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From Proceedings, Page 1918-346:

Address of Brother Fred S. Piper.

Lexington is a town of history; a town where history has been made; a town wherein a war began which ended in making a great country safe for democracy; and a town where history is being made tonight. History, tradition, and landmarks so spring from the ground and give fragrance to the air of Lexington, that no occasion seems properly clothed without at least a mantle of reminiscence in token of our civic pride.

In placing such a mantle upon the shoulders of Simon W. Robinson Lodge tonight, I am reminded of the preacher of bygone days who seemed to preface his every discourse by the announcement that his topic naturally divided itself into several parts for more ample discussion. So our thoughts tonight revert to three principal items in the history of this most felicitous occasion, viz., Early Freemasonry in Lexington; the Second Coming of Freemasonry, so to speak, in the Constitution of Simon W. Robinson Lodge, and the Property now Dedicated to Freemasonry.

We may expect our Masonic seers and prophets to foretell the promise of the future of our Order, but the dry historian must confine himself to accomplished facts.

Freemasonry, in one form or another, was centuries old when the first Grand Lodge was formed in London in 1717. Authorized Masonic organizations in America date from the formation of the first Grand Lodge in Boston in 1733 by Henry Price, Provincial Grand Master, commissioned by the Grand Master of England.

Saint Andrew's Lodge, of Boston, was chartered by the Grand Master of Scotland in 1756; a second Provincial Grand Lodge in Massachusetts was organized under warrant from the Grand Master of Scotland in 1769, and Freemasonry flourished in America. These two Grand Lodges in Massachusetts united in the formation of our present Most Worshipful Grand Lodge in 1792.

Tradition tells us (through our late Brother Albert W. Bryant) that the first assembly of Freemasons in Lexington was on top of the hill in the rear of Munroe Tavern. In the first volume of Proceedings of the Lexington Historical Society, in a letter purporting to have been written by Colonel Munroe's daughter Sarah, describing Washington's visit to Lexington in 1789, allusion is made to the Mason's Hall in Munroe Tavern. This letter, as some of you know, is a work of art rather than history and cannot be accepted as authority.

In September, 1797, ten Masons gathered at Munroe Tavern and signed a petition to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the Constitution of a Lodge in Lexington, and the petition was granted on December 12, 1797, for the formation of Hiram Lodge. Colonel William Munroe, well known as the stalwart orderly of Captain Parker's Minute Men, was the first Master and served, in all, six years. The charter members were all raised in King Solomon's Lodge after 1792 and all appear to have been residents of Lexington. Six out of ten had served in the War for Independence.

Jonathan Harrington, one of the charter members, was a fifer, sixteen years old, at the battle of Lexington and lived to be the last survivor of that Spartan company. He died at the age of ninety-five, in 1854, and was buried with State and Masonic honors, including an oration by the Grand Master.

For about a year after its organization, Hiram Lodge met in the East Chamber of Munroe Tavern, in the room where Washington's dinner was served. An addition was then built on the west side of the main building, with a hall for the Lodge on the second floor. This hall was formally Dedicated by the Grand Lodge October 17, 1798, at which ceremony a sermon was preached in the village church by Reverend Brother Walter of Boston.

Hiram Lodge met in this hall for thirty-three years, during which time one hundred and ninety members were recorded, of which number one hundred and fifty were raised in this Lodge. The Lodge was dormant for a number of years during the anti-masonic period, and never resumed much activity in Lexington. On December 4. 1843, James Russell, who had been elected Master in 1831, assembled the Lodge in East Lexington and it was then voted to move to West Cambridge, now Arlington. The Grand Lodge approved the removal December 27, 1843. Most of the Lexington members continued their membership and residents of this town continued to take degrees there for years afterwards.

Lexington possessed no Lodge from 1843 until Simon W. Robinson Lodge was formed under a Dispensation dated November 7, 1870, with John C. Blasdell as Master. The first meetings were held at the home of Brother Sargent C. Whitcher, who lived in the house on Hancock Street lately occupied by Benjamin F. Brown. Simon W. Robinson Lodge was duly Constituted, the hall, lately vacated in the Town Hall Building, was Dedicated, and the officers were Installed on October 20, 1871, by Right Worshipful Gideon Haynes, District Deputy Grand Master.

As we participate in this festival tonight, let us, in our minds at least, drink to the health and happiness of our one surviving charter member, Brother George D. Harrington, and to the memory of the other fourteen charter members who have joined the silent majority. The charter members were

  • John C. Blasdell
  • Leonard G. Babcock
  • Charles C. Goodwin
  • George D. Harrington
  • Warren B. Russell
  • George S. Butters
  • Sargent C. Whitcher
  • George O. Davis
  • Josiah Bryant
  • Horace B. Davis
  • Charles K. Tucker
  • Augustus E. Scott
  • Asa Cottrell
  • Bradley C. Whitcher
  • George E. Muzzey

To summarize briefly the work of this Lodge for the past forty-seven and a half years, we find that four hundred and seventy-eight petitions for degrees and for affiliations have been received. Three hundred and ninety-three, or an average of about eight per year, have been accepted, and seventy, or fourteen and six-tenths percent, have been rejected. Fifteen applicants either failed to take the degrees after being elected or failed to sign the by-laws. Fifteen charter members, sixty-six Masons raised elsewhere, and three hundred and twelve raised in this Lodge have constituted the total membership of three hundred and ninety-three. Fourteen percent rejections may seem like a large proportion to some, but it seems none too large to the writer, who believes that a Lodge suffers more from un-appreciative members than from rejected petitions. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty are the abiding supports of any Lodge and not the multitude of its members. A brook can run no higher than its source, and a Lodge can rise no higher than the average appreciation of its members.

The Lodge has had twenty-four different Masters, including the present Master. There are today two hundred and sixty-three members comprising one honorary, twenty-eight life, and two hundred and thirty-four regular members. This Lodge has not been conspicuously represented among the Grand Lodge officers of the past. The writer knows of only two District Deputy Grand Masters to have been appointed from Simon W. Robinson Lodge during its entire history and the last of these was twenty-three years ago.

While most of our Masters have been proficient ritualists, it may be that a broader interest in the purposes of our Order would make our efforts more profitable.

Thirdly and lastly, I must say a few words about this edifice and the ground whereon it stands, for they already have a history of interest and importance.

In 1913 the Town of Lexington, aided by the Historical Society, purchased for permanent preservation the Buckman Tavern property on the easterly side of the Common. In 1917 all of the property owners on the remaining sides of the old Battle Ground, except the owner of this property, signed a legal agreement which was recorded at the Middlesex Registry, restricting these several properties to desirable conditions for ninety-nine years. By the dedication of this building to Freemasonry, the one remaining fragment of land in the surroundings of the old Battle Ground is safely guarded from all harm.

You may recall that Lexington was originally a part of Cambridge, when the University Town extended from the Charles on the south to the Merrimac on the north, and that Cambridge was settled early in 1631. The first permanent settlement within the present borders of Lexington was near Vine Brook, in 1642. The Parish of Cambridge Farms was authorized by the Legislature in 1691 and incorporated as a township by the name of Lexington in 1713.

An original grant of land, containing a large part of the present village of Lexington, this side of Vine Brook was made to Herbert Pelham and to Herlarkenden, whose widow Pelham later married. A part of this area, including the site of this Hall, was deeded by Pelham's son Edward to Benjamin Muzzey October 20, 1693. Six years later, September 16, 1699, Muzzey sold a large tract, including this lot, to Reverend John Hancock, the second pastor of Cambridge Farms and the grandfather of Governor John Hancock. In his old age Parson Hancock deeded this land to his son Thomas, the wealthy Boston merchant who built the Hancock Mansion on Beacon Street, Boston, near the present State House. This Thomas Hancock adopted and endowed his nephew, John, the Governor. In 1761 Thomas Hancock sold fifty acres between the present Hancock and Bedford Streets, to Reverend Jonas Clarke, the third pastor of the town. Let me here remark that the pastorates of these two remarkable Lexington ministers covered a period of one hundred and five years.

In 1819 the heirs of Parson Clarke transferred this land to John Augustus, who came to Lexington from Burlington in 1805 and lived on the opposite corner of Bedford Street, where Brother Brown now resides. John Augustus and the two previous owners of the Jonathan Harrington house — Dr. Thomas Whitcomb and Dr. David Fiske — were all members of Hiram Lodge. Brother Augustus afterwards moved to Boston and became noted as a pioneer philanthropist. He personally furnished bail and undertook the reformation of over seven hundred criminals from the courts of Boston at a time when little interest was shown in a criminal except to punish him.

The present Bedford Street was built in 1807; Hancock Street was the old road to Bedford.

The Legislature chartered Lexington Academy in 1822 for the stated purpose of promoting religion and morality and for the education of youth in such liberal arts and sciences as the Trustees shall direct." Land was purchased at once by the Trustees, the main part of this building erected, with huge fireplaces at either end, and the Academy opened with eighty-four pupils, Rev. Caleb Stetson, Principal. Evidently the Academy was not a success, for in 1833 the trustees sold the real estate together with "one cast iron stove" to Austin Chittenden. In 1835 Timothy P. Ropes purchased the property and opened it as Lexington Manual Labor Seminary, which was short lived. In 1839, July 3, the first Normal School in America was opened in this building with Rev. Cyrus Pierce as Principal and three female pupils. Samuel J. May succeeded Mr. Pierce as Principal. Horace Mann, Jared Sparks, and Robert Rantoul constituted the State Board of Education at that time. This was the beginning of the present Framingham Normal School which moved from Lexington to West Newton in 1844 and on to Framingham in 1853.

After the removal of the Normal School, a Mr. and Mrs. Waite kept a private school here in which the late Governor George D. Robinson and our esteemed citizen, Miss Frances Robinson, were pupils.

Again, after various uses of the building, it was purchased by Hancock Congregational Church in 1868 and occupied by this Society until it moved into its present edifice across the Green in 1893. Thus is this structure associated with cherished memories of Reverend Edwin Griffin Porter, citizen, pastor, and friend. This property survived more varied experiences from 1893 to 1917, when it was purchased, renovated, enlarged, and beautified as we see it tonight by the Lexington Masonic Associates as a home for Simon W. Robinson Lodge.

Every man residing on Elm Avenue today is a member of this Lodge. Scarcely beyond a stone's throw from us was the home of our venerable Patron, Simon W. Robinson, once Most Puissant Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, 33° Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

In front of this building is the Village Green, forever sanctified by the blood and mortal remains of our martyred Minutemen. Recall the words of Edward Everett, spoken beside yonder granite shaft in 1835: "To the end of time the soil whereon ye fell is holy; and shall be trod with reverence while America has a name among the Nations." Here on this greensward, in 1824, the town welcomed our distinguished Brother, General Lafayette.

Where could a spot be found more suitable, more consecrated to the uplift of mankind, and more beautiful today for the high purposes of Freemasonry than this property? Is its beauty and harmony and consecration an expression of our hearts as Masons? Are we not obligated to live up to the level of wisdom, strength, and beauty here manifest, not alone for the gratification of our pride, but for the good of this community and the good services we may render to all mankind!