At the core of Scottish Rite Freemasonry is a vision to be a fraternity that fulfills its Masonic obligation to care for its members. In this week’s post, we highlight two documents from the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library that illustrate this vision in action, as well as the “benevolent hearts” of Freemasonry.
In the first document, an 1810 letter to Columbian Lodge in Boston, Massachusetts, Susanna Kelly, the widow of Joseph Kelley, a Freemason, petitions Columbian for relief as she and her children await safe passage to Suriname, the home of Kelly’s mother. Susanna’s letter highlights the difficulties that unmarried or widowed women faced in nineteenth-century America and provides insights into how the embargo and Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, two events that led up to the War of 1812, affected everyday Americans.
The second document, an 1810 report submitted by the committee to aid Susanna Kelly, outlines Columbian Lodge’s efforts to aid the Kelly family in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter and its High Priest, John B. Hammatt. Hammatt, who had been initiated at Columbian Lodge, personally paid for many of the family's expenses and advanced Mrs. Kelly $15.00, which may have been used to aid the family during the voyage.
|The committee chosen by Columbian Lodge to alleviate the distress of the widow + children of our late Br. Joseph Kelly by presenting them certain sums of money according to votes of said Lodge, + also to procure a passage for them to Suriname, with deference state, that in conjunction with a committee from St. Andrews Chapter, for that purpose, they have accomplished the above object, but not without expending more money than was appropriated by said Lodge for that purpose as will appear by the following statement,
Cash advanced Mrs. Kelly $25.00
Cash paid for bread 10.50
Cash paid Mrs. Johnson for Mrs. Kelly and children’s board 2.90
Cash paid for wine, eggs, butter [carg. hack hire?] 7.30
Cash paid for beef + bread 7.36
Cash paid for [meal?] and washing floor 1.75
Cash paid for [sundries?] by J. B. Hammatt 34.25
Cash paid for [sauce?] by J. B. Hammatt 9.00
Cash paid for [Truck.g?] by J. B. Hammatt 2.00
Cash advan[ce]d Ms. K. by J. B. Hammatt 15.00
That the committee from St. Andrew’s Chapter have paid fifty one dollars of the above sum. Thereby leaving $64.06 paid by your committee, + that they have received 25$ of the Sec.y, which deducted from the above sum leaves $39.06 for which no provision has been made.
Dan.l Baxter Committee
Letter from Susanna Kelly to Columbian Lodge, June 2, 1810. Gift of Columbian Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of Mrs. Godfrey S. Tomkins, MA 002.
Committee Report to Columbian Lodge, 1810. Gift of Columbian Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of Mrs. Godfrey S. Tomkins, MA 002.