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Location: Ashby; Ashburnham

Chartered By: Josiah Bartlett

Charter Date: 03/12/1798 II-126

Precedence Date: 03/12/1798

Current Status: unknown; no record after 1827, but note history in 1980.



From Vocal Companion and Masonic Register, Boston, 1802, Part II, Page 27:

  • R. W. Amos Willington, M.
  • W. John Locke, S. W.
  • W. Allen Flagg, J. W.
  • Isaac Wyman, Tr.
  • Stephen Wyman, Sec.
  • R. W. Abijah Wyman, P. M. (of Trinity)
  • R. W. Benjamin Champney, P. M.

No. of Members, 25.

  • Alexander T. Willard
  • Asa Kendall, Jr.
  • B. Barrett, Jr.
  • Elijah Houghton, Jr.
  • Samuel Rice, Jr.
  • Stephen Wyman
  • Elias Willington
  • Oliver Kendall


  • Amos Willington, 1802, 1815
  • John Locke, 1803
  • Benjamin Champney, 1814
  • Abraham T. Lowe, 1822


  • Petition for Charter: 1798


  • 1890 (Historical Notes from Liberal Freemason; not in Proceedings; see below)
  • 1980 (brief history, 1980-179; see below)


From Liberal Freemason:
Vol. XIV, No. 8, November 1890, Page 225:
Vol. XIV, No. 9, December 1890, Page 278:


In the history of Freemasonry in Massachusetts, it is well known that lodges active and prosperous prior to the anti-masonic period became dormant under that pressure, and many never revived afterward. Among the latter was Social Lodge in Ashby, whose charter was dated March 16, 1798.

The charter members of Social Lodge were, Abijah Wyman, John Locke, Peter Lawrence, Allen Flagg, Isaac Wyman, Oliver Kendall, Amos Willington, Aaron Rider, Elias Willington, John Preston, Ebenezar Champney, Benjamin Champ-ney, Isaiah Kidder, Jonas Jones, Josiah Wheeler, Amos Cutter, Barker Gibson, Isaac Mulliken, A. T. Willard, Josiah Richardson, Jonathan Dill, Darin Daniels, Moses Todd, E. T. Willis or Willard, and Jacob Willard.

It is now several years since we entered into consultation with Brother and Sir Knight Dr. Nathaniel Jewett, of Ashburnham, who has continued warm in his efforts to find the records, documents, or other property of this lodge, thinking that these might be stored during the last sixty years in some garret, undisturbed by inquisitive hands.

Happily, these researches have been rewarded in part, and Dr. Jewett has placed in our hands quite a collection of property belonging to Social Lodge. As yet the Book of Records and the Charter have not been recovered. As a matter of course, search for these will be kept up, and other out-of-the-way places will be examined when possible.

In the property recovered is a demy Svo Bible, on the fly-leaf of which is the following inscription: "The property of Social Lodge, presented by Brother Nathaniel Adams, Jany. 18th, 1821." This Companion was Secretary in 1815, and Treasurer in 1821-23. In tne returns of 1814 and 1831 he was on the roll of members, and in the former year was Junior Deacon. On the same leaf, written by the same person, evidently Companion Adams, is the following: "Social Lodge, founded March Anno Domini 1798. Petitioners" — then follow the names as already given. There are two diplomas on parchment, signed by Thomas Power, Grand Secretary. Brother Power held this office from 1819 to 1832. These diplomas are printed in Latin and in English, from the plate drawn by Penniman & Mills, and engraved by Aunin & Smith, 12 Court Street.

The baton, contained in a pig-skin case, is of native hard wood, painted black; it is sixteen inches long by one and a half in diameter, with ivory-tipped ends.

An interesting article is an outline painting on black glazed cotton, representing " Mortality," — the emblems represented are suggestive, but more so to Masons, — this is six feet long and eighteen inches wide. There are three lamb-skin aprons, one of which lias a marginal blue stripe seven-eighths of an inch wide, with a level in the centre pendant from the sun, all painted. In size these conform to the Grand Lodge regulation, but are cut with lines curving slightly outward toward the bottom, the corners being rounded. On one of these aprons is written the name "Lemuel Whiting." The stitches or needle-marks indicate that the apron was once bound around its entire margin, but no other evidence of this remains. Brother Whiting's name appears in the returns of 1814, but not later. It may be well to say just here, that the earliest of these Annual Returns to Grand Lodge in the collection is 1814, and the others are for 1815, 1816, 1818, 1822, 1828, and 1831. In the first of these returns the names of five of the original or charter members appear, — one of these is that of Allen Flagg, the first secretary of the lodge.

At that time the annual fee to Grand Lodge was eight dollars, and this was paid October 14th, 1814, as shown by the receipt of Caleb Butler, District Deputy Grand Master of what was then the Fifth District. The total number of members returned was twenty-nine. Four meetings were held during the year, namely, on "Thursday preceding full moon in September, December, March, and June."

The returns of 1831 bear the names of twenty-five members. Of these, John Locke and Alex. T. Willard were the only charter members remaining. The annual fee to Grand Lodge was placed at four dollars, and the receipt of Lemuel Shattuck, District Deputy Grand Master, shows that this was paid November 15, 1831.

A slipper, without a quarter, of soft-finished calfskin, and hand-sewed, but of light material throughout, suggests that it may have been made for warm-weather wear.

Let us look at the Master's carpet or chart as it now appears suspended on the wall in front of us. This is painted in oil colors on canvass, and is thirty-eight inches wide by forty-one in length. Commencing at the lower right-hand corner, and following from right to left are the Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric columns, — these three only. Then a bee hive and bees actively at work, a coffin with sprig at the head, over it the hour-glass and scythe, a tracing-board, twenty-four inch gauge, gavel, rough and perfect ashlers. These occupy nine inches of the forty-one. At ten inches from the lower edge spring two columns, one on each side, and on top of each is a globe. These columns are painted in gold colors, and from base to top of the capital are twenty-five inches in height. On the outer side of the pedestal of the column at the left is the three-round ladder resting upon a rock. Read again from right to left, and between these two columns are grouped the Square, Level, and Plumb; next, a burning taper, then the Great Lights, the Bible being opened at "Kings, Chapter vii;" below the book, a trowel; the other two of the three burning tapers are between the Bible and the left-hand column. At twenty-one inches from the lower line, and reaching well across the space between the two columns, begins the flight of three steps, and these lead to a checkered pavement; from the latter springs a flight of five and seven steps, leading to a recessed door beyond an arch, the columns of which rise at the inner edge of the pavement; at the top of the arch and pendant from the Keystone is the letter G; over the arch and in the centre is the All-seeing Eye; beginning at a line on a level with the third step on the right is an Anchor, the forty-seventh Problem of Euclid, and Ark,— the latter being on a-level with the top of the globe; over the-column is the moon and stars; at the left, between the arch and column, is a sword pointing at a heart, a pot of incense, a circle bordered with parallel lines with an open book on top; over the column is the sun.

There is nothing to show at what date this painting was made; we can only say, it must have been considerably prior to 1831, and may have been at about the time when the lodge was formed. The design and execution throughout is much better than might have been expected, and shows a good understanding of craft emblems. Having been folded, the paint is cracked in places, but is otherwise in good condition.

It is noticeable in this chart that no reference is made to the "Tuscan" and "Composite" in architecture. The reason for this does not appear. These two orders were described by Webb in his Monitor of 1797, and consequently were known in Masonry. It may be conjectured, however, that the phrase describing the ancient and original orders of Architecture as no more than three, and naming these as the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, was held to be good reason for illustrating these three only.

The paper of earliest date among those recovered is a printed document beginning as follows:

"Complaint having been made to the Most Worshipful Grand Master, that the Harmonic Lodge had made several persons Masons contrary to the directions of the Grand Lodge of the 13th June, 5796, the Most Worshipful issued a special summons to every member of the Grand Lodge to meet at Concert Hall, on the evening of the 26th June. At the same time the Master and Wardens of the Harmonic Lodge were summoned to appear and answer to the following charges:

The charges were four, and included the offences of not handing the names of persons to the Grand Master for his approbation before making them Masons; of making Masons of four persons to whom such approbation had been refused; of making nine persons Masons, " ome of whom had not stood the usual time," without obtaining a dispensation from the Grand Master therefor; and for conferring the three degrees at several times on the same evening on a candidate, "contrary to the usages of Masons."

Daniel Oliver was Grand Secretary, and the result was thus promulgated:

"The Harmonic Lodge, having by their misconduct incurred the censure of the Grand Lodge, by which their charter was suspended, on petition, and promise of future good conduct, the charter was again restored to them, with the following Vote : That the said lodge shall not, for the term of one year, initiate any Mason, without first obtaining the approbation of the Most Worshipful Grand Master."

Harmonic Lodge was granted a dispensation by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge on December 8, 1790, for the term of three years, to make Masons under certain restrictions, and to meet in Boston. A charter was granted in December, 1793, and this was vacated by Grand Lodge in June, 1798.

It will be remembered that the union of the St. John's Grand Lodge with the Massachusetts Grand Lodge was completed on March 5, 1792.

Under date of February 20, 1799, a fraternal letter from Josiah Bartlett, Grand Master, to Amos Willington, relates to the prospective constituting of the lodge. A second letter from William Lewis, Assistant Grand Secretary, dated at Charlestown, June 8, 1799, gives directions for ceremonies to be observed at the consecration of Social Lodge, and the installation of its officers on June 24, 1799. In this letter is the following paragraph:

"The lodge will please to assemble at their rooms at 10 o'clock a. m., to attend the usual ceremonies preceding the public performances at the meeting-house, which will commence at £ past eleven."

A later paragraph gives directions as to who are "usually of the number to attend in the procession of those who are not Masons."

The report of a committee on this event shows that a booth was erected "on the corner," and that dinners were provided for one hundred persons at 3s 9d each. Of these dinners ninety were guaranteed, and all over that number were to be paid for at one-half the price each. A "baiting" was provided for visiting brethren of "cheese, butter, brandy, cider, and biscuit." The dinner consisted of "lamb, veal, roast pig, bacon, potatoes, salad, bread, butter, pie, and cheese." The stewards were to furnish "rum, brandy and sherry wine," and "punch of lemons and loaf sugar." All ministers of that and adjoining towns were invited, and all of them present should have "tickets gratis."

Now that Social Lodge is fully organized, the examination of other documents will be reserved for future report.

In our notice of this Lodge in November last, reference was made to two letters relating to the ceremony of constituting the Lodge on June 24, 1799. The first of these letters was written by Josiah Bartlett, who did not attach any title of office to his signature.

In the edition of 1792, Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Josiah Bartlett's name appears as that of a Grand Warden; and in the edition of 1798 it is shown that he was then Grand Master. Each of these constitutions required that the Grand Master should be chosen annually, on the evening of the second Monday in December; and, if the dates are correctly given, Brother Bartlett's term as Grand Master would expire in December, 1799. The tone of this letter is mild and fraternal, and corresponds with the amiable character of its author.

Charlestown, Feb. 20, 1799.

Dear Sir: — Your letter of Jan. 22d came safe to hand, but being then preparing for a journey to Philadelphia, it was not in my power to answer it. I have read the enclosed manuscript with pleasure, and think the Address calculated to do good; the publication of it will do credit to the author, and the sentiments contained in it, was worthy of the attention of every member of our Fraternity. With respect to its being printed as it is, before your Lodge is regularly constituted, I hardly know what to say. Though your charter empowers you to exercise the powers, and enjoy the rights of the Institution (see the new book of Constitutions, page 77), a question may arise, how far it is proper to appear in public or publish your proceedings before that important ceremony. It has not been customary to proceed to the election of officers, after the first organization of a lodge till a regular installation had taken place; though addresses from the chair by the Master elect are not uncommon ; and I presume such addresses may appear in public with propriety. If upon the whole the Social Lodge should think best to publish the performance in question, before they are constituted, I am of opinion that Bro. Champney had better alter the introductory part (if in his judgment any alieraiions are necessary), in such manner, that it may appear to have been delivered at the first opening of the Lodge.

This I conceive can easily be done without lessening its merit.

You will please to present my best respects to the Brethren, and assure them of every attention in my power to serve them. I am with esteem.
Your friend and Brother,

Josiah Bartlett.

Mr. Amos Willington.

The second letter relates more especially to the forms to be observed, and is as follows:

Charlestown, 8 June, 1799.

Sir and Brother: — I am directed by the M. W. Grand Master to inform you, that he yesterday received your communication of the 18 May; and that the 24 instant, agreably to the wishes of the Social Lodge, is appointed for its constituting, and the Installation of its Officers.

He is not officially told whether you .ropose a public ceremony, or not, but having been informed by Brother Wyman that you wish and expect it, he has directed the arrangements accordingly.

The Lodge will plan to assemble at their Room at 10 o'clock a. m. to attend the usual ceremonies preceeding the public performances, at the meeting house, which will commence at half past eleven and be as follows:

  1. The 133 Psalm to be read by the Grand Chaplain; or the Brother who represents him.
  2. A prayer by the Reverend Mr. Waters of Ashby, or some other Clergyman, if he declines.
  3. A Psalm or Hymn adapted to the occasion to be read by the Rev'd Mr. Payson and sung by the choir of Singers, with Instrumental musick, if you have it.
  4. A Sermon by the Rev'd Mr. Payson, being the choice of the Lodge.
  5. The ceremony of Constituting, Installation &c. agreably to the form in the New Book of Constitutions (published in 1798) page 79 &c. except that the Master of the Lodge (and not the G. Deacons, G. Stewards, and G. Sword Bearer) will invest his Deacons, Stewards, and Tyler.
  6. The charges by the Grand Master, or whoever officiates, in his stead.
  7. An Anthem by the choir of Singers.
# Blessing by the Grand Chaplain.

These are the only public performances which will be necessary, except that the performers on the Instrumental Musick are requested to practice two, or three solemn pieces, or psalm tunes to be interspersed as will be directed, during the ceremony.

I am further directed to request, that punctuality may be observed with respect to time, and, that the invitations to attend in the procession, of those who are not Masons, should be such as will give dignity to the Institution. Clergy, Deacons, Select Men and Majestrates are usually of the number.

The Grand Master will attend at Ashby, if his business will permit but if he does not, he begs the Brethren to be assured that he will use every means in his power to render the ceremony respectable and satisfactory. You will take the earliest opportunity to communicate this Letter to your Lodge, and receive the affectionate respects of your friend and Brother,

William Lewis, Asst. Grand Sec'y.

To Bro. Allen Flagg, Sec'y to the Social Lodge, Ashby.

Among the papers is a list of members paying quarterages in 1801, 1802, and 1803. This list shows that custom of paying quarterly was established in the Lodge, and accordingly quarterages were payable in March, June, September and December. The names included in the list of 1801 are: Benjamin Champney, Amos Willington, John Locke, Allen Flagg, A. T. Willard, P. Lawrence, Oliver Kendall, L. Willington, A. Wyman, John Preston, Isaiah Richardson, I. Milliken, Benjamin Barrett, Stephan Wyman, I. Wyman, Jos. Stickney Barker Gibson, Isaiah Constantine, Isaac Lawrence, Jona. Dix, E. Houghton, Asa Kendall, N. Adams, Abel Stearns, and Levi Worster. In the list of 1803 the additional names of Elijah Flagg, Samuel Rice, Elias Willington, Thaddeus Lawrence, and Joseph Wheeler appear.

As stated in November, the first annual return recovered bears date of 1814, and the last of 1831; and as this was at a time when anti-Masonry was at its height, we shall copy the names of officers and members borne on it: R. W. John Conn, Master; W. David Lewis, Senior Warden; W. Abr. Haskell, Jr., Junior Warden; Brother Noah Start, Treasurer, Brother Cushing Burr, Jr., Secretary; Brother John Barrell, Senior Deacon; Brother Amos D. Scollay, Junior Deacon; Brother Oliver Kendall, Senior Steward; Brother Elisha White, Junior Steward ; Brother Abel Stearns, Tyler. Members: John Locke, Alex. T. Willard, Stephen Wyman, Nath'l Adams, Asa Kendall, Grover Scolley, Philander J. Willard, Ezra C. Gates, Walter Russell, Charles Stearns, Elijah Houghton, Ezl. L. Bascom, Chas. Barrett, Gehial Watkins, Samuel Woods, Reuel Lawrence, Stephen Corey, John Adams, 3d, Josiah White, Asahel Corey, Ivers White, Joshua Townsend, Enoch Whitmore, Gilman Jones, Darius Willington.

This return shows that the "regular meeting" of the Lodge was on "Thursday preceding full moon in September, December, March, and June"; that its charter was dated March 16, 1798; that the officers were elected annually in September; that the fee paid to Grand Lodge was $4.00; and that no candidates had been initiated since "September 1st, A. L. 5830." The receipt for this return was signed by Lemuel Shattuck, District Deputy Grand Master.

We present one other letter, written at about this time; and, as it refers to the returns specially, and to Grand Lodge and its possible action, we submit it without further comment, except to say that it is possible that more may be said concerning Social Lodge hereafter:

Concord, Sept 6, 1831.

Dear Sir:— It is doubtful whether I shall be able to pay an annual visit to Social Lodge this season, though I flatter myself that opportunity may be presented before the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge in December. There are some important measures about to be taken, as is supposed, by the masonic fraternity and our uncompromising enemies, which it may be highly important should be communicated to the several lodges. This is the reason why I shall not be present by myself or a substitute at your approaching annual meeting.

I enclose you the blank returns, and would thank you to fill them up and forward them to me in due season; but in the meantime, I will inform you in some manner of any thing that shall be immediately interesting to the great cause of our lodges, which shall emanate directly from the Grand Lodge; and shall either visit you in person or by a substitute in October or November. Be good enough to communicate the substance of this to the brothers of Social Lodge and believe me,

Very respectfully yours,

Lemuel Shattuck, D. D. G. M., 5th District.

The Secretary of Social Lodge.


From Proceedings, Page 1980-179:

Compiled by John M. Sherman

On the 5th day of March, 1767, the town of Ashby was incorporated from the west part of Townsend, the north part of Fitchburg and about twelve hundred acres taken from the northeast part of Ashburnham.

The first instance of an organization of a social nature in this town may be learned from the following extract taken from the records of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

Grand Lodge, 12th March 1798.

A petition was received from Elias Wellington, and others praying for a charter to hold a Lodge in the town of Ashby, county of Middlesex, by the name of Social Lodge was read by the Grand Secretary with the papers accompanying the same, and being properly recommended, voted that the prayer of the petitioners be granted.'

"Abijah Wyman, the Wellingtons, the Kendalls, Cushing Burr, Sr., and others, not a large number, constituted the members of this fraternity at that time. During the last nine or ten years of its existence Rev. Ezekiel L. Bascom was its chaplain. This gentleman was also Grand Chaplain for six years, between 1804 and 1826, of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. This Lodge met at Oliver Kendall's house, near the place where John Fitch was taken captive by the Indians. In a quiet way this fraternity did some good until about 1830, when anti-Masonry went into politics and a great excitement spread throughout the country, caused by men who had 'a zeal but not according to knowledge'." (Excerpt from The History of Middlesex County; Ashby by Ithamar B. Sawtelle; compiled by D. Hamilton Hurd, 1809)

At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts held on September 10, 1804, the Grand Lodge listed Social Lodge among its chartered Lodges with the date of Charter as March 16, 1798.

A Report of Committee on Delinquent Lodges, presented at the March 14, 1821 Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, stated that "the dues from Social Lodge, at Ashby, for the year 5817 (1817) appear to be still unpaid."

At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, held on December 12, 1827, a petition was presented to allow Social Lodge to remove from Ashby to Ashburnham. The Committee to which the petition was referred, voted that "These with some other circumstances in the case, induce your Committee to give their unanimous vote in the negative."

However, the Centennial Memorial of Aurora Lodge (Fitchburg) 1801-1901 stated that on "September 3, 1827, (Aurora Lodge) approved of the removal of Social Lodge from Ashby to Ashburnham village. It continued to hold its meetings in its new location until 1832, when it became extinct." Evidently, the petition to Grand Lodge was after the fact.

Artifacts originally belonging to Social Lodge of Ashby have been donated to the Museum of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts at various times; (Appendix A).

The Bible, which was presented to Social Lodge by Brother Nathaniel Adams on January 18, 1821 contains a list of Petitioners for Social Lodge; (Appendix B). Legibility of the handwriting and variations of spellings not withstanding, the list of Petitioners provided the first source of members of Social Lodge; (Appendix C).

Research on the 24 Petitioners is capsuled in Appendix D. The Petition was evidently signed by men of good standing and reputation in the community; men who believed that it would be good for Ashby to have a Masonic Lodge.

It was the general rule at that time that a Petition for Charter for a new Lodge be signed by not less than seven affiliated Master Masons of known skill and good standing. Of the 24 names listed in the Bible, 14 of those were in the membership record file of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Ten of those 14 were made Masons in Trinity Lodge of Lancaster and the remaining five were members of Saint Paul Lodge of Groton or Corinthian Lodge of Concord. The remaining nine of the 24 names listed have no known Masonic record at this date.

(Note—Most of the records in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts' membership record file that are prior to 1867 are reconstructed. In 1864, a fire destroyed the building that contained the Grand Lodge offices and all the records therein were also lost.)

Many of the record cards in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts membership record file refer to a Secretary's Minute Book and Annual Return in the archives of the Grand Lodge as the source of information given on the record card. The whereabouts of these records is not known at this time.

By searching the membership record files of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for names taken from lists of town officials and prominent citizens given in Ashby by Ithamar B. Sawtelle contained in the History of Middlesex County compiled by D. Hamilton Hurd, 1809 and other surrounding area histories, additional members of Social Lodge were collected.

Appendix E lists the officers and members of Social Lodge of Ashby obtained from the following sources:

  • The Vocal Companion and Masonic Register Printed by Brother John M. Dunham, Boston, 1802
  • A System of Speculative Masonry, Etc. By Salem Town, A.M. Grand Chaplain of New York and Principal of Granville Academy, Salem, New York.
  • Masonic Diplomas and Certificates from the Collections of Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

The names and biographical data of all known members of Social Lodge obtained by research but who were not listed as Petitioners, are capsuled in Appendix F.

(Appendix references refer to appendices contained in the complete report, copies of which are available in the Grand Lodge Library)


  • 1821 (Report on delinquency, III-321)
  • 1827 (Petition on removal to Ashburnham, IV-97)
  • 1828 (Petition on removal to Ashburnham, IV-100)




1803: District 5 (Framingham, West and North)

1821: District 5


Massachusetts Lodges