An inscription (see below) on the back of this engraved jewel shows that it belonged to “Nath’l R. Hill" who was "Exalted in Belknap Chapter on Jany 30th 1827.” Founders received a charter for Belknap Chapter (which became No. 8) just a few weeks before, on January 11, 1827. Returns sent to the Grand Chapter of New Hampshire that same year record that Nathaniel R. Hill of Dover, New Hampshire, was among the first group of fifteen men who received degrees at the new chapter. The jewel’s owner, Nathaniel Rogers Hill (1796-1878), also belonged to Strafford Lodge No. 29 in Dover.
This medal is in an unusual shape that incorporates symbols associated with some of the different degrees that were part of the Royal Arch. At the center is a keystone that bears Hill’s mark and the mnemonic associated with the Mark Degree, HTWSSTKS. The overall shape of the jewel--compasses connected to a quadrant, surrounded by a circle--reflect the Past Master Degree. For his mark at the middle of the jewel, Hill selected a rendition of a distinctive Masonic symbol, the Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid (at left). This symbol is a visual representation of the Pythagorean Theorem. In Freemasonry, this emblem reminds Masons to be lovers of the arts and sciences. The engraver who decorated Hill's jewel used a combination of a burin--to make straight lines and cuts, and a roulette, a texturing tool with a patterned roller, to make the zig-zagging lines that define the circle and compasses on Hill's jewel.
Hill was a steadfast Mason for many years. Strafford Lodge No. 29 went dark around 1833 and Belknap Chapter closed around 1835, in response to a political movement which sought to diminish Freemasonry--the Anti-Masonic movement--that flourished from the mid-1820s through the mid-1830s. In 1848 former members of Strafford Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire to revive their lodge, and Hill was among their number.
Harry Morrison Cheney, Chapters, Councils Commanderies and Scottish Rite in New Hampshire, (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1935), 28-29.
William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol IV., (New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908), 1750.
John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons, (Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994), 137.
Hamilton Hurd, History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire, (Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1882), 842.
Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Hampshire, Vol. 1, (Manchester, NH: W. E. Moore, 1896).