The Warren Family of Doctors, Freemasonry, and Bunker Hill
October 05, 2010
On Wednesday, June 17, 1857, the Bunker Hill Memorial Association unveiled a statue of Joseph Warren (1741-1775), who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill exactly 82 years earlier. To commemorate the occasion, the Bunker Hill Memorial Association printed Celebrations by the Bunker Hill Monument Association, of the Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, in 1850 and 1857 (below, right). Our copy of these proceedings is particularly special because it was a presentation copy given to Dr. J. Mason Warren (1811-1867), who was Joseph Warren's grand-nephew, and served on the Bunker Hill Memorial Association's board of directors.
Joseph Warren is often remembered for his pivotal role in two aspects of the American Revolution: as the man who sent Paul Revere and William Dawes on their midnight ride on the night before the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and as a General who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill. By profession, however, Joseph Warren was a doctor, and this played no small role in his life, or in the lives of many others in the Warren family.
In fact, Dr. Joseph Warren stands at the head of a long line of the Warren family of doctors. His brother John Warren (1753-1815) was the principal founder of Harvard Medical School, and, in turn, John Warren's son - John Collins Warren (1778-1856) - was a leading figure in establishing Massachusetts General Hospital and was the first to perform surgery using ether (see this painting and this daguerreotype). The Warren that we are concerned with here today - J. Mason Warren - was a leading surgeon and, while at Massachusetts General Hospital, performed pioneering work in plastic surgery. J. Mason Warren performed the first rhinoplasty procedure in America in 1837. But this line of doctors didn't end there - J. Mason Warren's son, J. Collins Warren (1842-1927) also went on to become a doctor.
Freemasonry, naturally, played a large role in the celebrations surrounding the unveiling of the Warren statue on June 17, 1857. General Joseph Warren was a Mason himself, having been raised in the Lodge of St. Andrew and was Grand Master of the Massachusetts Provincial Grand Lodge from 1769 until his death in 1775. It was Massachusetts Freemasons who gave Joseph Warren a proper and honorable burial a year after the Battle of Bunker Hill. Warren had been buried on the battlefield and his remains were dug up a year later; he was identified by the dental work Paul Revere had done on him. Masons also played a large role in the ceremony surrounding the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Memorial. The proceedings of the 1857 unveiling of the statue of Warren enumerate the many dignitaries who processed to Breed's Hill. It was stated that "the Masonic display was large and brilliant; the grand lodges of Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, twenty-four subordinate lodges, and members of two or three encampments taking part in the procession." You can read more about the Masonic ceremonies surrounding the 1857 dedication of the Warren statue here.
You can read a biography of J. Mason Warren, the grand-nephew of Dr. Joseph Warren here.
Images above are from:
Celebrations by the Bunker Hill Monument Association, of the Anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, in 1850 and 1857. [Boston: Bunker Hill Monument Association, 1858]
Gift of Wilbur Devens Raymond
Call number: RARE E241 .B9 1858