HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S LODGE No. 1
A. F. & A. M.
Newport, Rhode Island
Bro. ROBERT E. BRINTON
Bro. JOHN M. JOHNSTON
St. John's Lodge was formed as the result of several Masons in Newport who were desirous of having a regularly constituted lodge within their reach. These men were largely merchants and sea captains who belonged either in England or in the adjacent colonies.
The organic life of Freemasonry in Newport, and in Rhode Island as well, began with the establishment of St. John's Lodge, No.1. It dates from December 27, 1749, on which date we find the following entry made in the records of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
"At the petition of sundry Brethren residing at Newport on Rhode Island Our Rt. Worsh. Bro. Thos Oxnard Esq Grand Master granted a Constitution for a Lodge to be held there and appointed our Rt. Worsh. Bro. Mr. Caleb Phillips to be their First Master."
In the secretary's book of the period we find the first five candidates; Robert Jenkins, Jr., Abraham Borden, Edward Wanton, Thomas Rodman, and John Mawdsley initiated on January 18, 1749.
This apparent discrepancy in recorded dates can be explained by reference to the calendar then in use in Great Britain. The Julian calendar was in use in Great Britain until September 3, 1752, when it was changed to the present Gregorian calendar by adding eleven days. A peculiar feature of the British calendar system, under the Julian calendar, was that the New Year was dated from Assumption Day, March 25th, not January 1st. Thus, the date January 18, 1749 is actually 22 days after December 27, 1749, under the old style calendar. From January 1st, 1753, the New Year commenced to be dated from January 1st rather than March 25th. Presuming that the British Colonies used the calendar of the mother country places above dates in chronological order.
From this time until May 1763, twenty‑two candidates were taken in under leadership of Caleb Phillips, Wor. Master.
A Warrant was issued by Thomas Oxnard, Prov. Grand Master, dated May 14th 1753, given on the petition of "George Gardner and divers other Free and Accepted Masons in Newport," "showing that their late Master, the Rt. Worsh. Mr. Caleb Phillips has used the said Lodge unbecoming a Mason by withholding from the Lodge our Deputation by him granted as Master thereof and also the records of said Lodge which being the foundation on which their Lodge is established the withholding thereof has left them in the utmost confusion and uncertainty." In this Warrant, Mr Robert Jenkins is appointed Master of the Lodge and directed to congregate the Brethren together and form a Regular Lodge, Choosing Wardens and other Officers for one year, at the end of which the Lodge is to have the power to choose and appoint their Master and other Officers and so annually.
Mr. Robert Jenkins was appointed Master and the first Lodge meeting was held at the house of Mr. Phillips and the following officers were elected: S.W., George Gardner; J.W., George Croswell; Treasurer, Augustus Johnston; Secretary, Benjamin Mason.
Let us look at a resume of the By‑Laws of the year 1754 in order that we may see something of how old St. John's Lodge functioned:
1. No Brother may Propose any Candidate without leave of the Master and Warden and when leave is obtained shall immediately pay 15 pounds old Tenor to the Treasurer. If the candidate is not accepted it shall be returned.
2. Every candidate made a Mason shall pay his "Quarteridge".
3. Every member addressing the Chair, shall do it standing.
4. Every member shall pay 3 pounds, 12 shillings quarteridge on the 1st or at farthest on the second Lodge night or shall be excluded. Every visiting member shall pay 20 shillings each evening.
5. No new Brother shall be made in a private Lodge unless summons are issued by the Master to each member who is in Newport at the time. Any candidate made at a private lodge "must pay the expense of that Lodge (meeting) besides the 30 pounds for his making."
6. Every Foreign Brother found to be an Entered apprentice shall in due time be advised to withdraw unless he desires to be made a Fellow Craft at the cost of 10 pounds plus 20 shillings for the use of the Tyler, besides his Quarteridge.
On November 4, 1756, the Lodge "Voted that as a number of Gentlemen in Providence have signified to us their ardent desire of being admitted into the number of Free and Accepted Masons, by an epistolary petition, we held a Lodge at Providence on Thursday evening next, as 'twill be extremely inconvenient for them to attend here. Voted, also, that the money arising from the making the above persons be appointed for the defraying the necessary expenses that must accrue on the brethren journeying to and from, and sojourning at Providence, and if any surplusage remain 'tis to be made a present to the lodge that may be constituted at Providence." Thursday evening, November 1, 1756 being a special according to agreement called to be held at Providence the following brothers met:
Master ....................... R.W. Robert Jenkins
Senior Warden ...................... John Mawdsley
Junior Warden ........................ Edward Cole
Treasurer ......................... Benjamin Mason
Secretary ...................... Nathaniel Mumford
Edward Ellis, Alexander Grant, Samuel Brenton, Thomas Vernon, Edward Emmerson, John Jenkins, Christian Myers, John Burgess and Edward Scott.
The following names were proposed, upon which the brethren were called to ballot, and they were admitted and made Masons in due form. Each, with but one exception, paying 30 Pounds, and he being gratis: Paul Tew, James Greene, John Randal. Joseph Russell, George Jackson, Benjamin Bowen, Moses Dishon, and Ebenezer Thompson.
This was the first meeting of a Masonic Lodge in Providence, and the brethren, then and there made by Saint John's Lodge No. 1, with Brothers Burgess and Scott previously made at Newport on November 20, 1755, formed the nucleus of Saint John's Lodge in the town of Providence, which was chartered just two months later, on January 18, 1757, by Jeremy Gridley, Provincial Grand Master of North America.
It is interesting to notice that in this early period the feast of St. John the Evangelist was more scrupulously observed than that of the feast of St. John, the Baptist.
The brethren failed not to celebrate the feast of St. John, June 24, 1757, when the first Masonic celebration with religious services was held at Trinity Church, the first Masonic discourse of record.
In addition to our Lodge continuing its representation at Grand Lodge, and contributing for "charity and expense," three guineas are appropriated on May 4, 1758, to defray the expense of "getting their names enrolled in the Grand Lodge Books at London."
The Lodge having no home of its own, meetings were held in the homes of individual members. On July 18, 1758, the Lodge purchased the land on which the present building stands, corner of Church and School Streets.
On August 12, 1758, the Lodge convened at High Twelve, the Worshipful Master laid the first angular stone in the Northeast, the Senior Warden laid the second stone in the Southeast, the Junior Warden laid the third in the Southwest, the Treasurer laid the fourth stone in the Northwest, and the Secretary laid the fifth stone at the surface of the earth. The foundations were covered and remained in that condition for more than forty years.
Under the date of March 20, 1759, a third and confirmative charter is received from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
The General Assembly granted the Lodge the privilege of a lottery for the purpose of raising money to build a Masonic Hall, by a special act in June 1759. This was limited to $2,400.
From the year 1765 to 1790, there are no records of the meetings of the Lodge. It seemed to earlier students of its history that the Lodge lay dormant, but from the large number of candidates taken in from 1763 to 1765, any thought of waning interest must be dismissed.
The record book shows us the following Meetings were held regularly right up to the end of 1765; then four leaves or eight pages have been removed from the book, and the next meeting recorded began in 1790. A list of those taken into the Lodge gives us a clue to what happened. From its start in 1749 to 1763, most of St. John's members were merchants and government officials, and over; 90% were members of the Church of England. A number of these later stood firmly by the mother country when the troubles began that later ended in the Revolution. From 1763 on, a considerable number joined who were Congregationalist and Baptists, and whose affections were strongly with America and the Colony.
When the hated Stamp Act was passed in 1765, difficulties came to St. John's. Their treasurer, Augustus Johnston, was chosen Stamp Master, and Bro. Martin Howard was with Dr. Moffatt writing columns in the Newport Mercury against the Colony's government and charter, sea trade, and the Hebrew people in Newport. This seemed to divide the loyalties of the members, and the Lodge, as a whole, cast its lot with the cause of the Colonies.
After a riot in Newport in late August of 1765, Johnston was forced to promise not to undertake the duties as Stamp Master, and Howard and Moffatt took passage to England. At this period, also, the Sons of Liberty were founded to see that the Stamp Act was not enforced, and its founders were either entirely or mostly St. John's members. The Sons of Liberty in Newport were founded at "Mrs. Pinniger's on Broad St." (Broadway).
An extract from the Mercury of January 7, 1766 is quite revealing, and tells its own story, It is as follows: "...Therefore, we the true‑born Sons of Liberty, ever anxious to preserve what our Ancestors with much 'Travail, Blood and Treasure, have purchased for us, having Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty for our Supporters, and determined to be upon the Level, live within the Compass, and act upon the Square ‑ Do now declare to all North America; that no Son of Perdition among us, of what Character of Life soever, Hall never mention that detestable Pamphlet called a "Stamp Act" with applause, nor in any way, Word, or Writing, Sign or Token, ever aid or assist in the Prosecution of the Contents thereof, without our highest indignation which will be manifested without so large a Mob, as a certain honorable Gentleman can raise.
Sighed by Order of the Right Worshipful Grand Master, the Wardens and Stewards of our Lodge, four entered apprentices -- B. O. A. Z."
The following entries in the records of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts reveal that the lodge was active after 1765:
April 25, 1766 ‑‑ At this communication "Newport" Lodge appears.
Jan. 23, 1767 ‑‑ At this communication "Newport" Lodge appears.
April 24, 1767 ‑‑ At this communication "Newport" Lodge appears.
Whatever was written in the records of the Lodge from now on were cut out. Could it have been that there was fear of the account falling into British hands 7 When finally the break came with the mother country and the British occupied the town (1777-1779), a considerable number of the brethren sought refuge on the mainland, while others remained passively in Newport.
At least some of the brethren, either neutral or of loyalist leanings, observed St. John's Day in 1778, when "a respectable number of Masons" marched from the Point to Trinity Church, and thence to a field near Redwood Library where a grand banquet was held.
In 1780, when peace with victory was at hand, the establishment of another lodge still further drained the vitality of St. John's Lodge.
The old Lodge and the new were being tried out and, as a, result, we have the union of St. John's and King David's Lodges on October 19, 1790, the members of the latter uniting with St. John's Lodge and declaring unanimously that for the sake of harmony and brotherly love, King David's Lodge shall cease its existence.
On this consolidation the membership of St. John's Lodge stood at 141, and at the election immediately following these officers were unanimously elected: Rt. Wor. Moses Seixas, Master; Wor. John Breese, Senior Warden; and Wor. John Topham, Junior Deacon.
Wor. Bro. Moses Seixas was, no doubt, the moving and controlling spirit in Masonry in Newport at this time. The reception and entertainment of George Washington, President of the United States, was brought largely by Wor. Bro. Seixas.
The presence and worship of President Washington in Trinity Church, in 1790, occupying the pew that so many Grand Masters and Worshipful Masters have since occupied, is well established.
The movement for the formation of a Grand Lodge of Rhode Island now proceeds, the plan formulated by the committees receiving the approval of St. John's, Newport, on March 14, 1791, and of St. John's, Providence, April 6, 1791.
On June 27, 1791, brethren representing these two lodges met in the State House at Newport and proceeded to organize a Grand Lodge, Rt. Wor. Moses Seixas presiding and installing the officers, and Most Wor. Christopher Champlain of St. John's, Newport, being the first Grand Master.
It was determined, on November 5, 1799, to proceed with the erection of a building on the lot in which foundations had been laid in 1759.
On April 12, 1802, the corner stone was laid in the Northeast Corner, the ceremonies being carried on with great solemnity. The full report on our records of this ceremony concluded with this fervent exclamation:
"Glory Be To God On High"
The dedication of the building occurred on February 22, 1803, Washington's Birthday. The building is 701/2 x 301/2 feet and two stories in height. The furniture of the lodge cost over $2,000. There are two pictures in the lodge room, made in 1794, and presented by Joseph Huntington. He was a sea Captain and a member of the lodge. On one of his voyages, he had these pictures made, brought them home and presented them to the lodge.
The old cable tow which adorn's the ceiling of the lodge was laid in 1802 in Tilley's ropewalk an was the donation of Bro. Thomas Tilley, ancestor of many of that name or descent who have, in turn, adorned the Masonic and social circles of Newport.
A dispensation was granted on May 27, 1816, and a charter was issued on October 23, 1817, constituting several of the brethren of St. John's Lodge a separate lodge under the name of St. Paul's Lodge, No. 14.
St. Paul's Lodge continued to work until September 14, 1818, when its charter was surrendered and its members affiliated with St. John's.
In 1817, following the election of Dr. Benjamin W. Case as Wor. Master, some serious difficulties arose in regard to Masonic usage and authority. The Grand Lodge, acting upon a memorial presented to that body, declared the election void and ordered a new election. This action was resisted by Dr. Case and his followers. Matters in dispute were carried before the Supreme Court and, finally in 1830, a judgment was rendered, substantially in favor of the law abiding brethren and the Grand Lodge.
Under date of September 20, 1818, a record appeared showing that a committee was appointed to devise a plan for a free school, to be held in Masonic Hall, to educate the children of brethren belonging to the Fraternity.
On June 25, 1819, the Grand Lodge of the State Rhode Island assembled at St. John's Lodge for the purpose of proceeding to Coasters Harbor Island to lay the corner stone of the Asylum where, after solemn prayer by the Grand Chaplain, the stone was laid at High Twelve. This building was given to the United States Navy in the late Nineteenth Century. It stands today as the headquarters for the Commander of the Naval Base.
During Anti‑Masonic times, the Lodge continued to meet at regular intervals and elected its officers annually. No work was done, however, in the Lodge during that troubled period. Work was resumed November 18, 1844.
In 1875, Francis Brinley Fogg was the only surviving member of St. Paul's Lodge (1816‑18). Brother Fogg, with other brethren residing in the city, deemed it best for the interests of Freemasonry to bring about the re‑establishment of St. Paul's Lodge. In accordance with their desire, the Grand Lodge reconstituted St. Paul's Lodge No. 14 in 1876, granting them concurrent jurisdiction with St. John's Lodge No.1.
In 1887, the Lodge building was substantially enlarged. In remodeling and making the additions, the original structure was retained, the newer portions being built in a style to conform with the old design. Therefore, the present lodge room used by St. John's Lodge stands with little alteration from its original form. Upon completion of the alterations to the building, a fair open to the public was held in December 1887. The following extract from the Newport Mercury of December 17, 1887 shows the impression this event made upon the public:
"The new Masonic Temple on Church and School streets has been the grand rendezvous of our citizens, both old and young, during the past week, the attraction being St. John's fair, and the unanimous verdict rendered is most complimentary to all concerned.
It was certainly a fine entertainment and was never equalled, either in the extent of room occupied or the variety of exhibits displayed, by any fair given in this state. The simple announcement that the doors of the temple would be opened to the public for a week would have been of itself sufficient to draw, but when it was know that each and every on of the large and handsomely finished compartments of the structure had been converted into galleries of art, museums of antiquities or some other exhibition of equal interest, everybody determined to attend and a first visit made a second inevitable. The various rooms were nightly thronged with interested visitors from the opening to the close and the scene could only be likened to a hive of busy bees."
In the same year, St. John's Lodge applied to the General Assembly of the state for an act of incorporation, which was granted, and the real estate was reconveyed to the Lodge thus recognized.
Under date of August 14, 1899, invitation was received for St. John's Lodge to lay the corner stone of the new City Hall, and as it was properly a function belonging to the Grand Lodge alone, it was referred to that body. It was voted to tender the Grand Lodge an Escort on that occasion and, also, to invite St. Paul's Lodge and Washington Commandry to participate in the same.
September 4, 1899, the day set apart for the laying of said corner stone, the Grand Lodge being in readiness, the procession was formed, the Masonic bodies in line being Washington Commandery, No. 4, Knights Templars, Master Masons of St. John's and St. Paul's Lodges, visiting brothers, the Grand Lodge and officers of local lodges.
The formation of these Masonic bodies, the carrying by the proper officers and Masons of the numerous emblems and symbols, is most interesting.
Practically the entire city government attended this ceremony and formed a part of the procession.
It was, undoubtedly, the most pretentious and carefully arranged laying of corner stone ceremonies ever conducted by the Masonic order in this city.
On September 11, 1899, the Lodge again convened for the purpose of celebrating its 15Oth anniversary.
An extract from the Newport Herald of Tuesday, September 12, 1899 is quite revealing and informative. It is as follows:
"In right style, as became so important an occasion, did the members of St. John's Lodge, No. 1, A. F. and A. M., celebrate yesterday, the 150th anniversary, not only of the institution of the lodge, but also of the inception of Masonry in Rhode Island. From the opening of the lodge in festival communication early in the morning to the close of the post‑prandial exercises, which followed the banquet of the evening, there was not a moment of the day not devoted to exercises, either religious or Masonic, or to some social diversion. There are few organizations in New England that can turn and look back over a steady live of seven score and ten years, as can St. John's Lodge.
"Those who are honored by membership in the lodge and were free to participate in the ceremonies of the day, together with the many guests of high degree who came from neighboring cities and states assembled early at the Masonic Temple on School street. The exterior of the building was most brilliantly decorated, the artistic adornment being due to a committee consisting of Mr. Walter A. Wright, Mr. Joseph Gibson and Mr. Duncan McLean.
"After the Lodge had been formally opened by Worshipful Master Oliver H. P. Belmont, the procession was formed on School street. St. John's Lodge was extremely well represented, and were joined by many members of St. Paul's, who wished to attend the service at Trinity Church. Among the most prominent of the visiting Masons who accompanied Grand Master Livsey and his suite were Grand Master McNall, of Connecticut. Grand Master McLane, and Grand Marshal Danforth, of New Hampshire, and masters and warden of other lodges of the state. At the head of the line was Tyler J. Gottlieb Spingler, who for 40 years has lead the various parades of St. John's Lodge. The men marched down Church to Spring street, where the line separated allowing the Grand Master and his suite and the Worshipful Master to proceed first to the church. The Masons occupied the body of the church, and the galleries were occupied with people anxious to hear the service and address. Rev. Henry Morgan Stone conducted the service.
"A choir of thirty voices rendered the program of music
"The historical address prepared by the Right Worshipful Robert S. Franklin proved a most interesting and exhaustive account of the 150 years of life of St, John's Lodge. Mr. Franklin commended with the birth of the organization, and described, in detail, the progress of the body to the present day.
"Immediately after the service the Masons returned to the hall, where the Lodge was closed. At 1 o'clock luncheon was served, and at 2:30 carriages were taken for a drive. Upon Mr. Belmont's invitation the guests first visited Belcourt, where they spent a most enjoyable hour. They were shown the gallery of famous coaching pictures and the many curios which Mr. Belmont has gathered during his travels. After a recital given on the large organ in the salon, the entire body gathered on the grounds and were photographed. From Belcourt the Masons were driven to Bateman's Point where refreshments were served. The downpour of rain interfered with a further continuance of the drive.
"At 6:30 o'clock a reception was tendered to Grand Master Livsey and his suite in St. John's Lodge room, and at 7:30 o'clock the anniversary banquet was in order.
"The banquet which was served by Berger, was given in the man, hall, and beside the members of the lodge and the guests of the day, the members of St. Paul's Lodge who originally belonged to St. John's Lodge, and many Masons who made Newport their summer home, were seated at the tables. The guests were seated at five tables. The one at which Mr. Belmont, Mr. Livsey and the other distinguished attendants were seated was placed at the south end of the hall, and on this was used Berger's massive gold service. The remainder of the company gathered at four tables which occupied nearly the entire length of the hall. The Hungarian orchestra furnished the music, and was hidden behind a bower of palms and potted plants on the small stage in the bay window.
"The post‑prandial exercises were held at 9:30 o'clock after which sociability and good fellowship reigned supreme.
"In commemoration of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the St. John's Lodge a bronze medal was prepared and distributed to every member and guest who registered during the day. The obverse of the medal has the compass and square enclosing the letter G in the center, and about this in double lines "150th anniversary, St. John's Lodge, No. 1, A.F. and A.M. 5749-5899 Newport Rhode Island". On the reverse in raised characters are the armorial bearings of the lodge, which are substantially the same as the Free Mason's Arms. The blazon is as follows. Or: On a chevron gules between three castles, a pair of compasses somewhat extended of the first, Crest: A dove bearing an olive branch proper. Motto: Follow Reason. Supported by dragons."
The next fifteen years call be best accounted for as years of harmony and prosperity coupled with a steady growth, but before we pass over this period, it will be most fitting to note the passing of our patriarchs in Masonry and that from the celebration of our 150th Anniversary a certain change, quiet but nevertheless sure, was taking place in our old Lodge.
Our old members, old Masonically and in natural years, were passing on. Between 1910 and 1916, the four oldest members of our Lodge completed their earthly labors and were received into the celestial lodge above.
In 1910, Bros. James G. Topham, after 65 years of service, and J. Gottlieb Spingler, after 55 years of service; in 1913, Bro. Henry D. DeBlois, after 68 years of service, and, in 1916, Bro. Ara Hildreth, after 70 years of service, passed on.
R.W. Bro. Ara. Hildreth, at the time of his death, was the oldest Mason in Rhode Island.
In view of the actual need that existed in all our Masonic Bodies for larger and improved quarters, it was deemed prudent to consider the advisability of proposing to St. Paul's Lodge that they become joint owners with St. John's Lodge of the property known as Masonic Hall, to the end that the property might be modernized and fitted for the use and benefit of all our Masonic interests.
The negotiations consumed considerable time, but it is gratifying to be able to record that the proposition was carried out and that, with the opening of Doric Hall and the repairing and improving of other rooms and parts of the building, all the Masonic bodies of Newport are well cared for under this joint ownership.
December 17, 1917, W. Samuel R. Honey, the senior past master of St. John's Lodge, addressed us on the stirring events of the times and offered the following resolution:
"Whereas; our country is at war with the Empires of Germany and Austria‑Hungary for the preservation of Liberty to the world, and
"Whereas: among other virtues, patriotism, loyalty and love of country are inculcated by the fundamental principles of our order, therefore be it,
"Resolved: That we, the masters, wardens and brethren of St. John's Lodge, No. 1, Newport, Rhode Island, together with a number of members of St. Paul's, No. 14, Newport, Rhode Island, assembled with us at this annual meeting of our Lodge, do hereby pledge our support, individually and collectively, that the Government of our Country in its assertion by force of arms of the principles of liberty, justice, equality and honor which were enunciated by our immortal heroes, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, and trust that this ware will not end until these principles have been victoriously vindicated."
"The resolution was unanimously adopted.
"It was, "Voted that a roll of honor be properly inscribed on our records containing the names of the members of our lodge who have gone to the front during the present war."
The W. Master read the names of thirty‑eight members of St. John's Lodge who were, at that time, in our country's service.
"On Sunday,.January 20, 1918, the Lodge assembled in emergent communication for the purpose paying the last tribute of respect to the memory our late Bro. Sidney D. Reynolds. Bro. Reynolds, who was the youngest member, was our first member to lay down his life in the defense of our country in the Great World War.
On January 21, 1918, at the request of the Masonic War Board of Rhode Island, the Wor. Master appointed Past Masters J. Irving Shepley and Frank P. King an advisory committee to act in connection with the Board, and this work carried on by this appointment proved of great and far‑reaching benefit to all those who availed themselves of the privileges it entailed.
The opening of the Masonic social rooms by St. John's and St. Paul's jointly was greatly appreciated by the visiting brothers in the United States Service whose presence became very marked at our meetings. They were always most welcome and their enjoyment of the Masonic home thus provided for them was freely and often expressed.
Their interest and help in our work was an inspiration to all. They were fully qualified to and, on many occasions, did occupy any or all of the stations in our Lodge, and on one special convocation worked a degree in full form before the officers of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island.
During the year of 1918, ninety new members were added to our rolls and, in addition, degrees had been conferred upon sixty‑five other candidates at the request of their home lodge.
It will be interesting to note our increase in membership from this time on.
1919 ................... 72 new members
1920 ................... 56 new members
1921 ................... 55 new members
1922.................... 23 new members
The close of the year 1923 showed a total member of 561, the largest in our history..
In 1924, the lodge observed its One-Hundred Seventy‑Fifth Anniversary with suitable ceremonies on Sunday, September 21st and Monday, September 22nd. The observance opened on Sunday afternoon when a special communication of the Lodge was opened in the Masonic Temple. A procession was formed and marched to Trinity Church, where a commemorative service was conducted by Reverend Brother Stanley C. Hughes, Rector of the church and Chaplain of St. Paul's Lodge. Music was furnished by a special choir under the direction of Bro. T. Frederick Harry. The day's observance was concluded by an address covering the history of the Lodge from its institution by Wor. Bro. Robert S. Burlingame. On Monday afternoon, the officers of the Lodge and their guests traveled to tee Naval Training Station on Coasters Harbor Island in Newport, where a special program had been prepared, through the courtesy of Captain Orton P. Jackson, USN, Commanding Officer of the Training Station. Luncheon was served on board the USS Constellation. The party then proceeded to the old Administration Building, which was originally the Newport Asylum of which the craft had laid the cornerstone in 1819, as previously described in this history. Here, the Grand Master and the Master of St. John's Lodge delivered suitable addresses. After these ceremonies, the brigade of apprentice seamen put on a special drill, the review being taken by the Grand Master. The guests were then taken for a tour of the station. On Monday evening, a Ladies Night was held in Masonic Hall. The large room was very attractively decorated including a floral display and special electrical effects. A musical program was presented, followed by dancing from 10:00 to 12:00 p.m. with a buffet supper being served during the same hours on the second floor.
The next decade can be best accounted for as years of depression and anxiety, but notwithstanding Freemasonry still survived.
The beginning of the war in Europe and its increasing proportions began to rekindle patriotism in America and with the fear that this country would soon become involved, the ire of the government and the American people became so aroused that defense preparations were established. Selective Service was inaugurated on September 16, 1940, and, early in 1941, the National Guard was mobilized.
The Grand Lodge soon realized the gravity of conditions and the Grand Master, Raymond L. Vaughn, appointed a Masonic War Service Board consisting of Colonel Winfield S. Solomon, Past Grand Master, Chairman; Major Hugh B. Carpenter, Past Master; Major Harold R. Semple, Past Master; Captain Minot J. Growell, Past Master and Donald E. Spears, Past Master. The following resolution was unanimously passed by Grand Lodge:
"Resolved, That an assessment equivalent to one dollar per capita be, and the same is hereby levied upon each subordinate Lodge in this jurisdiction. Said assessment shall be based upon the last official returns of membership of said Lodges, in the hands of the Grand Secretary, less such members as shall have had their current dues remitted by said Lodges, and less such members as are now in the Armed Forces of the United States. Said assessment shall be paid to the Grand Secretary on or before the 1st day of February, 1843; and be it further
"Resolved, That the money so raised shall be transmitted by the Grand Secretary to the Grand Treasurer and said moneys, together with such other voluntary contributions as may from time to time be received by the Grand Treasurer for the same purpose shall constitute a fund to be known as the Masonic Ware Service Fund; and be it further
"Resolved. That the income and principal of said fund shall be disbursed under the direction of the War Service Board and with the approval of the Grand Master; and be it further
"Resolved, That each subordinate Lodge be and it is hereby authorized to assess its members a like amount, if it so elects; provided, however, that any member of said Lodge in the Armed Forces of the United States shall be exempt from said assessment."
The Masonic Service Center in Newport was located in St. John's Masonic Temple, at the corner of Church and School Streets. It was sponsored by the Masonic Service association of the United States in conjunction with the Masonic War Service Board of Rhode Island.
Officiating at the opening of the Masonic Service Center, on October 1, 1941, were Herbert E. McCauley, Mayor of Newport; Harry S. Truman, Grand Master of Missouri (later president); Raymond L. Vaughn, Grand Master; Ross H. Currier, Lt. Comm. U. S. Navy; Winfield S. Solomon, Past Grand Master, Chairman; Rev. Hugh B. Carpenter, Past Grand Chaplain; Lt. Col. George H. Morse, Jr. Marine Commander, Quonset; Marvin W. Krieger, Federal Recreation Representative; Louis E. Worrall, Supreme Grand Tall Cedar; Capt. John Davis, USS Constellation; Charles S. Coulter, Masonic Service Association; Captain Frank R. Roberts, U. S. Navy.
The Center was well equipped with every form of recreation and means of entertainment for the men in the Armed Services including pool and ping pong tables, shuffleboard, reading and writing rooms, and snack bar. Thousands of men took advantage of the facilities afforded by the Masonic Fraternity.
The Grand Lodge and the War Board were deeply grateful for the fine service rendered at this Center by Brothers Frank E. Hartwell and Lincoln P. Cole.
St. John's Lodge's, Roll of Honor was inscribed on our records containing the names of 108 members who served in the Armed Forces during World War II. During the war, Brothers Oscar A. Lundgren and Everet S. Thomas gave their lives for our country.
The year 1949 marked the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Founding of St. John's Lodge. In honor of this event, a three day celebration was planned and held.
On Sunday, September 18th at 2:30 p.m., there was a parade from the Masonic Temple to Trinity Church where appropriate services were held. Present were Grand Lodge officers, as well as members of St. John's Lodge, who were escorted by the Knights Templar. Shrine Band of Palestine Temple, A.A.O.N.M.S. and the U. S. Naval Training Station Band furnished the music.
Following the services, a luncheon and reunion was held at Meyer Hall, Portsmouth, R.I. On Monday, September 19th, the Past Masters of the lodge worked the Master Degree in the afternoon. Most Worshipful J. Irving Shepley, Past Grand Master, served as Master. That evening, a Buffet Supper and dance was held in the Assembly Hall of the Temple. Included was suitable entertainment.
On Tuesday, September 20th, in the afternoon, a Table Lodge, which consisted of a Rhode Island Clambake was held. Narragansett Bay Chapter No. 14, National Sojourners joined with St.John's Lodge in this outing and worked the Degree of the Sojourners for the entertainment of those present. This concluded the activities of the Two Hundredth Celebration. The program was carried through with precision and dignity throughout. The celebration was a particularly happy one, as many members of the lodge travelled long distances to be present at this auspicious occasion and to renew old ties of fraternal brotherhood.
In 1966, The Grand Lodge of Rhode Island celebrated its One Hundred and Seventy‑Fifth Anniversary in Newport with suitable Masonic services, including a parade from the Colony House to Trinity Church for church services. This parade and service duplicated that held at the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1791.
The reader will note that this historic occasion continued the long and honored association between Trinity Church and St. John's Lodge, which has existed from the beginning of Freemasonry in this State up to the present time.
The purpose of this history of St. John's Lodge has not been simply to recount what has happened over the more than two centuries this Lodge has existed.
While there are a few lodges in the United States which may lay claim to so long an existence, and the members of St. John's Lodge today may rightfully be proud of the honorable traditions with which they are associated, it seems more important to recognize that this history of this Lodge vividly demonstrates that an organization which espouses Friendship, Morality and Brotherly Love can survive many tumultuous times when these virtues are practiced by the membership.