Chartered By: X
Dispensation Date: date
Charter Date: date
Current Status: status
Meeting date: Third Wednesday
REFERENCES IN GRAND LODGE PROCEEDINGS
VISITS BY GRAND MASTER
St. John's Lodge in Providence was organized February 17, 1757, the Charter for such organization bearing date January 18, 1757. Bro. John Burgess was the first Wor. Master. Among the first initiates was Joseph Brown, one of the patriotic merchants of providence, the second Wor. Master of the Lodge. He served from 1762 until 1778. John Brown and Moses Brown were also among the early initiates. During the early years, the Lodge was accustomed to hold its meetings in some tavern or private dwelling-house. The “White Horse Tavern” which stood on North Main Street, at the corner of Arsenal Lane, as is supposed, was its first place of meeting. The next place of meeting was at the “Widow Kilton’s,” on the site of which stands the brick block, on the corner of North Main and Haymarket streets. Later it met at the “Two Crowns.” Afterwards the Lodge met at the house operated by Bro. Noah mason.
From 1769 until 1778, the Lodge was dormant. On July 15th of the last-named year, it was revived under the authority of a Commission from John Rowe, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, issued to Jabez Bowen, later Deputy Governor of Rhode Island, who was thus authorized to act as master and reorganize the Lodge. Under his able leadership a new era of prosperity dawned. Meetings were held in the Council Chamber of the State House. Candidates of ability and excellent character applied to be admitted to its membership; among these were Joseph and John Brown and Abraham Whipple, commander of the expedition which captured and burned the Gaspee. It could hardly have been by chance that these men, prominent members of St. Johns Lodge in Providence, were thus associated.
St. John's Lodge in Providence united with its sister Lodge in Newport in organizing the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island in June, 1791. In 1793, St. Johns Lodge was incorporated and granted perpetual succession by the General Assembly. The Charter, engrossed on parchment and bearing the autograph signatures of the State officials for that year, is carefully preserved in the archives of the Grand Lodge. During the same year preliminary steps were taken for the erection of a hall for the use by the Lodge. The sum of $1000 was appropriated for this purpose, and subscriptions were received for the same object.
One year later the hall was completed and ready for use. It was dedicated by Jabez Bowen, then Grand Master. At the time of this dedication of the new hall, the membership in the Lodge was 176. This first Masonic Hall in Providence was not built upon the ground, but was third story added to the old market Building, now occupied by the RI School of Design. It was there that the Masonic bodies met for 56 years, when the city of Providence purchased the property, and other accommodations were secured for the Fraternity.
During the year 1800, Thomas Smith Webb became a member of this Lodge, in which afterwards, his influence was most pronounced, as it was throughout the jurisdiction and over the whole country. He may well be called the grand chieftain of the second revival of Freemasonry in this section, as Bowen was the first. One of Webb’s ablest associates in Masonic Work was William Wilkerson.
There were other members of the highest reputation in the community; among these, mention may be made of Cyrus Butler, whose munificent gift to the Butler Hospital caused his name to be given to that institution; also Ebenezer Knight Dexter, who gave a princely fortune for the benefit of the poor of his native town. These were members of St. John's Lodge. And so the roll might be extended, for it comprised of men prominent in public and private life, from pre-revolutionary times to the present day.
During the years from 1828 to about 1840 when the storm of bigotry and persecution assailed the Fraternity, the membership of St. Johns Lodge, for the most part, stood firm and loyal to the institution. That there were weak and seceding ones goes without saying; but they were few in number and contemptible in spirit. The Lodge kept up its meetings, attended to its duties, elected officers annually, and practiced its charities; and but for the absence of applications for membership, it would not be observed by the records, which were faithfully kept through all this dark period, that matters were not taking their usual course.
After the season of persecution had waned, the faithful members seemed more attached than ever to the society of which they had suffered; they gave hearty welcome to the young men who now asked for admission to the Lodge; and so the ranks were again recruited, slowly at first, but surely. The next important event in the history of St. Johns Lodge in Providence was the celebration of its Centennial, which took place June 24, 1857. It was occasion of great interest and enthusiasm.
In 1882 St. Johns Lodge celebrated its 125th Anniversary with elaborate ceremony. An altar was dedicated, the stone which bears the inscription: “To the Glory of God; in the 125th year of St. John's Lodge, No. 1, in the town of Providence.” A medal was struck in gold, bearing on the obverse the two Sts. Johns, surrounded by the legend, “St. John's Lodge, No. 1, Providence, 1757”; and on the reverse the Arms of the Lodge, with inscription, “125th Anniversary, 1882.” Copies of the medal were also struck in silver and bronze, and they have been adopted as the badge of the Lodge.
The records of St. John's Lodge are regarded as of great value and importance. Several years ago the Lodge expended a large sum of money in copying the records from the beginning; and the originals are now kept in safety vaults, so that so far as human skill and care can prevent it, they may not be destroyed. At the present time the records are kept in duplicate, and the history of the Lodge is believed to be safe. (All Lodge records are now safely kept at the Grand Lodge in the vault room.)