Lodge Han Yang No. 1048 [2]

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Outline History

In the early years of the twentieth century the foreign population of Korea (Predominantly American, British and Canadian) was, for the most part, limited to three general groups—merchants, miners and missionaries. Among this foreign population were a number of the members of the Masonic Order.

It is not definitely known who were the instigators of the movement to establish an independent Masonic Lodge in Korea, but we do know that several meetings were held in Seoul during late 1907 and early 1908, at which steps were taken to prepare a petition to the Grand Lodge of Scotland.

At one of these meetings, held in the home of Dr. William B. Scranton, a medical missionary, it was suggested that the petition be given to Brother Walter H. Aldridge, who was connected with one of the large mining firms, and have him take it to the mines on his next trip and there secure signatures from Brethren employed by his company. How well Brother Aldridge succeeded is shown by the fact that over one-third of the signers of the petition were mining men.

The petition as finally prepared contained the signatures of twenty-four Master Masons. Brother Frank B. C. Williams, a missionary, had attended several of the preliminary meetings and had planned to be one of the signers, but duties and travel prohibited his so doing, much to his regret.

The signed Petition was forwarded to Hiogo and Osaka Lodge in Kobe, Japan, where it is received the support and endorsement of six Past Masters and the Senior and Junior Wardens of that Lodge. The favourable endorsement and recommendation of Right Worshipful Brother George W. Whymark, District Deputy Grand Master, E.C. (Japan) was also affixed and the Petition was forwarded to the Grand Lodge of Scotland with the request that a Charter be granted to the Seoul Brethren.

The Grand Lodge considered the Petition with favour and on 5th November 1908 issued a Charter for the new Lodge. The name which had been recommended for the new Lodge was Han Yang, one of the ancient Korean names for the capital city now known as Seoul. The Grand Lodge assigned the number 1048 to the new Lodge.

In was not until 29th May 1909 that the new Lodge was opened and consecrated. At this meeting the Founder Members signed the Charter.

The Installing Officer was Brother John Thomas Griffin, widely known as “The Father of Masonry in Japan.” Brother Griffin was a raw silk merchant in Yokohama, Japan and made frequent trips to Korea and had taken an active interest in the new Lodge from the first. He held many high Masonic honours. On the opening evening of the Han Yang Lodge Brother Griffin applied for membership in the new body.

Difference of opinion exists as to the exact place the first meeting was held. Some remember it to have been in a room in the Sontag Hotel, others recollect it as having been in a room on the second floor of a building owned by Brother James Henry Morris. These buildings were located almost directly opposite each other on Legation Street, now called by the Korean name “Chung Dong.” Since Brother Morris was not initiated into the Lodge until late in 1909, it would appear that the benefit of the doubt might be toward the hotel. Suffice it to say that the opening communication was held on Legation Street.

It is definitely known that the Lodge did meet in the room in Brother Morris’s building for some time. The Lodge finally moved to the building of the Seoul Club, located but a few hundred feet long Legation Street in a compound adjacent to the U.S. Consulate compound. Here it occupied a small room on the second floor.

The Office-bearers installed at the opening of the new Lodge were Alexander S. Hamilton, Right Worshipful Master; Ernest T. Bethell, Depute Master; David W. Deshler, Substitute Master; George R. Frampton, Senior Warden and David F. Hahe as Junior Warden. Dr. W. B. Scranton was the first Secretary and Albert Goshalk was named Treasurer.

After the first meeting the Lodge recessed for the summer. Records indicate some meetings were held during the fall of 1909 and at a meeting held on 4th December, we find records showing that Brother Frank E. C. Williams and Brother William R. Harvey were accepted as members by affiliation. The first candidate to receive a Degree in the new Lodge was Brother James Henry Morris, who was initiated on 11th December 1909, closely followed by Brother Henry G. English, who received the First Degree on 8th January 1910. Brother Morris took a very active part in the work of the Lodge and served for many years as its Treasurer.

Although the Lodge now had a membership of over thirty, great difficulties were experienced at times in having sufficient Brethren present to properly open Communications. Many of the members were still located at points far removed from Seoul. Tales are told of the opening of meetings being delayed until messengers could locate some of the resident members and get them to the Lodge room.

In 1911 Brother Griffin, whose interest in the Lodge was as active as ever, secured a special Dispensation from the Grand Lodge to held a series of meetings at one of the mines in the northern part of the country. He came to Seoul and, accompanied by Brother W. B. Scranton, who was Master that year, journeyed to the Taracol Mine located near the town of Pukchin in Pyongyang-pukdo Province.

Brother Harry J. Evans, who was employed at the mine, relates hew the dining hall at the mine camp was transformed into a temporary Lodge room on the evenings when meetings were held. Several Brethren located at the mine assisted Brothers Griffin and Scranton in conferring the Degrees on a class of ten candidates.

Brothers Griffin and Scranton remained at the mine camp for over a month so that the proper time might elapse between the various Degrees. So far as it known, this was the only time meetings of the Lodge were held outside of Seoul.

While the membership increased in numbers, difficulties in travel still made the attendance at meetings in Seoul small.

As the years passed, the foreign population in and near Seoul increased. Many joined the Lodge and less difficulties were experienced in having sufficient members present at meetings.

In early spring of 1925 a disastrous fire practically destroyed the Seoul Club building. The Lodge lost heavily in properties but the worst loss was that of the original Charter and many records. A cable was dispatched to the Grand Lodge explaining the situation and a reply was received reading, in part “You are authorised to hold meetings with this cable as your Charter.”

During the time required to rebuild the Seoul Club building, the Lodge met in a room in the “go-down” (warehouse) belonging to Brother A. W. Taylor. The exact location of this building is net known. Worshipful Brother Charles E. H. Druitt, who was then Master, tells how the cable reposed on his desk as the authority for the meeting, until the duplicate Charter which the Grand Lodge issued, could be received.

While the Seoul Club was being rebuilt, the Lodge entered into an agreement with the Club whereby the Lodge advanced certain sums of money and in return changes were made in the rebuilding plans. A new meeting room, about forty by eighty feet, was constructed across the entire front of the second floor. Preparation and retiring rooms as well as a washroom and a complete kitchen were provided for the use of the Lodge. The Lodge was also granted a lease in perpetuity to the entire second floor of the building. The new rooms were very much larger than the quarters prior to the fire.

Japanese laws prohibited any forms of secret societies. To overcome this difficulty, the Lodge operated ostensibly as a club. Under the law, the secret police were empowered to demand admittance to any meetings but no record shows that they ever enforced this power. There was evidence, however, that the Lodge rooms had been searched on several occasions. On one visit the police tried to force the lock on a closet containing regalia, tools, etc., but were not able to force the lock, so tried a second time by placing a ladder outside the building and trying to force a window entering the closet, unsuccessfully.

This hostility, and a definite threat by the Japanese gendarmes to break into any meetings, caused the Lodge to recess a few months earlier than usual in the spring of 1940. Discussions were held as to the best manner in which to protect the Lodge properties and the matter was left to the Master, Senior Warden, Secretary, Treasurer and Brother C. H. Crowe. Brother Thomas Hobbs, then Secretary, kept the Charter, records and other valuable papers in a safe in his office. It was finally decided that this safe would be taken to the home of Brother Crowe, a retired miner, who had made up his mind to remain in Seoul with his Korean wife, rather than leave the country as most of the foreign population were then doing. Another retired miner, Brother A. MacFarlane, who lived with his Japanese wife in Sosha, a village between Seoul and Inchon, also decided to remain. As he was Treasurer of the Lodge, he took all the financial records to his home.

A large box was prepared containing the office-bearers’ regalia, working tools, certain small books and articles belonging to the Lodge and this was taken to the U.S. Consulate, the Senior Warden, Brother Caylord Marsh, being the U.S. Consul General at the time. Some of the larger items of furniture, etc., were stored in the attic of the home of Brother Anders Kristen Jensen, the Master.

With the departure of Brother Hobbs from Seoul in May 1941, only three members remained in Korea, Brothers Crowe, Marsh and MacFarlane.

The Lodge was closed.

Under the terms of the Armistice with the Japanese of 15th August 1945, troops of the U.S. Army occupied that part of Korea south of the thirty-eighth parallel. The first troops reached Seoul on 12th September 1945, and before October had passed a Masonic Club had been formed among members of the Craft serving with the troops. Meetings were held at various places, the Throne Room in the Capitol; the auditorium of the Seoul City Hall; in the Chosen Hotel and other places. These meetings were largely attended at times over 200 Brethren attending.

In November 1945 Brother Frank E. C. Williams returned to Korea and soon was in contact with the members of the Masonic Club. They expressed great interest in Han Yan Lodge and wished that it could be re-opened. Brother Williams communicated with the Grand Lodge in Edinburgh, asking under what conditions it would be possible to re-open and received a cable through the British Consulate advising him that if three members of Han Yang Lodge were present, they might accept five other Master Masons from the Masonic Club and re-open the Lodge.

Worshipful Brother Jensen, who had been Master at the time the Lodge was obliged to close in 1940, returned soon after Brother Williams received the reply, but it was not until several months later that Brother Vernon A. Gulick returned, making the three members necessary under the Grand Lodge instructions.

Late in June 1946, permission was obtained from the Military Government, which had requisitioned the Seoul Club building for military use, to use the Han Yang Lodge room for a meeting. At this meeting Brothers Gulick, Jensen and Williams, all Past Masters, accepted the required members as directed by the Grand Lodge and Han Yang Lodge was again opened in full form.

Prior to the meeting Brother Williams had secured the box which had been stored at the U.S. Consulate and also obtained the safe from the home of Brother Crowe. Brother Lt.-Col. King went to Brother MacFarlane’s home at Sosha and obtained the records stored there. Both of these Brethren had died during the war years but their widows were faithful to the trust which had been imposed on them and safely cared for the Lodge property. Some of the furniture which had been stored in Brother Jensen’s home had been stolen or lost, but fortunately some very important pieces necessary for use in the Lodge were still there.

At the first meeting no business was transacted except to get the Lodge reorganised, nominate office-bearers, etc., and then the re-opened Lodge recessed until fall. In the fall, regular meetings were held. The newly elected office-bearers were installed, Worshipful Brother Jensen acting as Installing Officer, Brother Vernon A. Gulick was installed as Master, Lt.Col. John P. King as Senior Warden and Brother Harold E. Dagley as Junior Warden. The other office-bearers were all members of the armed forces.

Starting with the first meeting of the Lodge, the desk of the Secretary was piled high with applications for both affiliation and also for initiation. Attendances at the meetings were very large, at times beyond the seating capacity of the room, some Brethren having to stand during the entire evening. Work was carried on in full form and classes were given their degrees at practically every meeting. At one time candidates were advised that their names could not be reached for at least a year, although meetings were held weekly.

By midsummer 1947 the Military Government released the Seoul Club building and starting that fall the Lodge again re-occupied their regular rooms in that building. The weather during the winter of 1947–1948 was very severe. The only means of heating the Lodge room was one small open fireplace at the west end of the room. It was net uncommon to see the Brethren present sitting with their heavy overcoats or parkas on and their hands deep in the pockets. The electrical supply was also very uncertain due to breakdowns in transmission equipment and not infrequently the lights would fade out, usually at some important moment during the ceremonies and the Master would request the Brethren on the sidelines to illuminate the room by means of their pocket flash lights. In spite of all these adverse conditions, the Lodge continued to carry on regularly. Meetings still were held weekly.

During 1947 the complexion of the Lodge started to change. Many civilians were arriving in Korea to take places with the Government and many of the armed forces were returning home. These civilians made their presence felt not along in the applications for initiation but also in those desiring to affiliate with the Lodge. By 1948 all offices of the Lodge were filled with civilians with two exceptions. Full classes continued to receive their Degrees and attendance remained high.

During the summer of 1949 the Lodge redecorated their entire quarters. The meeting room was repainted, floors scraped and new electrical fixtures installed. Among these was a light placed over the altar which was controlled by a rheostat allowing it to be dimmed or give a very bright light as required during the degree work. New blue silk drapes, with inner light-coloured curtains, were placed at all the Lodge room windows. The outer blue curtains had a wallance on which was embroidered the square and compass. Over $2,000.00 U.S. and several million Won (local currency) were expended and when completed the rooms compared favourably with many homeland Lodge rooms.

Work continued regularly during the 1949-1950 season. In December 1949 Brother Charles K. Bernheisel was elected as Master. He was installed by Worshipful Brother Jensen.

The last meeting of the season, a combination supper for members and Masonic guests, as well as the ceremony of the Third Degree, was held on 23rd May 1950. The Lodge then recessed for the summer and worshipful Brother Bernheisel left shortly thereafter for leave in the States.

On 25th June 1950 disaster struck both the Republic of Korea and Han Yang Lodge for on that day the forces of communist North Korea invaded the Republic. One of the first places to fall to the invaders was the city of Kaesong, where the communists captured Worshipful Brother Jensen, who had gone there only the day previous on business connected with his mission. The same morning the Secretary of the Lodge, Brother George Hopkinson was stricken with poliomeylitis and removed to the hospital.

The next forty-eight hours were hectic indeed. On Monday, the 26th, the American Ambassador ordered the evacuation of all dependant women and children. This order included the wife and two-year old son of Brother Hopkinson.

Attempts were made by some members of the Lodge to reach Brother Hopkinson’s home on Monday afternoon to rescue any Lodge records which he might have had there, but on arrival they found that the house had already been thoroughly looted and nothing was found except a few receipted bills and like papers of no value. These members then went to the house occupied by R.W.M. Bernheisel, where it was known he had the Lodge Charter and other Masonic records in a locked closet. Attempts to force the closet door failed and thus the Charter and all records of the Lodge were lost.

On Tuesday morning, 27th June 1950, all remaining personnel of the American Mission to Korea were evacuated by air from the Kimpo Airport. As many of the Han Yang members were waiting for their planes, word was received that Brother Hopkinson had passed away at seven o’clock. He was buried in a Korean Christian cemetery just outside Seoul.

Thus, for the second time, Han Yang Lodge was obliged to close by reason of war.

Right Worshipful Master Bernheisel was recalled to duty with the U.S. Army in August 1950. He returned to Seoul within a few days after that city had been re-occupied by United Nations forces.

In September 1950, just prior to his return to Korea, Brother Bernheisel met with several friends for an informal supper in Washington. Among those present were members of the Han Yang Lodge who had reached home. The conversation naturally turned to the future of the Lodge and Brother Bernheisel requested Brother W. Lloyd Heath, one of those present, to assume the duties of Secretary and see what could be done to contact other members of the Lodge. Since all records had been lost, this was a rather hard assignment. However, through personal contacts, assistance of other Brethren and diverse means, many were contacted. The Grand Secretary furnished a list of the names of the Han Yang membership as shown by his files, but this list had no addresses. One of the 247 names listed, it has been possible to contact over 150 Brethren.

Early in 1952 it became apparent that steps would have to he taken by the Lodge to adopt some formal resolutions and approve certain forms required by banks and other institutions in connection with Lodge funds. A special Dispensation was obtained from Grand Lodge and an emergency business meeting of the Lodge was held in Washington, D.C. on 1st July 1952. Almost thirty members attended and the necessary actions taken. Brother Bernheisel had by this time returned from Korea and presided.

As was the case in 1945, no sooner had the United Nations armed forces entered Korea, than Masonic Clubs sprang up in Seoul, Pusan, Taegu and at the Kimpo Airport. The Pusan Masonic Club, of which the Depute Master of Han Yang Lodge, Brother Lt. Col. Joseph C. Matthews, Jr., was an active member, had been very active. The Pusan Club assumed the sponsorship of a hospital for children and an orphanage. Han Yang Lodge has consistently supported the hospital since that time.

The first meeting of the lodge after the Korean War was held in December 1953 with Brother Charles K. Bernheisel in the East. Brother Bernheisel was unanimously elected Master of the Lodge for 1954; this being a resumption of the responsibility to which he had been elected in December 1949. The meeting was held in a quonset hut at the front entrance to the Seoul Club building. It was attended by over 200 brethren in sub-zero weather and because of the many nationalities which comprised the U.N. forces at that time there was representation from many Grand jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States. This meeting marked the resumption of Masonry in Korea and the beginning of a new phase which could never have been imagined by the original founders of Han Yang in 1909.

Two events of importance marked the ensuing five years. First was the impact on the Lodge of having large numbers of foreign military personnel as transients in Korea. During some months the Lodge received as many as ten petitions for the degrees. Obviously the Lodge could net cope with so many applications and as a result there was a great deal of disappointment. This situation was further complicated by receipt of requests for courtesy work for brethren temporarily stationed in Korea with the United Nations. During the five year period there was hardly a degree night when at least one of the candidates was not receiving his degree at the request of his Mother Lodge. This period also marked the raising of the first Korean National to the sublime degree of Master Mason; brother George Paik, President of Yonsei University, who was raised in the fall of 1958. Since brother George four additional Korean Nationals have been raised thereby providing a nucleus for a membership roster consisting of resident Koreans. In addition to the Korean members the ranks of Han Yang were swelled by the raising of English, Australian, New Zealand, United States, Swiss, German, Lebanese and Swedish born members.

To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Han Yang the lodge elected to adopt the tartan of the late Brother A. McFarlane as the official colours of the lodge in 1959. Brother McFarlane was one of the founding members of the lodge and presided in the East during 1937. The remains of Brother McFarlane are interred at the Foreign Cemetery just outside Seoul. The decision to adopt the tartan was approved by Grand Lodge in time for its approval to be announced to the brethren at the Fiftieth Anniversary Meeting.

To provide a closer degree of local supervision which was deemed advisable by the brethren in view of the complications arising from its largely transient membership the Lodge unanimously elected to petition for membership in the District Grand Lodge of the Far East. Approval was granted and Han Yang during its Fiftieth Anniversary year became the seventh Lodge to become a member of District Grand Lodge.

In 1960 and 1961 Korea again experienced political difficulties with a series of revolutions and military coups. It appeared for a while that the Lodge might again be required to go into darkness as it had no three previous occasions since its founding. A number of meetings were, in fact, cancelled. However as of the date of this writing the Lodge has been informed that they will be permitted to resume meetings after the conclusion of the normal summer recess in 1961.

During the visit of the M.W. Grand Master Mason to Hongkong in March 1961 four members of the Lodge were able to attend the masonic meetings held in the Colony, and it was particularly gratifying that the M.W. Grand Master Mason and the R.W. Grand Secretary were able to discuss the problems of masonry in Korea in great detail with the representatives of the Lodge on the morning of 24th February 1961. The M.W. Grand Master Mason showed a keen interest in the affairs of the Lodge, and its many problems.

The officers and brethren are continually striving to attain a degree of stability which has been most difficult to achieve due to sociological and political influences. Progress is being made and the future of Han Yan looks better in the fall of 1961 than it has at many times since 1952.