An Abridged History of Mount Horeb Lodge, A.F. & A. M.
The history written for the One Hundredth Anniversary of Mount Horeb Lodge, A.F. & A.M., stated that Mount Horeb was not the first Masonic Lodge in Woburn. In 1824, a Mason living in Woburn would travel either to what is now known as Arlington (formerly West Cambridge) or to Charlestown to attend lodge. The trip to Arlington to attend Hiram Lodge might have been the more logical choice as the distance there was certainly less than to travel to King Solomon’s Lodge in Charlestown. While such travel today would not be thought of as a major inconvenience, in 1824 it would have been a major investment in time and travel, transportation then being nothing like it is today.
The Grand Lodge was petitioned on March 10, 1824, by an unknown group of men, headed by Benjamin B. Richardson, requesting that they be allowed to form a lodge in Woburn by the name of Freedom Lodge. This Freedom Lodge has no relation to a later lodge of the same name formed in Arlington. The petition was received and accepted by Grand Lodge on June 8, 1824. Tradition says that Freedom Lodge was instituted on January 24, 1824, in a building that occupied the site of what is now the former Unitarian Church at the corner of Main and Winn Streets. No records exist, however, to attest to this tradition. Grand Lodge records show Freedom Lodge as duly constituted on October 21, 1824.
A notice of a meeting, probably for the Installation of Officers, appeared in the Columbian Sentinel of October 6, 1824. At the ceremony, held in a church which stood where the former Unitarian Church now stands, Right Worshipful Bro. William Richardson had been chosen to be Master by the Grand Lodge and was installed. Bro. Bartholemew Richardson was installed Senior Warden, Bro. Joseph Richardson as Junior Warden and Bro. Samuel Tidd as Secretary. It further noted that a dinner was given at ‘The Locks’, an inn located near the entrance to the old Hudson Estate (Hudson Street and Arlington Road). This inn, operated by a Mr. Gillis, stood opposite the Middle Lock of the Middlesex Canal which was opened in 1803; it is interesting that early Woburn Masons met for dinner at a location very close to where Mount Horeb Lodge currently meets: the Woburn Masonic Temple at 17 Arlington Road.
Freedom Lodge was prosperous until the so-called “Morgan Affair.” It was requested to surrender its Charter, Jewels, and records in 1831. Documentary evidence of Freedom Lodge was held by Mount Horeb Lodge in 1924 in the form of the consecrated, though battered and worn, Altar, which at that time rested in the loft directly over the Lodge Room. Also, according to Right Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, Jr. (who was Master in 1886-1887, and Senior Grand Warden at the time of the Lodge’s Fiftieth Anniversary), the Deacon’s and Steward’s rods, which are still in use today, were the original rods used by Freedom Lodge.
From 1831 until 1855 no Masonic Lodge existed in Woburn. Men seeking admission to the Craft were obliged to enter Masonry through outside Lodges. As the hysteria of anti-Masonic fervor subsided in the mid-nineteenth century, Freemasonry began to experience a renaissance. In 1855, the need for a local lodge was felt by certain Woburn men. An informal meeting of Masons was held on November 21, 1855. Eleven brothers, four from Columbian Lodge, two from St. Andrew’s and five others signed a petition for a dispensation. A second meeting on December 19, 1855, stated that Hiram Lodge in West Cambridge, now Arlington, recommended that a petition be granted, which was done. Most Worshipful Bro. Winslow Lewis appointed Worshipful Bro. David Tillson to be Master, Bro. Jesse Converse, Jr., to be Senior Warden and Bro. William T. Grammar to be Junior Warden. The dispensation bore the date of December 10, 1855 with precedence as of that date. The membership fee was five dollars which is equivalent to over $102 in 2005 dollars. By-laws stated that the application must be accompanied by the sum of five dollars and an additional fifteen dollars upon completion of the degrees (this would be the equivalent to over $400 today). After the an applicant received the degrees he had to make further application for membership and be elected by a clear ballot. Nine applicants appeared at the third meeting on February 6, 1856, one of whom, Andrew Bates, withdrew after his election.
The first election in 1856 saw a change in the line of officers. Bro. William D. Stratton was appointed Worshipful Master. For the next sixty years most Masters served two terms. Worshipful Bro. Stratton became Special District Deputy Grand Master in 1862 and later a Thirty-third degree Mason.
Mount Horeb Lodge had apartments in the Wade Building until 1871 when the quarters at 397 Main Street were secured. The First National Bank Building had been erected before this date, but a Mansard roof was added on top of the flat roof to house the Lodge.
In 1905, Mount Horeb Lodge celebrated its Fiftieth Anniversary beginning with a public religious service conducted at the First Unitarian Church, Woburn, at 3:00 p.m. on December 10th. The Schubert Male Quartette performed four selections and Dr. George R. Clark did a Bass Solo, with F. Percyval Lewis as Organist. The Sermon, “Masonry, Its Origin and Purpose” was delivered by the Reverend Bro. William H. Ryder, D.D.
The Fiftieth Anniversary celebration was held at the Masonic Hall on Main Street, commencing at 5:00 p.m.. The reception of the Most Worshipful Grand Master, members of the Grand Lodge and officers of Mount Horeb Lodge was held at 5:30 p.m. At 6:30 p.m. a large banquet was served. The toastmaster was the presiding Master, Worshipful Bro. Arthur U. Dickson. An address was given by Most Worshipful Bro. Baalis Sanford, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Right Worshipful Bro. William T. Grammer spoke about our charter members. Right Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, who was Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge and Past Master of Mount Horeb Lodge, spoke about “The whole fraternity on land and sea wherever dispersed.” The Schubert Quartette sang five numbers during the evening and Carter’s Orchestra furnished the music for the occasion.
In the early 1900s, many of Woburn’s merchants were members of Mount Horeb Lodge. Among these we find the Jaquiths (1897), Chutes (1909), John Bates (1908), Harry Blye (1900), A. W. Witcher (1897), Edward Caldwell (1896), Alvah Buckman (1909), Samuel Highley (1902), B. G. Fowler (1909), M. A. Burnes (1908), Winthrop Hammond (1894), J. Foster Deland (1885), Henry and John Andrews (1903), and L. W. Thompson (1877). Also the leading leather manufacturers John P. Crane (1870), James Skinner (1869), Sumner Hopkinson (1908), Daniel R. Beggs (1907), and Frederick C. Kean (1907).
Doctor Chalmers (1891), Doctor Hutchins (1893) and Doctor Lane (1911) also found time to visit the Lodge. Brother Charles Burdett of Burdett College drew the engraving which adorns our communications and also the cover of this pamphlet). Brother Burdett joined in 1891. His brother Fred Burdett was a visitor to our Lodge, he having membership in Boston.
In 1914, Mount Horeb Lodge was saddened by the sudden loss of its Worshipful Master Bro. John M. Wallace, who was installed Master on January 7, 1914 and died suddenly on April 14, 1914, at his place of employment in the Transcript Building in Boston, immediately after returning from lunch. The Senior Warden Bro. William F. Davis, Jr., served as acting Master for the rest of the year.
In 1915, Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, Jr., was installed Master on January 1st, and inducted into office by his father, Right Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, who was acting Deputy Grand Master for the evening (he was also Master of Mount Horeb Lodge in 1886-1887), with over 300 members and visitors present. The installed Master’s grandfather, Worshipful Bro. Thomas G. Davis, was Master of Mount Horeb Lodge in 1866-1867, making three successive generations to hold the office of Master of Mount Horeb Lodge, which is indeed a very rare thing in Masonic history (indeed, this has occurred only two other times in the history of Mount Horeb Lodge). Right Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, Sr., was also Mayor of Woburn in 1899, 1900, 1901.
Another great historical event in the life of Mount Horeb Lodge was the laying of the cornerstone of the Woburn Post Office, on Abbott Street, at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 10, 1910, by Acting Deputy Grand Master, Right Worshipful and Reverend Bro. William H. Ryder, D.D. with past and present Grand Officers of the Grand Lodge assisting. The copper box sealed within the cornerstone contained Masonic literature and data, city history, local and Boston newspapers, ancient and current coins, the door latch from Woburn’s first Post Office, photographs of local interest, a sketch of Count Rumford (Benjamin Thompson), papers of Colonel Loomis Baldwin, and views of historic spots among other artifacts. The trowel used in the ceremony was created from parts of a handle that once was part of the front door of the building where the first Post Office was located. To the fashioned trowel handle was affixed a sheet of brass that had been formed into the blade of a trowel. The trowel was afterward suitably engraved and was placed in the Lodge’s archives. Also at this ceremony, placed on a raised platform within the marked boundary lines of the building, was the small, tall desk which comprised the fittings of the first Post Office in Woburn in 1787. Pictures of this historical event at one time adorned the walls of the Masonic apartments and may still be seen at the Abbott Street Post Office.
In 1929, Mount Horeb Lodge and Somerville Lodge began annual exchange visits to each other’s Lodge meetings on alternate years. That is, one year Somerville Lodge visits Mount Horeb Lodge and performs degree work and the next year Mount Horeb Lodge visits Somerville Lodge and reciprocates. This exchange of fraternal camaraderie continues to the present day. Indeed, the members of Mount Horeb Lodge will be visiting our Brethren in Somerville to raise two of Mount Horeb’s candidates to the Third Degree on Monday, April 24, 2006.
The Lodge rooms at 397 Main Street were destroyed by fire in 1936 and what remained of the Mansard roof, added to the building in 1871, was removed and the original third floor of the building reconfigured into a Lodge room and dining area. The Deacon’s and Steward’s Rods, those said to have come from Freedom Lodge, the first Masonic Lodge in Woburn, were saved by several Brothers who went up the back fire escape after being refused entrance to the building by Fire Chief Tracy.
In 1948, Mount Horeb Lodge had to make a decision whether to continue renting the apartments at 397 Main Street from the F.W. Woolworth Company or seek a place of its own. A corporation was formed to control this building, known as the Woburn Masonic Temple Association, Inc. Committees were named for the raising of funds and the Lodge purchased the building, known as “The Warren Academy,” on Warren Avenue, directly opposite the (former) Choate Hospital. An architect was retained, plans drawn up and the commencement of the work was authorized. But exactly one week before the work was due to start, someone set fire to the building and it was declared a total loss. Fortunately, the building was insured. The land was sold and the proceeds were put into the funds controlled by this Corporation for some future expansion of Mount Horeb Lodge.
Mount Horeb Lodge was approached in 1953 to make an offer to purchase the former Unitarian Church in Woburn Center, but the cost to reconfigure the church to meet the Lodge’s needs was prohibitive.
In 1973 serious efforts were made to find a location to accommodate a Masonic Temple. In December of that year, the Temple Association identified 17 Arlington Road as an ideal location. It was not until September of 1974, however, that we learned the Woburn Masonic Temple Association had consummated the purchase of the Devine property on Arlington Road as Mount Horeb Lodge’s future home. At an Open House on November 10th of that year, members got their first opportunity to go through the property and really look at what they, through their corporation, had purchased. Soon thereafter, even before any reconstruction plans were in place, there were a number of activities held at the building to help raise money for the building fund.
The building itself is a gorgeous Victorian house, which had been owned by Dr. Devine, and had been used as both Dr. Devine’s residence and his office. A number of ideas were floated to reconfigure the building for use as Masonic apartments, including one to raise the second floor ceiling to 10 feet. All were rejected as being impractical, and instead, it was determined that the Woburn Masonic Temple Association would construct an addition, 40 feet by 52 feet, which entailed removing the house’s three-car garage. While this plan was going through the approval process, Mount Horeb Lodge permitted a local family, which had been burned out of their home, to use the premises on a temporary basis. At a special communication on July 2, 1975, it was voted to relocate the Lodge to its new home on or before October 1, 1975. Notwithstanding this wishful charge, it was not until June 2, 1976, that the Lodge was able to hold its first meeting at 17 Arlington Road.In 1975, having unceremoniously lost their meeting place, Winchester’s Lodge of Masons, William Parkman Lodge, A.F. & A.M., were permitted to move into 17 Arlington Road.In addition to allowing for fraternal fellowship, the tenancy of William Parkman Lodge had been a source of supplemental income to the Temple Association, helping to maintain the historic building and defray the costs associated with operating the Temple.
What makes a building a Masonic building is a formal ritual performed by the Grand Lodge. The first part of this ritual took place on May 23, 1976. It was a Special Communication of Mount Horeb Lodge, for the purpose of the laying (placing) of the cornerstone of the addition to the Temple at 17 Arlington Road. Taking part in this ceremony: Worshipful Bro. Bruce J. McKee, then President of the Woburn Masonic Temple Association, Worshipful Bro. Robert G. Hansen, the Master of Mount Horeb Lodge and Brother Albert F. Finethy of Mount Horeb Lodge (the very capable Superintendent of the Work). Officiating was Most Worshipful Bro. Stanley F. Maxwell, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts and a suite of Grand Lodge officers. A vault containing copies of the One Hundredth Anniversary programs of both Mount Horeb Lodge and Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, copies of the May meetings of Mount Horeb Lodge and Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, a Mark coin from Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, a Precept of the DeMolay and a proclamation from the Woburn Times was deposited behind the corner stone.
The first Masonic body to hold a meeting in the new lodge hall was Woburn Royal Arch Chapter. This meeting took place on May 26, 1976. Mount Horeb Lodge held its first meeting in the new quarters on June 2, 1976. The meeting of October 6, 1976, included a visit from the District Deputy Grand Master, Right Worshipful Bro. Arthur B. Savel. He presented Certificates of Merit from the Grand Lodge to Worshipful Bro. Bruce J. McKee, Brother Albert F. Finethy and Brother Roland G. Dickson for all the expertise and hard work they had put in to bring the new quarters to fruition. For his time and effort as the faithful overseer in the construction of our new lodge facility, Brother Albert F. Finethy was given a Life Membership in Grand Lodge, the first ever given by Mount Horeb Lodge, as well as a Life Membership in Mount Horeb Lodge.
The second part of the ritual which makes a building a Masonic building, that of consecrating the Lodge room and, by extension, the whole building, took place on November 27, 1976. Officiating at this special communication was Most Worshipful Bro. Stanley F. Maxwell, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and a suite of Grand Lodge officers, escorted by Worshipful Bro. Bruce J. McKee, President of the Woburn Masonic Temple Association. Also assisting in the ceremony were Worshipful Bro. Avery Larkin, the Master of Mount Horeb Lodge, Worshipful Bro. Robert A. Adams, the Master of William Parkman Lodge and Worshipful Bro. James J. Keramas, the Master of Mystic Valley Lodge. Brother Albert F. Finethy, Architect of the Temple, presented the Grand Master the working tools: the Square, Level and Plumb. The Deputy Grand Master, Senior Grand Warden and Junior Grand Warden then proceeded to inspect the Temple and found it to be good work. The consecrating ceremony of Corn, Wine and Oil was then performed. Mount Horeb’s new home was now, officially, a Masonic building.
Over time, the occupancy and use of this building by additional bodies has grown. There are currently six Masonic bodies meeting at 17 Arlington Road: Mount Horeb Lodge (Woburn), William Parkman Lodge (Winchester), Mount Hermon Lodge (Medford), Mystic-Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, Medford Council of Royal and Select Master Masons, Coeur de Lion Commandery #34, Knights Templar, and Aletheon Chapter #154, Order of the Eastern Star. Each member of these bodies owes a great debt of gratitude to the members of Mount Horeb Lodge, past and present, first for wanting to (re)establish Masonry in Woburn and second for securing a location for a beautiful meeting place, ensuring a place for continued friendship and brotherly love.
Membership in the Lodge is key to that continuance, of course. Mount Horeb Lodge is no stranger to the cyclical peaks and valleys of membership fluctuation in all fraternal organizations. Indeed, until recently there was speculation in some quarters that Mount Horeb Lodge might not be able to withstand the membership ebb of the last few years. A new mandate from the current Grand Master, Most Worshipful Jeffrey Black Hodgdon, appears to be most beneficial to Mount Horeb and to many other lodges in similar straits, by exposing the wonder of Freemasonry to the general public and bringing forth candidates. Most Worshipful Bro. Hodgdon decreed that on Saturday, September 24, 2005, every Lodge in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would be staffed and open to the public – Masonic Awareness of the first order. As a part of that program, Mount Horeb Lodge joined with Mount Hermon Lodge (Medford’s Masonic Lodge) for a joint public installation of the officers of both lodges. This was a first for both lodges and afforded visitors the opportunity to see a little more of the Craft than what they might glean from handouts provided them when they visited the building. Mount Horeb Lodge subsequently had several inquiries which have resulted in applications for membership being submitted and new candidates accepted.
Mount Horeb Lodge has been privileged over the years to have several instances of both fathers and sons serving as Masters of the Lodge. Only a Master can know the level of commitment it takes when one aspires to be the Master of his Lodge. To instill this desire in succeeding generations, even when the inspirer may no longer be with us, is an indication of the love of the institution held by that individual. We are indebted to the following individuals who appreciated the mark of their forebears and also chose to add their own:
Worshipful Bro. Thomas G. Davis (1866 – 1867), his son Right Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, Sr. (1886 – 1887), also Mayor of Woburn (1899 – 1901), and his son Worshipful Bro. William F. Davis, Jr. (1915 – 1916)
Worshipful Bro. Charles A. Sweetser (1880 – 1881), his son Worshipful Bro. John H. Sweetser (1918 – 1919), his son Worshipful Bro. John W. Sweetser (1930 – 1932), and his brother Worshipful Bro. Charles A. (C. Allen) Sweetser (1947 – 1948)
Right Worshipful Bro. Hugh W. McKee (1948 – 1949) and his son Worshipful Bro. Bruce J. McKee (1964 – 1965)
Right Worshipful Bro. Lane E. Wheaton (1951 – 1952), his son Worshipful Bro. Ronald S. Wheaton (1972 – 1973 and 2000 – 2001), his son Worshipful Bro. Paul E. Wheaton (1999 – 2000) and his brother Worshipful Bro. Brian R. Wheaton (2001 – 2004)
Worshipful Bro. James E. McSweeney (1973-1974) and his grandson Worshipful Bro. James R. McSweeney, Jr. (2005 – present)
Worshipful Bro. Bruce C. Murison (1977 – 1978) and his father Worshipful Bro. Donald C. Murison (1991 – 1992)
Mount Horeb Lodge began with 11 members in 1855. That had climbed to 172 at the time of the Fiftieth Anniversary in 1905. At the time of the One Hundredth Anniversary in 1955, there were 486 members. Our current membership is 184. What it will be at the time of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of the Lodge no one can know, but each and every member looks forward to Mount Horeb Lodge being a solid presence in Woburn for many, many years to come.