Vol. XXIV No. 5 — May 1946

The Little, Loved Shrines

Shrine of the mighty! Can it be
That this is all that remains of thee?

— Byron

Freemasonry has its “shrines of the mighty” and well-beloved they are; the United States Capitol in Washington, of which George Washington, acting as grand master pro tem of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, laid the first cornerstone — Reuben Bogley, grand master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, the second in the bicentennial of 1932. The great Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, and Mt. Vernon in Virginia are national Masonic Shrines known to all Masons.

Freemasonry has many lesser shrines, beloved within the state in which they are cherished by the brethren for whom they are a vital fraternal connection with the past. These are the shrines of which Byron also sang . . . the heart ran o’er

With silent worship of the great of old!
The dead but sceptered sovereigns who still rule
Our spirits from their urns.—

It is with these lesser shrines — lesser only in that they are not so well-known or cherished by so many — that this Bulletin is concerned. Nor must the omission of anyone, beloved by some, be considered as marking it as of less importance than others. These pages are small in size and few in number and obviously cannot be all inclusive. Arrangement is alphabetical by states.

Arizona venerates the “Governors Mansion,” built in 1863. Here was held the first meeting of Masons in 1865 when Aztlan Lodge of Prescott received a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of California. The Grand Lodge of Arizona, organized in 1882, is one of the younger Grand Lodges of the United States and this Masonic shrine thus far less old than many in the East. But the difference between the West now and the “Old West” of fifty and more years ago is so marked, that shrines gain in picturesqueness even though their years are expressed only in two digits.

The “Governor’s Mansion” is a log structure, with a single brick chimney in the center, a porch and fence, and a peaked gabled roof.

Masons speak often of the “high degrees” of Freemasonry. Colorado cherishes as a Masonic Shrine the lodge room of Corinthian Lodge No. 42, which is undoubtedly the “highest” lodge in the world. It is in the little town of Kokomo, nestling among great peaks of the Rockies 10,618 feet above sea level. Here the “highest” Masonic degrees are undoubtedly conferred and the little lodge works with due regard both to Masonic tradition and its own unique distinction.

Delaware Masonry has a prideful history and many distinguished sons, not least among them Gunning Bedford, Jr., first grand master. The old stone house in which he lived, a monument erected to him on the grounds of the Masonic home and the old Town Hall, Wilmington, in which the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of Delaware was held in 1806, are all loved shrines in that small state which humorously speaks of itself as having “three counties at low water, two at high tide.” Delaware brethren revere their historic past and their intimate connection with the early events which brought this nation out of babyhood into manhood. They are fortunate in the excellent state of preservation of the shrines at which they pay the tribute of reverence and admiration.

Far western Freemasonry is still so close to pioneer days when a trusted brother at one’s back, a Masonic neighbor who would come at any call, be it house raising, illness, birth or funeral were vital integers of daily life, that much that seems young compared to some Masonic dates (note Arizona, above) is revered for its association regardless of its age. Such may be said of the temple of Idaho Lodge No. 35, built in 1865, and the birthplace of the grand lodge in 1867.

Idaho lodge, now Number 1, has moved to Boise, but its old Temple, a two story and porch frame building, in Idaho City, is devoutly kept in perfect order and repair. Once a year an annual pilgrimage is made to its hallowed hall and a great Masonic meeting staged in memory of the days that come not back. Here in a pleasant homey lodge room, peopled only by the ghosts of yesteryear, Idaho brethren renew their faith in the wisdom of their progenitors and the sacredness of their fraternal bond.

Massachusetts has so many shrines of patriots, statesmen and great figures of the early history of our country, many of whom were Masons, that it is difficult to choose one among many shrines. When Masons of St. Andrew’s lodge met in the Green Dragon Tavern to plan the tea party which was a torch to fire the revolution, they made of Boston Harbor itself a shrine! Here is noted a little known reminder of dim days of early history; the lodge room of Franklin Lodge of Cheshire, chartered in 1784, and defunct probably about 1829.

The room in which the old lodge met was later used as a tea room in an inn. There was nothing in it at that time to indicate it had been used as a lodge room. Redecoration became necessary in 1921 and a decorator began to remove wall coverings. When four layers of wall paper were peeled off, curious paintings of Masonic emblems were discovered. These are all circular; keys, pillars, tablets of stone, anchor, ark, Jacobs ladder, Forty-Seventh Problem, trowel, square and compasses and many others faced the surprised workmen when the paper was removed.

Now the paintings are restored and preserved through the patriotism of Mystic lodge of Pittsfield; the room is now a show place, and a Mecca to the Masonic antiquarian and student who there discovers much of what Freemasonry meant to the brethren of long ago and far away.

Michigan Masons lift their hats when standing before the monument erected by the grand lodge to the pioneers of Stoney Creek Lodge, erected in the cemetery in the town of Stoney Creek. In its base is the original cornerstone of Stoney Creek Lodges first Temple. The monument is to the first brethren: for Stoney Creek Lodge was the only lodge which refused to disband at the order of Grand Master Lewis Cass at the height of the Morgan and anti-Masonic excitement. The story of Stoney Creek Lodge has been told many times, including these pages (February 1946) but its monument could not be omitted from any fist of loved shrines.

The Grand Lodge of Montana erected a handsome building to house its library and provide offices for its grand secretary. This marble structure is located in the quaint city of Helena, the capital. Within its walls is one of the most beautiful mural paintings of all Masonry; a scene cherished and revered not only in Montana but by all westerners who know what Montana Masonry meant in the formation and carrying out the plans of the Vigilantes and clearing one part of the west from the depredations of lawless men.

The painting is of the first Masonic meeting ever held in the then Territory of Montana, September 23, 1862. It depicts Nathaniel P. Langford, who was to become grand master in 1869, a Master Mason named Charlton and a brother whose name is lost in the mist of years. Langford wrote: “Impressed with the beauty of the autumnal evening in the mountains and wanting some deviation from the hard exacting duties of accompanying a wagon train we went off to a mountain top and there opened a Symbolic lodge of Masons.”

The meeting was held on the Mullen Trail, where it crossed the Continental Divide. The artist has correctly pictured Langford in a long black beard, Charlton in a tattered cloak, and the Unknown Brother with his back to the viewer. Immediately in the background is a table rock doubtless used by the historic three as the altar of their little lodge. All stand bareheaded, arms folded the painting is so striking one can almost hear the figures say “So Mote It Be” at the end of the petition they must have made that organized Freemasonry come soon to the “Land of the Shining Mountains.”

Lucky the grand lodge which has a shrine as storied as the little Temple of Trenton Lodge No. 5, of New Jersey. In this hall George Washington sat. Close by are the barracks in which Washington surprised King Georges men after crossing the Delaware.

From a History of Trenton Lodge No. 5 the following is quoted:

March 25, 1793, there was reported the gift of a tract in Barrack (now Willow) Street as the site of a Masonic Hall, or Temple, the donor being Brother Mark Thompson, of Harmony Lodge No. 8, Newton, Sussex County, father-in-law of Worshipful Master Woodruff. April 22, the committee reported plans for the new building at an estimated cost of 376 pounds, fifteen shillings and ten pence.

August 19, the lodge was informed that material for the foundations was ready. The cornerstone was afterward laid in ample form, according to the solemn rites of the fraternity. Thus was started the movement for the old Temple.

Certain annual communications of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey were held in this building. Removed to its present location and as far as possible restored to its original condition, the property was presented to the grand lodge by the Masonic Historical Association at the annual communication of April 21,1915.

Shrine of Shrines in New York is the Washington Masonic Shrine at Tappan. This house, built in 1700 by Daniel DeClark, later the home of Johannis DeWint and his wife, Antje, was Washington’s headquarters during the dark days of the Revolution. He stayed in it first in 1780; later during the terrible era of Benedict Arnold’s treachery and the trial and execution of Major Andre; later again (May 1782) the old house was the scene of conversations with Sir Guy Carleton regarding the evacuation of the British, following the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown.

This old house, filled with so many important and sacred memories, was bought by the Grand Lodge of New York to keep for posterity its sacred associations with Washington and the American struggle for independence.

Unique among American Masonic shrines is a bell on a post, which the tiler rang to call the brethren from refreshment to labor, when the former took them outside the lodge room to enjoy the fresh air of night or perhaps a mid-degree lunch on the lawn. It is the cherished possession of Royal Whiteheart Lodge No. 2, of North Carolina. Nearby is the grave of Joseph Mountfort, provincial grand master of North America, by commission (1771) from the Grand Lodge of England. Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2 also has a Charter dated 1767 signed by the Duke of Beaufort while he was grand master.

Probably the least expensive in money of all Masonic Temples ever built; doubtless among the most valuable for its associations, is the oldest Temple west of the Allegheny Mountains; the Temple of New England Lodge No. 4 of Worthington, Ohio. The present brick Temple was erected one hundred and twenty-five years ago (1820) by a most distinguished son and brother of Ohio, John Snow. Four years later he conveyed it and the lot on which it stands “to Jeremiah Morrow, as Governor of the state of Ohio, and his successors, to hold same for the use of New England Lodge No. 4 and Horeb Chapter No. 3 for the uses and purposes named forever.”

The consideration was the sum of ninety-five dollars!

It is idle to say of this brother or that that he “made the greatest impress upon Freemasonry” or that his labors were “most important to the Fraternity.” Arguments can always be adduced to show another claimant for such high honor. But no one will dispute that Thomas Smith Webb left a great impress upon Masonry; his skill with ritual, his ability as a teacher; his indefatigable strength and enthusiasm all have left ineradicable marks upon the order. In Providence, Rhode Island, a tall monument marks his resting place, and here many Freemasons yearly pause to lift a hat in reverence for “good work, true work, square work” which has been of such permanent value to the Craft.

“Lewis and Clark” are names to conjure with in American history. Merriweather Lewis, Freemason, did great deeds for his country and to his explorations we owe much. He is buried in what is now the exact center of Lewis County, Tennessee. Here in 1848 the Legislature of Tennessee erected a monument which is a sacred shrine to Tennessee Masons and should be to all Americans. Ray V. Denslow, past grand master of Missouri, in his fine pamphlet on Lewis, says of this shrine:

Here, surrounded by only the native growth of the forest and where few travelers pass, on the line of the old Natchez Trace, there stands this grey monument of native Tennessee rock, with a shaft of limestone rearing its head above the foundation in imitation of a giant of the forest, untimely broken before having served its usefulness. It still stands on the crest of a broad, high ridge, with deep gorges running east and west.

The first grand master, and the last President of the Republic of Texas, Brother Anson Jones, stated that at 10:00 o’clock in the morning of a day in March 1835, back of the town of Brazoria near the place known as General John Austins, in a little grove of wild peach or laurel, which has been selected as a family burying ground by that distinguished soldier and citizen, six brethren met and held the first formal Masonic continuance of Masonry in Texas. These brethren applied to the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for a dispensation to form a lodge to be called Holland Lodge in honor of the then grand master of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, M.W. J. H. Holland. This lodge is Holland Lodge No. 1, of Houston. Tradition states that this meeting was held under the Masonic Charter Oak, which still stands well preserved. The tree is on public property that cannot be acquired by the Grand Lodge of Texas. The grand lodge does, however, hold title to the 6 acres adjacent.

Old, quaint, historical, is the grave of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Wait, buried in North Clarendon, Vermont. It is erected to a member of Trinity Lodge No. 4, New York, 1761. The inscription reads: “To perpetuate the memory of Lt. Col. Joseph Wait, an officer in the American Revolutionary War who died on his return from an Expedition into Canada, Sept. 1776. This stone is erected in Testimony of respect by his Brethren in arms. Our common Country Claims our Aid; Living or dying I will defend Her.”

The other side of stone reads: “Joseph Wait, Lieutenant Colonel, Continental Army, born A.D. 1732. Ensign, Ephraim Williams Regt. 1775. Captain, Rogers’ Corps of Rangers, 1759. Commissioned Lieutenant Colonel, January 1776. Killed in skirmish with British Army. Buried by his comrades where He Fell Here, Sept. 1776.”

The headstone is curiously carved with a dwarf figure with very short legs; the right hand of the figure which is in semi-relief is upraised. Apparently the sculptor was more enthusiastic than skillful, as it is not likely that he intentionally created a caricature. But what is poor art is excellent antiquity, and the grave which is considered the oldest Masonic resting place in Vermont has become a shrine to those who see in the quaint little figure the reverence and veneration of his brethren for a patriot and a brother, and as such find inspiration in its worn stone.

None who have had the experience of a trip across “Beautiful Wyoming” by motor can forget the long approach to Independence Rock. It is first seen as a mere shadow on the horizon; as the miles are traveled it grows and grows until it dominates the landscape; Independence Rock got its name from the town of Independence, Missouri, the beginning of the old Oregon Trail on which the Rock is an outstanding mark.

One Asa L. Brown, a member of Melody Lodge No. 2, of Platteville, Wisconsin, acted as Master on top of Independence Rock, July 4, 1862. After the formation of the Grand Lodge of Wyoming, he wrote to Past Grand Master Snow, as follows:

On July 4,1862, several trains of emigrants lay over at Independence Rock. We concluded our arrangements for a celebration on the Rock. . . . We were determined on having some sort of recognition, as well as remembrance of the day and place, and so about the time when the sun sets in the West to close the day, about twenty members who could mutually vouch, and, so to speak, inter-vouch for each other, wended their way to the summit of the rock, soon discovered a recess, or rather depression, in the rock, the ‘form and situation’ of which seemed prepared by nature for our special use. An altar of twelve stones was improvised, to which a more thoughtful or patriotic Brother added the thirteenth, as emblematical of the original Colonies, and being elected to the East by acclamation, I was duly Installed, that is, led to, the oriental granite seat. The several stations and places were filled, and the tyler, a venerable Brother, with flowing hair and beard of almost snowy whiteness, took his place ‘without the western gate,’ on a little pinnacle which gave him a perfect command of view over the entire summit of the rock, so that he could easily guard us against the approach of all, either ascending or descending. I then informally opened ‘Independence Lodge No. 1,’ on the Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, when several of the Brethren made short appropriate addresses, and our venerable tyler gave us reminiscences from his Masonic history, of or if, extending from 1821 to 1862. Having gone up provided with fluid extract of rye, sweet water, sugar, and citric acid, the Craft was called from Labour to Refreshment, a bucketful of which was prepared, and Masonic and patriotic impromptu toasts and responses were indulged in, not forgetting, however, the first point of entrance, until, no further business appearing, the Craft resumed Labour, and the lodge was duly closed. When closing the lodge, I remarked to the Brethren that I would preserve the Great Lights until I could have them laid up in the archives of the grand lodge having jurisdiction over Independence Rock, as a memento of the day and occasion. . . . I am not actuated by any spirit of egotism in thus tendering through you to your grand lodge these souvenirs of a fraternal event antedating your existence as a grand lodge, or even the political existence (of the Territory) as now organized. If your grand lodge should see fit to give them an abiding place in your archives, I will have accomplished my prophetic promise, and you will place me under obligation by presenting them to your grand lodge.

A bronze tablet marks the historic event; indeed, several bronze tablets commemorate other happenings connected with the Rock, including one erected to the memory of Father de Smet, the Jesuit explorer, and one to the Mormon Pioneers under Brigham Young, both of whom passed and doubtless camped under the Rock in their westward travel.

There are many such shrines in the United States; if there be ought in these few words to make the reader seek those precious in the sight and memory of the brethren of his state, that he, too, may share in the thrill and pride which comes from the fraternal life of men long dead let him say reverently with Don Margins: “Low at the shrines where my brothers bow, There will I bow too.”

The Masonic Service Association of North America