Grand Lodge of Maine

A Fraternity Rises Again: New Acquisition Highlights the Rebirth of Freemasonry


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Letter to Thomas W. Smith from John C. Humphreys, October 5, 1844.

 

Brunswick Oct. 5, 1844

Dear Sir,

We have erected a new Masonic Hall at Brunswick, and by a vote of the Lodge last evening we have decided to have it dedicated on the 24th inst. in the evening, in a public manner, and if it accords with your wishes, we would respectfully request your aid in the matter, but if it should be inconvenient for you, or Mr Childs to attend, we should like to have you appoint the Hon. R. P. Dunlap to discharge that duty.

Yours truly

John C. Humphrey
Master, United Lodge

To the Most Worshipful
Thomas W. Smith
Augusta, ME



While the content of this letter may seem unexciting upon first glance, research into this record held in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library draws attention to a period of rebirth in American Freemasonry. As Masonic historian Ralph Pollard points out, the fifteen years leading up to 1844 had been quite hard on the Fraternity, the “effect of the Anti-Masonic movement on the Maine Lodges was paralyzing. Candidates ceased to apply for the degrees. Members ceased to pay their dues. The indifferent, the timid, and the weak deserted the Fraternity in droves.”

By 1844, with the worst of the anti-Masonic furor finally over, John C. Humphreys, the Master of United Lodge, No. 8, of Brunswick, Maine, sent the above message from his Lodge to Thomas W. Smith, the Grand Master for the Grand Lodge of Maine. In his letter, Humphreys invited Smith to preside over the rededication ceremony of the old Masonic Hall currently residing on Mason Street. United Lodge, No. 8, had built and dedicated the Hall in 1807, and now in 1844 its members wished to have the old building, which had been recently enlarged and refurnished, rededicated by the Grand Lodge of Maine. A report in the Freemason’s Monthly Magazine documents this event, which Smith did preside over and gave the main address.

Twenty-eight years after the rededication, United Lodge, No. 8, had outgrown the old Masonic Hall on Mason Street, and sold it to town of Brunswick, which converted the building into a firehouse for Engine No. 3, the “Niagara.” United Lodge, No. 8, moved into the third floor of the newly built Adam Lemont Building on the corner of Maine and Pleasant Streets on October 3, 1872. The new accommodations were “a marked improvement” Deputy District Grand Master Joseph M. Hayes reported to the Grand Lodge in 1873; “United Lodge, at Brunswick, has now one of the best arranged suites of rooms for masonic uses in the District…”



Captions

Letter to Thomas W. Smith from John C. Humphreys, October 5, 1844. Gift of Carl W. Garland. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 260.002.

References

Grand Lodge of Maine (1872). Fourteenth District. In Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, 1870 - 1872, (Vol. 7, pp. 652 – 653). Portland, Maine: Stephen Berry.

Grand Lodge of Maine (1875). Fourteenth District. In Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, 1873 - 1875, (Vol. 8, pp. 205 – 206). Portland, Maine: Stephen Berry.

Moore, Charles W. (1845). Masonic Chit Chat: Dedication of a Masonic Hall. In Freemason’s Monthly Magazine. (Vol. 4, pp. 64). Boston: Tuttle and Dennett. https://books.google.com/books?id=6SIsAAAAMAAJ&vq 14 November 2015.

Pollard, Ralph J. (no date). Freemasonry in Maine, 1762-1945. Portland, Maine: Tucker Printing Company. http://www.mainemasonrytoday.com/history/Books/Pollard/index.htm 14 November 2015.

Pumper Niagara, Brunswick, c. 1920, in the Maine Memory Network, The Maine Historical Society. Portland, ME, USA. https://www.mainememory.net/artifact/12170 14 November 2015.

Taoab (2013). 1870 Adam Lemont Building, 144-150 Maine St., Brunswick, Maine, in Panoramio, Google Maps. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/96419157 14 November 2015.

Wheeler, George Augustus, and Henry Warren Wheeler (1878). History of Brunswick, Topsham and Harpswell, Maine, Including the Ancient Territory Known as Pejepscot. Boston: Alfred Mudge and Son. https://archive.org/details/cu31924028809873 14 November 2015.


Masonic Ritual Cipher: A Personal Object

Arthur_Pearson_cipher_webAs we've written about previously, Masonic ritual ciphers are books that serve as memory aids for Masons memorizing various portions of Freemasonry's first three initiation ceremonies. These cipher books are, in many cases, more than just the sum of the text they contain. They are, in many instances, personal objects and show evidence of previous owners.

Pictured above is a cipher book once owned by Arthur A. Pearson (1904-1997) of Portland, Maine. On the title page (below, right), Pearson recorded the dates of all the important Masonic degrees that he had participated in or witnessed. Pearson joined many Masonic organizations - the list that starts on the title page continues onto the reverse of the title page. This book is currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room exhibition, Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books, at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Pearson's cipher book fits neatly into what David Pearson, in Books As History, has called "the importance of books beyond their texts." Although the book flap that keeps the cover closed has Pearson's name nicely embossed on the inside of it, the book offers more than just provenance (i.e. history of ownership). It is a record of Pearson's Masonic participation.

Arthur_Pearson_cipher_title_page_webCorrect Work for Maine does not contain any publication information within the book, so it is unclear who published it. We know, however, that it was not the Grand Lodge of Maine  Around the time that Pearson became a Master Mason in Corner Stone Lodge No. 216 in Portland in 1940, the Grand Lodge appointed a special committee to deliberate on whether Masons should be allowed to use ciphers, which were neither published nor approved by the Grand Lodge. According to its published Proceedings, at a 1941 meeting of the Grand Lodge of Maine, the committee appointed to investigate the topic of ciphers was agnostic on the matter: 

"Your Committee on Masonic Cipher has carefully considered the matter referred to it. Ciphers are not approved by the Grand Lodge. Neither is their use forbidden. The present practice appears to satisfy the need. Your Committee, therefore, recommends that no legislation on this subject by Grand Lodge is expedient at this time."

The Committee had been appointed in response to a report of Charles E. Crossland, the Grand Lodge's Grand Lecturer in 1940. The Grand Lecturer, among other duties, travels to the subordinate lodges in the state, inspecting the ritual work of the lodges and insuring that it is well done. Crossland noted that, in four years as Grand Lecturer, "not a dissenting voice" had been heard in terms of Maine Masons using ciphers. Yet he also noted that the Grand Lodge did not officially approve of them either. He continued "Has not the time come when the Grand Lodge shall face this issue squarely? If we are to tacitly consent to the use of these 'Ciphers' should we not supervise their preparation and handle their sale? Before action is taken, it is possible that a committee should study the full significance of such action and what might be involved if it seems wise to adopt such a plan."

In the years that followed, the Grand Lodge of Maine - like many other Grand Lodges during this period and earlier - revisited the topic of how to officially respond to the use of unofficial ciphers in subordinate lodges. In 1949, the Grand Lodge responded by publishing an official cipher - prepared, drafted, and sold by the Grand Lodge of Maine and declared all other rituals and ciphers to be unauthorized.

Caption:

Correct Work for Maine, Revised Edition 1941, Van Gorden Williams Library & Archives Collection, 14.246 .D1-3 ME.