- 1 ST. JOHN'S LODGE, PORTSMOUTH, N.H.
- 2 REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
ST. JOHN'S LODGE, PORTSMOUTH, N.H.
Location: Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Chartered By: Henry Price
Charter Date: 06/24/1736 I-5
Precedence Date: 06/24/1736
Current Status: Now St. John's #1, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire
NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1946-1947
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLI, No. 3, March 1946, Page 46, and
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLII, No. 12, December 1947, Page 184:
Historic Saint John's Lodge No. 1 of Portsmouth, N. H.. has the distinction of being the oldest Masonic Lodge in the state, having been constituted June 24, 1736. It also has the added great distinction of having enrolled as members, daring the years from 1752 to 1777, twenty two heroes of the American Revolution, or of action that lead to it. Many of these rose to high rank for their valor and devotion to their new country: and some gave their lives in its defense.
The list of these patriots merits recording.
Maj. Gen. John Sullivan was first Grand Master of New Hampshire Masons, and thrice President of the state, an office later known as that of Governor. Also he was first judge of the U. S. District Court of that state and held that post until his death in 1795. General Sullivan served in all the early battles of the war and was at Valley Forge with General Washington. When he was a Major and a lawyer at Durham, he led a group of patriots to the British fort. William and Mary at Portsmouth Harbor and captured powder later used at battle of Bunker Hill. Of this little group of seventeen, two others beside the Major were members of Saint John's. Capt. Winborn Adams and Alexander Scammell, both of Durham. The former afterwards rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and he was killed leading the Second New Hampshire Regiment at the Battle of Bemis Heights in 1777. The latter as a Major General was wounded at Yorktown and died a few days after that surrender. He was a favorite aide of General Washington, and the General said of him "he was the man that inspired us all to do our full duty."
The other members of Saint John's were Major Generals Henry Dearborn, a doctor of Hampton, and Joseph Cilley of Nottingham. Both led troops at the Battle of Monmouth to turn defeat into victory, and win the commendation of General Washington. Doctor Dearborn also served in the War of 1812 and ranked as senior Major General of the U. S. Army. He was appointed by President Jefferson Secretary of War, and in 1822 was Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal. Fort Dearborn, site of Chicago, was named after him. With him at Bunker Hill was a fellow Mason of the same lodge, Maj. Andrew McClary, who was killed bv a cannon ball from the British frigate. He had left his plowing at Epson, mustered the militia and marched to the battlefield. 70 miles away, in less than 24 hours. He had three brothers in the service and also a cousin. Michael McClary also affiliated with Saint John's Lodge.
Brig. Gen. William Whipple, one of three New Hampshire signers of the Declaration of Independence, was a member of this lodge. After the Revolution he became Associate Justice of the Superior Court of the state.
Among other members of Saint John's who took active part in the American Revolution were Maj. Thomas Bartlett, Maj. Nathaniel McClintock. Capt. Zachariah Beal, Capt. James Gray, Capt. Richard Sheridan, Capt. John Dennett, Dr. Hall Jackson, Dr. William Parker and Jeremiah Fogg. Naval officers were Capt. Thomas Thompson, Lt. Elijah Hall and John Madgshon. Capt. Nathan Hale was a member of this lodge, but not the school teacher of Coventry, Conn., executed by British, 1776. Maj. Robert Rogers was a lodge member when he led Rogers' Rangers prior to the Revolution.
Scottish Rite Bulletin.
LODGE WEB SITE
From the Lodge web site:
St. John’s Lodge, No.1, Free and Accepted Masons, Portsmouth, New Hampshire is one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the United States. Only Philadelphia, PA; Boston, MA; Savannah, GA; and Charleston, South Carolina can claim to have had a Masonic Lodge earlier than the date of the present charter of St. John’s, No.1, Portsmouth. The charter is the documentary evidence of the authority under which a Masonic Lodge is permitted to work. The present one issued to St. John’s Lodge, No.1, Portsmouth, was executed April 28, 1790 by the Grand Lodge of Masons for New Hampshire. It contains a preamble which sets forth that the Right Honorable, the Earl of Loundon, Grand Master of Masons in England, did, in the year of our Lord 1736, erect and constitute a regular lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, by the name of St. John’s Lodge. Further, it states that the Lodge has continued from that time in regular succession to the present day.
Masons were in Portsmouth prior to 1736, for there is an old letter signed by six Masons, dated Portsmouth, February 5, 1735, addressed to Henry Price, Grand Master of Masons at Boston which has been preserved and now is in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston. Among the early names on the roster of St. John’s Lodge, No.1 is one who had lived in Portsmouth since his birth in 1674.
The minute books are its most treasured possession. There are over twenty-two volumes containing over 16,000 pages. The first minute is dated October 31, 1739. No other Masonic Lodge in the United States is known to have records from such an early date to the present time. The first three volumes contain four sets of by-laws, signatures of members, and attendance of members at various meetings, as well as the votes which were recorded. These volumes are in an excellent state of preservation and are carefully guarded by the officers of this lodge as they have been by others who have preceded them.
In the early years the meetings were held in homes of members. The first one noted is that of Henry Sherburne (1674-1757), Treasurer of the Province of New Hampshire. His home was located on the banks of the Piscataqua River at the foot of what is now State Street, but the building was destroyed in the great fire of 1813. A boulder in Prescott Park with a bronze plaque on it marks the approximate location of the site. Two exceptions are noted in 1749 when on October 26 and December 11 the secretary recorded that the meetings were held on board the America. This 44-gun frigate was then being built in the Meserve Shipyard for the Royal Navy of England. This shipyard was located on the North Millpond.
From 1751 to 1755, most meetings were held in Stoodley’s Tavern, then located on the site of the present Federal Building on Daniel Street. On October 16, 1755, the lodge voted to move to the Earl of Halifax Tavern on Queen Street. This tavern was operated by John Stavers on the northerly side of what is now State Street. There is a vacant lot where it once stood. Stavers erected a new tavern in 1766 at the corner of Atkinson and Court Streets. He built a lodge room and two anterooms on the third floor for exclusive use of St. John’s Lodge. It was called Mason’s Hall and was used by the lodge from 1768 to 1776 when it was voted to move to the home of Nathaniel Folsom, Jr. at the corner of Congress and Fleet Streets. This change was brought about by the war for a mob had destroyed much of the tavern, and John Stavers had fled to Stratham. He was persuaded to return and open his tavern. When the war concluded, the Masons again returned to the lodge room known as Mason’s Hall and remained there until 1792 when they rented the Senate Chamber of the State House in Market Square. Here they remained until 1805 when they rented the upper floors of the New Hampshire Marine and Fire Insurance Company. This is now the Portsmouth Athenaeum. A new lodge room was built in Franklin Block in 1820 by Langley Boardman. This building was located on the northwesterly corner of Congress and Fleet Streets. Other Masonic organizations had now been established which shared use of the lodge room with St. John’s Lodge, No.1.
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
QUARTERLY AND REGULAR COMMUNICATIONS
XXXXXXXXXX* 1909 (50th Anniversary)
VISITS BY GRAND MASTER
XXXXXXX* 1934 (75th Anniversary History, 1934-169)
XXXXXXXXXX* 1883 (Granting of a replacement charter for one destroyed by fire)
- John Sullivan, Biography