CENTENARY HISTORY, MARCH 1965
From Proceedings, Page 1965-84:
By Worshipful Everett W. Robinson.
A Brief History of St. James Lodge
During Mansfield’s early history it was customary for the people to go to the district south of them in Bristol County for many of the essentials that satisfied their economic, legal, and religious life. These close ties were entirely natural inasmuch as Mansfield was originally a geographical part of Taunton and Norton, and from there had come many of our early settlers. Yet, rather strangely, our Masonic history for the most part was connected with St. Alban’s
Lodge, and the district north of us. Mansfield and Foxborough were originally within the same Masonic jurisdiction, and that relationship between the two communities still exists in Chapter Masonry. St. James Lodge in Mansfield was, therefore, a direct offshoot of St. Alban’s Lodge in Foxborough.
In 1864, there were a good many Masonic Brethren living in Mansfield, and a movement took shape among them to establish a local Lodge for their convenience. The proceedings which set this decision in motion were recorded by a Secretary as follows: “On the fifth day of February, 1864, a number of Brethren, having the good of Freemasonry at heart, met at Brother John Rogers’, in Mansfield, and deeming it to be for the best interests of the Fraternity to have a Lodge established in said Town, chose Brother William G. Allen, a committee to obtain the recommendation of St. Alban’s Lodge in Foxborough, and also that of the Rt. Wor. James M. Cook, District Deputy Grand Master of the Seventh District
As a result of that meeting a Petition was prepared, signed by twenty-four Masons, and presented to St. Alban’s Lodge on February 22, 1864. Because of certain formalities, which, at the time, did not meet with approval in St. Alban’s, the Petition was rejected on March 21, and again on April 18. On May 16, however, just one hundred years ago this Anniversary night, an agreement was reached, and the Petition “in due form from the Mansfield Brethren” was endorsed.
Supported by the recommendation of St. Alban’s Lodge and the approval of the District Deputy of the Seventh District, a Petition, signed by twenty-five Master Masons, was submitted to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge requesting authority to establish in Mansfield a regular Lodge under the name and title of St. James Lodge. In answer to this Petition, the Grand Master, Most WorshipfulWilliam Parkman
, granted a Dispensation on May 24, 1864. Of the twenty-five Master Masons who signed the petition:—
- Fourteen were members of St. Alban’s Lodge
- Four were members of King David Lodge
- Two were members of Bristol Lodge
- One was a member of Winslow Lewis Lodge
- One was a member of Mesalonskee Lodge in Maine
- Three held undetermined memberships
It may be of interest to note that among these twenty-five petitioners were William Bates and Laban Wheaton whose immediate families were the benefactors of two of our well known New England Colleges; Bates and Wheaton.
Brother William G. Allen was appointed by the Grand Master to be the first Master, Brother William B. Bates to be the first Senior Warden, and Brother William Graves to be the first Junior Warden. They, with their associates, were required to return the Dispensation with a correct transcript of all proceedings, and an attested copy of their By-Laws to the Grand Lodge for examination, and such further action as should be deemed wise at the expiration of the time specified in the Dispensation.
The granting of this Dispensation by the Grand Master on May 24, 1864, was the first official recognition of Freemasonry in Mansfield, and the ten months which followed before the permanent Charter was granted marked a period of great interest and activity.
It is generally agreed that the frequent meeting of the Lodge held after the Dispensation was received took place in Temperance Hall. This hall was located on the second floor of the building which now stands on the southern corner of South Main Street and Webb Place, across from the Park Row School. In spite of definite evidence that here was the scene of their early meeting, a story gradually grew that meetings of the Lodge were held elsewhere about the town. One of the earliest and most widely circulated had the Brethren assembled in one of the rooms of Comey and Company’s Straw Shop. The Straw Shop was a large factory located on Park Street, and owned in part by John Rogers, one of the early leaders in the establishment of St. James Lodge. Of this tradition Brother William N. Moran had this to say in his “Historical Sketch of St. James Lodge” read at the Twentieth Anniversary in 1885:
“Before that time (i.e., before the Dispensation) the Brethren met in rooms fitted up for their especial benefit by Brother John Rogers in the upper portion of his Straw Shop where they used to assemble together to rehearse the work and perfect themselves in the ritual, so that they might be in readiness to conduct a Lodge in a proper manner upon receipt of the Dispensation, which was to authorize them to establish a Lodge, and which it was their desire and intention of applying for.”
This quotation clearly indicates that the meetings in the Straw Shop were informal in character and were prior to the Dispensation.
Another rumor that was circulated some forty years ago pictured the “vestry of the old Church” as one of the early meeting places of the Lodge. By the “vestry of the old Church” is meant the vestry of the old Unitarian Church which then stood on what is now the South Common. This vestry was used as a place of public meeting and was called Central Hall. While the Masons occupied Temperance Hall for their Lodge meetings, they were accustomed to go to Central Hall for their banquets, because it was very close by. This undoubtedly is the explanation of how the tradition began that the Lodge used to meet in the “vestry of the old Church.”
During the time that the Lodge was acting under Dispensation, from May 24,1864, to March 9, 1865, a total of thirty-nine meetings were held. That is an average of about one meeting a week for nearly ten months. It is very evident, as we look back to those days, that the Founders did not spare any effort which might strengthen and dignify the institution of Freemasonry in Mansfield.
At the first meeting, on June 2, 1864, a committee was chosen to purchase regalia, furniture, and any other articles necessary for the work of the Lodge; a committee was also chosen consisting of Brothers Erastus M. Reed, Charles M. Deane, and William G. Allen to draft a code of By-Laws.
At the second meeting, on June 7, 1864, the following officers were chosen:
- William G. Allen, Worshipful Master
- William B. Bates, Senior Warden
- William Graves, Junior Warden
- Ellis Fairbanks, Secretary
- Erastus M. Reed, Treasurer
- Charles M. Deane, Senior Deacon
- Jacob Crowley, Junior Deacon
- Charles Hallet, Senior Steward
- Simeon J. Clark, Junior Steward
- Alden Fuller, Tyler
The following were appointed:
- Rev. Daniel W. Stevens, Chaplain
- William N. Hamblet, Marshal
It was not until November, 1886, that the By-Laws were amended whereby only the first five officers of the Lodge were to be elected, and the others appointed, the custom which prevails today.
Frequent meetings were called to enable the Officers to perfect themselves in the ritual and the work of the Lodge. In this connection, I found an incident recorded by Worshipful Brother William A. Copeland in his “History of St. James Lodge”, read at the Fiftieth Anniversary in 1915. It is such a delightful picture of the old days that I repeat it here:
“During the time that the Lodge was acting under Dispensation it employed Brother T. H. Emmons of Boston for fifteen evenings to give instruction for which the Lodge voted to pay him $67.50. I have recently talked with Brother Emmons, who is still living (1915) and has an office in the Masonic Temple, and he says that he recollects the time when he used to come out to Mansfield to instruct the officers, and he well remembers his pleasant associations with Dr. William G. Allen, who was the Worshipful Master at that time. He says that he used to come out in the early evening and spend the night with Worshipful Brother Allen, and they would both get up early in the morning in time for Worshipful Brother Allen to accompany him to the station to take a train at four o’clock in the morning for Boston, and they would pace the platform and rehearse the work while waiting for the train.”
There were received by the Lodge, from May 1864, to March, 1865, twenty-five applications, of which twenty were accepted, and the candidates initiated. Before the Lodge had been operating a month three applications were received. Two of these were accepted and became the first candidates, although for some reason they were given their degrees on different nights. Sanford A. Morse, the first candidate, was initiated on July 15, at a special meeting, and received the Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees on the same night. A week later Lloyd G. Richardson was initiated, and received his Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees a week later, and on the same night. The fact that both of these Brothers were enlisted in the Civil War probably explains much.
In the meantime four other candidates had applied: Henry N. Paine, father of Brother Henry N. Paine, and grand-father of Worshipful Brother Henry L. Paine; Edward P. Paine, father of our Worshipful Brother Howard N. Paine; Mark E. Janes, father of our later Worshipful Brother William C. Janes; and Lewis R. Shepard, whom some will remember as the Lodge Tyler for many years. They were duly elected and were given their degrees during the summer and fall of 1864. There were two candidates who received all three degrees in one evening, namely: Alfred Barker on February 21, 1865, and Roland Green, grandson of the Town’s second Minister, Rev. Roland Green, whose name appears on one of our public schools, on May 9, 1865, just after the Charter had been received.
On November 3, 1864, the Lodge was called upon to mourn the passing of Brother Lloyd G. Richardson, its second candidate. He was buried with Masonic ceremonies under a special dispensation, this being the first burial under the auspices of the Lodge. Thus the Grim Reaper began early to put in his appearance.
In the Secretary’s records following the minutes of the meeting of February 21, 1865, appears the following entry:
“Closing of the Records of St. James Lodge while working under Dispensation.”
“St. James Lodge having worked under Dispensation the time prescribed by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, at its regular communication, February 4, 1865, appointed a committee to present their Petition to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge at its next quarterly meeting, that a Charter be granted to St. James Lodge.”
This Petition for a Charter was duly presented by St. James, and at the quarterly communication of the Grand Lodge, March 8, 1865, the Grand Lodge committee on the St. James Petition reported as follows:
“The committee to whom was referred the Petition of William G. Allen and others, for a Charter for a Lodge at Mansfield, under the name of St. James Lodge, respectfully report that they have examined the records of their doings while under Dispensation and find them to be correctly kept. That they have also examined a copy of their By-Laws and find them to conform to the requirements of the regulations of this Grand Lodge, and would therefore recommend that the prayer of the Petitioners be granted.”
T. H. Emmons, Solon Thornton, Thomas E. Chamberlain
The Charter, which was authorized at this Communication of the Grand Lodge on March 8, 1865, bears the date of March 9, 1865, and names the following Charter members:
- William G. Allen
- William B. Bates
- William Graves
- Daniel W. Stevens
- Erastus M. Reed
- Ellis Fairbanks
- Charles M. Deane
- William N. Hamblet
- Simeon J. Clark
- Charles Hallet
- John Rogers
- Zaccheus Fletcher
Thus came to a happy and successful close the period of preparation under the Dispensation, and St. James Lodge now took its place among the regular and duly constituted Lodges of the Commonwealth.
The members showed rare judgment at the outset by continuing in office, for the most part, the leaders who had so earnestly and effectively conducted the Lodge while under Dispensation. The first six officers, Worshipful Master William G. Allen, Senior Warden William B. Bates, Junior Warden William Graves, Secretary Ellis Fairbanks, Treasurer Erastus M. Reed, and Senior Deacon Charles M. Deane, served intact for four years, one year under Dispensation, and three years under the Charter.
In the spring of 1866, a committee was appointed to make necessary alterations in Temperance Hall, and to prepare and furnish it as a proper Masonic meeting place, at a cost of $600.
On July 24, the Officers of the Grand Lodge, including Most Worshipful Charles C. Dame
, Grand Master, were present to dedicate the Hall, and to install the Officers of St. James Lodge.
These beginnings were amid stirring times. One of the great wars of history had just drawn to its close, leaving in its wake a prosperous North and a shattered South, but a united Republic. The Grand Army was returning home, and the enthusiasm and emotion of the war period were at their heights. It was altogether natural that, under these conditions, St. James Lodge should experience a very rapid growth. Its membership in 1865, as nearly as can be estimated from partial records, was about thirty. In 1866, seventeen were initiated, and in each of the succeeding five years a relatively large number joined. By 1871, the Lodge numbered ninety members. In six years its membership had tripled. As a further evidence of this rapid early expansion, the Lodge moved in January, 1871, into a new and spacious Hall in Lovell’s Block, which had just been completed at the corner of North Main and West Streets. Bristol Commandery of Knights Templar, which had been recently organized, leased the Hall from St. James for its meetings. Masonry certainly moved forward in Mansfield during those early post war years.
Then came the inevitable post war reaction, conforming, I presume, to the reaction which affected the whole country in the later seventies. Not many people realize today how low the cycle swung in that post war depression. Scandals in business, a sharp industrial crisis set in motion by the panic of 1873, corruption in all branches of government, “carpet-bag” rule in the South, created problems in this Reconstruction era which had far reaching effects.
Here in St. James our rapid expansion came to a stop, and the list of new members began to decline. By 1875 there were only three new members, and in 1878 there were none. During the five years from 1878 to 1883, the total number added was only nine, and these were more than off set by the loss through demits and deaths. During the five years 1876 to 1881, thirty-two left the Lodge through nonpayment of dues, and the membership decreased from one hundred and one to sixty-six. The situation was further disturbed when in 1876 Bristol Commandery decided to transfer the Commandery to North Attleborough.
It will be thus seen that during the early years of its history St. James experienced about all the vicissitudes of fortune that could confront an institution. That the Lodge was able to pass through these formative years following the Civil War, and emerge with vigor, was due principally to two factors: the character of the men in the Lodge, and the program which they carried out for the Lodge.
From the beginning St. James was fortunate in its membership. Men who stood for much in the civic and industrial life of the community, whose reputation for character was well known, identified themselves with the Lodge, and brought to it enduring qualities.
The records speak often of Dr. William G. Allen, the first Master, and of his intimate friend and neighbor, Judge Reed, the First Treasurer; of Ellis Fairbanks, the first Secretary, and of his son Henry H. Fairbanks; of William Bates, the first Senior Warden, and Rev. Daniel Stevens, the first Chaplain, and later Master of Martha’s Vineyard
Lodge; of William N. Moran, Secretary for thirteen years, and Jacob Blake, Treasurer for fifteen years; of the Worshipful Masters: William Hamblet, Charles Deane, Stephen Rhodes, Dauphine K. Carpenter, John Wilson, and Charles McAIpine; of William Graves, the first Junior Warden, and for fifteen years the Marshal, whose genial face the Brothers were accustomed to meet at nearly every meeting of the Lodge from 1864 to 1912; of sturdy Jacob Leonard and William A. Lane from Norton; of the Hodges, Leonard M. and Henry G. both Chaplains of the Lodge; of the Days, Henry F., the fifth Master, and Alfred B., the second Secretary; of the Paines, William A. the third Secretary, Edward P., the eighth Master, and Henry N., the third candidate and for two years Senior Warden; of John Rogers, Charles Hallet, Lewis Shepard, Doliver S. Spaulding, Charles Seaver, Harvey Lincoln, Le Roy King, Ira Grant, Daniel Cobb, F. W. Cabot, Thomas Pratt, Howard Perkins, S. Chester Codding, E. Jasper Fisher, E. S. Goward, Simeon Clark, Zaccheus Fletcher, Homer and William Skinner, Frederick Walker, Dr. Fred Perry, Jacob Crowley, Alfred Barker, D. W. Braman, Asa P. Tobey, Alden Fuller, and George W. Hamilton.
To the vision and wise decisions of these Founders we would pay our respects on this Anniversary. After one hundred years the warmth of their devotion and enthusiasm is still felt.
I believe also that the success of these early years was due in no small degree to the policies carried out in the Lodge. From both a social and financial point of view the Founders wisely adopted programs suited to the period in which they lived, and adapted to the best interests of the Lodge. The records of St. James covering the first twenty years provide ample evidence of the emphasis laid on social activity. This activity seemed to carry beyond and outside the regular Lodge, and was often participated in by the general public. For instance, between 1865 and 1885 there were eleven Worshipful Masters of the Lodge, and five of them had public Installations. In 1866 there was a picnic at Myricks, and in 1874 an excursion down the Providence River. In 1867 the Lodge officially attended the dedication of the Masonic Temple at Boston, exercises which President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State, William Seward, attended. In 1871 the Lodge was present at the laying of the corner stone of the Boston Post Office, when President Grant was present. An affair at Norton is typical of these times. A social and entertainment was held in the Norton Town Hall under the auspices of the members of St. James Lodge residing in Norton. At eight o’clock a special train left Mansfield with about one hundred guests. Upon arrival at Norton they were taken to the Town Hall where a splendid program was presented. It is reported that the Norton Brethren paid five dollars each to cover the expense of the occasion. I believe that Worshipful Brother William A. Copeland must have gathered the same impression from the early records, for he observed that: “Social gatherings of one form or another to which the ladies were invited continued at frequent intervals for quite a number of years, sometimes several being held in the course of a year.”
Another phase of Lodge practice during these years will no doubt impress the present generation as both interesting and unusual, and yet it probably best suited those times. You will recall that during the first four years of its history the Lodge did an unusual thing by keeping in the Chairs the first six officers without change. After 1867, however, just the opposite practice was followed. Lodge honors were distributed at random, and apparently little attempt was made to promote Officers of the line in order. Of the nineteen different Brothers who were Junior or Senior Wardens between 1868 and 1882, only eight became Worshipful Masters. If this characteristic were true of the higher offices, it, of course, was more evident in the lower. Of fifty-one Masons who at one time or another between 1868 and 1882 held the offices of Senior and Junior Deacon, Senior and Junior Steward, and Inside Sentinel, only six later became Masters of the Lodge. This undoubtedly strikes us today as rather unusual, yet it is possibly a sign of the inherent strength of our Masonic forbears. Brothers were evidently elected to any office when they were ready and willing to serve, and were not under pressure to continue in line if personal reasons prevented. A glance at the roll of officers during these years will reveal many names very prominent in the civic and industrial life of Mansfield and Norton. The Lodge gained the benefit of their splendid ability, if for only a short while at a time.
But the records of the first twenty years bear ample testimony of the more serious side of St. James, and perhaps more truly reveal the real reasons for its early success. They bear evidence of the soundness of the Lodge’s financial policy. Our Masonic forbears must have been a resourceful and industrious body. In December, 1876, when times were bad, a “committee was appointed to plan an entertainment for the purpose of raising funds to liquidate the debt of the Lodge.” During the next year a very successful social was held in cooperation with the “wives, sisters, and lady friends” of the members. In 1879, the Lodge quarters were sub-let to the Knights of Honor. In 1882 a three day bazaar was carried out which resulted in a profit of twelve hundred dollars for the Lodge. These are rather startling revelations of the direct and resourceful manner in which business was conducted during a difficult period of administration.
The records disclose also that our elder Brethren did not fail in “that most excellent gift of charity.” The demands must have been many then, with the southern Lodges in a distressed, almost hopeless condition during the first decade, and the northern Lodges faced with a business depression during the second decade of this period. I accidentally came across an old, wrinkled piece of paper, which looked as though the Secretary had forgotten to throw it away. It contained the names and amounts subscribed for needy Brothers—an unintended record left behind, but it revealed Masonry at its best.
By 1885, it could truthfully be said that the problems of the formative period were over, and that a definite improvement had set in from the trials of the seventies. By this time the Lodge membership had climbed back to eighty-one from a previous low of sixty-five. As a rather convincing bit of evidence that prosperity had returned to the Lodge six Past Master Jewels were purchased at one time for the six Past Masters who had not previously received them.
In the same year the Lodge, with fitting ceremonies observed its Twentieth Anniversary. These exercises, which were held in the Lodge room, following a regular meeting, consisted of speeches, and reminiscences, followed by a collation. The principal remarks were made by the Secretary, William N. Moran, whose paper covered the history of St. James during the first twenty years. Thus the formative period in the history of St. James was brought to its close. The work of its Founders had been established. As the Lodge faced the future on that Anniversary night in 1885, there were probably few indeed who realized that it had entered upon a new era in its history.
i If the first twenty years in the history of St. James Lodge were called the period of the Founders, the next thirty years from 1885 to the World War could well be called the period of the Builders.
There is something about this period that gives one a feeling of security and confidence. Nationally it was one of expansion in culture, industry, and education. Life on the whole was comfortable, conventional, and safe; and quite free from the strain and uncertainty of the Civil War era which had preceded it, and of the World War era which followed. The principal impression which the record of this period creates is that of a sound, steady growth within the Lodge. It manifested itself in three directions; first, in an increase of membership; secondly, in the erection of a Masonic building; and thirdly, in the growth of formality and spirit. Very seldom did these developments appear hurried, emotional, or superficial.
The growth of the Lodge Membership from 1885 to 1915 is significant. In 1885 the membership was eighty-one; in 1915, it was two hundred and eight, an increase of one hundred and fifty per cent. And yet in only eight of these thirty years did the Lodge admit to membership over ten applicants in any one year. The increase was notably steady and even. Instances when this average was somewhat exceeded, occurred in 1896 and 1897 while Wor. Bro. Frank W. Barnard was Master, in 1904 while Wor. Bro. William A. Copeland was Master, in 1906 while Wor. Bro. Albert A. Grover was Master, in 1907 while Wor. Bro. William C. Janes was Master, in 1910 while Wor. Bro. Henry E. Fairbanks was Master, in 1912 while Wor. Bro. Benoni M. Latham was Master; and in 1913 while Wor. Bro. Charles H. Stearns was Master. But in these instances, even if the tempo was increased, it did not appear at all exaggerated.
The same regularity is noticeable in the case of demits and deaths. In only one year did the demits exceed three, and for nineteen years the average was less than one per year. In only two years of the thirty did the deaths number more than four in any one year, and they occurred only after the membership had passed the two hundred mark. These are indications of a steady, continuous, and evenly distributed prosperity. Probably there is no better barometer of these splendid conditions than that shown by the average attendance of members at Lodge meetings. In the first few years of this period, when the average membership was one hundred and ten, the average attendance of members was thirty-three, or about thirty per cent. In the later years with an average membership of two hundred and seven, the average attendance of members was sixty-three, still about thirty per cent. In other words, the Lodge maintained its per cent of member attendance at Lodge meetings in spite of a greatly increased Lodge membership. This clearly indicates a strong, active, and interesting Lodge.
The year 1912, while Worshipful Brother Benoni M. Latham was Master, developed into the climax year of this prosperous period. It was by far the busiest single year. At that time twenty-two candidates were initiated, and twenty-four were added to the membership of the Lodge. The number of meetings was twenty-five, with an average member attendance of sixty-seven, and a total of about four hundred visitors. During this year the Lodge adopted the design which appears on the outside page of the monthly notices. It was largely the work of Wor. Bro. Albert A. Grover, and has since been familiar to a generation of Lodge members. It was also in April of this same year that the Mansfield Chapter of die Eastern Star was established. It was natural that the expansion of St. James Lodge in this prosperous period after 1885 should express itself in some tangible form. The Lodge had been meeting in Lovell’s Block since 1871, but conditions seemed to warrant a building of its own.
On several occasions discussions had taken place, and committees had been appointed, to consider possible improvements in the Lodge quarters. Matters came to a head at a special meeting held August 27, 1889, when the Lodge voted to build a new Masonic Hall at the corner of North Main and East Streets. The plan of Brother L. M. Hodges, which was accepted, called for a three story structure, providing Lodge rooms on the third floor, banquet accommodations on the second, and store space on the first. There seemed to be some hesitation shown at this August meeting about attempting such an ambitious venture. When the motion was first put almost no one voted. On the second try, however, the motion carried. This hesitation was apparently due to the finances involved, because a later motion that same evening instructed Worshipful Brother H. H. Fairbanks to ascertain to what extent the personal property of the members was liable in case the Lodge contracted a debt. Possibly to prevent complications of any kind from arising, it was deemed best to separate entirely the Lodge from legal responsibility in the new building. Therefore, the Lodge voted to create a corporation for the purpose of building and owning the property, to be known as the St. James Lodge Masonic Building Association. The Charter of the Corporation is dated February 4, 1890. The expenses of construction and furnishing were met by the following means: subscriptions, notes of the Corporation, surplus funds in the Lodge Treasury, and a Mortgage. The building was completed in the latter part of 1892. The Secretary’s Record does not state definitely when the Lodge finally moved in, but from the nature of certain votes passed in the fall of 1892, and from the Mansfield News issue of November 4, 1892, it appears that the Lodge occupied its new hall for the first time on November 1, 1892.
The social side of St. James Lodge from 1885 to the outbreak of the World War differed very little in type from that which had prevailed during the earlier period. The only noticeable difference was a tendency in the latter period to keep the social life more exclusively Masonic. This was especially true after 1900, and was no doubt due to the larger membership of the Lodge. On the whole there were few public fairs, entertainments, or dances, but frequent so-called “family socials” and “ladies’ nights.” This same trend is found in the matter of Installations. A much smaller percentage of public installations occurred in the latter period, in contrast to the former period. On the other hand, in strictly Masonic affairs, the Lodge appeared about as active as ever. On June 30, 1892, the Lodge accepted an “invitation from the Masonic fraternity of Taunton to be present and assist at the laying of the Corner Stone of the new Court House.” On June 16, 1894, a special communication was called to assist in the laying of the Corner Stone of the new Public Library in North Attleborough. Again on June 17, 1895, the Lodge visited Charlestown and assisted the members of King Solomon Lodge in the celebration of the Centennial Anniversary of the Warren Monument. In 1902 the Lodge was honored with its first appointment of a District Deputy Grand Master from its members, this honor, of serving the twenty-second District, coming to Worshipful Brother William G. Allen, St. James’ first Worshipful Master. I presume that one of the most enthusiastic Masonic meetings of this period was the occasion of his first official Visitation to his own Lodge on November 25, 1902. After the usual formalities in the Lodge room, a procession was formed, which repaired to the Town Hall where a banquet was served. The ceremonies closed at 11:50 o’clock. The attendance was: members, seventy-five; visitors, one hundred and ninety-two. Right Worshipful Brother Allen was reappointed for the year 1903, but died while in office, in April of that year. In 1913, his son, Right Worshipful Brother William H. Allen, was appointed District Deputy Grand Master for this District, now the Twenty-eighth, and served during that and the following year. It was most unusual that father and son should succeed each other in this high Masonic office, within the short space of ten years.
Near the close of this period, on March 26, 1915, the Lodge observed the Fiftieth Anniversary of its Charter, and paid honor to its Founders. Right Worshipful Brother Harrison A. Morse was at that time the Worshipful Master. The Lodge was opened at 6:40 o’clock for the purpose of receiving Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson
, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, and his suite. For a brief while the Grand Master occupied the East of St. James Lodge. At eight o’clock a formal banquet was held in the Town Hall, attended by about four hundred Masons and their families. The program consisted of an historical address by Worshipful Brother William A. Copeland, and an address by Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson. The whole occasion was very impressive. Music was furnished by the Temple Quartet. These commemorative exercises were followed by dancing until one o’clock.
The most valuable and enduring contribution of this period from 1885 to the World War to the life of St. James came from the growth in the spirit of the Lodge. Along with the increased membership, and the enthusiasm of possessing their own Masonic building, came that inward growth which maturity and the passing years can develop. During all of this time the administration of St. James Lodge was in unusually capable hands. There were seventeen Worshipful Masters during this period, and two District Deputy Grand Masters. All of these officers, separately and collectively, exerted a deep and abiding influence on the habits, thought, and conduct of the Lodge. They took the work and responsibilities of the Lodge very seriously, and implanted this spirit in tire younger officers of the line. Under their influence there developed precision in the ritual, and a zeal for tradition and detail. The Lodge grew in discipline—formal dress, full and punctual attendance of the officers, music, and dignity in the degree work—these and other conventions were carefully observed. Officers now continued in line, and moved at regular intervals toward the East. It had become a distinction to serve St. James. This was indeed a spiritual growth.
Of the seventeen Worshipful Masters, whose influence and example achieved this lasting contribution, who are no longer with us, will, I am sure, recall pleasant memories of other years, especially to our older Brethren: Worshipful Brothers Frank W. Barnard, Albert A. Grover, Henry E. Fairbanks, Benoni M. Latham, Charles H. Stearns, and Right Worshipful Brothers William H. Allen and Harrison A. Morse, Worshipful Brothers Charles A. McAlpine, Charles H. Makepeace, Thomas H. Nelson, Charles C. Valentine, Charles F. Howard, DeWitt B. Hodges, Frank M. Cobb, David M. Ballou, William A. Copeland, and William C. Janes.
I suppose that one of the best remembered administrations of this period because it so fully typified this spirit is that of Worshipful Brother William A. Copeland. As he was the writer of the History for the Fiftieth Anniversary, he very modestly refrained from any mention of his inspiring influence in St. James Lodge. He was Worshipful Master in 1902, 1903, and 1904, the only three year term since the eighteen eighties. Worshipful Brother Copeland was very precise and accurate in every thing he did. Possessed with fine scholarship, a stimulating personality, and a superior knowledge of parliamentary law, he made an impressive presiding officer. His brother, Frank M. Copeland, was the Secretary of ancient St. John’s Lodge of Boston for seventeen years. This very unusual entry appears at the close of the annual meeting of the Lodge, in December, 1904: a “unanimous vote of thanks was given to the Worshipful Master, William A. Copeland, for the able manner in which he had administered the affairs of the Lodge for the last three years.”
Thus passed those memorable years in the life of St. James Lodge from 1885 to the World War. I know of no more telling evidence of the depth and sincerity of their Masonic spirit, than the fact that as the long day closed upon the members, one by one, and they “gathered into the land where their fathers had gone before them,” seventy-five per cent requested that the Lodge be present at the final service.
The next era in the history of St. James Lodge, began in 1917, during the World War, and covers the intervening years to 1940. It is a period which closely resembles, both in duration and important aspects, the first period of twenty years which followed the Civil War. You will recall that St. James Lodge enjoyed a very rapid growth just after the Civil War, only to meet with severe reverses during the later seventies. So in this period accompanying the World War there occurred similar cycles of inflation and deflation during and immediately following the conflict.
The Lodge felt the first effects of war activity in 1917, and during the next three years this force gathered momentum. The younger members of St. James, whose Masonic experience is limited to the last fifteen years, have but little conception of what it is like to go through a “boom period.” The year 1916, the one before we entered the World War, closed without any intimation of anything inflationary. There were nine applications for membership, which was just about the customary average. But in 1917, the number of applications jumped to twenty-eight; in 1918, there were twenty-two; in 1919, thirty-four; and in 1920, thirty-six. During the four years, while Worshipful Brothers William B. Murray, Kenneth C. Sherman, A. Vernon Wilson, and Daniel C. Richardson were Masters, one hundred and twenty had applied for admission to St. James Lodge, and the actual membership increased from two hundred and nine to two hundred and seventy.
During 1918, 1919, and 1920, the Lodge held twenty meetings per year because of the large increase of applications, and little could be attempted except routine affairs and the working of degrees. This accounted, indirectly, for a change in the customs of the Lodge: the Masters accepted only one year in the East, a practice since followed without exception. In strictly Masonic affairs, however, the appearance of the Lodge did not change materially. A Past Masters Night during Worshipful Brother Sherman’s term, a Past District Deputies Night while Worshipful Brother Wilson was Master, along with the usual visitations, made the great changes which were taking place less apparent to the average member. The war itself, of course, was the principal concern of everyone. Forty-nine members of St. James had entered the armed service of their country, while the Lodge at home contributed what it could. War relief, the Red Cross, and War loans were generously subscribed to; the Altar was draped with the Flag of our Country; and the dues of enlisted men were remitted. A memorial tablet, the gift and work of Worshipful Brother Albert A. Grover, now hangs in the outer hall to remind us of those who went forth for their Country.
It was entirely natural that this sudden and large increase of Lodge membership which took place during the War years should eventually set in motion psychological forces of an inflationary nature. These forces, later aided by the relief of tension at the ending of the War, and the effects of the economic prosperity which accompanied it, provided just the incentives for a social expansion in Masonry as unusual in some respects as the growth in membership which had preceded.
This new enthusiasm was not merely a local expression; it was evident in many jurisdictions. How definitely I can recall the zeal and interest of those exciting years in the early twenties! Attendance at Masonic meetings exceeded everywhere the regular accommodations. Visitation Suites stretched out from the East through the ante-room and Members often waited their turn at the free and hospitable banquet tables. In our own neighborhood beautiful Masonic Temples were erected in Attleboro, North Attleborough, Somerset, and Norwood — tangible evidences of the awakened interest.
At tins time there came to the East of St. James Lodge a Worshipful Master who was eminently qualified by disposition and ability to give expression to these developments here. Right Worshipful Brother Fred W. Day had social qualities of a high order and during his year he set the pattern for social activity, which subsequent Masters for the most part followed. Lodge Meetings were featured by special attractions, usually in the form of well known speakers and banquets. There was nothing novel about this at Visitations or Installations, but now these elaborate affairs could be expected anytime and often. I noted during 1921, six special speakers and four formal banquets. Great interest, of course, was stimulated. The records show that the average attendance of our members at Lodge meetings was ninety-three, an all time high for St. James, and that the visitors registered were close to four hundred and fifty during the year.
The Masters and Wardens Association, composed of the presiding Officers, Past and Present, of Lodges in the Twenty-eighth District
was another manifestation of social expansion during the early twenties. Established largely through the efforts of Right Worshipful Brother Day, it continued for several years to hold meetings for sociability and discussion.
The next year when Worshipful Brother G. Lester Hewitt became the Worshipful Master, the social life of the Lodge continued to expand under his able leadership. This post war expansion now became more pronounced as it passed beyond the confines of the Lodge and included the public in a way suggestive of the first period in St. James. Early in the year came three events in quick succession: a public Installation, attended by about three hundred; a Minstrel Show in February, produced by the Lodge in the Town Hall; and a Masonic Ball, in April. These outside activities in no way lessened social interest within the Lodge, for there were four formal banquets, with the accompanying special attractions, held during the year. The great interest of the previous years continued in this one, during which nearly five hundred visitors were registered, and the average member attendance at sixteen meetings reached sixty-seven. Two other significant events occurred in this year. The Lodge began the custom of attending Divine Service in observance of St. John’s Day, and an amendment was added to the By-Laws to exempt from further Lodge dues all members in good standing for forty years. When viewed from this distance even these changes appear to be a part of that post war social expansion, expressed along more serious lines. There is no doubt that the cycle of six years including and just following the World War created very unusual conditions. The first four years with their expansion in membership, but restrained social life because of the War provided the background for a social expansion in the last two years, once the War strain was lifted. During the next three years, 1923, 1924, and 1925, while Worshipful Brothers: Everett W. Robinson, Charles M. Hardon, and Charles O. Bruce were the respective Worshipful Masters, the same type of programs prevailed, and the Lodge continued its growth until it reached its maximum of two hundred and ninety-five in 1925. But close observation revealed a definite easing of interest, and a considerable slowing down of momentum. The attendance figures disclosed sharp declines both in the average attendance of members, and in the total number of visitors. It was apparent that the inflationary forces set in motion by the Great War had run out their course, at least as far as St. James was concerned.
In the meantime a decision of major importance for the Lodge had been made. At the peak of enthusiasm in 1921 appears this startling entry in the records of the January meeting: “A discussion was held on the subject of new quarters for the Lodge. Worshipful Master Fred W. Day, and the Wardens, G. L. Hewitt and E. W. Robinson, and Worshipful Brother D. C. Richardson were voted a Committee to investigate the prospect of disposing of the present property.” When viewed in perspective this proposed action was not so unusual. After the rapid increase of the Lodge membership in the sixties, the Lodge in 1871 had moved into new and spacious quarters in Lovell’s Block; and after the steady growth during the eighties, the Lodge had built in 1892 the present Masonic Building. The increase of membership before and during the World War period was comparable in extent to that of the former eras. But were the conditions the same? The Committee did not think so, and recommended no action. The discussion then turned to enlargement of the present property, and the Worshipful Master and Wardens were instructed to bring in “plans and estimates from an architect.” There the question rested through the balance of 1921 and 1922. In 1923 it seemed to those in authority that it would be the part of wisdom to renovate the Lodge Hall, thereby disposing of the whole question without embarking upon any plan of expansion. Such a course was entirely within reach of the Lodge finances, and involved no serious burden of debt. This meeting with general approval, the work was accomplished during the summer and fall of 1923. The first meeting in the newly furnished Hall was at the Visitation on October 16. The only note of sadness was the absence of Worshipful Brother William B. Murray, one of the most popular and active of the volunteer helpers, who had died in September. It seems as if those inflationary years emphasized a changed order of things by taking from St. James an unusually large number of familiar figures whose services had been so closely associated with the Lodge in the past. Five Past Masters of the older era passed quickly away, Worshipful Brothers Dauphine K. Carpenter, Henry H. Fairbanks, Charles C. Valentine, John J. Wilson, and Jacob A. Leonard. Worshipful Brother Carpenter had been Master in 1877-1878, and Worshipful Brother Wilson in 1882 -1883. Worshipful Brother Valentine, besides his term in the East during 1890-1891, had long been active in Lodge affairs, serving on the Relief Committee for thirteen years, and as Installing Marshal for twelve years. Worshipful Brother Henry H. Fairbanks was a veteran of the Civil War, son of the first Secretary, Ellis Fairbanks, father of Worshipful Brother Henry E. Fairbanks and Brother Francis D. Fairbanks, and father-in-law of Worshipful Brother William A. Copeland. He had served three years as Worshipful Master, two years as Treasurer, ten years as Proxy to the Grand Lodge, and thirty-five years as Chaplain. Worshipful Brother Jacob A. Leonard of Norton had served two years as Worshipful Master, two years as Chaplain, and during the years between 1890 and 1911, he had been the Installing Master at thirteen annual Installations, and the Marshal in seven other years. For forty years he had been the Town Clerk and Treasurer of Norton.
Besides these distinguished Past Masters, two surviving members from the days of the Dispensation passed away, Brother Sanford A. Morse, St. James’ first candidate in 1864, and Brother Lewis R. Shepard, initiated a few months later in the same year, and afterwards Tyler of the Lodge for twenty-two years.
Still another of our elder Brethren ended his long career. Brother E. Jasper Fisher had served St. James as Treasurer from 1887 to 1918, a total of thirty-one years. Brother Hugh Steele died in 1923. He had gone through the Chairs to Junior Warden during the nineties. Brothers Doliver S. Spaulding and William White were also among those who passed on at this time. Bro. Spaulding was Chaplain in 1876, and Bro. White had served on the Relief Committee. Both had long been prominent in the civic and industrial life of the community. With the passing of these Brethren there remained but few personal ties with the early years, and as they crossed over they seemed to carry with them something of that simplicity and serenity of life which characterized their Masonic period.
Here and there appeared other symbols of the changing era, indicating the new tempo which the War had set in motion. The old custom of holding the regular communications “on the Tuesday evening of, or immediately prior to the full moon” lost its traditional significance in the modernized “first Tuesday of every month.” In the rush of things the calendar displaced the almanac. Initiation fees advanced, dues were increased, and in the swift moving events, as noted above, the Officers changed every year, while new faces appeared in the Lodge with the passing of the former generation. The older social hours, with their familiar after-dinner impromptus and friendly exchanges between members had now given way to the professional speaker or entertainer, and during this transition in the rapidly growing Lodge the members learned to know each other less and less intimately. Thus while the Institution grew in strength, neighborliness, in its older meaning, became less evident. The rapid passing of the former generation, and the changing habits both within and without the Lodge, we realize now, were more than transient events; they were symbols of that changed order of things which followed the World War.
During the four years 1926, 1927, 1928, and 1929, while Worshipful Brothers Rockwell Richardson, Fred W. Tucker, Carlton S. Horton, and Edgar P. Vernon were in the East, the Lodge made a determined effort to return to its pre-war normal condition. The enjoyable Past Master nights, and the customary attendance at Divine Service occurred with satisfying regularity. Special Lodge affairs took place occasionally, but with restraint. In 1927 the Lodge officially took part in the laying of the Corner Stone of the new Masonic Temple at North Attleborough; and in 1929, a similar ceremony was attended in Attleboro. In 1927, the Lodge was again honored by the appointment of a District Deputy Grand Master from its membership. Right Worshipful Brother Fred W. Day served the Attleboro Twenty-eighth Masonic District faithfully for two years.
The statistics of the Lodge during these four years gave further evidence that conditions in the Lodge were sound and normal. Applications for degrees, although not large in numbers, were steady in their appearance. The membership which in 1925 stood at two hundred and ninety-five, was two hundred and ninety in 1929, which indicated but a slight fluctuation in a fairly large Lodge.
In fact the only cloud on the horizon was a sharp rise in the number of Brethren who had died. During these four years nineteen Brothers passed away in contrast to only nine in the previous five years, and among these were several younger members whose genial good nature had made them always welcome. Among those long associated with the Lodge were numbered three Past Masters of the Lodge, Worshipful Brothers Thomas H. Nelson, Frank M. Cobb, and Charles F. Howard. Worshipful Brother Nelson, besides his term in the East, in 1889, had served eleven years as Marshal of the Lodge before it became the custom in 1918 to appoint the retiring Master to the Marshal’s chair; while Worshipful Brother Howard had served seventeen years as Tyler after his term in the East during 1892-1893. Brother William L. Robinson, who had presided at the organ of the Lodge for about thirty years also passed away, and Brother Alexander Murphy, the genial Tyler for six years.
These later twenties gave every assurance, however, that the Lodge was efficiently consolidating its gains, and returning to its regular and accustomed ways of the pre-war period. Then with dramatic suddenness a cycle of deflation broke out into the open, ushering in a decade of depression unparalleled in modern times. These last ten years of economic collapse and law breaking have now culminated in another world conflict.
There is an element of danger in passing judgment on events that lie too close at hand, but I venture the opinion that never in the long history of the Lodge has it ever been more conscientiously administered than during these years. There are recorded no unusual events in the Lodge, and no Dedications of new ventures. It is a record of splendid trusteeship to keep undamaged the ancient landmarks within the Lodge during a period of violent changes without.
The Worshipful Masters upon whom fell the responsibility of administration during this last decade were: Worshipful Brothers Carroll L. Bessom, Everett A. Horton, Harold C. Huston, Sidney E. Shepard, Daniel G. Joy, Royal B. Patriquin, Carl E. Gegenheimer, Ralph A. Buck, Frederic Hewey, Howard Rose, and Henry L. Paine. They have received full cooperation and valuable assistance from Right Worshipful Brother Harrison A. Morse, the Secretary since 1930, and from the Treasurers, Worshipful Brother DeWitt B. Hodges, 1930-1932, and Worshipful Brother Everett A. Horton since 1932.
The immediate and most pressing problem was to hold intact as far as possible the membership of the Lodge. The experience during the depression of the seventies reveals the seriousness of the problem. A repetition of that situation was prevented this time by a very liberal policy toward delinquent members, by remittance of dues, and by an extension of time for payments. This was made legal in 1930 by a revision of the By-Laws whereby the dues of any worthy member could be remitted by a majority vote at any regular meeting, and by a provision that fifty percent of each initiate fee should be set aside for the Relief Fund. This created a fair and friendly atmosphere which did a great deal to conserve the membership of the Lodge. A comparison of the losses suffered in this depression with those incurred in the seventies will show how effective this policy was. The membership of the Lodge in 1875 was one hundred and one; in 1882 it was sixty-five, a loss of thirty-six, or about thirty-six percent. In 1929 the membership of the Lodge was two hundred and ninety; at the close of 1938, it was two hundred and sixty-two, a loss of twenty-eight, or about nine percent. In other words, during the depression of the seventies the Lodge lost over one third of its members, while in this depression it lost less than one tenth.
The decrease in membership between 1930 and 1940 is directly traceable to two causes: a decrease in the number of applications, and an increase in the number of deaths. During the last decade there were only forty-eight applications for admission compared to eighty in the previous nine years; at the same time there were fifty deaths in the last decade compared to only thirty-four during the nineteen twenties. For the first time in the history of the Lodge the number of deaths was greater than the number of applications during a given period.
These were conditions that had to be faced, and those who made the decisions deserve much credit for so shaping their administrative policies that the Lodge lost less than ten percent of its members over this very difficult decade.
The business management of the Lodge during this period also deserves high praise. The Masonic Building, which is entirely owned and practically free of debt, has been kept in good condition; and during Worshipful Brother Patriquin’s year, the banquet hall was completely renovated by volunteer workers. A survey of the books of Worshipful Brother Everett A. Horton, the Treasurer, reveals that the balances in both the Lodge and the St. James Lodge Masonic Building Association accounts have constantly and very substantially increased since 1929, and this in spite of the fact that all Lodge indebtedness maturing during this period has been entirely retired, leaving only a very small amount to be liquidated in full by 1942.
Instances of Masonic aid are not matters of public record, but it goes without saying that those who so carefully guarded the material interests of the Lodge would hardly be the ones to fail in that very essential part of the Masonic tradition. The Relief Committee of the Lodge has for many years been composed of three members chosen from different parts of the Lodge jurisdiction. Since 1890 there have always been two members from Mansfield and one from Norton. During these fifty years the Brethren serving on the Relief Committee have always been at the call of those in need, and some have shown an unusual devotion to its work. From Norton, Brother William A. Lane, Worshipful Brothers Charles C. Valentine and Charles O. Bruce together have served forty-six years. From Mansfield, Worshipful Brother William C. Janes was a member of this Committee for twenty-two years, until his death in 1933, and Worshipful Brother Albert A. Grover had served thirty-two years.
Few members of St. James Lodge have taken as much personal interest in Masonic welfare during many years as have Right Worshipful Brother William H. Allen, and Worshipful Brother A. Vernon Wilson. Right Worshipful Brother Allen has been the only Associate Member of the Board of Masonic Relief whom the Lodge has ever chosen. He served thirty years. (Worshipful Brother Kenneth C. Sherman was chosen to take over duties during Right Worshipful Brother Allen’s service in the War.) Worshipful Brother Wilson has been the District Representative to the Board of Masonic Relief of the Grand Lodge since 1927, and Chairman of the Masonic Service Committee from 1930 to 1940. These services cover the most critical era in the history of the Lodge. No one unfamiliar with the work of relief during these distressing years can fully appreciate the amount of detail and attention involved in the duties of our Relief Agencies.
But it was not enough to conserve merely the membership and finances of the Lodge, essential as they were. The intangible things of spirit and tradition were equally important for the Lodge to preserve. It was here possibly that the Lodge could exert a great influence for good. To this end, the social program was not allowed to lapse. The Worshipful Masters discovered in the emergency new resources within their own Lodge, and throughout the District, depending on sociability rather than entertainment.
The Records of the Lodge disclose these typical entries:
- Presiding Officers of the Taunton and Attleboro Twenty-eighth District occupied the Chairs of St. James.
- St. James held a Members’ Night.
- King David Brethren assisted in the work of the evening.
- Foxboro Brethren provided the social hour.
- Informal Reception to Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse.
- Order of DeMolay gave an exemplification of its degree work.
- Norton Brethren were special guests of St. James.
- Bristol Lodge was the guest of St. James.
Programs of this type kept the social life active and wholesome, without entailing undue expense. That they were appreciated is borne out by the fact that over this whole decade the average attendance of members at Lodge meetings was fifty, which is larger than during any other decade except that between 1912 and 1922.
Attention has already been called to the large number of deaths among the Lodge members during 1930-1940 period. It was a continuation of that inevitable trend which had definitely begun in the later twenties, as the Lodge began to approach the age of three score years and ten. It was none the less a disturbing factor, because each caused a break in his own circle, and among them were some Brethren for whom all felt a personal loss. Eight of our Past Masters died during this decade: Worshipful Brothers David M. Ballou, DeWitt B. Hodges, Charles H. Makepeace, Kenneth C. Sherman, William C. Janes, William A. Copeland, Daniel G. Joy, and Right Worshipful Fred W. Day. Brother Charles L. Seaver was also among those who passed on. He had filled several chairs in the Lodge during many years, and for over fifty years had been a devoted member. Brother Elvin L. Smith, the beloved Secretary for twenty-four years followed his associates. Brother Justin L. Cobb, who during the nineties had gone through the line to Senior Warden, died in 1937, and only this year Brother Charles D. Lyons passed on. He had been a member of the Relief Committee, and a Warden in 1889, seventy-six years ago. This year also marked the passing of Brother J. Frank Bayley, a member of the Relief Committee from 1890 -1899. And thus, in a never ending line, they move on to the Great Beginning.
During this period 1930 -1940 in St. James’ history there have been but two Tylers: Worshipful Brothers Charles F. Howard and Henry E. Fairbanks; and likewise but two Proxies to the Grand Lodge: Worshipful Brothers Henry E. Fairbanks and A. Vernon Wilson. Since 1918 there have been three Chaplains: Brother William O. Olliff, for fifteen years, and Rev. Willard H. Roots and Rev. Lester G. Myers for the remaining seven years. There have been four Treasurers: Worshipful Brothers Henry E. Fairbanks, Charles H. Stearns, DeWitt B. Hodges, and Everett A. Horton. There have been but three Secretaries: Brother Elvin L. Smith, Worshipful Brother Fred W. Tucker, and Right Worshipful Brother Harrison A. Morse.
In 1937, the Lodge was again honored by the appointment of one of its Past Masters as the District Deputy Grand Master for the Attleboro Twenty-eighth Masonic District. Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse thus became Saint James’ fourth District Deputy, and continued for two years to render splendid service in this high Masonic Office.
In February of this year Worshipful Frederic Hewey presented to the Lodge a beautiful set of Officers’ aprons for the Anniversary in 1940. Worshipful Frank M. Cobb had made a similar gift in 1899. The Altar Bible was given to the Lodge by the Officers in 1903; the bell was donated by Worshipful DeWitt B. Hodges, and the rough and perfect ashlers were given by Brother Silas A. Stone.
On May 16, 1940, Saint James Lodge celebrated the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of its Charter. The Lodge opened at five-thirty o’clock to welcome Most Worshipful Joseph Earl Perry, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, and his Suite.
At six-thirty o’clock a formal banquet was served in the Town Hall, attended by about four hundred Masons, and their families. The Program consisted of greetings by Worshipful Master Henry L. Paine and the introduction of Most Worshipful Joseph Earl Perry
, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts. He spoke of his Masonic experiences in England and praised also the contribution of Masonic Lodges to the improvement of communities and the preserving of high ideals in our American ways of life. The Grand Secretary, Most Worshipful Frederick W. Hamilton
, also spoke, and other members of the Grand Lodge.
The History of Saint James Lodge was read in brief parts by Worshipful Everett W. Robinson. The comprehensive history of Saint James’ seventy-five years was printed and a copy given to each Member of the Lodge.
75th Anniversary of St. James’ Lodge
The tables were beautifully decorated with bouquets of cut flowers and the stage was banked with potted plants grouped about a large Masonic emblem of the Square and Compass, the letter “G” brilliant with blue and white lights. Much credit was due the Committee on Decorations. During the banquet music was furnished by the Brockton Masonic Orchestra. The occasion will long be remembered and, in the words of one Right Worshipful Brother: “It was a delightful evening, a success in every detail.”
The Members of the Committees who did so much to make the 75th Anniversary successful were:
- Executive Committee
- Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse, Chairman
- Worshipful Henry L. Paine
- Worshipful Howard Rose
- Worshipful Vernon M. DeLong
- Worshipful W. Howard Conrod
- Worshipful Everett W. Robinson
- Program Committee
- Worshipful Albert A. Grover, Chairman
Worshipful G. Lester Hewitt
- Worshipful Fred W. Tucker
- Worshipful Carlton S. Horton
- Committee on Decorations
- Worshipful Carlton S. Mason, Chairman
- Worshipful Carl E. Gegenheimer
- Worshipful Howard Rose
- Worshipful Rockwell Richardson
- Worshipful Howard N. Paine
- Worshipful Kenneth B. Sherman
- Brother Edward C. McNutt
- Brother Edward A. Hartwell
- Brother Walter E. McGinn
- Brother Emerson S. Conrad
- Brother Tigner Lawson
- Brother Arthur E. Binns
As the Saint James Brethren and their families completed the ceremonies of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary in honor of the past, and then turned toward home, they were indeed facing a new and uncertain future. Looking back now to that eventful occasion we can see that it marked the end of an era.
The Germany military power had overrun Belgium, Holland, and much of France. In eastern Europe, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Austria were under German control. About a week before the Saint James Anniversary Winston Churchill had been installed as England’s Prime Minister; and on the same day of the Anniversary Holland had surrendered to Hitler. These events gravely affected the United States and within a year we would be in the War.
The problems that Saint James Lodge must meet and solve and the services that it could contribute were the first important duty. Fortunately, Saint James Lodge had creative and capable leadership and responsive membership.
The Worshipful Masters of Saint James Lodge upon whom fell the immediate responsibilities of administration during World War II were: Worshipful Brothers—Henry L. Paine, 1940; Vernon M. DeLong, 1941; W. Howard Conrod, 1942; Howard N. Paine, 1943; Kenneth B. Sherman, 1944; and Carlton S. Mason, 1945. It was a coincidence that Kenneth B. Sherman’s father, Kenneth C. Sherman, was Worshipful Master of Saint James in 1918, during World War I.
The war placed on the Lodge new and unusual responsibilities. A Masonic Service Committee was organized with Worshipful Edgar P. Vernon as Chairman. The main objectives were to keep the Lodge in contact with the Brethren in the Armed Forces, and to assure their families of such sympathy and help as possible. An individual record of each enlisted Brother was kept and reported to the Lodge.
Also during the war years an interesting and original program was promoted by Brother Roy S. Davis. He composed and edited each month the “Saint James Cable-Tow”. Its contents were local, and things of interest in Mansfield. A sort of companion piece to the monthly official Lodge Notice.
The Lodge also contributed substantially to the Military Service Activities Fund.
Right Worshipful Winthrop P. Mann, District Deputy Grand Master of the Attleboro 28th District made an Official Visitation to Saint James. He extended greetings and best wishes from the Grand Master, Most Worshipful Arthur W. Coolidge, and was pleased to present to Saint James Lodge a Citation from the Grand Lodge for the splendid contribution made by Saint James to the Military Service Activities Fund. The money was to be used in the Masonic Service Center at Camp Devens and in the seventy-three other Services distributed over the United States.
It was also during the war that the “Thomas H. Nelson Memorial Charity Fund” was established in Saint James Lodge by Brother Josiah A. Martin. The income from such fund to be used for any worthy Masonic charitable cause at the discretion of the Trustees. The Fund established was very substantial, and through the years it has been increased by contributions from other Masonic Brethren. Brother Josiah A. Martin was the son-in-law, and Worshipful Brother Walter A. Nelson the son of Worshipful Thomas H. Nelson in whose memory the Fund has been established. Worshipful Thomas H. Nelson was Worshipful Master of Saint James Lodge in 1889 and, for many years was a very prominent and popular citizen of Mansfield.
January 1, 1946, began the first year of peace since 1940. The tensions and restrictions of the last five years would now be lifted in every city, town, and village. This meant in the Lodges and public organizations a return to their former policies. The rationing of food and restrictions of gasoline would end. The return of the Veterans and end of war could have psychological effects.
Twice before in its history Saint James Lodge has faced similar situation. When the Lodge was established in 1865 there was great enthusiasm and inflation at the end of the Civil War, followed in the 1870’s by a depression. After World War I, during the 1920’s there was the postwar inflation, followed in the 1930’s by a very deep depression.
Saint James Lodge again was very fortunate to have Worshipful Masters of ability and good judgment during the difficult postwar years: Walter A. Nelson, 1946; Leroy A. Dean, 1947; Wilbur F. Chapman, 1948; Carlton N. Davis, 1949; Walter C. Fletcher, 1950; Robert J. Merrifield, 1951; Theodore R. Freeman, 1952; Elmer Watts, 1953; Warren W. Chapman, 1954; and Richard T. Knowles, 1955.
On September 3, 1946, Worshipful Walter A. Nelson announced that plans were well under way to carry out the expressed wish during the past years that the sacrifices of our Brethren in the World War should be recognized and, Saturday evening October 19 had been set aside for that purpose.
The Mansfield News
of Friday, October 25, 1946, had this headline: “Saint James Lodge welcomes twenty-five of the thirty-seven Members in the Armed Forces returned from war service in all corners of the earth.” The veterans were ushered into the banquet hall by a “Cable-Tow” symbolic of the monthly news sheet sent to them by Brother Roy Davis during the war. For each veteran there was a special place card and souvenir program. A prayer was offered by Reverend Wesley A. Mallery, Pastor of the Congregational Church and Chaplain of the Lodge. Reverend Lester G. Myers, a former Chaplain, and at that time Minister of the Porter Congregational Church in Brockton, also spoke.
A turkey dinner, prepared by the wives of the Lodge Officers, was served, followed by a professional entertainment. Also present were Right Worshipful Benjamin W. Taylor of Attleboro and Right Worshipful Clifton C. Ripley of Taunton, both of the 28th District. They both delivered greetings from the Grand Lodge and welcomed the veterans home.
Worshipful Kenneth B. Sherman and Worshipful Carlton S. Mason, two of the Masters of the Lodge when the “Cable-Tow” was in circulation, congratulated Brother Roy Davis on his service to the veterans. It was also mentioned that Worshipful Carl E. Gegenheimer, father of three sons in the war, had designed the name plate for the “Cable-Tow”.
Also introduced was Worshipful Edgar P. Vernon who headed the wartime “Service Committee” which kept contacts with the families of the servicemen, aided by Brothers Roy Davis and Percy Slayton, and Worshipfuls Howard Rose and Henry L. Paine. Commendation was also given to Brothers Roy Davis, Percy Slayton and Worshipful Howard Paine for acquiring the handsome “Honor Roll”, which the Worshipful Master later unveiled. Brother Roy Davis spoke briefly, and also Worshipful Howard Paine, who during the war was the Lodge liaison officer with the military personnel at Camp Myles Standish.
Many of those who contributed much to Saint James Lodge have died during these last twenty-five years. In all, one hundred and thirty-seven, including thirteen Worshipful Masters and two Right Worshipful Masters. They did much to establish in the Community what the generation before them had begun. There were also those deep and constant interest in Saint James Lodge brought them Masonic Honors during the last twenty-five years.
Worshipful Albert Arnold Grover
- Right Worshipful William H. Allen
- Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse
- Worshipful Henry E. Fairbanks
- Worshipful Albert A. Grover were awarded the “Joseph Warren Medal” by the Grand Lodge for Meritorious Masonic Service.
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1897-1946
- Worshipful Master: 1905 and 1906
- District Deputy Grand Marshal: 1913 and 1914
At the time of his death he was serving his thirty-eighth year on the Relief Committee.
He designed the front page of the monthly Lodge Notice, in use since 1912. He designed and presented to the Lodge the Memorial Tablet in honor of the Brethren of Saint James Lodge who served their country in World War I. He also found time to serve his community when needed; and his Church in constant devotion.
Worship Henry Ellis Fairbanks
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1899-1949
- Worshipful Master of Saint James: 1909-1910
Willing and able to serve in any capacity when called upon.
His familiarity with the ritual and his inherited background in the Lodge from its beginning became real assets to Saint James Lodge.
His Grandfather, Ellis Fairbanks, was the first Secretary of Saint James; his Father, Henry H. Fairbanks, was a veteran of the Civil War and Worshipful master of Saint James in 1875, 1879, 1880; and his Brother-in-Law was William A. Copeland, Worshipful Master of Saint James in 1902 -1903 -1904.
Right Worshipful Harrison Albion Morse
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1896-1956
- Worshipful Master: 1915-1916
- Right Worshipful District Deputy: 1937-1938
It was his good fortune to be Worshipful Master of Saint James Lodge during the observance of the Fiftieth Anniversary — 1915-1916. He was also the Chairman of the Committee during the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of Saint James Lodge in 1940. He was Secretary of the Lodge for thirteen years.
For sixty years Saint James Lodge had the benefit of his regular attendance and friendly advice.
Right Worshipful William H. Allen
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1901-1948
- Worshipful Master: 1911
- District Deputy Grand Master: 1913-1914
He was the son of Right Worshipful William G. Allen who was the first Worshipful Master of Saint James Lodge and the first District Deputy Grand Master. Right Worshipful William H. Allen was a Member of Saint James Lodge for forty-seven years. For many years he served on the “Board of Masonic Relief”.
He influenced greatly the standards and traditions of Saint James Lodge. Soon after his death, Worshipful A. Vernon Wilson on behalf of Mrs. Charlotte B. Allen returned to Saint James Lodge the first Past Master’s Jewel ever presented by the Lodge. It was worn by the first Worshipful Master, William G. Allen, of Saint James Lodge, and then handed down to his son Right Worshipful William H. Allen. The Jewel was suitably inscribed and framed, then placed on the wall in the Lodge room above the chair which Right Worshipful William H. Allen used to occupy in regular attendance for many years.
There are always those in a Masonic Lodge who add much by their personality and presence, although they are not interested in formal titles or awards. Brother William Olliff and Reverend Willard H. Roots were among those in Saint James:
Brother William Olliff
- Born in Missenden, England 1853
- Died in Mansfield, Massachusetts 1953
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1902-1953
- Chaplain of Saint James Lodge: 1918 -1934
On his 99th birthday he was presented with a Lodge Veteran’s Medal. Brother Olliff was very much respected. It seems incredible, but he was twelve years old when Saint James Lodge began.
Brother Reverend Willard H. Roots
At the Saint James Lodge meeting on April 2, 1946, following the Memorial Service for Worshipful Albert A. Grover, the Worshipful Master announced to the Lodge the passing also of Reverend Willard H. Roots.
Although not a Member of Saint James Lodge, Reverend Willard H. Roots had spent much of his fraternal life and his service in the Christian Ministry in Mansfield. He was Chaplain of Saint James from 1934 -1936 and, for many years, enriched the Lodge with his presence.
His son, Worshipful Willard H. Roots, was installed Worshipful Master of Saint James in 1956. A very unusual event took place at the June meeting. Worshipful District Deputy, Walter H. Hiller, on behalf of the Grand Lodge, presented 50-year Veterans Medals to Brother Charles T. Corey and Brother J. Osborn Corey for long and faithful service to Masonry. Fifty-year medals are not easy to get. Here were two in one family at the same time.
One of the most devoted Masons, and probably the widest known beyond Saint James Lodge, was
Worshipful Albert Vernon Wilson
He was always a regular attendant at Lodge meetings, and was a close associate of Right Worshipful William H. Allen in all Lodge matters. His distinction in Masonry was his prominence in York Rite Masonry. Other Masonic affiliations, however, gave him a broad background.
- Member of Saint James Lodge: 1909-1964
- Worshipful Master: 1919
- Key-Stone Royal Arch Chapter: Excellent High Priest 1921, and Marshal to Right Excellent Fred W. Tucker
- Bristol Commandery: Knights Templar Commander 1925
- Attleboro Council Royal and Select Masters: Illustrious Master 1926
- Member Roger William Priory No. 48, Knights of the York Cross of Honor; 5,009th Member to be admitted—in the United States
- He became a Member of the Scottish Rite Bodies about 1922
- Aleppo Temple of the Shrine 1923
- Potentate’s (Shrine) Deputy to Bristol Commandery for several years
- Nava Grotto — Attleboro Charter Member
- Order of the Eastern Star Worthy Patron 1922
- Proxy to the Grand Lodge from Saint James Lodge 1927-1964
- District Representative to the Board of Masonic Relief 1930, Elected by the Worshipful Masters of the District
On January 6, 1953, it was made known in Saint James Lodge that Worshipful Ralph A. Buck had been appointed the District Deputy Grand Master of the Attleboro 28th Masonic District. He was presented to the Worshipful Master and, after a few remarks, he was seated amid the plaudits of the Brethren.
On February 3, 1953, a formal reception was tendered him. A Committee of Past Masters of Saint James with Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse as Chairman, escorted Right Worshipful Ralph A. Buck and his large Suite of about forty, including ten Past District Deputies. After formal exchanges and introductions, the Reception Program proceeded with music and speeches of congratulations and good wishes from eleven Masonic Lodges. There was then an informal Reception and a District Deputy Grand Masters Jewel was presented to Right Worshipful Ralph A. Buck. The new District Deputy responded in deep appreciation for the splendid evening arranged in his honor. There were present 69 Members of Saint James including fourteen Past Masters and 51 Visitors.
Right Worshipful Ralph A. Buck was the Fifth District Deputy appointed from Saint James Lodge. The others were:
- Right Worshipful William G. Allen, 1902 and 1903 (he died in office)
- Right Worshipful William H. Allen, 1913 and 1914
- Right Worshipful Fred W. Day, 1927 and 1928
- Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse, 1937 and 1938
For very many years the old organ in the Lodge room had done its best in spite of its age. No one seemed to know how old it was, where it came from, or when. It had, however, been played by some excellent organists during the rituals of the Lodge and the Eastern Star. At a September meeting in 1946, the Worshipful Master Walter A. Nelson called the attention of the Brethren to the advantages to be gained if a new and modern organ could be purchased to replace the old organ. He pointed out the inspiration of music in the Degree work, and felt that the cost could be met by individual contributions over a period of a few years. The suggestion must have met with much approval for at the June, 1947 meeting of the Lodge upon a motion by the Treasurer, Worshipful Everett A. Horton, it was voted to purchase an electric organ.
It was also voted that the Worshipful Master appoint a Committee to make a selection of the new organ and arrange for its installation. The Committee appointed was: Worshipful Walter A. Nelson, Chairman; Worshipful Everett A. Horton; Worshipful Carlton S. Mason; Brother George A. Wroe; and Brother Donald M. Murray.
The Worshipful Masters who have served Saint James during the last ten years are: Worshipful Brothers
- Willard H. Roots, 1956;
- Standish K. Allen, 1957;
- Malcolm D. Leonard, 1958;
- Leo W. Fletcher, 1959;
- Peter Bellavance, 1960;
- Walter H. Hofemann, 1961;
- Donald V. Stewart, 1962;
- Mitchell Wasserman, 1963;
- Bruce A. Bayley, 1964;
- George E. Oldmixon, 1965.
Each era has its own characteristics. Since the end of World War II local transportation has not been a problem. The automobile can take you to your work or Lodge, and it can also take you somewhere else than the Lodge. There has been a tendency to form Masonic groups within large industrial plants. These clubs visit Lodges when their business associates are to be honored and very often they supply the Degree work itself.
It may be interesting to note a Lodge Visitor’s Register during a Past Master’s Night: there were recorded visitors from the following Lodges. In Massachusetts: Foxboro, Walpole, Franklin, Canton, Brighton, Marion, Taunton, Boston, Everett, and Cheshire. Also—from elsewhere: Dearborn, Michigan; Greenlock, Scotland; Portsmouth, Virginia; Lubec, Maine; Providence, Rhode Island; Amherst, Nova Scotia; Fort Thomas, Kentucky. This was a regular monthly Lodge meeting. The attendance was normal:
Beginning with the administration of Worshipful Standish K. Allen and continuing into the term of Worshipful Malcolm D. Leonard, a complete rejuvenation of the Masonic building took place. The records of May 7, 1957, speak of a special meeting called for May 10 for the purpose of calling a Saint James Lodge Building Committee meeting to discuss the future care, upkeep and repairs of the property. By the end of the year it could be announced that the renovations of the outside of the building were completed and the Lodge room would be painted in time for the Lodge of Instruction on December 30.
The dingy old clapboard building had taken on a new look. Not only was it strengthened structurally, but the entire exterior was covered with stained cedar shingles and the store fronts brought up to date.
The plans for this renovation and an appeal for funds were in charge of the Trustees of the Building Association: Worshipful W. Howard Conrod, Worshipful Carlton S. Mason, Worshipful Standish K. Allen, and Brother Clayton Britton. The interior work was under the supervision of Worshipful Walter C. Fletcher.
This history would not be complete without listing the Officers who have served so faithfully in recent years.
- Right Worshipful Harrison A. Morse, 1930-1942
- Worshipful Everett W. Robinson, 1943-1946
- Worshipful G. Lester Hewitt, 1947-1956
- Worshipful Robert J. Merrifield, 1957-1965
- Worshipful Everett A. Horton, 1932-1956
- Worshipful Leroy A. Dean, 1957-1965
- Worshipful Royal R. Patriquin, 1940-1965
- Worshipful Carlton S. Horton, 1935-1965
- Worshipful Frederick Hewey, 1940-1946
- Worshipful Henry L. Paine, 1947-1953
- Brother James A. Wheeler, 1954-1965
- Relief Committee:
- Worshipful Henry E. Fairbanks, 1935-1949
- Worshipful Albert A. Grover, 1935-1946
- Brother Russell S. Carr, 1937-1944
- Worshipful Howard N. Paine, 1947-1965
- Brother Charles S. Randall, 1945-1965
- Worshipful W. Howard Conrod, 1950-1965
- Proxy to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge:
- Worshipful A. Vernon Wilson, 1927-1964
- Lodge Representative Board of Masonic Relief:
- Right Worshipful William H. Allen, 1910-1948
- Worshipful Walter A. Nelson, 1949-1965
During the past twenty-five years a number of gifts have been made to Saint James Lodge. In addition to the Thomas H. Nelson Memorial Charity Fund, previously mentioned in this history, some of the more important are as follows:
- Worshipful Brother Frederic Hewey presented to the Lodge a leather Lodge Record Book in honor of the 80th year.
- Miss Annie L. Moore, daughter of our late Brother Hugh A. Moore, sent a very generous gift to be used for new Officers’ aprons for the 100th Anniversary in memory of her late father.
- Very generous bequest from Brother Henry T. Phipps, a Member of Meridian Lodge of Natick over seventy years, and often a visitor at Saint James.
- Brother Alden D. Rhodes — gift of a wall clock.
- Brother Clarence A. Barnes: some of the original regalia of Brother John Rogers, one of the principal founders of Saint James. It consisted of a collar, an apron, and a sword, probably the Tyler’s implement used during the very early years of Saint James Lodge.
- Worshipful Walter H. Hofemann presented to the Lodge a Regalia Table, his own handiwork.
- Right Worshipful William H. Allen, gift of a library cabinet.
- Estate of Mrs. Copeland left a very generous gift to the Lodge.
- Roll top desk by Henry E. Fairbanks.
- Donation by Brother Everett M. Grant for the Thomas H. Nelson Memorial Charity fund.
- Mrs. Charlotte B. Allen wife of R. W. William H. Allen gave a generous gift for our 100th Anniversary Fund.
The above data is interesting for other reasons than just the completion of the records of Saint James history. It throws some light on the doubts that are sometimes expressed that Masonic interest is not what it was a generation ago. The evidence does not seem to support those doubts. It is possibly true that the manner of expressing that interest has changed, but these later years provide splendid examples of long and devoted service, reminiscent of other years and of a deep and abiding loyalty to the “faith of our fathers”.
Within the compass of this brief narrative it has been possible to record only the more impressive events, and those leaders associated with them. These limitations may leave the impression that the history of Saint James consists largely of Masters and Wardens, Visitations and social functions, Lodge expansion and Dedications.
It is that in part, but very much more in reality. Since 1865, seven hundred and twenty have become Members of Saint James. They are the Lodge. They are the rank and file who for one hundred years have served on countless committees, have been present at the meetings, and have done the day’s work in their time.
Most of them never held any office in the Lodge; but from them largely, through the years, the man on the street, and in the shop, has received his impression of Free Masonry. Their decisions set the standards of the Lodge, and their private lives gave to it its high standing in the community. Saint James Lodge is the sum of all those pleasant associations and kindly services that fill up the years. Therein lies its real history.
Just eighty years ago, before forty-six members and thirty-two visitors assembled in the Lodge room in Lovell’s Block, William N. Moran, the Secretary, concluded his Anniversary History with this paragraph.
“I think we have reason to be proud of the origin of our Lodge, and while we do well to cherish a just pride in what the Lodge has been, and what it has done in the past, it becomes our duty to strive to maintain the same high standard in the present and to transmit to those who shall come after us, a Lodge, not only unstained in reputation, but one that shall be entitled to the praise of being first in every good word and deed.”
It is with this same high hope that we turn toward the future of our day.
For a bit more history, please visit the St. James Page on