Chartered By: Joseph Webb
Charter Date: 01/30/1778 I-264; see also II-36
Precedence Date: 01/30/1778
Current Status: in Grand Lodge Vault. No record after 1830; forfeited 1859, VI-259; see dispensation for the subsequent Trinity Lodge.
- Michael Newhall, 1778
- Edmund Heard, 1779-1783, 1789-1793 resigned from office
- Timothy Whiting, Jr., 1784, 1785, 1787, 1793, 1794, 1797
- Ephraim Carter, 1786
- Abijah Wyman, 1788
- John Maynard, 1795, 1796, 1801
- Abraham Haskell, 1798
- Moses Thomas, 1799
- Amos Johnson, 1800
- after 1800?
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
VISITS BY GRAND MASTER
- 1933 (History of Old Trinity Lodge, 1933-397)
HISTORY OF OLD TRINITY LODGE, SEPTEMBER 1933
From Proceedings, Page 1933-397, at the 75th Anniversary celebration of Trinity Lodge of Clinton:
by Worshipful Gordon A. Brown.
Worshipful Master and Brethren: —
In the short time at my disposal it will be impossible to give more than a brief sketch of old Trinity Lodge; the Master says that half an hour will be enough, and by that time I think you will agree with him.
Past Master Jonathan Smith has left us an excellent history of the old Lodge. It was my privilege to collaborate with him somewhat in its preparation, but that was a long time ago and I knew more about it then than I do now, which perhaps isn't saying much. I am principally indebted to that work for what I have prepared for this occasion. That together with one volume of records beginning in 1783 and ending in 1800 gives us practically all we know of the old Lodge; the other thirty-two years are a blank.
The leader of Freemasonry in Lancaster was Michael Newhall; he was the oldest in years and Masonic life of the five Charter members. He had travelled extensively both at home and abroad and appreciated the benefits to be derived from mingling with the Fraternity. Nearly three years elapsed between his first and subsequent degrees, a time sufficiently long to have cooled his ardor or strongly increased his desire for more light. The other four were probably his acquaintances and friends in Lancaster. Their names were Edmund Heard, Richard Bridge, Jonas Prescott, and James Wilder, Jr.
These five applied to the Massachusetts Grand Lodge for a Lodge in Lancaster. Favorable action was taken at the same meeting and a Charter was granted a few days later bearing the same date viz: — January 30, 1778. No inquiry was made, could be made, as to their characters or their fitness for the duties they were to assume. But the events show that no mistake was made.
Michael Newhall was the only one who had ever seen the degrees worked except as they had received them themselves. He had received his degrees in St. Andrew's Lodge, of Boston,.a few years before, and the others received theirs at the same place only twenty days before applying for the Charter, as though they might have taken the degrees for that express purpose.
One of them, Jonas Prescott, was only an Entered Apprentice, for the Grand Lodge records show that he took his other degrees in Trinity Lodge soon after its organization. Having received their Charter they proceeded to organize their Lodge. They began with four active members.
The Lodge was never Constituted by the Grand Lodge.
They had to procure, fit up, and furnish their hall, learn the ritual, frame their by-laws, and familiarize themselves with the work of the order.
They prospered from the first and seemed to overcome all difficulties, for we learn from the returns of the Grand Lodge that thirteen months later they had initiated, crafted, and raised 39 candidates and admitted them to membership in the Lodge. Previous to 1801 the conferring of the degrees on a candidate did not entitle him to sign the by-laws. Their names had to be proposed and voted on later. Many never joined any lodge but remained "Masons at large."
At this point I will mention the various places of meeting as there are so many here who will recognize the locations.
The first meeting place is unknown, but the second was in South Lancaster in a house long known as the Daniel Howard house. It is still standing and is the second one north of the Engine House.
The next place was what was known for many years as the William Powers place in North Lancaster, it is directly opposite the road leading to Lane's Crossing. The fourth location was the Fairbanks Tavern in North Lancaster, then the Lancaster Hotel (since burned) in Lancaster Center, and lastly they met over John Thurston's store in South Lancaster.
In 1783 the membership of the Lodge was about 70 but many more had received the degrees. I might add here that from 1783 until the records end in 1800 the Lodge had admitted to membership only 44 but they had initiated 159, crafted 128, and raised 105.
All the business of the Lodge (in distinction from work) was done on the Entered Apprentice degree. A Fellow Craft or Master Mason's Lodge was only opened for applications and work in connection with those degrees. On public occasions the rule was the same, such as celebrating the Feast of St. John.
When they received the Grand Officers they opened on the first degree and exemplified the work of that degree, but when it came to an examination of the Charter, records, etc., the Grand Lodge took charge and opened in Ample Form.
Entered Apprentices took an active part in the business of the Lodge; they served on committees and were present at the functions of the order and had many of the privileges of Master Masons though not formally elected to membership until they had received the third degree.
Applications for the degrees were presented verbally in open Lodge by some friend of the applicant. Nothing was filed in writing. The application was never referred to a committee so far as the records show, but quite often it was laid over until the next meeting which of course would give some time for investigation, but quite as often it was balloted on the very evening of its presentation and if the ballot was clear the first degree was conferred at once. The second and third degrees were usually given the candidate the same night, and there are many instances where the candidate was proposed, elected, and all the degrees conferred at the same meeting without Dispensation from the Grand Lodge. This seems strange to us, but the situations and circumstances made the custom almost a necessity.
The jurisdiction of the Lodge for the first twenty years was large, the methods of travel were slow, and in winter laborious, and many coming from distant towns such as Worcester, Oxford, Barre, and Rindge, N. H. and other far away places made the practice expedient and convenient for the candidates.
There was no fixed time for a candidate to present himself after being elected, sometimes years elapsed between elections and initiation. Up to 1795 the fees and dues were paid in English money. The deposit fee was 18 shillings, less than $4.50 in our money, and was seldom paid in cash, but some one became surety for it. First Degree, 2 pounds 2 shillings or about $10.00. Second and Third Degrees, 1 pound 4 shillings.
All visitors were required to pay a shilling to attend meetings. Dues were called quarterages and were payable quarterly. They were $1.00 a year and as small as they were, the collection of them was a troublesome matter. But their business management fairly reflected the methods then universal among all people. It was an age of credit, not cash, and up to 1800 the people had not recovered from the business depression and distress which followed the Revolution.
There was little money in circulation, save paper currency, which was at a heavy discount, and the day of payment was put off until the last minute.
The Lodge had no systematic method of dispensing charity, no visiting committee, no relief committee. Sometimes a special committee was appointed for some particular case, but there were no permanent committees. This applies up to 1800 where the records cease. If a Brother wished assistance he made his wants known either personally, by letter, or through some other Brother. In one case a Brother had lost his house by fire and the Lodge voted him 30 pounds at once. Another similar case of fire where a Brother had been burned out, they treated quite differently. They voted to present him with one and one-half gross of 7x9 window glass, I suppose in anticipation of another house. A widow with eight children applied for assistance and they voted her four pounds at once and appointed a committee of three to see what could be done. These are but a few of the cases where aid was rendered, many more being mentioned in the old history.
The sessions of the Lodge usually lasted four hours. If they met at 6 o'clock they closed at 10. The business was always preceded by refreshments and the Steward presented his bill at each meeting for the refreshments for that meeting, and strange as it may seem, the bills were always for items of a liquid nature. Nothing more substantial ever appeared. It is possible that the members being almost all farmers might have contributed vegetables, ham, chicken, eggs, etc., but there is no such record. The Steward's bills were for such articles as wine, rum, gin, Oporto (if any one knows what Oporto is) [port], brandy, lemons, loaf sugar, and nutmegs. In one case the the bill was for the ingredients for mixing "flip." Now I am a little vague about Oporto but I know what flip is from my old Grandfather. Flip is rum and molasses stirred with a hot poker. There being no mention of the poker we can imagine they kept it in readiness. But we must make allowances for the customs of the times. Everyone drank more or less in those days, some more, some less. When the minister made a parish call the first thing was for the hostess to bring out the decanter and glasses.
When the Brethren met at the meeting the first thing was to drink each other's health, and then the healths of the Missus and the kids and when one had gone down the list of one of the big families of those days, is it any wonder that the Master occasionally felt called upon to reprimand a Brother and call his attention to the cardinal virtues of Masonry, especially that relating to temperance. They did not encourage excesses by any means.
Take the case of Brother — well never mind, you wouldn't know him. He had imbibed too freely on St. John's day and the Master appointed a committee of three to remonstrate with him and reclaim him if possible. They must have succeeded, for several years later we find him an active member of the Lodge. Liquors must have been quite cheap in those days as the Steward's bill seldom exceeded four dollars except on special occasions such as celebrating St. John's day or entertaining the Grand Officers.
The Lodge often celebrated the Feast of St. John and the meeting was open to the public. Isaiah Thomas, afterward Grand Master, was the speaker on one occasion, and we find Rev. Nathaniel Thayer, great grandfather of a member of our Lodge, preaching a sermon on another occasion.
The first visit from the Grand Lodge was June 10, 1783, about five years after the organization of Trinity Lodge, and it had a most beneficial effect, stimulating the officers to better work, to conduct their business more systematically, and bringing them in closer touch with the Grand Lodge. Their next visitation was November 6, 1798. They must have suspended their four-hour rule and made a night of it, for after the Grand Officers had performed their duties the Lodge elected two candidates, passed six to the degree of Fellowcraft, and raised three to the sublime degree, besides transacting other routine business. The Steward's bill was $10.99.
Those were the only visits of the Grand Lodge down to 1800 when the records cease.
The question might naturally be asked, "Why are not we Old Trinity Lodge and why did it go down as it did a hundred years ago?" The question if answered in detail would prolong the agony beyond your endurance, but I will tell some of the principal reasons. There were two Grand Lodges in Boston previous to the revolution, St. John's Grand Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of England with Henry Price as Provincial Grand Master, and the Massachusetts Grand Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland with Joseph Warren as Provincial Grand Master. Now the presence of two Grand Lodges in the same place at the same time, covering the same territory, chartered from different sources, jealous of each other, each eager for Masonic honors, was not conducive to harmony or that spirit of fraternity which we are wont to associate with Masonry. They had no relation with each other in any way or shape. St. John's and its subordinates were Tory in sympathy and the Massachusetts Grand Lodge with its followers were patriotic. Not strictly so, as there were some Patriots in St. John's Lodge and some Tories on the other side, but generally speaking that was true, and as time went on and the Brethren shifted membership from one Lodge to another according as their sympathies were American or English, this division became more pronounced. St. Andrew's was the largest and most influential Lodge in the country and it was under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge, consequently patriotic.
It is said that seventy men disguised as red Indians who dumped the tea into Boston Harbor were members of this Lodge. This perhaps never was really known except to the participants of the affair but this much is known. At a meeting of the Lodge only two or three nights before the tea party the Secretary leaves this record in his book. "The consignment of tea in the harbor occupied most of the Brethren's time" and then he drew circles and scrolls on the blank part of the record book in the center of which he makes capital T's all over the page. Any one can draw his own conclusions. At this point I would like to quote a little from Past Master Smith's history as he expresses better than I can what I wish to say.
"It may be too much to say that the secrecy of Masonic meetings was used as a cloak to plot treason against the British King, but it may be reasonably inferred that when Joseph Warren, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and the members of the Boston Tea Party met at the Green Dragon between the years 1770 and 1775, after the work of the Lodge was done they did not separate without talking over the political grievances of the times, and the ways and means of resistance and defense were fully discussed.
The 'Mystic Tie' was the strong bond of sympathy. Its members were generally young men of ardent patriotism. The Lodge drew intelligent and thinking men together and bound them to one another by strong cords of mutual interest and friendship. These meetings afforded opportunities for discussion and consideration which amid the excitement and confusion of the times were not likely to go unimproved."
The Green Dragon referred to was a tavern in Boston where St. Andrew's Lodge held their meetings for more than 50 years. The Tories called it "a hot bed of treason" and Daniel Webster referred to it as the "Headquarters of the revolution."
Now Joseph Warren was killed at the battle of Bunker Hill June 17, 1775, and the office of Grand Master became vacant. Further complications arose by the siege of Boston which lasted until the following spring and the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. Neither St. John's nor the Massachusetts Grand Lodge held any meetings for nearly two years and probably this condition was reflected to the subordinate lodges.
In February 1777 the Massachusetts Grand Lodge called a meeting for the purpose of receiving an application from some Brother for a charter for another subordinate Lodge. The question immediately arose, "What is the status of the Grand Lodge now that Joseph Warren was dead, and his office vacant?" The rule of succession was laid down in the constitution. There being no Grand Master the authority of his office vested in his Deputy.
They were ignorant of this or wilfully ignored it. The question of an American Grand Lodge independent of all foreign control began to be agitated at once and with such impetus that on March 8, 1777 they met, elected and installed their officers, and organized the "Independent Grand Lodge of Massachusetts," the first Grand Lodge on this continent purelyAmerican and not under foreign jurisdiction. And this was done without the knowledge or consent of Scotland under whom they had worked for many years. They argued "As we have broken away from the old country politically and governmentally, why not Masonically." After this action had been taken a circular was prepared, setting forth the determination of the Brethren, the reason which impelled them to this course, and an exhortation to the members of the subordinate Lodges to declare their allegiance to the new Grand Lodge. A copy of this notice was sent to Trinity Lodge and is in the adjoining room. This act was a Declaration of Independence of Masonry from all foreign control and was to the craft as Masons what the declaration adopted at Philadelphia the fourth of July previous was to them as citizens of the state.
This was not followed by armed conflict as the other was but it was followed by a war of words in the Lodge-rooms that did not cease for twenty years. As time went on Trinity Lodge got mixed up in the quarrel and nearly lost its Charter. Not liking the way things were being conducted and to register their protests they refused to pay their dues to the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge ordered them to surrender their Charter; this they refused to do. It then threatened to annul the Charter, but after a long drawn out controversy and much correspondence the matter was finally compromised by what we would to-day call a fifty-fifty basis. The Lodge paid half of the dues and the Grand Lodge remitted the balance. The total amount was 18 pounds. Similar action was taken in other cases and it was not until 1809 that the last one came to the fold and the matter was apparently settled, but the separation both Masonically and politically from the Old Country rankled in the breasts of all those still having in their hearts a soft spot for the home-land, and there were thousands of them. They said "We might be prosperous colonies of Great Britain as we always have been, but instead what has your boasted Republic given us — a State government that is weak and a Federal government that is weaker — the State staggers under an enormous debt, taxes are burdensome, worthless paper money in circulation and the people clamor for more, debtors made desperate by prosecution, business at a standstill, no shipping at the port of Boston" etc. etc.
And the worst of it was it was true. They were going through a period of depression following the Revolution such as we know all about today with the disadvantage of not having a stable government behind them. They needed the inspiration of the Blue Eagle and the prestige of the American Eagle and they had neither. The Masons quarreled among themselves over the Grand Lodge, and if they dumped the tea into the harbor, that was an act of mob violence against the State and law and order that could not be condoned by any good citizen, and this made a feeling of bitter hatred against them, making it more difficult for them to resist the troubles that were to come later.
Early in the Nineteenth Century the Country began to experience a change, the government became more stable, business recovered, and the courts began to respect the rights of the people and the United States to take its place in the family of Nations. Then for several years the Lodges experienced a period of tranquillity, if not of actual prosperity.
But the hidden fires were smoldering, ready to break out on the least provocation. After 1800 little is known of the business of Trinity Lodge on account of the absence of records, but it can be safely assumed that up to 1826 its relations with the Grand Lodge were cordial and its dues paid and it probably enjoyed a fair degree of prosperity, considering everything.
Farmers Lodge in Sterling was organized in 1826 and continued six years, and that together with Aurora Lodge, of Fitchburg, and Fredonia Lodge, of Northboro, narrowed the jurisdiction of Trinity Lodge, giving it less territory to draw from. It was limited to Berlin, Bolton, Harvard, and Lancaster.
Then occurred the Morgan excitement which began in New York in 1826 and a more senseless wave of political agitation never carried away the judgment of sensible men. At first directed against Masons only, it soon included all other secret societies. It began as a political movement in Buffalo, New York, in the fall of 1826 spreading through the New England States and Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Old political parties were breaking up and the excitement was seized upon by scheming politicians as a rallying cry for all the discordant elements opposed to General Jackson. Its introduction into the field of politics gave it strength and the movement rapidly grew.
The Anti-Masonic Party in New York in 1828 cast about 33,000 votes; in 1830, 70,000; and 1832, 128,000. It was defeated in Pennsylvania by only 3000 votes. A candidate for President was nominated in 1832 and carried the State of Vermont. If the Masons had been in politics secretly before they were in it openly now and fighting for their lives.
Now Brethren in order that you may fully grasp the significance and importance of this Anti-Masonic movement, allow me to quote from an address of Sereno D. Nickerson, at one time Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, and you will marvel at his words. Speaking of this agitation he says,
"In 1830 and '31 it raged with unmitigated violence in Massachusetts. Here as elsewhere it was carried into all the relations of social life; the ties of kinship and friendship were rudely severed. The springs of sympathy were dried up; confidence between man and man was destroyed; the dark demon of persecution ran riot throughout the length and breadth of the land: Members of Masonic institutions were boycotted in their business, denied the lawful exercise of their civil franchise, driven from all public offices; from the Jury Box and from the Churches, subjected to insult and injury in their daily walks, hunted as felons, and only saved from personal violence through the cowardice of their wicked persecutors."
The tide had risen so high that the Grand Lodge called upon the subordinate Lodges to surrender their Charters till the storm should blow over. Most of them did, but Trinity Lodge did not. It perhaps would have been better if it had. We would now be old Trinity Lodge dating back to 80 years further than we do with an intermission of 26 years of inactivity. It is not known just when the old Lodge ceased to exist. Their last return to the Grand Lodge was in 1826 reporting some work and paying their dues. They are again mentioned in 1831, probably holding secret meetings but doing no work. Our historian says their last meeting must have been early in 1832.
As I said, the last place of meeting was over John Thurston's store in South Lancaster and it was there that the old Charter and jewels and some papers were found, but the record book was in a private house in possession of a Mrs. Lyons of Lancaster, widow of a former member of the Lodge.
When the new Lodge was organized the Grand Lodge refused to let them resume under the old Charter and a new Charter was issued.
- 1820 (Report on delinquency, III-295)
- 1821 (Report on delinquency, III-341)
- 1828 (Report on delinquency, IV-147)
- 1829 (Report on delinquency, IV-170)
- 1830 (Report on delinquency, IV-206)
RECALL OF CHARTER, SEPTEMBER 1784
From Proceedings, Page I-320, Massachusetts Grand Lodge:
Voted, That Trinity Lodge held in the town of Lancaster having omitted paying their dues and in other Respects fail'd to comply with the Constitutions of Masonry as universally acknowledged be and hereby is required forthwith to return their Charter granted by the authority of this Grd. Lo. to the Gd. Secy. of the said Gd. Lo., that they may no longer (be) held or be convened under the same untill such injunctions and Rules as by the Constitutions of Masonry and their Special Instructions are made & provided shall be fully and faithfully complied with.
GRAND LODGE OFFICERS
- Isaiah Thomas, Senior Grand Warden 1795-1797, Grand Master 1803-1805, 1809
- Timothy Whiting, DDGM, District 5 (Framingham, West and North), 1803-1805, 1809-1812; Senior Grand Warden (Mass. Independent Grand Lodge), 1787-1788