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[280]

Freemasonry in Cambridge.

Henry Endicott, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
The history of Freemasonry in Cambridge begins with the organization of Amicable Lodge, for which the preliminary steps were taken as early as February 6, 1805. Even at this early period Masonry held an honored place in the community. It had been of importance still earlier, in the days of the Revolution, and had assisted materially in the struggle which transformed a group of dependent colonies into a nation. The quarter-century which had passed since the surrender of Cornwallis had not obliterated the memory of those days when Washington was at the head of a lodge, and when Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and other Revolutionary heroes were accustomed to meet at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern and talk of freedom as a Masonic principle.

The Masonic Association, which was inaugurated in Cambridge by eighteen brethren on the 6th of February, 1805, was known at first as the Aurora Society. Meetings were held at Hovey's Tavern, on the southwest corner of Main and Douglass streets. The original call included a statement of purpose signed by Daniel Warren, Asa Ellis, Benjamin Bigelow, Charles Parks, Nathaniel Livermore, Isaac Barnard, Nathaniel R. Whitney, Jr., Nathan Crane, Samuel Albee, John Wheeler, Andrew Adams, Luke Hemenway, Elijah Learned, Nathan Fiske, Salmon Morton, Ebenezer Watson, Daniel Smith, and William Warren. This list includes many well-known Cambridge names. In accordance with this call, the first meeting was held on the 9th of February, and soon after by-laws were adopted and officers elected. The by-laws provided that not more than seven new members should be admitted; that meetings should be held every Wednesday evening in ‘Mr. Hovey's [281] southeast chamber,’ and be adjourned at half past 9 o'clock; that officers should be elected once in eight weeks; and that a unanimous vote should be necessary for the election of new members. Andrew Adams was the first Master, Nathan Crane and Elijah Learned the first wardens. The petition for a charter was approved by Columbian Lodge of Boston, and was presented to the Grand Lodge on June 10 of the same year. After a trial of four months the name Aurora seems to have proved unsatisfactory, and the petition prayed for a charter under the name of Oriental Lodge. As this name had been preempted by another Massachusetts Lodge, it was finally decided to take the name Amicable, one which has been proved to be not unfitting. By this time six new members had been admitted, James Fillebrown, Joseph Ayres, Richard Bordman, Benjamin Grover, Samuel Cutler, and Benjamin Bowers; and one of the original signers, Ebenezer Watson, had dropped out. The ceremonies attendant upon the consecration of the lodge and the installation of its officers were held on St. John's Day, June 24, 1806, when the Grand Lodge attended, an oration was delivered, and a banquet served.

Before securing a permanent home for itself, the lodge met in several different halls, both in Harvard Square and in Cambridgeport. Bordman's Hall, on the west corner of Dunster Street and Harvard Square, long ago torn down, Porter's Hall on Brighton Street, Cutler's Hall in Cambridgeport, blown down in the memorable September gale of 1815, all provided it with temporary shelter for longer or shorter periods. In 1818 it fitted up rooms in the second story of the Franklin Street schoolhouse, which remained its home for twenty years. This schoolhouse, which was built in 1809 on a lot of land given to the city by Judge Dana, was sold in 1853 and removed from the city.

The ten years from the time of fitting up these rooms for permanent use to the year 1828 afforded opportunity for steady growth. To quote the words of Dr. Paige, our venerable historian, to whom every gleaner in these fields must acknowledge his great indebtedness, ‘Its meetings were well attended, its treasury well supplied, and its officers energetic and among the most respected and influential citizens.’ A curious arrangement was made with the town in 1825, in accordance with which the lodge bought land adjoining the Franklin School lot, and fitted up on it the old Baptist vestry, to be [282] used by the town as a schoolhouse, in exchange for a lease of the lodge-rooms.

The anti-Masonic excitement, which began in New York State, reached Cambridge in full force about the year 1828. Looking back on those days, it is difficult to understand the extent of the disturbance, or to comprehend the causes which led to such bitter and unreasoning opposition. In Massachusetts, as elsewhere, the persecution was ‘carried into all the relations of social life; the ties of kinship and of friendship were rudely severed; the springs of sympathy were dried up; confidence between man and man was destroyed; members of the Masonic institution were broken up in their business, denied the lawful exercise of their civil franchise, driven with ignominy from public offices, from the jury box, and from the churches, subjected to insult, injury, and contumely in their daily walks.’ Thus wrote Charles W. More, the author of two celebrated documents addressed to the public, which are said to have proved the final deathblow to anti-Masonry in this State.

Amicable Lodge maintained its ground, though with some difficulty, for about ten years. In that time only a single candidate was initiated; many members naturally lost courage, and meetings were necessarily held less often and at irregular intervals. In 1838 it was decided to dispose of the funds and to dissolve the organization. It was the intention of the members to convey their property to the town for charitable purposes, insisting, however, that the name ‘Masonic Charity Fund’ should be perpetuated. In detail the conditions were as follows:—

1. That the town shall pay interest annually on the amount of the Fund at the rate of six per cent. per annum.

2. That the interest arising from the Fund shall be annually paid out upon application to such past or present members of Amicable Lodge, or their immediate families, as the Selectmen for the time being shall consider objects of charity.

3. That the interest unappropriated as above, at the end of each year, shall be added to and form a part of the permanent Fund.

4. That when the amount of the Permanent Fund shall have accumulated to the sum of five thousand dollars, the Selectmen for the time being shall annually distribute the interest, in such manner as they shall deem proper, to any residents of the [283] Town of Cambridge not public paupers, whom they may consider worthy objects of charity.

5. That the Fund be called the Masonic Charity Fund.

Fortunately for the Masons, as it eventually proved, this offer was not accepted, owing to the violence of the distrust, which showed itself in many forms of opposition. The money was therefore kept in the hands of private parties, and later it formed the nucleus of the present charity fund of the lodge.

The storm gradually subsided, as the element of politics was eliminated from it, and common-sense once more resumed its authority in Cambridge as elsewhere. After an interval of seven years and a half, a petition for the restoration of the charter was signed by eleven members of the lodge as it stood in 1838, to which were added the signatures of other brethren, who thus declared their interest in the reorganization, and their purpose to support the lodge. On the 27th of December, 1845, the charter was restored to Isaac Livermore, Isaiah Bangs, Nathaniel Livermore, Thomas F. Norris, Jacob H. Bates, John Edwards, Jonathan Hyde, Charles Tufts, John Chamberlin, Nathaniel Munroe, and Emery Willard. At the first meeting when the lodge was organized for business, several new members were elected, and one of them, Lucius R. Paige, was elected Master. Simon W. Robinson, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, installed the officers. From that time there has been no break in the regular meetings and proper business of the lodge.

After the reorganization, meetings were held in the hall of Friendship Lodge of Odd Fellows, on Main Street, nearly opposite Pearl Street, and this hall was used until its destruction by fire in 1854, when Amicable Lodge removed with the Odd Fellows to Friendship Hall on Pearl Street, between Green and Franklin streets. In 1866 their present commodious apartments were fitted up on Main Street, now Massachusetts Avenue, No. 685.

On the 18th of October, 1855, a semi-centennial address was delivered to the lodge by Rev. Lucius R. Paige. At that time Amicable Lodge numbered only sixty-two members. At the seventy-fifth anniversary, J. Warren Cotton was the orator of the occasion, and announced the number of members as 206, notwithstanding the loss of forty members, who had transferred their immediate allegiance to Putnam, Mount Olivet, and Mizpah [284] Lodges. The present number, as reported for the year ending August 31, 1895, is 253.

It has seemed desirable to dwell thus on the early history of Amicable Lodge, since it is one in which all the lodges of the city are equally interested. It antedates the earliest of the remaining lodges by nearly fifty years,—years marked by unusual vicissitudes in Masonic institutions everywhere,—and it still remains the largest of the five now in existence. Of these, Putnam Lodge, of East Cambridge, numbering now 159 members according to the report of August 31, 1895, was chartered in 1854; Mount Olivet Lodge was chartered in 1863, and reports 151 members; Mizpah was chartered in 1868, and has 180 members; Charity Lodge, dating from 1870, has 101 members. The Cambridge Royal Arch Chapter was chartered in 1864, and Cambridge Commandery of Knights Templar in 1890.

Freemasonry in Cambridge owes much to Rev. Lucius R. Paige, who has had an interesting Masonic history. As the natural result of early elections and of a very long life (Dr. Paige is now in his ninety-fifth year), he is the senior Past Master of Masons in Massachusetts, the senior Past Commander of Knights Templar in the State and probably in the United States. It is eminently fitting that any memorial of Freemasonry in Cambridge should contain affectionate tribute to one who championed this cause when it most needed friends, and who has always brought to its service unwavering fidelity, steady judgment, and unusual ability.

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