, of Capt. William Douglas, as Provincial Grand Master for the coast of America and in the Islands of America, and another to James Watson as Provincial Grand Master for Montserrat.
Douglas was Commander of H.M.S. Falmouth. The appointment was renewed a year later; and it would seem probable that Parham Lodge owed its origin to the efforts of either Douglas or Watson.
The interesting fact recorded in the quotation from the Massachusetts Proceedings is that Tomlinson in 1738 found in Antigua "some old Boston Masons." When we remember that St. John's Lodge of Boston was constituted only five years previously, we naturally ask who these old Boston Masons were, when they had been residents of Boston, when were they made Masons and when did they migrate to Antigua?
Here is a subject of research for an industrious student of Masonry, to trace out the history of the membership of St. John's Lodge (the only lodge then in Boston) for the period 1733-38 to determine, if possible, whether any of them had removed to Antigua.
If none of them had so removed, it would be established that the "old Boston Masons" found by Tomlinson in Antigua in 1738, must have been members of a lodge in Boston which functioned previously to 1733. thus giving new support to the theory that such a lodge met and made Masons in Boston in that period.
From Antigua Tomlinson preceded on his way to London where he had a brother John, agent of the Province of Now Hampshire. While in London he attended a meeting of the Grand Lodge held in the Devil's Tavern Wednesday. January 31st 1739. While in London he also made his will dated April 11th 1739. by which he left his estate to his brother Richard and sisters Isabel and Catherine Robinson in equal shares.
Shortly afterwards he sailed for Boston, where he was greeted by his brethren of the Provincial Grand Lodge, May, 1739. Reading the story of Tomlinson's visit with the reference to "the Three Lodges" on the stone, we incline to the belief that Tomlinson on his way to England did not establish a fourth lodge (As suggested by Gould), hut participated in the organization of a lodge which was later to be known as Court Mouse Lodge and that on his arrival in England he was responsible for the latter's appointment as Provincial Grand Master and secured a charter for the new lodge.
In the records of the First Lodge. Boston, under date of August 8, 1739, is set out in full a letter:
"Thrice Worthy & Ever Dear Brethren
"We with the utmost Pleasure recd. your hearty congratulation Upon the Establishment of Masonry in this our Island, snd return thanks to Our Worthy Brethren of Boston for the good Opinion they entertain of the virtues of Our Countrymen, which we hope will be con-continual] encreasing as the Royal Craft comes every day to flourish and gain ground among us. not only by the Accession of numbers of New Brethren, but especially under the happy Influence of our thrice Worthy Right Worshipful Grand Master his Excellency William Mathew. whom we boast of as a true good. Mason & a sincere lover and enconrager of our inestimable craft.
"We take kindly our Dear Brethrens offer of a friendly correspondence and should before this time have signified the pleasure we hope to reap from it, by an answer to yours of the 4th of April last but that we waited for an Opertunity of sending our sincere and hearty good wishes to our Brethren and Fellows the hands of one who might in our name greet you in a Brother like manner.
"We are now so happy as to enjoy well beloved Brother Majr. John Murrys intending for Boston in a this wishd for Opertunity bv Our Very few Days, whom we commend to you as a Worthy upright Master Mason who has for some time past. Executed the office of SW of one of our Lodges to the entire satisfaction of all his Brethren and Fellows.
"All the Brethren here salute you well beloved with greetings of St. John, wishing that all Prosperity may attend you, and that no Malicious Cowan may ever with profane ears & eyes approach even the lowest step of your Worshipful Lodge, in Order to listen to the W istlum or pry into the Bcautv or Disturb the order & harmony thereof.
"From the Grand Lodge held at the Court House in St. Johns the 27th June A L 5739.
"We are dear Brethren Your Sincer Effectionate Brethren and Humber Servants.
"Signed by the Command of the Rt. Wpfull the Grand Master.
"William Merger G S"
On Nov. 15, 1739, the Governor, as Provincial Grand Master laid the cornerstone referred to above, a inosi unusual proceeding in so far as military works are concerned.
Since then, tourists from various parts of the world have removed sections of the stone for presentation to their own lodges, being under the impression that a gift of this character would be greatly appreciated In the majority of cases, however, these have been returned to Antigua. Cracks are visible in the photograph, indicating where damage has been done to the foundation stone. In the records of the Grand Lodge of England for 1739. payments are reported from Antigua Lodge. Court House Lodge and the Lodge in St. Mary's Street, all of Antigua.
Tomlinson early in January 1740 again visited Antigua and died there July 16. 1740. The burial register of the Cathedral at St. John's Antigua, contained the entry, "1740. July 16. Robert Tomlinson. merchant from Boston. It was believed that he had made his will the previous day but it was never found and administration was granted to Benjamin Hallowell of Boston on November 17, 1740.
On the English official list of lodges for 1740 tin lodges at Antigua appear as follows: No. 154; Baker's Lodge; No. 164. and Lodge No. 170.
On April 4, 1744 we find the Rev. Dr. Francis Byam, Master on behalf of Court House Lodge, petitioning the Grand Lodge in London, reciting forth that the Lodge bad built a new lodge room sixty feet long and thirty feet wide with a small room adjoining, and asking that "the said newbuilt Lodge might be entered on the Register as "The Great Lodge of St. John's'." The prayer of the petition was granted with the alteration that the name should be "The Great Lodge at St. John's in Antigua." This, we believe, the first record of the constitution of a Masonic hall anywhere in the New World.
In a "Humble Remonstrance of the Rt. Worshipful The First Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the other Lodges," in Boston dated October 7. 1751, asking for the extension of the authority of Thos. Oxnard over all North America, the assertion is made of the fad thai among other places, the Prov. Grand Master has granted "Deputations to Distant Provinces as Philadelphia. Carolina, Antigua in the West Indies, etc., which has prom(ot)ed so Considerably ye Interest of Masonry in North America."
In 1753, Evangelists Lodge No. 233 was warranted for Antigua but it was removed in 1777 to Montserrat.
In 1754. the Rev. F. Byam. D.D.. was appointed Provincial Grand Master for the Leeward Islands, continuing in office during 1755.
In 1754 when the lodges in Boston petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for the appointment of Jeremy Gridley as Provincial Grand Master, the Lodge at Antigua founded in 1738 was named as one of the petitioning lodges.
In the Massachusetts proceedings until 1766 the usual record is that "No persons appeared" for the "Antigua Lodge.
The Grand Master for Antigua and the Leeward Islands from 1718-62 was William Jarvis, who was succeeded provisionally by Capt. J. Dunbar, 1764-67.
His Excellency Sir Reginald St.-Johnston. K. C. M. G., Governor of the Leeward Islands, describes a curious incident that occurred in 1776 at Fort James. It was reported thai William Jarvis, the captain-gunner, referred to above, had been rating his son, aged five, as a "mattross," thereby enabling him to draw pay for this youngster. Four other gunners were involved in a similar practice. Previous to 1823. an important planter or some other prominent resident of the island in the vicinity of each fort was appointed as "governor" doubtless deriving some monetary emolument. There was also a "lieutenant-governor" for each.
In 1772 the Lodge of Concord No. 435 was established and in 1782 another Mount Sinai Lodge No. 447 was warranted by the Grand Lodge of England, both continuing with their predecessors on the English lists until the union of 1813.
On December 18, 1772, Lieut. Gen. James Adolphus Onghton, Grand Master Mason of Scotland, 1769-70, was appointed Lieut. Governor of Antigua, but no Scottish lodges were chartered until 1787 when Lodge St. John. Pythagorie, No. 228 was instituted, continuing until 1816.
The great Nelson refitted his ships in English Harbor on the south coast in 1805, during his memorable pursuit of Villeneuve to the West Indies and back, previous to Trafalgar.
In 1804 we note the presence in Antigua of a Lodge, No. 170. warranted in 1801 by the "Ancients" Grand Lodge of England in the 2nd Battalion of the 52nd Regiment. In 1803, this Battalion became the 96th Regiment and was transferred to Antigua.
In 1856 we find Star of the West Lodge, warranted by the Grand Lodge of England, erased in 1891. The only lodges now working in Antigua are St. John's No. 492, established 1843, and Caribee, No. 2829, warranted in 1900. both under the English Constitution.
NOTES, DISTRICT GRAND LODGE
According to the Antigua web page of the District Grand Lodge of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean:
"The Premier Grand Lodge of England (The Moderns) issued a Warrant on 31st January 1738, for Parham Lodge No 154 to meet in St. John’s, Antigua. Further Warrants were issued to Court House Lodge No 164 on 22 nd November 1738 and Bakers Lodge No 170 on 17 th March 1739. William Isaac Matthew was issued with a Patent in 1739 as Provincial Grand Master for the Leeward Islands, which in those days included Antigua."