THOMAS W. DAVIS 1844-1915
Junior Grand Steward, 1875
Junior Grand Deacon, 1876
Junior Grand Warden, 1883
Recording Grand Secretary
FROM PROCEEDINGS, 1915
From Proceedings, Page 1915-54:
Brother Davis was one of the best Masonic jurists in this country, having seen service for many years as an officer and permanent member of the Grand Lodge, and serving on almost countless committees. Considering constitutional amendments and other matters, he became thoroughly acquainted with the laws and practices of the Fraternity. His advice on all such questions was equally sought by Grand Masters and all others seeking information on such subjects.
He was also distinguished along literary lines, being the author of many monographs and articles pertaining to the Craft, a striking example of which is the poem which appeared in the first number of the first volume of Nickerson's New England Freemason in January, 1874. This has been made a part of this address.
Let there be light! the great Creator spoke,
And at the summons slumbering Nature woke,
While from the East the primal morning broke.
Back rolled the curtains of the night,
AnrI Earth rejoiced to see the light.
Let there be light! through boundless realms of space
Beneath its touch arise new forms of grace;
Warmth, life, and beauty with its beam's keep pace.
Where'er it shines, with fresh delight
All things reflect the genial light.
Let there be light! the Master's lips proclaim,
And heart and hand unite in glad acclaim
To hail th' enrolment of a Brother's name.
While he beholds with ravished sight
The glories of the Perfect light.
Let there he light ! and let the Bible's glow
Pervade our thoughts-through all our actions show -
Around our hearts its warming influence throw.
So shall our steps be led aright,
If guided by that holy light.
Let there be light! though we see dimly here,
The shining gates are ever drawing near,
And send their glory down our pathway drear.
Beyond - shall Heaven our eyes requite
With its divine, transcendant light.
Thomas White Davis was born in Michigan City, Indiana, November 1, 1844, but came of an old central Massachusetts family. His father was Rev. Elnathan Davis, of Holden, Mass., and his mother was Mary A. (White) Davis, also of Holden. A great-grandfather was Captain James Davis, of Holden, and a great-grandmother was Mrs. Joseph Avery, of Holden, a niece of Samuel Adams. While Brother Davis was a boy his father's pastorate changed and the family came back to Massachusetts, where he attended the Fitchburg High School, afterwards went to Oberlin preparatory school, and from there to Williams College, from which he was graduated in 1866. For a short time he was an insurance agent and bookkeeper and in 1868 he went to Washington, taking a position in the War Department. The following year he worked in the Washington city postoffice.
In 1870 Brother Davis came to Belmont as principal of the High School. He held that place for a year and then entered the Cambridge Schools, being master of the Putnam and Harvard Schools in that city from 1871 until 1908, in which year he was elected Recording Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge. He was a trustee of the BeImont Public Library from 1877 to 1895, was a selectman from 1895 to 1899, and from 1901 to 1907. He was an assessor from 1883 until the present, being chairman of the present board. He was also a trustee of the Massachusetts School for Feeble-minded, president of the Waverley Cooperative Bank, and clerk and trustee of the Belmont Savings Bank.
Brother Davis's Masonic career began the year after he was graduated from college. He was raised in Charles W. Moore Lodge, of Fitchburg, April 2, 1867, and became Master of that Lodge in 1871, serving until 1873. In 1877 he joined Belmont Lodge and served as its secretary In 1875 he became Junior Grand Steward. of Grand Lodge and rose steadily through the grades of Junior Grand Deacon, District Deputy Grand Master (Fourth Masonic District), and Junior Grand Warden, which last named office he held in 1883. He had also served the Grand Lodge on the committee on by-laws, first as a trial commissioner. He was an honorary member of Charles W. Moore, Belmont, and Friendship Lodges' the last named. being located in Wilmington.
He joined, Thomas Royal Arch Chapter of Fitchburg, and had held subordinate offices in that and in Waltham Chapter. He was a member of Adoniram Council of WaItham and of Cambridge Council of Cambridge, being Past Master of Cambridge Council. He entered Templar Masonry in 1871, when he joined Jerusalem Commandery of Fitchburg. Shortly thereafter he affiliated with St. Bernard Commandery of Boston, of which he was Eminent Commander in 1890 and 1891. He was Recorder from 1885 to 18$8, and from 1901 to 1911. He was also a member of the Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Association of Past Commanders. In the Scottish Rite he was a member of Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, Giles F. Yates Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix, and Massachusetts Consistory, attaining the thirty-third degree September 17, 1907.
About two years ago Brother Davis accompanied the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge on a visit to the Panama Canal Zone and assisted in the constitution of Sojourners Lodge at Christobal and paid an official visit to Canal Zone Lodge at Ancon, both of which are under Massachusetts jurisdiction.
On July 22, 1872, Brother Davis married Amelia F. Sylvester, daughter of John Sylvester, formerly of Hanover, Mass. He is survived by his wife and two children, Ralph S. Davis, Harvard '98, and Miss Etta L. Davis, Bryn Mawr '99.
The funeral services were held at the Waverley Congregational Church on Wednesday afternoon. A short service of prayer for the family and immediate relatives was conducted at the residence by Rev. Francis L. Beal, rector of the Church of the Ascension, in Cambridge. As the remains. were borne to the church the bells were tolled.
Within the edifice were gathered representatives of all the Grand and many Subordinate Bodies in Masonry with which Brother Davis had been identified, together with fellow townsmen, former pupils, and all his friends who loved him so well. This Grand Lodge was represented at the funeral by the Grand Master, accompanied by many other officers. Rev. and Wor. E. A. Horton, Grand Chaplain, conducted the services assisted by Rev. Francis L. Beal. Past Grand Masters Blake, Flanders, and Benton; Past Deputy Grand Master Fletcher and Past Grand Warden Soule were among the bearers.
While the services were in progress the stores of the town were closed; the flags on the public buildings were at half staff in silent tribute as the body was borne to its final resting-place in Belmont Cemetery.
"To tell the story of a well-spent life
The Mason true builds his own monument
But not of bronze, and yet of marble white,
These soon are gone.
A higher life is then his monument
Which through the ages grander will become,
As it more fully breathes his spirit, and is spent,
To help bless mankind."
FROM NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1915
From New England Craftsman, Vol. X, No. 4, January 1915, Page 114:
The Masonic Fraternity o f Massachusetts was profoundly shocked on the morning of Monday, December 28, when the death of Recording Grand Secretary Thomas White Davis was announced. His brief illness was known to but few of his friends and the information of his death was like a thunder note from a cloudless sky. His home was in Waverly, a section of Belmont. He was one of the best known citizens of his town where he had resided more than 40 years, taking active interest in the affairs as school teacher, trustee of the Public Library, selectman, assessor, president of a co-operative bank and clerk and trustee of Belmont Savings Bank. He was also a trustee of tl ' Massachusetts School for Feebia Minded.
Brother Davis was born in Michigan City, Indiana, November 1, 1844, but came of an old central Massachusetts family. His father was Rev. Elnathan Davis of Holden, Mass. His mother, Mary A. (White) Davis was also of Holden. While Brother Davis was a boy, his father and family returned to Massachusetts. Brother Davis attended the Fitchburg High School, afterwards went to Oberlin preparatory school and from there to Williams College, from which he was graduated in 1866. For a short time he was an insurance agent and bookkeeper and in 1868 went to Washington, taking a position in the War Department. The following year he worked in the Washington city Post office.
His career as school master began in 1870 in Belmont as principal of the High School. Shortly afterwards he became associated with the schools of Cambridge and was master of the Putnam and Howard schools until 1908 in which year he was elected Recording Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Brother Davis was made a Mason in Charles W. Moore Lodge of Fitchburg, April 2, 1867, and became master of that lodge in 1871, serving until 1873. In 1877 he joined Belmont Lodge and served as its secretary. In 1875 he became Junior Grand Steward of Grand Lodge and rose steadily through the grades of Junior Grand Deacon, District Deputy Grand Master and Junior Grand Warden, which last-named office he held in 1883. He had also served Grand Lodge on the committee on by-laws, and as a trial commissioner. He was an honorary member of Charles W. Moore, Belmont and Friendship Lodges, the last-named being located in Wilmington.
He joined Thomas Royal Arch Chapter of Fitchburg, and had held subordinate offices in that and in Waltham Chapter. He was a member of Adoniram Council of Waltham and of Cambridge Council of Cambridge, being past master of Cambridge Council. He entered Templar Masonry in 1871, when he joined Jerusalem Commandery of Fitchburg. Shortly thereafter he affiliated with St. Bernard Commandery of Boston, of which he was Eminent Commander in 1890 and 1891. He was recorder from 1885 to 1888 and from 1901 to 1911. In the Scottish Rite he was a member of Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, Giles F. Yates Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix and Massachusetts Consistory, attaining the thirty-third degree rank.
He was widely known and well liked. His disposition was genial, he was courteous and helpful to those who asked his advice. His judgment in Masonic matters was sound and like his predecessor, Grand Secretary Nickerson, he had a remarkable memory of facts and precedents; to support his opinions on any subject that claimed his attention.
His funeral took place on Thursday, January 7, at the Congregational Church in Belmont with which he had been connected many years. His friends and associates filled the church to its utmost limit, and floral tributes nearly covering the space from one wall to the other attested the affection and esteem of those who knew him. The grand master and other officials of the Grand Lodge were present with an unusually large number of other prominent Masons of the State.
In the services three clergymen officiated, Rev. Charles Bidwell, pastor of the church; Rev. Francis L. Beal. rector of the Church of the Ascension in Cambridge and an old friend of the Davis family, and Rev. Edward A. Horton, one of the chaplains of the Grand Lodge of Masons. The Harvard quartet sang three hymns, In Emanuel's Land, Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go and Crossing the Bar, three favorite hymns of Mr. Davis. The remark of each clergyman was especially appropriate. Rev. Francis L. Beal spoke briefly as follows:
It would seem to be well-nigh presumption on my part to speak where our friend has been known, and respected, and loved for these many years for his sterling qualities. When souls are drawn together in the bond of true friendship, their hearts are knitted and welded together with hooks of steel.
Such were our relations. His quiet, genial manner, his thorough grasp upon every problem, his logical reasoning, were both a spur and a check to my enthusiastic and oft-time impetuous nature.
Three score years and ten —- yes -— and well rounded years too.
The hundreds of busy men and women in many of life's multiplied activities today, whose aims and ideals were inspired and shaped as boys and girls under his teaching.
And as a citizen: serving his townsmen in public positions of responsibility, year after year. Respected and honored by the great Masonic Fraternity.
Truly "a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel."
None the less great because always modest and unassuming.
But his work is not ended. The things he was interested in here, will be taken up and carried on the better for the inspiration of his thorough, faithful example.
While he, our friend, still lives. He has simply gone on ahead, to carry the sunshine of his life into the larger, the wider activities which God has for His great-hearted ones.
Rev. Edward A. Horton spoke of Brother Davis as he had met him in the exercise of his official duties where he had known him intimately. He paid a splendid tribute to his character and work.
The closing remarks were by Rev. Charles A. Bidwell, pastor of the church. He likened the character 03 Mr. Davis to that of the Puritan, illustrating the likeness by the similar qualities of each.
Following the services the body! was taken to Belmont Cemetery for burial.
While the services were in progress the stores in Belmont were closed and the flags on the school buildings were at half-staff, as a tribute to the long service that Mr. Davis had given his town as an assessor and in other capacities.
FROM COUNCIL OF DELIBERATION, 1915
From Proceedings of the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation AASR NMJ, 1915, Page 23:
December 28, 1914, Thomas W. Davis, so well known to the brethren of our Commonwealth as a worthy successor of his emeritus predecessor Grand Secretary of our Grand Lodge, passed away, universally mourned by the fraternity who had learned to value his counsel. Born in the middle West, but of old Massachusetts Revolutionary stock, he came back in early life to complete his schooling, and graduated from Williams College, in our State, in 1866. The greater part of his life was spent as an educator, holding responsible positions as the head of educational institutions and systems, being for more than thirty-seven years at the head of public schools in Cambridge. In his own town of Belmont he was honored by numerous positions of trust, the appreciation of which was shown in the fact that during the funeral services business was generally suspended in the town, bells were tolled, and there was general public mourning. He will be remembered gratefully by us from the fact that before attaining the degrees in Scottish Rite Masonry he presented to our Grand Lodge that able and comprehensive report on the Cerneau question and other bodies claiming recognition under different authorities. It was a masterly production from one not a member of the Rite, and will live as standard literature in our jurisdiction on Scottish Rite Masonry. By education and training his tastes were literary, and he thus enriched our Masonic proceedings with historical Productions and scholarly reports.
From Proceedings of the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation AASR NMJ, 1915, Page 45:
Thomas White Davis was born in Michigan City, Indiana, November 1, 1844, but came of Massachusetts ancestry. His father was Rev. Elnathan Davis, and his mother was Mary A. White, both of Holden. His ancestors had been prominent for many years in this State. While yet a boy Brother Davis returned with his family to Massachusetts, where he was educated at the Fitchburg High School, Oberlin Preparatory School, and Williams College, from which he was graduated in 1866. The next four years were spent in various occupations — as insurance agent, bookkeeper, clerk in the War Department and clerk in the Washington City Post-Office. In 1870 Brother Davis found his life work. In that year he became principal of the Belmont High School, from which in 1871 he entered the Cambridge schools, where he served as head master of gram�mar schools from 1871 to 1908. In 1908 he retired from teaching, to accept the office of Recording Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, which had been made vacant by the retirement of Sereno D. Nickerson. In that office he rendered faithful and distinguished service up to the time of his lamented death.
Brother Davis was an honored and respected citizen. He was trustee of the Belmont Public Library from 1877 to 1895. He was several times elected a member of the Board of Selectmen, and was one of the assessors from 1883 until his death, being chairman of the board at that time. He was a trustee of the Belmont Savings Bank, president of the Waverley Co-operative Bank, and trustee of the Massachusetts School for Feebleminded.
Brother Davis’s Masonic career was long, varied, and honorable. He became a member of Charles W. Moore Lodge, at Fitchburg, in 1867, and was its Worshipful Master in 1871. In 1877 he joined Belmont Lodge and served as its Secretary. In 1875 he became Junior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge, which he served in many capacities, including that of Junior Grand Warden, before being elected to the Grand Secretaryship. He served the Grand Lodge as a member of many important commissions, and was one of its most useful members. He was a profound student of Masonic law and history. Learned in these matters he was wise, cautious, and helpful, and his opinion on disputed points always carried great weight. He was an Honorary Member of Charles W. Moore, Belmont, and Friendship Lodges. He joined Fitchburg Royal Arch Chapter of Fitchburg and afterwards Waltham Chapter, in both of which he held subordinate offices. He was a member of Adoniram Council Royal and Select Masters of Waltham, and of Cambridge Council of Cambridge, of which he was first Master. He received the Orders of Knight-hood in Jerusalem Commandery in Fitchburg in 1871, hut shortly afterward affiliated with St. Bernard Commandery of Boston, of which he was Recorder from 1885 to 1888, Eminent Commander in 1890 and 1891, and again Recorder from 1901 to 1911.
In the Scottish Rite he was a member of the four bodies meeting in Boston, and was made an Honorary Member of the Supreme Council September 17, 1907. This honor was conferred upon him in recognition of a monumental report made by him to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts on March 12, 1902, when he was not a member of the Rite. An attempt had been made to repeal those sections of the Grand Constitutions of Massachusetts which defined certain organizations as irregular and which listed regular Masonic bodies and limited regular Masonry to the members of these organizations. This exhaustive report entered into the whole question thoroughly, settled many questions of regularity, and placed upon a permanent basis the relations of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts with other Masonic bodies, including the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite for the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions of the United States of America. This was a period of considerable storm and stress, and the relations of the Grand Lodge with many other Masonic bodies seemed to be threatened, if not clouded, with uncertainty. The report of the committee, which was prepared by Brother Davis as its chairman, was unanimously accepted by the Grand Lodge, and was of enormous service, clearing the air and setting at rest disputed questions. This, although perhaps the most conspicuous of Brother Davis’s individual achievements, was only one of a long list of useful services rendered by him to the whole fraternity — and not least to the Scottish Rite.
Brother Davis was married on July 22, 1872, to Amelia F. Sylvester, who, together with his son and daughter, survives him.Brother Davis was a friend whose memory will not soon be forgotten by the great numbers of Masons who were privileged to know him. Kindly, genial, and sympathetic, he was always ready to serve the brethren in any way possible and to make them feel that the service was a pleasure to him as well as a benefit to the recipient. He was highly honored by the fraternity, but he was loved even more than he was honored. A very modest, noble, Christian gentleman, he was an ornament to our fraternity, and his friendship was a prized possession of all who were privileged to enjoy it.
AT CORNER STONE LAYING IN NAHANT, APRIL 1912
From Proceedings, Page 1912-65:
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brethren, and Citizens of Nahant:
For the third time within a comparatively few years, the representatives of the Masonic Fraternity have visited this rockbound peninsula to give ceremonial dedication and God-speed to the beginning of a labor of municipal enterprise. It is interesting to note how peculiarly these occasions supplement each other in the diverging convergence of the movements thus inaugurated and how the few words added to our ritual follow lines of thought in different directions only to meet at last in recognition of the idea that the highest functions of good government have been illustrated in the establishment of the public library, the high school and the town hall.
It was the pleasure of the Acting Grand Master, when the corner-stone of the Library Building was laid, to refer to the historical legends which connect the soil of Nahant with those hardy voyagers of the North, who anticipated by so many hundred years the sailing of Columbus to rediscover our Western World. No word could have been more appropriate, for as these echoes of the past are listened to and traced back to their source, it is in the Library that the record is laid up and preserved to become the fulness of knowledge in the future. It is our pride that we are permitted to move among the scenes which delighted those with whom we can claim affiliation of race even if our own lives appear so barren by comparison with the fruitfulness of theirs. Without books, the inspiration of noble deeds and the warning given by the aberrations of imperfect humanity would be alike lost to us as a means of education, and the Public Library impresses upon us the consideration that the treasures of knowledge and wisdom are not hoarded for the benefit of a chosen few but are to be shared by the people. They are fitly typified by the open page, to be read of all men, that has succeeded to the manuscript roll accessible only to the monks and the scribes, who nevertheless saved for us the best of the literature and history of the vanished centuries.
The Grand Master who laid the corner-stone of the Nahant High School Building spoke of education with especial reference to the manner in which that building should become the means of developing the youth of the community into sound citizenship. He invoked the aid of the Public Library in this process, and joined it with the school-house in seeking to make every school-boy and every schoolgirl a good American citizen, not forgetting the while that the Church, by whatever name it is called, is to keep them from the snares of godlessness.
To-day, in the promise of the new place of assembly of the people of this town, a different but harmonious note has been sounded. As knowledge and education have, in the years that are now behind us, been rescued from the grasp of the few to become the possession of the many, so may we be able to discern much that the Town Hall symbolizes.
Without trying to trace the growth of systems of government, from the patriarchal to the tribal, the feudal, the monarchy, absolute or limited, it is for us to remember that upon our Western continent we are engaged in solving the greatest problem ever considered by men and women — government by the people; and that it is from our beginnings in New England that all that is distinctive in our system takes its rise.
Many of our colonies had their patrons, their proprietors, their lords, even we had our provincial governors to represent kingly authority; but from the first the control and direction of local affairs in New England has been in the hands of the inhabitants of a specified portion of territory, known as the town. So long as it has been possible for the whole people to meet to discuss and act upon matters of local interest, the Town Meeting has been the best example of a pure democracy, a government in which each individual has had a voice and a vote. The Town Hall has been the people's true forum, and because of the freedom of speech allowed within it, and the fact that the business transacted in it has been in view of the people without the desire or the ability to carry on underhand or fraudulent dealings, it has always been an important factor in preserving the liberties, first of the colonies and later of the State and the nation.
Because of this, and because of the training in public affairs imparted in such structures as the one which is to rise on this spot, we hail the Town Hall as one of the educational influences to be reckoned with the Public Library and the High School in the advancement of the community. There is certainly nothing garnered from the history of the past, nothing to be gleaned from the wisdom of the sage and the scholar, which is not to find its counterpart in the purest and most remarkable of all governments, the gathering of the citizens to consider and regulate the matters of common interest.
And so, it is a satisfaction to those whom I represent, that we have had a share in laying—square, level and plumb— the corner-stone of the edifice which, when its parts are fitly jointed together, is to become the center of your municipal life.
May it arise in beauty, to be the home of wisdom in the plans and purposes here considered and adopted, and may those to whom the execution of those plans is entrusted acquit themselves with the strength of men, in guarding the interests of the people. While the fountain head is kept free from corruption in this and thousands of other communities, the stream of beneficence will flow unchecked to bless the land and to perpetuate our scheme of government which is never to fail because it is founded upon a rock, more firm than any of those that guard this wave-beaten shore, the education and development of the people by the Library, by the School and by the Town Hall.
AT CORNER STONE LAYING IN NEWTON, SEPTEMBER 1913
From Proceedings, Page 1913-181:
The 29th day of September, 1813, was the day assigned for laying the corner-stone of this church by R. W. Francis J. Oliver who was then Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and later Grand Master. He was assisted by Rev. John Sylvester Gardiner, Rector of Trinity Church of Boston, and by Rev. Dr. Asa Eaton, Rector of Christ Church, who was at that time, Grand Chaplain, and who served the Grand Lodge in that capacity for twelve years. He afterwards in 1819 became Deputy Grand Master, and held membership in the Grand Lodge, by virtue of holding that office for thirty-eight years, until his death in 1858. Escort duty was performed by Meridian Lodge, chartered at Watertown in 1797; removed to Needham and thence to Newton, and finding its home in Natick in 1852.
It is interesting to note that to-day as then, it is our Deputy Grand Master who oversees our work, the officers of the Church are assisting, and our escort is furnished by the same Lodge which acted in like capacity one hundred years ago.
The ceremony in which we have this afternoon taken part is believed to be without a precedent in the history of this Grand Lodge. It has a remarkable Masonic and moral-significance. Upon the one hundredth anniversary of the founding of a church in this village, the successors of those who met to signalize its inception by laying the corner-stone of this edifice have assembled, Church, Grand Lodge and Lodge, to examine and review what was done by our predecessors, and to re-establish the foundations then built upon, and the fact that the expiration of a century finds these parties in accord demonstrates, more unmistakably than could be done by written and printed word, the permanence of them all, and teaches the lesson that this continued harmonious action exists because of the character of these institutions. The Church, because it is builded upon the rock of Christian faith, precept and teaching, endures, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and the Masonic Institution, tried as by fire in the years that have elapsed, remains now as then the handmaid of the Church — because it is striving for the same end, the elevation of mankind, until those who enter its portals shall be fitted as living stones for that spiritual building, eternal in the heavens, of which the Church is the visible symbol on earth.
It is sometimes said that nothing succeeds like success. It may be more properly said that nothing endures like character. All else is temporary and fleeting. The permanence of the Church, the continued existence of the Masonic Fraternity, is secure so long as they strive to seek the divine ideal, and to imitate the divine example.
God grant that we who are gathered here to-day, and those who press on to fill our places, shall so order our lives and conduct that not only for a century to come, but for the eons of time and eternity which lie before us, it may be known that we are walking with God; we are helping to carry out His wise and infinite purposes; and so doing, are growing into His likeness.
We stand here looking backward to the story of the past; may we from the same vantage ground look forward with hope for a record of even a brighter and better future.