ST. JOHN's LODGE #1, NEWPORT
Chartered By: X
Dispensation Date: date
Charter Date: date
Current Status: status
Meeting Date: Monday preceding the full moon.
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
VISITS BY GRAND MASTER
The history of this Lodge, dates from December 27, 1749, at which date the following entry is made in the records of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts: “At the petition of Senator Brown, residing at Newport, RI or Rt. Wor. Bro. Thomas Oxnard, Esq., Grand Master, granted a constitution for a Lodge to be held there, and appointed our Rt. Wor. Bro. Caleb Phillips, to be their first Master.” St. John’s Lodge of Newport was dormant from 1765 to 1790. Many members of the Craft in Newport joined in a union by which the name of St. John’s Lodge, No. 1 was preserved and made applicable for the revived an united body. Thence followed the formation of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. The St. John’s Lodge Newport and the St. Johns Lodge of Providence participated in the establishment of that governing organization.
The corner-stone for a Masonic Hall was laid April 12, 1802, by Past Grand Master Chistopher Champlin. The hall was dedicated February 22, 1803, by Grand Master Moses Seixas, assisted by officers and members of the Lodge. Finding itself burdened by a heavy debt in consequence of this building enterprise, the Lodge petitioned the General Assembly for permission to establish a lottery to raise a sufficient sum to liquidate indebtedness, and the act was passed at the February session, 1803.
For a number of years following this date a good degree of prosperity attended the Lodge, and a considerable addition was made to its membership. Under date of September 20, 1818, a record appears showing that a committee was appointed to devise a plan for a free school, to be held in the Masonic Hall, to educate the children of brethren belonging to the Fraternity.
In 1817, following the election of Dr. Benjamin W. Case as Wor. Master, some serious difficulties arose in regard to Masonic usage and authority. The Grand Lodge, acting upon a memorial presented to that body, declared the election void, and ordered a new election. This action was resisted by Dr. Case and his followers, who, on the 4th of July 1818, adopted a declaration intended to separate them from St. John’s Lodge in Newport from the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island. Such an intention was distinctly affirmed in this declaration. It said, “St. John’s Lodge is free and independent from the Grand Lodge of the State of Rhode Island.” The promoter of this schism, in seeking to maintain the affirmed independence of St. John’s Lodge, took with him the Charter, Records, and jewels of the body. He continued to hold occasional meetings with the brethren who rallied about him until June 9, 1834, when his record ceases.
The other members of St. John’s Lodge, who did not share in the feeling of opposition to the authority of the Grand Lodge and who did not support the declaration put forth, continued to occupy the hall and reaffirmed their allegiance to the Grand Lodge within the jurisdiction. Under the direction of Grand Master Carlile, a new board of officers was elected, Bro. John L. Boss being chosen Master. These were duly installed under recognized lawful authority. These law abiding brethren expressed their feeling and judgment by passing the following vote:
“VOTED: That the Declaration of Independence, so called, and passed by an assemblage of Masons convened in this hall, by which they attempted to withdraw this Lodge from the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge, is hereby renounced and disapproved as a stigma on our ancient institution, and that we disclaim all sanction or aid in the same.”
Much bitterness of feeling followed this conflict of authority, and lasted for a number of years. Several lawsuits grew out of the action taken on one hand in breaking away from the authority of the Grand Lodge, and on the other in attempting to enforce its governing power. Matters in dispute were carried before the Supreme Court, and finally, in 1830, a judgment was rendered, substantially in favor of the law-abiding brethren and the Grand Lodge. During the Anti-Masonic times, the Lodge continued to meet at regular intervals and elected its officers annually. No work was done, however, in the Lodge during that troubled period. Work was resumed November 18, 1844, when two candidates were made Masons. Since that date St. John’s Lodge, No. 1 Newport has enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity and has been exceedingly useful according to its designed mission.